I started hearing a bit of a hiss-buzz from the left front door speaker in the Audi S4 (B5). Uh-oh – I know this sound. But why are my speakers blowing now? And why on the AM newsradio station of all things? Well, I guess the medium band of AM makes things more boomy? And apparently, my speakers are just old enough for that to happen.
A little Googling, however, and I discovered that there were a number of people with the same issue. And I enjoyed reading about the lousy original equipment speakers. I’ve never been a fan of Bose, considering it always overpriced – sure they have some interesting technological developments, but generally others do it better and for less. So it was interesting to disassemble the door panel and dig out the speaker to investigate it. The magnet was huge and heavy which is good and especially impressive considering it is only a 4-inch speaker. Also, there’s a really nice rubber surround that seals up the speaker to the door well. But then the speaker itself had a paper cone which just seems like a really poor choice for a car door speaker on a high-end system.
I focused on two forum posts to do my speaker replacement. I used both one at AudiForum and one at AudiZine. In both cases, they went with Infinity replacement speakers because they are the only easily available aftermarket speaker that operates at an impedance lower than 4 Ohms. And since the factory unit is expecting that kind of load, using a speaker that had a higher impedance would have resulted in too low a volume (and possibly wearing out the amplifier which is no spring chicken). Also, the Infinity speakers are better quality and better sounding speaker than the original. The only downside to the new Infinity speakers is that they are “2-way” speakers with a tweeter concentric in the bass driver whereas the original speaker was only the bass driver since the tweeter is up near the window. Theoretically, I might end up with too much tweet compared to the boom but after some thought I decided that the additional tweet wouldn’t be a real problem. So I didn’t bother modifying the new speaker to clip the tweeter or to remove the connection to the existing separate tweeter.
The AudiForum post recommended cutting up the original speakers and using the frames of the originals as a base for the new ones. But the AudiZine post managed to do it without cutting up the speakers and I figured that would be both easier and less destructive. And I was in a rush to get it done on the last nice weather day of the year. (Snow in the forecast.) My replacement went pretty well. I probably should have put in more time to do some silicone sealing but I didn’t have the time (or the silicone). I did want to reuse the speaker mounts and the rubber surrounds, though – that was of primary importance to getting the sound correct and not ending up with rattling. So I managed to screw the new speakers into the old mount using the screw in the inner most (deepest) corner of the mount. The original speakers were thicker so the screws didn’t need to go in as deep. It takes a little extra effort to tighten the screw down in the original hole. Then, I marked with a pencil where the flanges of the new speaker were too long to fit in the mount and used pliers to bend the metal there back and forth until it snapped on the line. With the new speakers fitting in the mount and one screw hole lining up, I drilled a second screw hole in the mount on the only place where a new speaker flange still had enough hole and the mount had enough plastic. I would have liked to get a third screw in but there just wasn’t space for it. The mount screwing into the door with the rubber surround will have to be enough to hold it together. The wire clips fit fine – the smaller one was a little loose so a slight squeeze on the pliers made it just tight enough to hold on.
I replaced only the broken speaker on the driver’s side first and then cranked up the stereo. My test track was Anthrax’s “In The End”. And I played it loud. Woo hoo! It sounded awesome. Well, from the driver’s side. The passenger side now sounded tinny and hollow. Wait. That means even before the driver’s speaker broke, it sounded tinny and hollow? And I never realized it until I got a better speaker in there? Wow! I happily replaced the passenger door speaker the same way and repeated the test. “In The End” sounded awesome. Hooray!