Troubleshooting: When One Speaker Channel Won't Work

Spend less than 20 minutes to get your stereo speaker system working again

Stereo speaker

It's pretty frustrating when audio fails to deliver as one expects. The good news is that the process for troubleshooting a silent speaker is often a combination of practice, common sense, and creativity.

However, there is a practical strategy to adhere to when dealing with stereo or multi-channel systems. The steps below can help quickly isolate operational problems down to a specific component and/or area.

Once the culprit has been identified, follow through to correct the issue or repair/replace damaged parts.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 20 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Check to see if the speaker channel is inoperative with all sources. If one speaker channel won't play no matter the input, it's very likely a speaker issue (you can skip to step three, but return here if no solution has been found). So, for example, if the problem exists only with DVDs and not any other source, such as radio or CDs, then it's possible that either the DVD player and/or cable connecting it to the receiver/amplifier is bad. Replace that cable with a new or confirmed-working one before testing to see if things have been resolved – remember to check that the balance control is centered and the volume is high enough to be heard. If the problem persists, move on to step two.

  2. Make sure the hardware isn't defective. Electronics can malfunction or die out at any time, often with little or no warning whatsoever. If replacing the cable in the previous step didn't fix things, then the issue could also be the source itself. Swap out the product for another of the same type, connecting it to the original receiver/amplifier and speakers. Be certain that the temporary replacement is functional and free of any problems. If the new testing shows that all speaker channels now play as they should, then you know it's not the speaker – time to shop for a new device. Otherwise, if the one channel still isn't working, move on to step three.

  1. Swap the right and left channel speakers. This is a quick and efficient way to test and see if one speaker is truly bad or not. So, for example, let's assume that the right channel does not work when connected to the right speaker, but that the left channel works perfectly fine when connected to the left speaker. After swapping, if the left channel suddenly does not work when connected to the right speaker, then the problem lies with the right speaker itself. If, after the swap, the left channel does work with the right channel speaker, then the problem is not the speaker. It has to do with something else within the system, being either the speaker wires and/or receiver/amplifier. So move on to step four. Note: Always turn off all units prior to removing or replacing cables or speaker wires.

  1. Work backwards to check for breaks or broken connections. It doesn't take much force to permanently damage a section of most cables. Starting from the speaker and moving towards the receiver/amplifier, thoroughly check the entire length of wire for any breaks or broken connections. If there are splices, make sure that the splice is maintaining a safe, proper connection. If something looks questionable or you are unsure, replace the speaker wire and check the whole system again. Make certain that all wires are securely connected to the terminals on the backs of the receiver/amplifier and speaker. Check that there are no frayed ends touching any metal parts, as even one strand can cause a problem. If the speaker wire is in good condition, yet the channel in question still won't work, then the problem likely exists within the receiver/amplifier itself. It may be defective, so check with the product manufacturer for warranty and/or repair options.

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