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Rattling Car Speakers? - Really, People, Is the Distortion and Noise Not Obvious to You?

Don is a Writer and a Storyteller. He has published over 9 books on varied subjects along with many articles and commentary on his blogs.

I stopped at a light and she pulled up beside me.

My wife and I were returning home after a supermarket trip the other day.

It was a nice, Sunny Florida day, and we had the windows rolled down and we were enjoying the great weather and just chatting back and forth about what we were planning to do over the weekend.

And then we heard it!

There was a deep raucous sound that resembled the sound of metal rattling on metal, mixed with an alternating low frequency similar to a rusty and dented metal drum being struck with a two-pound hammer by a drunken arthritic wino.

We looked at each other, and both of us had a look of pain in our eyes, mostly due to the fact that the sound was so loud.

We had been slowing down in the left lane for a stoplight and another car was slowly pulling past us in the right lane.

It was an 80-something Chevrolet Caprice Classic that someone had once spent some serious money on, customizing .

It was a medium blue color and the body and chrome were in good shape. It had tires and wheels that by themselves had probably cost over $4000 total, at one time.

The windows were blacked out so you couldn't see inside, and the dual pipes implied some level of customized V8 engine was under the hood.

Then, on closer inspection, I noticed that the rear window had been broken and patched with duct-tape.

I saw that the front windows were down, and inside, driving, was a young woman who looked to be in her twenties, in a tank-top shirt.

And the noise, Oh My God, the Noise.

She had what I can only assume was once a decent stereo and set of speakers that were generating so much rattle and distortion that I honestly could not tell of it was actually music being played.

Really, it was so bad that at one point I heard something resembling a singers voice, but it also was so chopped and shredded by bad equipment that I couldn't tell of it was a woman with a tenor voice.

I jokingly told my wife; Well,there's another one who's hearing will be so screwed up that they will be using hearing aids within five more years!

Hatchback Speakers

Hatchback Speakers

Noise Pollution and hearing injuries to children

And then, as soon as we had both stopped, the girl, reached down, lifted what I could see was a baby bottle and turned and started to feed what had to be a child in the rear seat.

And that my friends is what rally Pissed me off!

I know there are laws against abusing children, but I'm pretty sure that they don't include Sound Abuse or submitting them to extended periods of NOISE POLLUTION.

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I wanted to yell something over at the woman (mother?) and tell her that she shouldn't do that to a child, but at that moment, the stoplight changed again.

The woman, said something over her shoulder to whomever was in the back seat, lifted her arm and sniffed, and then she stepped on the gas and went the other way up the road.

She was just tooling down the street, generating raw and horrible rattling noises at high decibel levels, destroying her own hearing and probably that of the child trapped in the back seat.

Sound Level Meter

Sharing your Music with the World

OK, I understand!

You love your music and you want to share it with the world.

You want to exhibit your technical skills. You know, the skills that it took to;

1- buy a CD, insert it into your automobiles CD Player, and

2- you want to show the world your personal expertise that it took to adjust the Volume and Bass and Treble settings to their limits of normal human endurance.

And, you want all of the women to hear you coming down the road and swoon over these special skills that you have in; music selection and technical equipment manipulation.

I mean, boy, are you special, No One can manipulate three knobs like you can! Right?


I'm making myself sick!

Real Music Lovers don't play Crap!

Come on! Even if it may be popular at the moment, Crappy Music disappears from the charts as quickly as it appears there.

Do you love Music?

Then you know that Music is what's played on musical instruments and played by professional musicians that have studied and practiced their craft for years, even decades to be considered the best at their jobs.

Music is what was recorded in million-dollar music studios on million dollar electronic equipment that was designed to catch every note perfectly, and not just the notes but the harmonics and sub-harmonics that make the music richer and even more special to the discerning listener.

That's Music.

Of course, there are genre's of music that are more spontaneous and possible less structured, but even they are great entertainment. Music genre's such as; Classical, Folk Music, Blues, Jazz, R&B, Ethnic, Heavy Metal, Punk, Country, Rock, Hip Hop, Rap and on and on.

Each of these are unique styles of music and singing that reflect such things as ethnic, generational, and personal tastes, and each "says something" to their individual audiences.

