We all age – some of us more gracefully than others — but what about speakers? Actually, most speakers age very little over a decade or two. In fact, many, unless blown or left unused for long periods (years), tend to not age at all. There are thousands and thousands of Ohm Walsh 2’s working fine, and they were made 30+ years ago.
However, in the 1960’s, foam surrounds (the flexible membrane between the driver’s cone and driver’s frame) began to replace the cloth and rubber surrounds used since the 1930’s. These new surrounds made better sounding speakers (because they damped resonances better) and dominated the industry for many years. They did have a drawback: they deteriorated with time and needed replacement every decade or so. Many speakers from the 1960s thru ’80s are needing maintenance. There is an upside to those Oldies; they tended to be larger and delivered greater bass than many of the current crop of little speakers.
Can you change the surrounds yourself? Yes and no. With most woofers, it is possible to buy kits to replace the surrounds and stop the woofers from rubbing and making bad sounds. Most people can follow directions and improve the sound of their speakers. Please remember there is often a major sonic difference between working and working correctly. Some manufacturers (including Ohm) strive to support their older models. If you suspect that your old speakers are not providing the performance they once did, it is probably worthwhile to have the manufacturer check them out and bring them back to full performance (or upgrade them) if needed.
Do tweeters need maintenance? Generally, no; the tweeter’s voice coil (the wire that conducts the electricity) is so light that usually it works or it’s dead. Sometimes, the tweeter can be mechanically damaged and makes a buzzing sound. But, as a rule of thumb, if tweeter sounds OK, it is OK.
Do crossovers need repairs or upgrades? Rarely. The crossover divides the electrical energy by frequency and sends it to the proper woofer, mid-range, tweeter, etc. It usually consists of resistors, inductors and capacitors. Unless over-driven, resistors and inductors stay the same for decades. Film capacitors also have a very long life-expectancy. The less expensive electrolytic capacitors can shift in size (capacity value) and in peak voltage blocking ability when not used for a period of years. They tend to fail catastrophically if they are subjected to too high an input. Luckily, usually the capacitor becomes open and nothing else fails. It is possible to replace old electrolytic capacitors with modern film capacitors and eliminate the worry of failures.
At Ohm, we offer a full check-out service on all our models – new and old – for a flat $40/pair, plus shipping and handling. In addition, that $40 will be applied to any work required. We also support older models bought on second hand. Those can be sent directly to Ohm for this service and get a 20% discount on any repairs or upgrades needed. We do not offer surround replacement kits as we want to check out the repaired driver and know every Ohm sounds as it should. Our speakers are our sales staff.
John Strohbeen Author
John Strohbeen is the president of Ohm Speakers.