If you love listening to high-quality music, then you probably have an amp or two in your home, in your car, or both. Amps allow you to control your music and make it sound precisely how you like it to sound, but they can be a hassle when they aren’t working correctly.
Some of the most common problems people have with amps include:
- The amp won’t power on.
- Sound is distorted.
- There’s humming in the speakers.
- Amp comes on, but no sound comes out.
- The surround sound feature sounds wonky.
- Amp goes into protect mode.
- Not enough bass (or treble).
- Volume keeps getting too loud.
- Speakers sputter occasionally.
- Amp keeps blowing fuses.
In this article, I’ll cover the ten most common problems people have with their amplifiers. I’ll also provide you with some troubleshooting and repair tips. Hopefully, this article will help you diagnose and repair what’s happening with your amps.
1. The Amp Won’t Power On
There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a new amplifier and taking the time to hook it up only to find that it won’t come on when you switch on the power. If you’re having this problem, there could be a couple of reasons for it.
If the amp in question is a car amp, the most likely cause is a faulty remote turn-on wire. If there’s a problem with this wire or if it’s hooked up incorrectly, you’re not going to get any power to your amplifier.
Other causes include:
- A broken or loose power wire
- A disconnected ground wire
- An incorrectly wired or powered amp
Any of these things could cause your amplifier to not power on when it should.
If your in-house amplifier doesn’t turn on, the problems could be similar to those listed above. For example, if you’ve hooked it up incorrectly or have loose or broken cables, it’s not going to work.
Furthermore, don’t forget to check all the common, easy-to-overlook “duh” issues.
- Is it plugged into the wall outlet?
- Is the other end of the power wire plugged securely into the amp?
- Is the wall outlet working?
- Did you turn it on?
These may seem like ridiculous tips, but you’d be surprised how often people waste hours troubleshooting only to find out the cord had come unplugged. (Remember National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?)
You should also ensure you have enough available power to run the amp. If the voltage or power supply is too low, the amp won’t power on even if everything is hooked up and plugged in correctly.
How To Fix It
Fixing a no-power problem means first determining why you have no power in the first place. If you’re lucky, it’s something simple like a non-working wall outlet or a loose power cord. In those cases, switching outlets or plugging in the cable more securely will fix the problem.
In more extreme cases, you may have to rewire your amp and double-check that you’ve set it up correctly. You may also need to replace a faulty wire.
This video provides a pretty detailed overview of how to install a remote turn-on wire:
If you need to install or replace yours, I highly recommend checking it out.
2. Sound Is Distorted
Whether you’re working with a car amp or a standalone stereo amp, distortion can occur when your amp is faulty or damaged.
However, the most common culprit behind amplifier distortion in both types of amps is a problem known as clipping. Clipping happens when there’s an issue between the power supply voltage and the amp. Put simply, you’re pushing your amp too hard, trying to force it to use more power than it’s capable of generating.
Additionally, distortion can also occur if you’re playing your music too loud. All amps have their limits, and if you’re constantly pushing your amp to its limits, you’re going to get distortion and probably a few other unpleasant side effects.
How To Fix It
If distortion is coming from faulty equipment, your best bet is to let the professionals handle it. However, if it’s due to clipping, the easiest fix is to turn down the volume! That should fix both the clipping and the sound distortion all at the same time.
3. There’s Humming in the Speakers
Humming is different from distortion. It’s that annoying, insect-like drone you get even when you aren’t playing any audio. It’s a more common occurrence in in-house amplifiers than in car amps, and it’s usually a problem with older models. Luckily, there are a few things you can try that might fix the problem.
How To Fix It
You should first try moving both the amplifier and the audio source system onto the same wall outlet using a surge protector. Sometimes, having them plugged into the same power source will fix the problem.
If it doesn’t, try testing both the audio source and the amplifier to see which is causing the humming. For example, if you have your television hooked up to your amp, try hooking a stereo up to it instead. Does it still hum? If so, the problem is probably with the amp. If it stops, though, the television is likely the culprit.
You can also check to make sure your wires and cables are all securely hooked up and plugged in where they need to be. If something is loose, it can cause a humming issue.
If none of those things helps the problem, you may have to call in a professional. But before you do, be sure to check out our in-depth guide on the subject; How to Remove a Humming or Hissing Sound from Speakers.
