technically your controller can’t blow, but it’s a term that’s a bit stuck when your controller’s speakers just don’t seem to want to work like they used to.
The first time this happened to me, I was sure my headphone drivers were “burnt”, and it turned out that it was just dust that was affecting the driver’s function. once i cleaned it up, it was working perfectly again.
Reading: How to tell if a headphone speaker is blown
how to know if the headphones are burnt?
The headphone driver melts when you hear a rattling or distorted sound, or if it doesn’t work at all. however, it’s actually hard to blow up the drivers as headphones aren’t designed for high power output or extreme volumes. your controller is more likely to be dirty or have loose parts.
audio tails for fused headphone drivers
If you suspect your headphones have blown, there are some audio queues that will confirm this, while others might point to a different problem altogether.
Let’s look at some of the more common audio queues you might be experiencing and what they mean.
■ sound is softer or distorted on one channel
This is probably the worst sign of a burned speaker driver. If the sound doesn’t get louder no matter how you turn up the volume, or if there’s distortion in one ear, making one earphone louder than the other, your drivers are most likely over.
This could happen for many reasons, moisture, dust, hair, overuse or an unfortunate manufacturing defect have all been cited in various forums.
Now, while a little dust and hair is fine if you clean your earphones regularly and properly, we often forget to maintain them. that means dust and hair build up and cause irreversible damage to drivers.
hopefully, if it’s your driver that’s gone, you can replace it. most manufacturers have replacement parts available, or you can recover parts from a recycling facility, or send your headphones in for repair.
next time, make sure to take care of your headphones, you’ll be using them for much longer.
■ you may notice your headphones starting to ring
Rattling in the earphones is most likely due to loose parts. happens, you’re wearing your headphones and suddenly you look at something, bam, they’re on the ground.
do this a couple of times and you can be sure something will come loose.
If you know how your headphones work, you can open them and try to find the noise and fix it.
If it doesn’t bother you too much, it probably only happens when you turn up the volume or listen to music with a lot of bass. just turn it down a bit and the rattling should subside.
■ sound blurry, but bass seems fine, are my headphones blown?
I have good news and bad news. the good news is that it’s probably just hair or dust.
The bad news: If you don’t do something about it soon, you could be saying goodbye to your drivers.
hair, dust, sand, everything can get into the headphone speakers. air needs to flow to give you that great sound…so make sure nothing else is flowing with it.
if hair or dust falls on the conductor, it can interrupt the flow of electricity and cause a buzzing sound.
Alternatively, a hair could be poking through the foam, basically scratching the controller. inspect your headphones for dirt.
the difference between headphones and recording problems
another possibility is that the problem lies with the source file. maybe there was a problem during the recording, or it’s just one of those frequencies that are more likely to trigger this kind of rattling effect.
a track type will just hit those frequencies more often, letting you think there’s something wrong.
the difference can be hard to spot, and I ran into this problem not too long ago. every time I listened to something with a high pitch, my headphones would go crazy.
However, while these frequencies made things worse, I must also say that my headphones were about 6 years old at the time…and even when I played something at a low volume, it sounded bad and unbalanced. I had to get to the bottom of it.
See also: Is The Scarlett 2i2 Good Enough as a Headphone Amp? – Producer Society
I started experimenting with different tracks, volumes, two ears, one ear… and that’s when I learned it. the bass was completely gone on one side.
Listening carefully, I could hear a sort of buzzing noise from what was supposed to be the bass. super weird and horrible to hear. that made me realize that it wasn’t just a recording problem; in fact, they were my headphones.
It was like the driver was hitting something. I wasn’t quite sure what and seeing that, in my opinion, they were made, I opened them.
Turns out my voice call had been undone and the cone was actually hitting the coil.
everything made sense now; every time I plugged in my headphones; I would hear a loud popping sound. probably the voice coil hits the cone.
If you don’t have the loud popping sound and you don’t think it’s a recording issue, there are a few other reasons why your bass might be buzzing:
■ music too loud
When you play your music at full volume, you’re essentially forcing the driver to do too much by charging it with power.
A power surge or amplifier malfunction can end up breaking the cone or breaking the voice coil.
■ dust, hair and other dirt particles
As I mentioned before, hair that gets between the coil and the cone can cause a buzz.
make sure you clean your headphones regularly to get out the parts that don’t belong there.
leave it on too long and you could be saying goodbye to your headphones.
■ cold tubes may produce some crackling noises
If you just plug and play, your driver might need a second to warm up. this is not very common with the latest technology, but it can happen.
