It’s the middle of winter, and you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to leave your speakers in the cold. Can they handle the frigid temperatures, or will they crack under pressure?
This blog post will take a detailed look at what happens when you leave speakers in the cold and whether or not it is harmful to them. We will also provide tips on protecting your speakers during the colder months!
What is a Speaker?
A speaker is an electronic device that converts electrical signals into sound. The most common type of speaker is a loudspeaker, which uses an electromagnet to create vibrations in a cone or dome-shaped diaphragm.
This vibration causes the air around the diaphragm to vibrate and produce sound waves. Speakers come in various sizes and shapes, from small earbuds to large, floor-standing models.
Types of Speakers Available in the Market Today
There are different types of speakers that you can purchase. However, speakers are majorly categorized into two: Indoor Speakers and Outdoor Speakers.
Indoor speakers are designed to be used inside the home, while outdoor speakers are used indoors and outdoors.
Some examples of indoor speakers include:
- Bookshelf speakers
- In-ceiling speakers
- In-wall speakers
Outdoor speakers are designed to withstand the elements in the cold weather without damage. They come in a few different shapes and sizes, so you can find one that will fit your specific needs.
Some examples of outdoor speakers include:
- Weather-resistant box speakers
- Standalone weatherproof speaker
- Rock speakers
- Pool/Spa/Pond Speakers
Can You Leave Speakers in Cold Weather Conditions?
There will always be risks when it comes to electronics and cold weather. Leaving your speakers out in the cold is no different.
If you have an indoor speaker, it is not recommended that you leave it in the cold weather. However, the cold weather alone will not cause any damage to the speaker. Cold weather combined with moisture (rain or snow) can be deadly to your speakers.
On the other hand, outdoor speakers are designed to withstand all weather conditions. So, if you have an outdoor speaker, conventional wisdom says you can leave it in the cold. However, no speaker is impervious to the repeat cycle of becoming wet, dry, then wet again. So moisture control is still essential.
If your speaker is stored in a very cold environment, it may be beneficial to allow the speaker to warm up before playing it. This way the working components of the speaker should behave as they are intended to. Otherwise, you really don’t have much to worry about.
Why Cold Weather Alone Does Not Affect Speakers
Cold weather, in isolation, doesn’t damage speakers. Any component that becomes cold can also be warmed back to room temperature without any lasting damage.
The issue is that water causes damage to speakers and temperatures below freezing make this damage significantly worse. This is true for waterproof speakers, as well.
When a regular speaker, such as an indoor speaker, gets wet, there are components that can be immediately damaged. So, water alone may destroy a speaker that isn’t waterproof (perhaps this is obvious).
With a waterproof speaker, the components are able to withstand the water and eventually dry out. However, if the wet speaker also freezes, the water expands when it turns into ice. This means that pressure is exerted on every nook and cranny of the speaker. The pressure of this expansion can be devastating to a speaker that is “waterproof” because it really isn’t water that is causing the damage. Instead, it is pressure being exerted on fragile internal components.
To showcase that cold weather doesn’t have any damaging effects on the speaker, we shall take a deeper look at the main components of a speaker. We shall also look into how each piece behaves in cold weather.
The main components of a speaker are: magnets, a speaker cone, a voice coil, wires, and a speaker enclosure.
The magnets create a magnetic field that interacts with the voice coil. The voice coil is attached to the cone, and when current flows through it, it creates a varying magnetic field. This, in turn, moves the cone back and forth, making sound waves.
Cold temperatures reduce the rate at which the electrons flow through a material. This is called electron mobility. In magnets, this means that the magnetic field will be stronger at colder temperatures, increasing the magnet’s strength. But once the magnet has returned to ambient temperatures, the magnetic field will return to a “normal” level.
The Speaker Cone
The speaker cone is responsible for moving the air and creating sound waves. The speaker cone is made of paper or plastic. The paper or plastic speaker cones are susceptible to temperature changes.
When the temperature decreases, the molecules in the material contract, and the cone becomes stiffer. However, these changes do not have any damaging effect on the speaker.
The Voice Coil and Wires
The voice coil and the wires in the speakers are made of wire (sometimes copper wire). Copper has high electron mobility, so it is not affected by cold weather like other materials.
The Speaker Enclosure
Speaker enclosures are made of plastic, metal, or wood. Wood is an insulator, so it does not conduct electricity well. This means that the cold weather will not affect the speaker enclosure either.
Other Components of the Speaker Affected by Cold Temperatures?
Other components of the speaker affected by cold temperatures are the surround and the adhesive.
The surround is responsible for holding the cone in place and keeping it from moving too far back and forth. Mostly, the surround is made using rubber, cloth, or foam. When it is cold, the foam becomes more rigid and less flexible. The rigidity causes the speaker to sound distorted.
The adhesive is used to attach the magnets to the speaker cone. When it’s cold, the glue will become brittle and may not hold the magnets in place as well. This could lead to the magnets falling off of the speaker cone.
Adhesive is the #1 component of the speaker that is most likely to be affected by temperature alone.
Why Moisture and Cold Temperatures Combined is Bad for the Speaker
Yes, moisture is the biggest enemy of speakers! When kept in humid and cold areas, the cold temperatures will cause moisture to condense on the speaker and eventually damage it.
Condensed moisture in the speaker can cause oxidation of the metallic parts of the speaker, leading to rust and corroding. Additionally, moisture in the speaker can cause short circuits that can damage the speaker.
Keeping your speakers dry and away from humid and cold areas is essential. If you must store your speakers in a cold room, make sure to put them in a moisture-proof bag or container.
Can Cold Affect a Speaker’s Performance?
The short answer is yes. Cold can affect a speaker’s performance. But let’s take a closer look at how and why this happens.
