Update Sept 11: my conclusion was that my best course of action (see comments by John G) is to buy new rubber foam surrounds and try doing it myself. That way there is no wire cutting, and if I mess up, I can try again or have some shop do it. But... see the detailed comments by zzzz.
After years of ignoring these speakers, I’m enjoying music again... the definition and precision of these speakers is just stunning and it’s been years since I bothered with music.
While I could never afford anything even half the price now, years ago I could and I have a pair of Wilson Audio Watt Puppy System V speakers, including the woofer modules (two woofers in each).
The diffraction pads are a gooey mess on both the woofer units and the the tweeter/midrange units. While the diffraction pads can be scraped off and replaced on both, the rubber around the woofers has disintegrated, so the woofer modules are inoperable.
Wilson Audio has a 5 year warranty and won’t do so much as quote me a price on repair (“ask your dealer”). Yet my TRIAD subwoofer of the same time period is intact with no issues at all—the Wilson Audio materials are apparently just not made to last.
Anyway, I found Speaker Repair Pros down in Garden Grove, CA and they say they can apply new rubber on the woofers and fix them for $65 each. As I cannot afford new woofer drivers for thousands of dollars, repair is the only option.
Problem is, the interior wiring is soldered with extremely thick wires (see below). I don’t have the soldering tools or skill to safely desolder things (and there are no spare parts available to fix were the terminals damaged), so the repair guys are suggesting cutting the wires 4-5 inches from the terminal. But if I cut the wires I have the same challeng in soldering a braided wire that looks to be 3/16" in diameter.
Mel G writes:
Wilson Audo is an interesting company. They used to be willing to send you new drivers. A problem I’ve found with them, as in a number of other high end speaker systems is that the drivers are often just moderate in price and quality. Wilson is a good example of that. All foam surrounds will deteriorate after some time. They are petroleum based, and primarily interact with the sulfur content and moisture in the air. The more of it, the shorter the lifetime of the surrounds.
I’ve repaired a number of drivers over the years with new surrounds. It isn’t too hard to do with many woofers, but getting the correct surrounds can be more of an issue. If the driver uses “standard” surrounds for its size, you’re ok. If it doesn’t, but was very popular, then you can still get the correct ones. But otherwise, new surrounds, while working, won’t provide the same performance. Just be aware of that. Getting the company that “fixes” the drivers to say whether the surrounds they are using are an exact, or almost an exact match, depends on whether you know them or not.
Wilson, like a number of other high end makers, uses wires that are far larger in gauge than needed. That’s just the high end way! It’s impressive, though has little, or no impact, on actual performance. So what I’m going to say will horrify some, but cutting the wires five inches away, is fine. You really don’t have to solder them back together. Any method will do. Some better drivers don’t even allow wires to be soldered, they use screw connections on the drivers that look like the ones on the back of your amp.
Stripping the wires back about an inch and twisting them together, then wrapping tightly with electrical tape until someone can crimp them together for you, will work fine. If a few of the wire strands break off, it’s fine too, after all you’re effectively doubling the gauge with the twisting anyway.
Best luck, and hope you can test the Canon EOS R5 soon.
DIGLLOYD: I guess I’ll inquire as to how well the new rubber surrounds match the originals.
Jeff H writes:
Had the same issue with mine several years ago. Contact http://goodwinshighend.com They fixed mine. They are in boston but at the very least can give you professional advice.
Peter M writes:
Check out this link.
Also, talk to Paragon SNS in Michigan. They may be able to point you toward a member in your area that works on them.
James G writes:
I have repaired a aubwoofer in my old Lexus LS 430 and a pair of Paradigm bookshelf speakers with kits from SpeakerWorks.com. https://www.speakerworks.com/speaker-repair-kits-s/65.htm
The cost was very modest and the process was pretty straightforward.
You might not have to desolder the heavy cabling as access to the speakers for repair is through the front.
Is the sound ok? yes. Is it identical to the original? Impossible to tell, though the manufacturers will certainly tell you these kits degrade the sound. In many cases, though, the speaker cones themselves appear to be average quality. That they may sound slightly different after repair, who’s to say? Maybe they sound better. The repair is easy to do and if you dont like the sound you can always send them to someplace expensive.
DIGLLOYD: maybe I should just try repairing them first, and avoid the cutting of the wires. And... these are woofers, so I presume the cutoff is ~120 Hz or so, which makes it unlikely to be a sound quality issue.
