Introduction: Fixing an Old Speaker: a DIY Guide to Improving Your Home Stereo

Do you want a new pair of home audio speakers but can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars? Then why not repair an old speaker yourself for as little as $30!? Replacing a speaker driver is an easy process, whether you have a blown speaker that needs to be fixed or an older speaker that could use a boost in performance. This guide, perfect for DIY types, will look at the process of selecting an appropriate driver for your speaker, as well as the physical replacement. Armed with nothing more than a screwdriver (or drill) and ruler, this quick and straightforward process will have you upgrading your home stereo in no time!

(Note: Before starting it would be helpful to refer to the speaker anatomy picture to familiarize yourself with terms that will be used throughout this guide)

Step 1: Find the Problematic Driver

Before you begin, you have to know which driver needs to be replaced. First, remove the cloth section covering the front of the speaker, more commonly known as the speaker grill. This should come off fairly easily.

To test the speaker, play music through it. Music is the ideal media to test with because more frequencies will be used simultaneously, allowing you to pinpoint the blown or under-performing driver more quickly. Based on what type of driver you are testing, you should adjust your system’s equalizer accordingly:

• Tweeter: Increase the system’s treble setting
• Mid-Range: Increase the system’s mid setting
• Woofer: Increase the system’s bass setting

Run each driver test individually at a reasonably high volume (somewhere around 7 or 8 out of 10)  and take note of any noticeable cracking or buzzing. Based on this test decide which driver, or possibly drivers, need to be replaced.

Step 2: Unscrew the Old Driver

Unplug any wires coming into or out of the speaker to ensure that it is not hooked up to any sort of power source. Unscrew the guide screws holding the driver to the box. Hold onto the driver while removing the final screw to ensure it doesn’t fall.

Step 3: Detach the Old Driver

While holding the driver securely, locate the two wires (one red and one black) attached to its back side. In newer drivers and speakers, these wires will be connected via a detachable clip, as seen in the photo. If you have an older speaker or driver then these wires will be soldered onto the driver. If this is the case, you will want to completely remove the old wires and replace the wiring with a newer clipped version. These newer wires can be found online at speaker repair websites.

Next, carefully (again CAREFULLY!) detach these wires from the old driver. When the driver is completely free from the speaker make sure to put it in a safe place until you can properly dispose of it. The driver has a very large permanent magnet on its rear side and placing this magnet near certain electronic devices (TV’s, Computers, Cell Phones, etc.) could have a very damaging effect.

Now, find the diameter of the driver with your tape-measure. This measurement is very important and needs to be done as precisely as possible.

Step 4: Decide on a Replacement Driver

While the physical replacement process should take no longer than 30 minutes, the driver selection process should be taken very seriously and could feasibly take a few days. Selecting the proper driver is very important! Picking a replacement might seem as easy as matching the driver diameter, in reality, there are many other factors that must be considered to maximize audio quality.

If you are replacing a blown driver and do not want to upgrade, then it would be easiest to try and get a replacement driver from the manufacturing company. Make sure you know the basics, like the speaker's model number, the size of the driver, and the type of driver you would like to replace.

If you are trying to improve your speaker or an exact replacement is not available, then you will have to do a little more work to find a suitable driver. For any replacement driver, you must ensure that it matches the speaker’s crossover specifications. Each driver can only handle certain frequencies and wattages. For example, if your stereo system is operating at 100 Watts but your driver can only handle 75 Watts then you are in danger of damaging it.

Find the owner’s manual or specifications sheet that came with your speaker. If you can’t find either of them, go online and do a quick Google search for these guides which will contain all of the necessary information needed to pick a suitable replacement. There are websites that allow owner’s to access these materials for free.

Next, search for replacements, either online or at a local electronics shop. The information you found on the owner’s manual will be properly labeled on any possible replacement.

If you weren’t able to find a manual, then you’re in a trickier situation. To be safe, select the driver that can handle the highest wattage and has the widest frequency response while still having the proper diameter. Ensuring that your new driver is compatible with the rest of the speaker is essential, so although this might cost slightly more, it is definitely worth it.

Step 5: Insert the New Driver

Take your new driver and make sure that it fits properly into the hole in the speaker. Next, locate the two wires that were attached to the old driver. Find the two slots where the clips slide into. These slots are two different sizes and only a specific clip will fit onto each slot. Attach the corresponding wires to each slot.

Step 6: Screw in the New Driver & Replace the Grill

When trying to align the new driver, make sure that the wires attached to the back of the driver are facing up. See if the screws on the new driver align with the screw holes left by the old driver. If they line up, then simply screw the new driver into these holes. If not, you will want to have a drill to secure the new driver into the speaker box. Once all the screws have been secured, place the grill back onto the front of the speaker.

Step 7: Test the Speaker

Now for the final and hopefully, the most rewarding step: testing your new speaker. Hook your speaker back up to your system and test it with the same music you used in Step 1. Similar to the first step, you will want to make sure you test the new driver specifically, so based on what type of driver it was, you should adjust your system’s equalizer accordingly:

• Tweeter: Increase the system’s treble setting
• Mid-Range: Increase the system’s mid setting
• Woofer: Increase the system’s bass setting

Take note of any undesirable results like buzzing or popping. Problems like these typically stem from a loose driver. Remove the grill again and ensure that the guide screws are tight and the driver is securely situated in the hole.

Replacing a speaker driver is an easy process that can be done by any electronics hobbyist or handyperson. Hopefully your new driver passed the music test, but if not, refer to the following websites for help in selecting a driver. After you are satisfied with the sound quality, enjoy your speaker and look for more of my instructables. Thanks for reading!