During cold weather, the components in a speaker become stiff and brittle. This makes it more difficult for the speaker to produce quality sound. Moreover, when temperatures drop, the air around us becomes denser. This means that sound waves have a more challenging time traveling through. As a result, sounds tend to be muffled and less clear when cold outside.
But, does any of this mean that the speaker will not perform once it has warmed up? No, not at all. Generally, once the speaker has returned to a warmer temperature, it should return to normal function as well.
Having said all of that, you also have to weigh the risk against the reward. If I buy a $1,000 soundbar or stereo in the winter, I’m still going to bring it into the warm house rather than let it sit in the cold trunk of a car.
As mentioned above, adhesives don’t generally hold up well to extreme temperatures. And in rare instances, plastic or wood speaker cabinets can crack when exposed to rapid temperature changes.
Doesn’t a Speaker Get Left in the Cold During Shipping, Anyway?
One thing to keep in mind is that the manufacturer of your speaker has already told you that the speaker can withstand cold temperatures.
How so? Well, remember that speakers are shipped with USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. via standard shipping. Unlike food products and pharmaceuticals, there aren’t really any climate-controlled shipping containers or controlled-temperature storage facilities for speakers. Whether you buy a speaker from Klipsch, Sony, JBL, or Bose, they will deliver it to you even in the middle of a snowstorm.
If the major brands in home audio aren’t worried about their speakers being in cold temperatures, perhaps you shouldn’t be, either.
How to Protect Speakers During Cold Temperatures
Protecting your speakers during cold temperatures is vital to prolonging the life of your investment. Below are a few ways you can protect your speakers during cold temperatures:
- Use speaker covers: Investing in some good quality speaker covers will help protect your speakers from the elements when not in use.
- Store them indoors: If possible, store your speakers indoors when not in use. Doing this will help protect them from the cold and moisture.
- Use a humidity control system: If you live in an area with high humidity, using a dehumidifier can help protect your speakers from the damaging effects of moisture.
- Avoid using it: If you can’t store your speakers indoors and don’t have a humidity control system, the best thing to do is avoid using them in extreme weather conditions. It will help protect them from short-circuits if moisture has accumulated in the speaker.
- Place the outdoor speakers under a shade: If you have permanent outdoor speakers, try to place them under a shade. The shade will help protect them from rain, snow, and sun damage.
How Can You Tell Your Speaker is Damaged from Moisture?
There are a few things you can look for to see if your speaker has been damaged from moisture:
- Check for corrosion: Moisture can cause corrosion on the metal parts of your speaker. This will appear as green or white rust on the surface of the metal.
- Look for water spots: Water spots on the speaker’s surface indicate that the speaker has been damaged by moisture.
- Check for dampness: If your speaker feels damp to the touch, there is a good chance it’s been damaged by moisture.
- Listen for irregular noise: One of the most apparent indicators of a water-damaged speaker is increased noise. The noise could be anything from a hissing sound to crackling or popping noises.
What to do if Your Speaker Stops Working
If your speakers stop working, you should first check to see if they are correctly plugged in. If they are plugged in and still not working, try changing the fuse or resetting the breaker. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to call in a professional.
A speaker repair technician will troubleshoot the problem and may need to order replacement parts if the damage is too extensive. In some cases, repairing a speaker is cheaper than purchasing a new one. However, if the damage is beyond repair, you may need to replace your speakers altogether.
For a bluetooth or portable speaker, you should (of course) check the battery level rather than checking if it is plugged in. If you aren’t able to verify that your speaker has a charged battery, charge the battery fully before checking it again.
With portable speakers, repairing is only an option if you are able to diagnose, troubleshoot, and repair the speaker yourself. Unless your speaker is under warranty, in which case you should contact the manufacturer.
If you lack the skills to diagnose and troubleshoot, you will have to bite the bullet and purchase a new speaker. But there are so many helpful YouTube videos and message board discussions that almost anyone should be able to attempt a repair before assuming your speaker is irreparably damaged.
How Long Will Your Speaker Last if Properly Stored?
The lifespan of a speaker will depend on how well it is stored.
If you take the proper precautions to protect your speakers from extreme weather conditions, they can last for many years.
However, if a speaker is exposed to moisture and cold temperatures over an extended period, it may not work correctly or could potentially be damaged beyond repair.
With proper care, your speaker could last you for decades. However, if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions, you may find yourself replacing your speakers far more often.
Wireless and portable speakers
Most portable speakers on the market today, even those that sell for hundreds of dollars, have a built-in battery that cannot be replaced (or at the very least, cannot be replaced easily).
Sadly, these built-in batteries are a guarantee that your speaker will have a limited lifespan. Usually, within a couple years of use, a portable speaker’s battery life will noticeably decline. Sometimes this process occurs in a year or less. This is especially true with budget speakers that have poorly-constructed batteries using inexpensive materials.
Typically, the bluetooth speaker will reach a point where the battery cannot hold a charge. At this point, some speakers will fail and become useless. Other speakers will maintain their sound quality and function but will require a constant power source. In other words, they will still be decent speakers, but they will need to be kept on the charger rather than being portable.
If you’re wondering whether or not you can leave your speakers in the cold, the answer is: it depends. You can generally leave them in the cold as long as they’re not exposed to moisture. If you have outdoor speakers that are permanently placed, it would be best if you built some shelter to protect them from the elements.
Cold weather alone will not cause irreparable damage to your speakers. Adhesive may be harmed by extreme weather conditions, but the rest of the speaker should tolerate freezing temperatures.
Remember that it is water (or moisture) that can severely damage a speaker, and this damage is significantly worse if the temperatures are below freezing and cause the wet speaker to freeze.
Although it might not feel right to leave expensive electronics in sub-zero temperatures, rest assured that your speaker should be just fine — provided that it doesn’t get wet.