And, for your information, you Noise Polluters of our planet, they all, especially the better ones, that are not just "flash in the pan" artists, end up using those same professional studios and musicians.

What does that tell you about Music and how it should be presented to others?

Know your speaker limitations in a car.

By the way, over the years, I have had my own sets of cranked up Speaker and stereo components in my automobiles.

Even my Jeep Wrangler, today has a custom stereo system and a big bass-boost speakers in it.

But, i like my music clear and crisp, not abused to the degree that it is painful to the ears of the listener, regardless of genre.

So, the first thing you have to do when you are shopping to Kick Up your automobile sound system, is to know some things about your vehicle and how it limits a sound system.

First of all, your vehicle is a closed box of air.

Second, speakers generate sound by moving air.

So, here is the main problem in a Nutshell!

If your windows are closed, and you have put some enormous speakers into the car. 'Cause, the bigger the better, when it comes to speakers right?

And then you turn on some song with some really powerful Bass notes.

What happens is; those enormous speakers are going to try to move the air inside the car, very far and very fast. And, if the air in the car resists this speaker cone movement, in any way, then the speaker cone will no longer produce the original notes but distortions of those notes.

Now to the rear of the speakers.

You have to realize that when a speaker moves from a sound, the sound is probably what they call a sinusoidal wave.

Simply put, this means that each note has a positive peak of power and a negative peak of power.

This means that if the speaker moves forward 1-inch on the positive power peak, then it will also try to move backward past the zero point and 1-inch backward on the negative power peak.

So, now lets assume that you car interior was 6x4x8 feet roughly or 180 cubic feet of air volume for the speaker to move freely in.

If you mounted your rear speakers behind the rear seats, as is most common, you have to ask yourself, what room do I have in my trunk for the Bass Reflex part of the sinewave?

This is the real kicker for most people.

Go out and open your trunk, and it will probably be very small relative to the passenger compartment, like maybe as small as 5x2x3 or 30 cubic feet of air volume.

Now, several things here, one-the trunk is always closed, 2-there are always things in your trunk to make it even smaller, and three- half of your sound will be even more distorted by the back pressure on the speaker with each note, than with the forward movement.

So, if you are using standard design speakers, and if you put in that cool 1000-watt peak power amplifier in your dash, you think you are ready! Right?

But when you check it out and, surprise, you start getting distortion at maybe 1/4 of the volume range of your Amplifier. You, my friend are overpowered.

And if your speakers, are big those Big Dog you always wanted, and you start to reach the end of their effective range and start generating distortion at half of their physical movement range, then you are have wasted your money on those Big Dog speakers.

Speaker Rattle - another kind of Noise Pollution

There is one more, even more disturbing situation with having far too large a set of speakers and amplifier.

Rarrle! Yes, Rattle, of the speaker frame against the car frame.

Hopefully, it is not too hard to understand that if your speaker is trying to move too much air up to the point of distorting the sound, that the speaker cone is also trying to distribute this excess power to other places.

Places like the frame of the speaker. Yep, the speaker cone is also, at this point trying to move the metal frame and what is it mounted to.

In all probability, it is mounted to; a paperboard rear seat shelf, or a plywood one that you made, or sometimes to a metal car frame.

And, eventually, maybe not the first week or so, but eventually, it will work on those mounting screws just enough to get a little physical relief and with that relief comes loosness and guess what?


Once you are at this point with your sound systemthen you are officially a NOISE POLLUTER!

You are generating so much Noise Distortion and Rattle in varying degrees and combinations that you may as well be just playing a soundtrack of a combination of Cat Cails, Coyote Howls, Sick Screech Owl screams, and such.

It's just embarrassing to your friends and it should be to you.

Buy what will work in your automobile

First of all, if you love good music, go buy a book or at least do a little research on speaker designs used in automobiles, and on audio amplifiers. Learn the terms and what they mean to you.

I find so many people that have no idea what the difference is in Peak Power and Average Power, for example. Well, to you, the difference is dollars.

So, after you do your research at least to the point that you recognize most of the terms, then you go to a

We, the rest of the World, really don't care!

Nope, We really don't care that you are playing what you think is; the coolest, the hottest, or just your all-time favorite piece of music. Pollution is Pollution!

So Stop trying to impress us with CRAP!