4. Amp Comes On, but No Sound Comes Out
If your amp is working, but you aren’t getting any sound, there could be a few different reasons for this. Let’s look at the most common ones.
If you’re having this problem with a car amplifier, this video is an excellent resource for diagnosing what the issue might be:
If you’re looking for a quick overview, these are the four most likely reasons for getting no sound:
- Your ground wire isn’t getting a solid signal.
- You aren’t getting enough voltage from your power source (the car battery).
- Your power cable is faulty or has come unhooked.
- Your RCA cords are damaged or unplugged.
Although they don’t mention it in the video, a lack of sound might have nothing to do with your amplifier. If you test your amp and find that it’s working fine, the problem is probably in your speakers, not the amp itself.
If your in-house amp is on but isn’t putting out any audio, the problem is usually related to the audio source. For example, it could be a faulty cable connecting your device (phone, television, game console, etc.) to the amplifier.
If you have a Bluetooth-connected amp, such as the Nobsound 100W Mini Bluetooth Amplifier (available on Amazon.com) that’s compact and can be used on the road or outdoors, it could also mean you didn’t pair the Bluetooth properly.
How To Fix It
In many cases, this problem is a simple fix. Double-check your connections and your Bluetooth connectivity. If there’s a problem, just reconnect.
If the problem is in your car amplifier, the solution will depend on what’s causing the issue. It, too, could be a connection problem. However, if the amp isn’t getting enough power, has a defective cable, or there’s a problem with your speakers, fixing it may require a little more time and effort.
As always, if you’re unsure how to handle a specific problem with your amp, it’s better to call someone who can fix it for you. If you try to fix it yourself and don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up destroying your equipment beyond repair.
5. The Surround Sound Feature Sounds Wonky
If your amplifier has surround sound capabilities, but your audio is coming from the wrong direction, you may have poorly placed speakers. Additionally, you may have connected one speaker’s wire to the other incorrect speaker and vice versa.
Not all surround sound problems stem from the sound coming from the wrong direction, however. For example, if the audio quality is bad, it could mean your audio source is incompatible with the amplifier. Additionally, the audio source may need a specific cable hookup that you aren’t using.
How To Fix It
Luckily, all these problems are usually easy to solve. It could be a simple matter of moving your speakers to opposite sides of the room.
If you’ve connected the incorrect wire to the wrong speaker or output, then you just need to trace the wires back to their sources. Make sure they’re on the right ones. If not, swap them over to the correct pair of speakers and outputs.
If sound quality is the issue, check your audio source. Be sure it’s compatible with the amplifier you’re using. Additionally, dig out your manual and read over the section on surround sound and soundbars. See if there’s a specific cable you should be using.
For example, some TVs should only be connected to outside audio sources using an HDMI cable.
Because both your amp and your television have hookups for coaxial cables, you may have assumed you could connect them that way. However, if the manufacturer states in the manual that all surround sound hookups must be via HDMI, your sound quality isn’t going to be great using any other cable.
6. Amp Goes Into Protect Mode
Although not all of them come equipped with it, protect mode is a feature that many newer model car amps have.
Basically, protect mode is a built-in safety feature. If your amp starts experiencing certain problems, it will automatically shut down to prevent damage to the hardware. Unfortunately, once they’ve entered protect mode, some amps won’t come back on at all until you fix the problem.
With others, you can manually turn them on again whenever you want, but if you haven’t solved the issue, they may go right back into protect mode. Here are some of the most likely reasons your amp self-activated the protect mode feature:
- An internal error occurred.
- The amp was improperly installed.
- Wires are faulty or have come loose.
- The amp overheated.
The first step to getting your amp out of protect mode is determining what caused it to shut down in the first place.
How To Fix It
To start, check to ensure all the wires and cables are securely attached and not damaged or loose. If your amp entered protect mode soon after using it for the first time, you should also get out the manual and double-check that you’ve hooked everything up accurately.
Clean any grime or dust that’s collected on the amp and tighten any loose connections. You can also make sure you haven’t blown any fuses.
