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Can a speaker "wear out" ?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by bobalu, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. bobalu


    Oct 1, 2004
    above the 49th
    Pardon my stupid question, but can a speaker/cabinet just plain wear out over time? I don't mean damage from over driving or any other accident or abuse. Just normal playing within parameters. I guess the paper cone can just break down with age? Just wondering. I know very little about speaker and cabinet construction (if you can't tell!).
  2. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Some speakers do dryrot and the tolex/rat fur can get easily ripped off if you gig with them extensively.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    THey can wear out, but if you treat them right, they can also last for a good long time and keep sounding even better.
  4. Over time, the surround will become brittle and tear if it has been treated with some rubber-type compound.

  5. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State
    Insofar as cabs are concerned, I never seen the box 'wear out' if of proper design and construction, i.e. glue AND screws, and the cab has a durable coverning. Now recognizing the abuse touring systems endure is a different consideration. The drivers, or the actual speaker, I don't think actually wears out as a whole, but the weak link is the surround. In the late '60s and the '70s, polyurethane foam came into vogue in primarily stereo speakers to reduce some resonances/distortion claimed for the folded cloth surround that was usually damped with a highly viscous coating that essentially didn't dry out or get stiff over time. The foam surround has the undesirable fate of breaking down (some call it dry rot) and disintegrating. I have two high quality (for the time) 12" Philips woofers that I bought in 1974 for a three-way, passive radiator tower system. By the late '80s, the surrounds had deteriorated, as did the surrounds on the 15-inch passive radiators, to the extent that I had to take the speaker systems out of service.

    The damped, folded cloth surrounds provide greater utility and have been used for high quality sound reinforcement and musical instrument applications for quite some time. Some of the early JBL drivers, such as a D130 (I bought one in 1983 which is completely original and still works just fine) had the surround integral with the cone and had a black damping material applied to the surround. Although it was used in a guitar speaker cab made by Fender, I use it as a driver in a home-brew cab for practice at low volumes and it works fine and has a great sound. I also have original D140 and an EV EVM-15B bass drivers which still work just fine. The JBL's are well over 30-35 years old and look/sound brand new. There are some Altec-Lansing drivers still around that also are in the same category as JBL's. Recall that James B. Lansing was integral to both companies, first Altec-Lansing, then JBL. There have been quality drivers made by other well-know companies, such as Eminence, Fane, Celestion, Gauss, McCauley, and others. I must admit that I have an affinity for JBL drivers. Excellent engineering and a variety of designs for different applications in pro sound just make them one of my first considerations when working on a possible, new design. I also really like Eminence drivers and there are some 10 and 12 inch designs that I consider along with the JBLs.

    Modern day foam surrounds seem a little more stable than those of thirty years ago. I'm fairly sure there are no 30-year old foam drivers that are functional today. There has also been surrounds made of butyl rubber, but it has its own limitations and has never seemed to be widely used. JBL has used foam on many of its low-frequency drivers in sound reinforcement applications over the last two or three decades.

    Sorry for the long post, but I find the area of loudspeakers to be a fascinating topic, almost as much as playing. Perhaps if we have any TB members who might be working, speaker design engineers might chime in with their wisdom in this area.

    L. Howard
    Rick M likes this.
  6. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    I've wondered at the longevity of bass cabs as well.

    I guess with the drivers you just eventually need to re-cone them right? Then they are good to go for a long time again?
  7. good quality drivers yes.......some cores are worth recones some are not......
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Bill Fitzmaurice has said that the suspension in speakers only improves with time as long as you don't abuse them, so as long as the cones are holding up, they can last a very long time.

    As for the cabs...I've seen amps from the 40's and 50's that are still holding up very well. So it comes down to the old adage...treat your tools well and they'll treat you well.
  9. mntngrown

    mntngrown Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2007
    The lost Sierra
    Is it not wonderful that old dogs and their old equipment can stand the test of time. I am very happy with the carefully researched new stuff I bought as a result of my house
    burnin down, with all bass gear inside. But I still miss the EV 15L loaded Mesa Diesel 2x15 that went up in smoke. Irrational nostalgia? Maybe but the sound was "The Sound" and I will probably try another old box and a tube head some day.
    The new stuff is quite nice too and much easier on the vertebrae!
  10. ashtray9


    Aug 1, 2002
    Tempe Arizona
    Hmm, do magnets lose their power over time? Maybe all the current over the years can have some effect?
  11. blockinlay


    Feb 21, 2009
    Phila Pa
    I think gravity affects speakers, and materials break down depending on how it's been stored
  12. zenrad

    zenrad Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2009
    Bergen County, NJ
    The guy who bought my GK aluminum coned 15" cab said he called GK to make sure replacement speakers were available because he knows all about how aluminum cone speakers will need to be replaced "once a year, because they wear out and start sounding bad faster than regular speakers". :meh:

    That's a new one to me.
  13. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    I've been gigging JBL K145s for 20+ years - they're heavy bastards, but still sound great.

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