Sorry to hear (and see) that your speakers are toast (looks like your surrounds have rotted...). It shouldn't be particularly hard to find replacement parts and service in the aftermarket. Wilson does not use exotic drivers in their products. That said if you end up replacing the drivers with new ones (rather than getting your surrounds refoamed), you'll want to match the originals as otherwise the crossover won't be properly matched to the drivers. (Speaking of which, if your drivers look that bad, you might consider some new capacitors in your crossovers.)
The suggestion to call Goodwins is a good one, they're an old-line high end dealer and may well know who works on Wilsons on the west coast. If they won't give you a west coast name, I wouldn't give up - there is surely someone in CA, NV, or otherwise nearby who "does this" on a regular basis. If you really hit the wall, I would post a query on diyaudio.com, in particular the "multi-way" speaker forum - https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/multi-way/.
DIYaudio is the Grand Central of the audio world, frequented by everyone from Nelson Pass (www.passlabs.com) to the most obscure Hungarian tweaker. If you can't find help there, you probably can't be helped. But again, this really shouldn't be a difficult issue to deal with.
DIGLLOYD: sounds “simple” as in a multi-day project to get it right when starting with little knowledge or repair skill. I’ll get it done as time allows.
Replacing the drivers presumably means soldering as well.
Ashish N writes:
It may be worthwhile to post your note on the What's Best Forum for high end audio .
Lots and lots of audiophiles, dealers and manufacturers follow that forum, including Bill from Wilson Audio….his forum name is metaphacts. I am a member of that forum as well.
John Ga writes:
Noticed your deteriorated Wilson Audio subwoofer driver surrounds. Those were made by Dynaudio, a Danish company, and they're widely sold (not particularly exotic). I used to build speakers with them. You or your repair provider can get new foam surrounds here:
It's called "reconing" and some pro audio dealers provide this service or can refer you.
Best to get it done by an experienced tech. because if you decenter the cone, the voice coil could rub causing distortion. Dynaudio voice coil gaps are quite tight for their "crushed" coil wire (not as tight as JBL's edge-wound coil gap, but still...). Technicians that do this work typically have a turntable jig for applying the glue and centering the cone on the frame.
DIGLLOYD: I will see if there is any reasonably close repair place... I am reluctant to go to dealers in San Francisco or Berkeley due to high risk of my van being broken into.
Christian R writes:
I second cutting the wires 5 … 7 cm away from where they’re soldered to the woofer terminal and then, after the repair is done, join them together with a cheap automotive crimping tool. (that or get a cheap 100 W soldering iron — nothing fancy, just a plain soldering iron that plugs directly to the mains — and unsolder the thick wire. just make sure the thin wire going to the voice coil is not unsoldered.)
As for the new surround: you need refoam kits for Dynaudio 21W54 such as this https://www.ebay.com/itm/Dynaudio-21W54-21W-5406-24W-100-22W75-24W75-8-Refoam-Kit-Speaker-Repair-/161605311348. However, if you’ve never done this before, you’re better off finding a speaker repair shop (NOT a high end dealer!). These repair shops usually deal with blown voice coils and cones of PA and disco speakers; refoaming a woofer is a walk in the park for them.
However, you will need to remove the drivers from the chassis anyway. because refoaming also means re-centering. If this is not done correctly, the voice coil will rub, and the sound will distort. And most likely, there will be a silicone seal between the box and the driver chassis to prevent air escaping. Be prepared to remove the silicone seal from both sides and re-apply a silicone sausage when putting the repaired drivers back in.
One last thing: the new foam surround will be stiff. While it will — eventually, in two or three years maybe or maybe never — soften up, you’re better breaking in the new surrounds *before* putting the drivers back in. you could either ask the repair shop to do this for you or you can do it yourself.
Should you decide to DIY: screw the two drivers of one channel together face to face using any screws and nuts thick enough. 3 are usually enough. then connect the drivers directly to your amp’s speaker terminals. IMPORTANT: you need to reverse the polarity of one driver (IOW: one driver has its + and - terminals connected to the corresponding + and - terminals of the amp. the other driver has its + terminal connected to the amps - terminal and the drivers - terminal to the amps + output.) then play sinus sweeps from 10 to 500 Hz from a tone generator or a CD or digital files thru the amp. The break-in will take 24 to 48 hrs — the volume should be moderate at first, then loud and then moderate again towards the end. You will not hear much beause the polarity inversion will cancel out most of the sound. It bothers you, just put a thick blanket over the drivers and let them be massaged. from time to time, listen for any kind of rubbing noise — that would be the voice coil scraping.