If the problem stems from overheating, you must find out why that’s happening before you try to use the amp again. You may need to remount the amp, leaving enough empty space around it to allow for proper airflow. Also, make sure it’s in a cool location and not sitting directly in the sun.
Finally, if you can’t definitively determine what’s triggering protect mode, seek professional assistance. If you ignore the problem and keep restarting the amp, it’ll eventually kill your system completely.
7. Not Enough Bass (or Treble)
This problem is usually due to bad equalizer settings. However, it could also result from poor speaker placement or the music being too loud. As with most other issues on the list, there’s always the possibility that you have a loose or faulty wire or connection that’s causing the problem.
How To Fix It
I’m just estimating here, but I’d say that 99% of the time, all you have to do to increase your bass (or treble) is adjust your equalizer settings. Look at the settings on the amp and in your audio source device. Tweak them both until they give you the sound you want. It’s the easiest, most straightforward solution.
However, if the equalizer settings aren’t the issue, try moving your amp, speakers, or subwoofers to new locations. Sometimes, our equipment isn’t where it should be for optimal audio performance, and rearranging it will help.
Furthermore, turn your music down! Nothing sounds good blasted at ear-splitting volume.
If none of these things helps, check your connections to see if something is loose or damaged. If so, tighten it, repair it, or replace it.
8. Volume Keeps Getting Too Loud
This issue is one we’ve probably all experienced at one time or another. We’re cruising in our cars, listening to our favorite song, or sitting in our dens, watching a great action flick, when all of a sudden, the volume goes from perfect to insanely, eardrum-rupturing loud.
Most of the time, that has nothing to do with your amp. Usually, it’s the fault of the original sound engineers, or it’s because your car, television, or other device has an Automatic Volume Control feature.
How To Fix It
Automatic Volume Control (AVC) is an innovative technology that lowers and raises the volume of various devices to accommodate certain conditions. These could include:
- Accelerating or decelerating in a car
- Rising or falling wind
- Increases or decreases in ambient noise
- Gathering and departing crowds of people
Many, though not all, devices allow you to toggle AVC on or off, so if this aggravation happens to you a lot, you may want to turn it off and see if that helps.
9. Speakers Sputter Occasionally
Although sputtering speakers could be caused by loose or faulty wires or an internal issue in the amplifier, it often happens because your volume is too loud. If you start hearing sputtering, recall when it happens.
Does it occur during the loudest parts of songs? Does it sputter more when the bass is especially rumbly? Usually, you’ll notice a pattern, and most of the time, that pattern will indicate that your volume is too loud.
How To Fix It
I, too, know the joys of driving down the road or dancing around the house with my music playing at full blast. It’s great; it makes you feel like you’re enveloped in sound. Unfortunately, though, constantly listening to music at excessively high volumes can severely damage your speakers.
If you start hearing sputtering sounds, turn down the volume. If you don’t, the sputtering is only going to get worse over time, and eventually, it’ll ruin your speakers. If you notice it happens more when heavy bass is playing, adjust your equalizer settings to tone down the bass. Ditto the treble if it’s what causes it.
10. Amp Keeps Blowing Fuses
And that brings us to our final problem – amps continually blowing fuses. If this keeps happening to you, there are three common causes:
- You’re using the wrong fuses.
- There’s a problem with your ground wire.
- Something is causing your amp to get too hot.
So how do you stop it from happening?
How To Fix It
First of all, check your fuses. Make sure they’re the correct size. If not, they’re going to keep blowing. Your manual should tell you what kind of fuses you need; be sure you get those specific fuses. Otherwise, you’re going to continue having problems.
If a bad ground wire is the culprit, replace it or tighten your connections. Be sure to check your power wire, as well. According to popular car troubleshooting website, ItStillRuns, if the power wire is too small, “it could cause an abundance of resistance, which creates heat, which in turn makes the amp work harder.” This extra heat can result in blown fuses.
Other things that cause the amp to overheat, such as poor placement, restricted airflow, or bass settings that are too high, can also cause fuses to blow. Therefore, you first must ascertain why the amp is overheating. Then, you can take steps to remedy the situation.
That could mean:
- Remounting the amp in a cooler location
- Remounting it to create better airflow
- Adjusting equalizer settings
- Changing out the power wire
Once you deal with the heat issue, the fuse problem should solve itself.