Once you reach a certain level of volume, whether it is distorted our not, you are just plain being rude to your fellow man.

You aren't tell the world that you are COOL!

You aren't telling the world that You GOT RIGHTS and you can play whatever you want to, and at whatever volume level you want.

No, my friend, when you drove down the road and intentionally did one of more of the following;

1- you overrode the noise limits of the hearing aid that the old couple sitting at a stop light was wearing, or,

2- you put that scared look on the mother with two children at a gas station, or

3- you lit a fuse in the mind of that already prejudiced person you just passed with an" I could Kill You" look on his face, or

4- you just managed to irritate several people that were driving along and trying to talk to a friend, wife, child or whomever was in the car with them,

When you did these things for your own personal gratification, only, you did several other and more dire things.

First, you just helped to re-enforce the prejudices and misconceptions that these other people had about your race, sex, age group, ethnicity, whatever.

Second, you also gave the rest of the world an opportunity to make a mental note of what they considered as the relative intelligence of you and everyone and everything that you think you are "Representing".

Shame on You!


Anyway, lecture over, so; Thank You!

What? Oh, I said Thank You!

What? You couldn't hear me?


A Guide to Auto Speakers

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Don Bobbitt


Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on July 26, 2014:

Jason - Thanks for the comment.

And, I assume your home system is fantastic for enjoying your favorite music. I, am the same way. I like what I like as far as music genres go but, when I do play my favorites, I want it to sound as pure as possible, not as loud as possible.

Thanks again, DON

Jason R. Manning from Sacramento, California on July 25, 2014:

This is pretty funny, I am guilty as I used to be one of these knuckle heads , albeit I actually spent really good money to have high quality amps and speakers in my truck. Instead of boom boom, I would play classic rock, and if some hip hop head pulled next to me with his boom boom, I would turn it up to show how loud and CLEAN mine sounded versus his. Funny thing is I got several of these guys to roll up their window until they got past me. Now that I am in my thirties, I am equally annoyed by this and cannot stand it. I do however spend my money on my two channel home system. Voted up and funny, cheers!

ashley on March 07, 2014:

one of my factory speakers is giving me a slight rattle at higher volumes, but it's only one and I don't have an altered system, all factory. How do I fix it, it's annoying to me.

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on April 06, 2012:

Here in Las Vegas we here as loud as you can hear BOOM BOOM BOOM which is called music-my foot it isn't.Is this what happens to us baby boomers we get like our parents?

I have to close a window up when a car drives and waits at a light with that darn noise going.

Voted useful, funnyand interesting, Joyce.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 28, 2012:

well interesting.. but a good hub nonetheless :) Thanks for sharing your noise LOL now fix the speakers on this hub!

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on February 15, 2012:

lmmartin, you are right on the point about the total disregard for others that seems to be so rampant in our society, today. this raucous noise is just one example of it. thanks for the comment.

lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on February 15, 2012:

I am SO on your side here. Today, while sitting at a red light a car pulled up behind me with the "music" so loud I could see his car vibrating in my rear view mirror, and it sounded terrible. Now I know why.

I often wonder about those who drive through quiet residential areas with the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM at full volume. Do they think we enjoy hearing their racket over our television sets? Do they think every house within a four block radius loves hearing their choice of so-called music?

Some places have made it against the law to have sound above a certain level in the car for safety reasons. What a good idea.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on February 11, 2012:

It's called reciprocity.

You respect Me,

and I Respect You!

H C Palting from East Coast on February 11, 2012:

I hate these knuckleheads. Usually it's young and dumb males but I too have seen females at the wheel. They only reinforce negative thinking about them and whatever groups they belong to or associate with. I don't need or want to hear another person's music coming from their car when I'm in my car or in my home. They have no consideration for others as you've pointed out, not even their own kids.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on February 11, 2012:

fatigmon- thanks for the comment, and you are absolutely right, the noise is bad enough to me, but when i saw that there was a child in the back of this Noise Polluter on wheels, I really got mad.

fatigmon on February 11, 2012:

Yep, they drive me nuts too. There are some types of auditory damage that hearing aids will not help. What you said about the small child or infant would really wrap it up for me, I think I'd probably lose it. I think any police officer near to this car would have to consider it abuse.

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