Bad Speaker Wire Symptoms-How to Spot Them!

It’s a well-known fact that bad speaker wires produce low-quality speaker sounds and even damage speakers at their worst. If you are setting up public speakers for an outdoor event or just setting up multiple speakers in your house, it is necessary to ensure that your speaker wires are in good shape. Bad speakers often show signs of their bad state when you connect them to speakers and amps, so if you suspect any of your speaker’s wires to be faulty, be rest assured that this article is going to provide you with the symptoms to look out for in such wires. 

So how do you identify bad speaker wires? 

Bad speaker wires produce buzzing sounds in speakers and can stop your speakers from working in the process of you listening to music. Most often, you’ll notice that the ends of the speaker wires are frayed or have visible cuts. You can confirm if the speaker wires are actually bad by testing them with a battery or a multimeter. 

Since speaker wires do not work in isolation and are often connected to speakers and amplifiers, it is normally a bit of a challenge to tell whether it is the speakers themselves or the speaker wires that are actually faulty, except with a few visible symptoms. However, with the battery and multimeter tests, you can easily detect when your speaker wires go bad in an audio system. If you want to learn more about this, read on for further details. 

Bad Speaker Wire Symptoms

Why Do Speaker Wires Go Bad?

When it comes to speaker wires and how they work, you should look out for one property of the wire, which is its resistance. 

As an electrical conductor, the bare wire of the speaker is what carries electrical signals to your speaker so that you hear them as sounds. If your speaker wire has high resistance, it can only deliver a little electrical signal or power to your speaker. In such a case, your speaker will not be able to produce louder sounds than you expect. 

So, if you are selecting speaker wires for audio systems and you wish to use very loud speakers, you should aim for speaker wires with lower resistance. 

The resistance of the speaker wire may be affected by age, that is how long the wire has been in use. After you use the speaker wires for a very long time, let’s say 15 years, the bare wire which is metallic may become corroded. Corrosion of the wire will then begin to disrupt the flow of the electrical signals to speakers and this will create distortion in the speakers. 

You should therefore consider replacing your speaker cables after you use them for quite a long period. 

Physical factors such as cuts or burns on the wires also damage speaker wires. Frequent connection and disconnection from your audio system over a longer period of time will affect the ends of the wires and can make them go bad. 

How Do I Know If My Speaker Wires are Bad? The Symptoms!

Usually, bad speaker wires decrease the quality of sounds from your speaker, even if your speakers are in good shape. 

If you notice a sudden drop in the quality of audio on your speaker, you should consider checking your speaker wires. 

In some cases, your speaker will just stop functioning and will produce no sound at all. 

When you are faced with either situation,  the speaker wires may not always be the culprits since it could be that the speaker and/or amplifier or receiver is also faulty.

With this in mind, you can replace the speaker wires on your speakers and then take note of what happens next. If the quality of the sounds is restored or the speaker begins to play your sounds, then it means that the speaker wasn’t faulty and so the speaker wires or wire was actually what was faulty. 

On the other hand, if the speaker refuses to work or continues to produce buzzing sounds even after changing the speaker wires, then your speaker or the amplifier may be defective. 

Due to the connections involving speaker wires, it is usually difficult to say for sure if the wires themselves are faulty since they are always connected to the speakers and amplifiers. In this case, you can use a battery or multimeter to check if the wire is bad. 

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How to Test Bad Speaker Wires With Battery

If your speaker suddenly dies out or begins to produce some buzzing sounds, you should consider checking your speaker wires since they may be the cause of poor sound quality.

If you see some cuts, burns, or frayed ends on your speaker wires, the speakers may be faulty. To confirm your suspicions, you can use a 1.5-volt battery to check for bad speaker wires in your audio system. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Disconnect all speaker wires from the amplifier. Ensure that speaker wires are however connected to the speaker. 
  2. Identify the positive end of your speaker wire and hold it with one. 
  3. With the 1.5 volt battery in your other hand, briefly touch the positive of the speaker with the positive terminal of your battery. Make sure that you only touch the terminals for a very short time, otherwise, your battery will die out and you may damage your speaker. 
  4. After the quick touch of the terminals, you will hear a sound on your speaker if the speaker wire and speaker are not faulty. However, if you do not hear any sound on your speaker, it suggests that either your speaker or the wire is faulty. 
  5. Switch the speaker and connect the same speaker wires to the new speaker.
  6. Repeat the process by touching the terminals of the battery with a wire. If you hear a sound on the speaker, then the first speaker was faulty and the speaker wire wasn’t. 

You can cycle through your speakers and wires and then determine whether the speaker is faulty or not. You only have to note that if the wire is faulty, you will not hear any sound on the speaker if you touch it with the battery. 

How to Test Speaker Wire With Multimeter 

A multimeter is a simple tool that you can use to test for bad speaker wires in your audio system. When testing for bad wires, in this case, you will be checking for the resistance in the speaker wires.

The resistance is measured in Ohms and a good speaker wire should have very little resistance, meaning the Ohms reading on the multimeter should be very small.

Multimeters come in two forms: analog and digital types. When you want to test for bad speakers, you should use digital multimeters since they are efficient and more accurate. 

When you want to use the multimeter, you should set your readings to Ohms and then ensure the initial reading before you test the device on anything else is zero. You can do this by touching both probes of the gadget together and noting the reading. If it is zero Ohms, it is an indication that the multimeter is in good condition and ready for use. 

So, let’s see how to use the multimeter to test for the wire.

  1. Turn off the amp and speakers.
  2. Disconnect all speaker wires from the amp. This is to allow you to get access to the speaker wire and work on it with interference. You can use screwdrivers to unlock the wire connections to the amp or just twist to unlock the wire from your speaker. 
  3. Once you have access to the speaker wire, join the bare wires at one end of the wire together to create a close circuit.
  4. At the other end of the speaker, separate the two bare wires and test them with the two probes of the multimeter. If the speaker is not faulty, the multimeter should read very small resistance. However, if the multimeter reads huge resistances then, your speaker is defective and may have internal breakages or some other faults.

You should consider replacing the speaker wire once you realize that it has gone bad. 


Although speaker wires are designed to last for a long, they may break down due to one or two reasons before their lifespans elapse. Sometimes there will be visible signs such as cuts or frayed ends to suggest it has broken down or is faulty. At other times, there will be no visible symptoms.

When you use such speaker wires in your audio system, you will notice a sudden drop in the audio quality of speakers, or the speaker may just die out. You can see these as symptoms of a bad speaker in connection but you can not be so sure since the speaker or amp may also be at fault. 

If you want to test to confirm your suspicions, you can use a battery or a multimeter to confirm. Although the battery is common and can easily be found in our homes, you will have to cycle through your devices to identify the faulty component. 

The multimeter is efficient and can provide accurate results in no time.   


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