■ Problems with source and audio file
A quick check of your source dac or player might shed some light on the cause of the problem.
whether you are using an old pc sound card, portable cd player, dedicated dac, all can have an effect on sound quality.
A common source problem is when devices pick up each other’s frequencies, resulting in that terrible scratchy sound.
extraneous interference is also possible if the wires touch each other.
As for the file, just play another audio file from the same device to see if it persists.
Some solutions you could try to check if your headphone drivers are burned:
■ try another device
connect your headphones to a different device; if the problem is resolved, you will know where the problem is. I have a great article on how to solve these kind of problems.
■ play better audio files
perhaps you have been listening to poor quality audio. by playing something you know has to be good, you can check if the problem lies with the audio file. you need something with a clean sound, no rock, hip hop, metal, etc.
the best option would be jazz with a solid bass, classical music or crazy instrumentals. they tend to test all the frequencies you need to check your headphones.
if it sounds better now, the sound is clean even when you turn up the volume; you should be good to go.
how do headphone drivers go bad?
There are a few things you can try to avoid to prevent your drivers from being exploited.
Although the probability is not high, it is better to be safe than sorry. this is especially true if your headphones are old.
See also: Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Canceling review: Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Canceling – CNET
That said, you could break your controllers if:
■ increase the volume above what your headphone drivers can handle
While no one will deliberately go deaf, you could accidentally increase the volume on your headphones remotely.
This has happened to me several times, my bluetooth headset is still connected and I’m outside with my phone, trying to listen to a video, but nothing happens… I keep turning the volume up. full, no sound. and then click. my headphones are blaring inside.
this can put excessive pressure on the drivers and, yes, they can eventually fail.
When you use your headphones with stereo or studio equipment, the outputs can be much louder, allowing you to drive your headphones to much higher levels.
With frequent use at high volumes, there are a few things that can go wrong. For one thing, it’s certainly not good for your ears and can damage the controller.
avoid this by keeping the volume moderate and, if you use bluetooth headphones, always keep this in mind when the sound seems not to play.
■ Physical damage can cause headset drivers to explode
Probably one of the most common causes of conductor damage is physical damage. If you drop your headphones, throw them in your bag followed by some books, or accidentally step on them in your messy room, rest assured that eventually or even instantly, you could be saying goodbye to your headphones.
On the bright side, if this is the problem, you could simply replace the drivers (and any other broken parts).
On the other hand, if you ran over your headphones or the dog chewed on them, they’ll go straight into the electronics recycling bin.
■ Your amplifier could damage the headphone drivers
Amplifiers (short for amplifier) are there to improve. if it improves beyond what your headphones can handle, there could be some negative consequences.
Depending on the amp you use, the power output can be much more than your headphones can handle. a burned out controller can also be caused by a faulty amp, as has been the case for many of my friends and fellow forum users.
And while it never hurts to have the extra power that comes with an amp, you should remember the wise words of Spider-Man’s grandfather… “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Don’t play it at full volume if you don’t have to, keep the settings moderate, and when you feel like something else, play it through your box speakers.
Buying an amp that doesn’t have power just to protect your headphones doesn’t make sense either, you need some leg room, but use it wisely.
your amp’s volume dial has a wide range of motion and offers excellent fine control, so you can make small movements when adjusting things and unplug your headphones while adjusting things
if you managed to get the drivers through your amp, you’re probably looking at a burnt or fused voice coil (resulting in no sound), or a tear in the cone/diaphragm/membrane, resulting in in distortion and a muffled sound.
■ dust or hair could get trapped inside the controller
I’ve touched the powder and hair several times, but it’s because people don’t realize how harmful they can be. Even if you don’t experience any problems with your headphones, basic hygiene is a must.
After that, a deep cleaning every now and then will really extend the life of your headphones (and if you’re anything like me, you’re pretty attached to them).
A deep clean would include using a can of pressurized air to blow out hair and dust and really get to those otherwise impossible areas.
You also don’t want to use anything sharp or made of metal. can do more harm than good when it comes to the delicate parts of small speakers or magnets.
so what can you expect to hear if there’s any dust or hair stuck in there? anything from a buzzing to a rattling sound can be caused by hair lodged where it shouldn’t be. don’t underestimate these little fools.
As for dust, it can cause a strangled scratching sound when it clogs the magnet cavity. if left there, it will cause irreversible damage and you may need to replace the speakers over time.
In general, it’s about taking care of your headphones. conductors don’t just explode, and if you take care of them, they can last for quite a few years. if you detect any strange sounds, do something sooner rather than later.
See also: How to connect wireless headphones to your TV | TechRadar