Do subwoofer smell when breaking in?

Do sub smell when breaking in?

A subwoofer should not smell when breaking in.

Just got a new subwoofer, and you’re excited to break it in. Then boom! you notice a smell. You’re now wondering if subwoofers smell when breaking in? In this article, we’ll find out if subwoofers smell when breaking in and what it means if your subwoofer is smelling when being broken in.


Breaking in a Subwoofer

But first, What does it mean to break in a subwoofer?. To break in a subwoofer, you simply need to play music through them for a long period. What happens is the resins in the spider pack begin to break apart and soften and as everything loosens up your sub will have more excursion and a shift in the electro-mechanical parameters. After your subwoofer is properly broken in, it will play deeper, with more dynamic range, increased output and overall, and sound better. That’s all there should be to break in a subwoofer. But what happens when all these seem to come with a smell? You obviously won’t enjoy your subwoofer.


Do subwoofer smell when breaking in?

When a subwoofer is breaking in, its suspension is simply loosening up as you play through it, and that should not produce a smell. However, If your subwoofer smells when breaking in, there is no call for alarm as some new subwoofers smell when breaking in. This doesn’t mean your sub is getting burnt or damaged, it could simply be excess glue burning off.  Yes, the glue used by the manufactures to hold the voice coil. When breaking in your subwoofer, it could overheat and heat can cause a burning smell especially when there’s something to burn. So if you’re getting a smell when breaking in your new sub, don’t fear, it’s more common than you think. Let’s call it the new sub smell.. shall we?


Reasons subwoofer may smell when breaking in

Now that you know your subwoofer can smell when breaking in, here are possible reasons why your subwoofer is smelling while breaking in. 

  • Overheated voice coil burning glue.

Most times new subs/coils have a smell to them in the early stages of being broken in. The most likely reason you are getting a smell is the voice coil glue is overheating and burning off, however, this does not cause damage to your sub. The sub is simply overheating and affecting the excess glue around the voice coil.

What happens is that many manufacturers use heaps of glue to attach voice coils to the speaker basket and the moment the voice coil overheats, the glue begins to burn. However, this is not a trademark to all new subwoofers, as they do not all have excess glue on their voice coil. Subs with an adequate amount of glue on their voice coil meaning will very likely not smell. So, even if the voice coil overheats, there will be less to no glue on the voice coil that will burn, resulting in the smell. 

The smell that comes from an overheated voice coil glue may linger through the breaking in of a new sub but as soon as the excess glue is all burned out, the smell subsides.

  • Your Subwoofer is being Clipped. 

A burning coil glue smell does not last long as it wears off when the sub is breaking in but if the smell is a solid one that lingers, it’s more likely your sub is being clipped. Clipping is a waveform distortion that overdrives and attempts to deliver an output voltage or current beyond its maximum capability. When a new subwoofer is being clipped, it may cause it to output power above its power rating. Basically, it will overpower or under power. Imagine if the subs are being clipped at 250w RMS on a hard clip and there isn’t any excursion going on there, no cooling going on, so the voice coil isn’t moving in/out of the gap. It will overdrive, overheat and bring a burning-like smell. Sounds from non-professional-made videos like Homemade YouTube videos, which involve enhanced bass and/or prolonged sine waves, can cause clipping to a subwoofer. 

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  • The subwoofer/Voice Coil is burning. 

This is less likely to happen when breaking in your New subwoofer. But on the rare occasion that the smell does not indicate a burning glue and you’ve made sure it’s not being clipped, a part of your subwoofer could be burning. It could be the voice coil itself that is burning or blown, due to overheating. This is unlikely because if it’s being broken in, it’s a new sub. The smell you would get with this is that of burning electronics. You can inspect the subwoofer components for burn or damage. However, a new sub/voice coil burning is very unlikely, as the subwoofer won’t work if it is damaged or the coil is blown. So if your new subwoofer is still working after the smell during or after break-in, it’s most likely it’s excess glue or it’s been clipped. 


How to identify and deal with subwoofer smell when breaking in

Now you know there could be different reasons for a subwoofer to smell while breaking in, here’s how to identify what smell it is and what to do with a smelly subwoofer when breaking in. 

  • Overheated voice coil burning glue.

This is easy to identify. An overheated excess glue on your subwoofer should pretty much smell like burning rubber. It should be the first thing your mind should go to. Does it smell like burning rubber? It most likely is.  If it has been identified as burning glue, you should let it burn out. This should not stop you from breaking in your new subwoofer. It does not cause any damage to your sub. The smell will gradually fade out and eventually stop as this is just excess. 

  •  Clipping

A clipping smell is a slight burning smell that lingers. It’s not heavy and can be suspected if the music you’re listening to is distorted. The thing to do is to look out for deliberate clipping in music and if what you’re listening to is clipping the sub, you should probably decrease/increase or stop.

  • Burning Voice coil 

A burning Voice coil should smell like burning electronics or wires. If you suspect your subwoofer has blown or the voice coil is burning, You can dismantle the sub setup and check for any burn traces and locate what is blown. This should be done safely and if you’re a handy person or else, take it to a proper speaker repairer.  


In conclusion…

Your new subwoofer can produce a smell when breaking in, this is common with things like excess glue burning off but this should not cause any damage. However, any other strong lingering smell would mean something else is burning and should be taken back or to a repairer because it can potentially damage the subwoofer.

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