How Long Do Speakers Last? (The Truth)

The great variety of audio-video technologies on the market make your choices quite challenging when looking for speakers. Knowing how long do speakers last will ensure you are making the best purchase decision.

Most speakers last more than 20 years, but some can last a lifetime.  It depends on many factors, the most important among which are the type of the speakers and their maintenance.

The estimate is based on survey data which I will cover in this article. Also read, How Long Do Home Receivers Last? Also, check out my recommended speaker setup for home theater.

How Long Do Speakers Last
A wall of vintage speakers is shown in this photo.

Before buying new speakers for home, or outside usage, it is always better to be familiar with the product’s reliability you are investing your money in.  The sound quality is first, but durability is probably the next. 

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The best combination, therefore, is to have them both at a reasonable price.  Finally, yet importantly, if you are satisfied with your old speakers, you may want to know how long more you can rely on them, and under what conditions. 

The real-life is full of examples when the old classical speakers are more durable and still provide an excellent hi-fi sound.  

The Survey About How Long Speakers Last

In his survey, Steve Guttenberg asks people how long should а hi-fi system last and compares the answers with another blog poll about the lifespan of the iPhone. 

Apparently, in both surveys, the polled answered by experience, giving up to two years of life for iPhones, but between ten to twenty years for hi-fi systems!  They give maximum credit to speakers and amplifiers as so reliable that they need repair only in case of misuse. 

Further, the author supports these claims, giving examples of hi-fi systems, used since the seventies and still functioning perfectly.  (1) 

These examples prove that several decades are just an average lifespan for speakers.

Reliability

The technology journalist Whitson Gordon states that speakers are one of the longest-lasting audio products, designed to stand the test of time and not change as quickly as most technologies. 

For example, he gives his speakers, older than ten years, following him in six different locations, and still serving him satisfactorily.  The speakers are wirelessly integrated into the internet, and the only thing he has been doing so far was to shift from one cloud service to another.  He never upgraded or repaired them, nor needed new ones.  (2) 

However, not every type of speaker lasts so long.

In his article, the journalist criticizes one of the speakers’ manufacturers for their policy towards the clients.  He reproves their decision to stop supporting software updates their loudspeakers released between 2005 and 2011. 

The author does not see any other problem with the old speakers, besides that “, they will keep working until they do not.”  (2)

To him, the long-lasting speakers hinder the sale of the new company products.  It is not a secret that some companies use such tactics to impose their new manufacturing.  

Types Of Speakers

There are many speaker types, but we should focus on active and passive ones regarding their durability.  To figure out how these two types are related to the durability of the speakers, we should first get familiar with their meaning and their advantages and disadvantages. 

In short, the most straightforward active speakers are self-powered by an amplifier embedded in their cabinet.  Passive speakers get their power via an external amplifier and cannot function separately from the audio system.  (3)  In the case of the speakers, however, the simplicity is correlated to their endurance.

According to Bowe, one of the most extraordinary things about passive speakers is that they can last a lifetime!  Unlike many modern active speakers, the passive ones have no inbuilt technological confines. 

Neither a new wireless protocol nor a software update will influence their functioning and make them irreversibly outdated.  If you buy new passive loudspeakers today, you will use them the same way in 30 years.  (4)

Table 1 below displays some primary advantages and disadvantages of both types of speakers. 

Passive Speaker AdvantagesPassive Speaker DisadvantagesActive Speaker AdvantagesActive Speaker Disadvantages
Fewer wiresExternal powering is necessaryAmp and speaker go togetherDouble wires
Easier to placeNot wireless applicableSelf-poweredIt needs to be close to an AC plug
Easier to upgradeSignal often dissipates, going to the crossover after the ampThe signal goes through the crossover before the ampComplex and often impossible to upgrade
Replace the ampBetter control over the signal, less prone to distortionAmp not designed not for replacement
Lighter weightAllow wireless applicationsHeavier weight
More durableNo need for a cable between the speaker, and amLess durable

In theory, active speakers have prevailing advantages regarding the compatibility with the new technologies.  The capability to accept wireless signals seems to be a crucial advantage. 

However, it is not the same when talking about durability.  In most cases, the fast development of the same technologies that seem to give an advantage to active speakers makes them outdated and unable to use. 

There are no repair or upgrading options, so you have to buy new active speakers, which is relatively unprofitable.

FAQ

How Can I Make My Speakers Last A Lifetime

The key to making your speakers last a lifetime is in the correct and regular maintenance.  In the case of the speakers, the maintenance does not strictly refer to upgrade or any standard repairs. 
It is instead a matter of routine care and protection.  The top five enemies of the speakers are dust, heat, static electricity, power surges, and pure ventilation.  If you can protect your speakers from these enemies, you will enjoy listening to them for a lifetime.  (4)

Do Speakers Wear Out?

Like most of the stuff that people use, speakers also wear out.  However, the period of wearing out, especially for passive speakers, is quite long.  The time, of course, depends on both intensities of use and the proper maintenance of the loudspeakers.
Typically, speaker parts such as the surround, cone, and capacitor of the crossover deteriorate over time, lowering the sound quality.  However, if you have vintage passive speakers, you can replace the worn parts at a very cheap cost and prolong the speakers’ lifespan.

What Are Some Of The Reasons Speakers Go Bad?

Besides the top five enemies mentioned above, there are bunches of other common reasons that can make your speakers sound bad.  The first other possibility is turning them too loud for an extended period.  It can physically damage the speaker. 
The recommendable level should not exceed the standard median volume level for extended periods.  Other reasons can include leaving your speakers in moisture and extreme heat or cold environments. 

How Do I Protect My Speakers From Dust?

As already mentioned above, the dust is enemy number one to the speakers.  Dust infiltrates the wire connectors and disrupts the electric signals that run between the source and the speaker.  (4)
You need to clean them regularly and very carefully.  Dust pads, dry cloths, air canisters are all appropriate for cleaning.  Usage of liquids, however, is not recommendable.    

The Final Thought

Today, modern high technology has become an integral part of human life. Many people are even addicted and dependent on modern technology. Others, like some audio enthusiasts, adore their Hi-Fi systems and are constantly upgrading them.

The truth is that every technology, from the simplest to the most complex, needs proper use and maintenance. Read your technical manuals carefully while using your device, and you can enjoy it for decades, just like most audio speakers’ owners do.


Sources 

  1. Steve Guttenberg, “How Long Should Your Hi-Fi Last? (Poll).” CNET, www.cnet.com/news/how-long-should-your-hi-fi-last-poll/ Assessed Apr 22, 2021
  2. Whitson Gordon, “Speakers Should Last Decades, but Sonos Wants to Convince You Otherwise.” IFixit, www.ifixit.com/News/35328/speakers-should-last-decades-but-sonos-wants-to-convince-you-otherwise. Assessed Apr 22, 2021
  3. “Active vs Passive Speakers: What’s the Difference? Which Is Better?” What Hi-Fi? www.whathifi.com/advice/active-vs-passive-speakers-whats-the-difference-which-is-better. Assessed Apr 23, 2021
  4. Tucker Bowe, “The 5 Easiest Ways to Make Your Speakers Last a Lifetime.” Gear Patrol, www.gearpatrol.com/tech/audio/a718343/passive-loudspeaker-care/  Assessed Apr 23, 2021