Why my Car Speaker is Distorting at High Volume?

car speaker is distorting at high volume - featured image

There are multiple reasons why your car speaker might be distorting at a high volume, such as not having an amplifier, an over-powerful amplifier, faulty speakers, or wrongly set amplifier gain controls. Continue reading to find out some potential solutions for the distortion.

Potential Reasons Why:

  • No amplifier in the car stereo system
  • Faulty speakers
  • Too powerful signal for the speaker
  • Setting amplifier gain controls at wrong levels

Potential Solutions:

  • Purchase new speakers
  • Get an amplifier
  • Adjust amplifier gain controls
  • Avoid bass-boosted music

Good music is food for the soul, and with a top-notch car stereo system, your road trips can be transformed from bland driving to mini-musical concerts.

However, it is likely you might have once turned up the volume on your car stereo, only to experience severe sound distortion and a sharp drop in the quality of music playing at that moment. 

The reasons for this are not far-fetched and typically range from mismatching stereo components to faulty equipment.

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at the workings of a car stereo system, possible causes of sound distortion, and what to do when your stereo starts making singers like Adele sound like the rapper, Stormzy

Possible reasons your speaker is distorting at high volume

Now that we’ve established a basic understanding of how car stereos work to make music enjoyable for occupants, let’s look at some causes of poor audio quality from your car speaker.

Below are some of the general reasons car stereos may produce distorted sounds at higher volumes:

1. No amplifier in the car stereo system

Stereo systems can work without the presence of an amplifier, but do not expect to get the same sound quality as you would when you use one.

Amplifiers are built to produce fine sound output without distortions of any kind. And the absence of one in your setup could possibly be responsible for producing distorted sounds at higher volumes.

2. Faulty speakers

Sometimes, you probably won’t need to look far to discover the source of sound distortion from your stereo, as it could be due to bad or faulty speakers/subwoofers.

Once a speaker develops a fault, it becomes unable to process the required audio quality, thereby leading to distortion.

This distortion might go unnoticed at lower volumes, but it tends to become more obvious as you turn up the music. 

3. Too powerful signal for the speaker  

Another reason your car stereo could distort at higher volumes is as a result of pairing a powerful amplifier with an incompatible speaker.

Overloading a weak speaker with powerful audio signals from an amplifier can lead to damage of its voice coil, thereby resulting in sound distortion. 

4. Setting amplifier gain controls at wrong levels

Gain and boost control in an amplifier is intended to boost and improve input signals.

But when you set these to levels that are either too much or too low for your speakers/subwoofers to handle, it could result in sound distortion or even permanent damage of these components. 

Loud car stereo
Loud car stereo

What to do when your car speaker gives out distorted sounds?

Now that we’ve established possible reasons why your stereo system is not working well at higher volumes, where do you go from there?

Yank out the entire system, and buy a completely new one or patiently tinker with the stereo, with the hope that you’ll eventually get something right?

While the above steps might be applicable in certain conditions – with better finesse, of course – there’s a whole lot more you could do to fix a faulty stereo system. And some of these steps are highlighted below:

1. Purchase new speakers

As earlier stated, distortion of sounds by your stereo system could be due to faulty speakers.

And this can be easily remedied by buying new, better quality speakers. 

Speaker Fact: The most expensive speaker costs $4.7 million! Thankfully, the average speaker you may want to buy isn’t going to cost you this much.

If you’re interested in the cost of car speaker installation, our research found that it could cost between $400 and $1,100

2. Get an amplifier 

Another thing you should consider looking into if your car stereo produces distorted sound at higher volumes is to purchase an amplifier for the system or replace the existing one with a more suitable option.

Of course, to the casual driver, it might prove difficult to fix an amplifier into a stereo system; hence, in that case, the services of a professional will be required. 

3. Adjust amplifier gain controls

If you enjoy tinkering with systems, then you could correct distortion from your speakers by setting gain controls to appropriate levels.

Firstly, tuning gain controls to the highest levels, in the hope of getting louder music shouldn’t be done without proper guidance, as it only encourages distortion. 

We find that you can generally get quality sounds from your car stereo by setting the stereo volume about three-quarters of the way, and simultaneously adjusting the amp’s gain controls till distortion is reduced or eliminated. 

4. Avoid bass-boosted music

Most of us – myself included – enjoy the deep, soothing voices of talented bass singers and would give anything to listen to their music while out on a drive.

Unfortunately, this has led to the production of cheap, low-quality bass boosted music that tends to distort speakers at higher volumes. It becomes even worse when such music passes through amplifiers that pick up the littlest details. 

Consequently, play only original CDs and audio files on your car stereo. Paired with a quality amplifier, you won’t even need bass-boosting to enjoy the deep voices of your favorite singers!

How to Deal w/ Distorted Speaker Audio (Howcast YouTube)

How does a car stereo system work?

It may help to understand the concept behind car stereos and how they generally work to make our road trips more enjoyable.

A typical car stereo system consists of three main parts, and these are:

1.Head unit

2. An amplifier

3. Speakers

Typically, the flow of sound in a car stereo system is as represented below:

Head unit - amp - speaker

  1. The head unit is the powerhouse of the system, and it is what you would typically refer to as the radio or stereo. This unit is responsible for collecting sound signals and is also fitted with dials for regulating the volume and for basic tone control features. 
  2. The stereo amplifier works by picking up sound signals from the head unit, and boosting such signals, thereby making them strong enough for speakers to detect.
  3. And as inferred above, speakers are the part of the stereo system that produces audible sounds that you hear when playing music in your car. 


These three components work in tandem with each other, and it is essential you use the best of each, to get the best possible sound production from your stereo system.

How does distortion affect your car stereo – or you?

While distortion has no direct physical impact on your car stereo – it is rather an indicator of an existing fault – it can be rather unpleasant when you’re unable to savor the smooth, silky voice of your favorite musician. 

However, it is important that you find out what’s causing the production of warped sounds from your car stereo, as well as a lasting solution to such problems.

Most, if not all times, these factors responsible for sound distortion tend to cause more problems to your car stereo in the long run than the distortion itself.

Final Thoughts

While it is possible to enjoy music on your car stereo at both high and low volumes without suffering any form of sound distortion, there are several factors that need to be considered.

Having the knowledge of the right stereo system controls, understanding your setup’s power requirements.

And most importantly, using quality components in your stereo setup are all factors that can ensure you listen to music, your favorite music apps without any issues. 

Picture of Alex
I loved my car but was frustrated with my media system. So I upgraded my stereo, making silly wires and precarious phone mounts a thing of the past. The Apple Car Play stereo was so good I wanted to show more people how this could be done and truly upgrade their cars multimedia system! Founder StereoUpgrade.com
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