I don’t know the impedance of the woofers, but you can certainly wire one pair in series (NOT parallel) when connecting them to the amp. when in series, connect the - terminal of the amp to the - terminal of the first driver. then connect the + terminal of the first to the + terminal of the second driver and the - terminal of the second driver to your amp’s + output. if your amp is stereo, you can break in all four drivers at once.
As for the signal used for breaking in: opinions vary. some use pink noise low-pass filtered, some prefer special bass frequencies, some use sinus sweeps. anything will work. just don’t go too high in frequency (i.e. > kHz) because a/ the woofer will never see such high frequencies later, and b/ the the wider the excursion, the better the massage — i.e. low frequencies, even subsonic, will do the trick. Be aware that the crest factor of sinus is very low and will put a higher strain on the voice coil. so don’t go overboard with volume when using sine waves. (i can send you some .aif files suitable for breaking in woofers. put them into itunes or use quicktime — just put either app on endless repeat.)
- Find a speaker repair shop in your neighborhood. Ask them if they’re ok if you bring the speakers or if they want the drivers alone. Ask them if they have refoam kits for Dynaudio 21W54 or if you should supply these. If so, buy refoam kits from the ebay source quoted above.
- If the speaker repair shop wants drivers only, either cut the leads at 5…7 cm from the driver chassis OR get a cheap 100…150 W soldering iron and unsolder them. if you clip the leads, use automotive crimping ferrules to join them back together later. - the refoamed drivers need to be broken in before you put them back in the enclosure. connect one of them polarity inverted and use any low frequency signal to give the drivers a proper workout at low frequencies for 1 or 2 days.
...The process is called REFOAMING, not RECONING.
reconing means replacing almost everything visible from front: cone, dustcap and surround. you only do this if the cone is damaged which is less likely to happen with modern plastic cones. paper based cones could be ruptrured easily; I once had a broom stick (!!) falling so unhappily that it fell right into my Focal 15" bass driver and ruptured the paper/polyglass cone… the most expensive fall of a broomstick in my audio career.
refoaming on the other hand means removing the rotten foam surrounds and replacing them with either new original foam surrounds or (possible for a number of Dynaudio drivers) with specially formulated rubber surrounds. foam surrounds have the advantage of being very soft. even if the replacement is not an original, it will most likely be soft and plyable enough not to change T/S characteristics of the woofer. but any foam will rot, hence be prepared to have them refoamed in a couple of years. what makes the foam rot? mostly UV light, but also volatile solvents like formaldehyde etc.
When putting in new foam surrounds, the repair shop will also make sure that the voice coil remains absolutely centered. This is vital and is not that easy — especially not with drivers that are manufactured for tight tolerances. The narrower the voice coil gap, the higher the magnetic field (all other parameters unchanged…) and the higher the driving force i.e. a narrow gap will result in less loss and better control over the movement of the voice coil. Dynaudio uses/used to use special hexagonal (IIRC) wire in the woofer coils to get the coil packed as densely as possible. but that means also that the coil must move in a narrow gap or else much of the advantage of tight packing is lost again.
PS: before ordering new surrounds, try to see if you can take a picture of the entire rear structure (chassis) of the speaker and send it to me for verification. Wilson at some point in history changed from Dynaudio to SEAS drivers. they will most likely use the same 8" surrounds. but i don’t want to give you false information.
... on second thought, the breaking in will probably not be neccessary (or not take as long) with soft foam surrounds. i’ve extrapolated my own experience with pleated cloth surrounds and paper cones (aka «old school») — these WILL take forever to break in. and a RECONED (as opposed to REFOAMED) puppy-woofer will also have to be broken in. i couldn’t find a picture of a RECONE kit for the puppy-woofers, but it will look similar to this <https://www.gumtree.co.za/a-speakers/city-centre/nexus-18-inch-1000-rms-recone-kit/1007283207360911127989609>. you can see that reconing also replaces the spider and the voice coil. and the spider will DEFINITELY have to be broken in, no matter how soft and pliable the (foam) surround.
DIGLLOYD: wow. I am now ready to NOT do it myself... time sink. Gotta find a shop.