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JBL LSR Monitors - Sticky Mess

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by dvdhawk, Sep 30, 2015.

  1. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Has anyone ever found a suitable solution to the obnoxious sticky rubberized coating that JBL put on the front of their LSR series monitors?

    I have a pair of the LSR4328P, and I've got no complaints about the sound, but you simply cannot touch the front of them without leaving your literal fingerprints in relief-form in the rubbery residue from the rubber breaking down chemically. Over-time they have changed from a slight rubberized touch to a very sticky, full blown adhesive feel. The entire front of the cabinet feels like the sticky side of gaffer tape now.

    I'm afraid I might have to completely disassemble them, so I don't damage any of the components, and try a series of progressively stronger goo removers - at the risk of softening up whatever is underneath the 'rubber'.

    Has anybody had any luck with anything that will clean off the gooey mess? I've found numerous threads online, at GS and the like, and not seen any positive results short of shipping them back to JBL in Northridge (at my expense) and hoping they'll replace them out-of-warranty. It's a well-known problem, and a shame JBL / Harman didn't do a more pro-active recall.

    Any tips would be welcome, thanks!
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Maybe you can disassemble them and spray something on the surface to stabilize the material. I don't remember what it's called (something made by Krylon?) but there used to be stuff you could spray on a drawing to stabilize the charcoal or graphite.
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I hadn't considered using a fixative spray, partly because I'm not sure the look they have now is anything I want to preserve.

    If it was just a flat-front box with tradition flush-mount drivers, that would be one thing, but they have soft-dome tweeters and the flare/waveguide is also part of the sticky mess. I'm hoping that if I manage to get the coating off it doesn't make the tweeters sound shrill with a smoother, harder surface. I've read about others having the buttons getting all gummed up too.


    Roll them in flour and deep fry them?
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Maybe a mild degreaser? Something like goo gone or wd40 is good for masking tape and adhesive labels.? That's really a weird thing even it it is well known. I bought a $200 whammy pedal from digits have/Harmon and the power supply died after a few uses.
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your input guys.

    I was wondering about using that kind of solvent too Kyle. I have Goo-Gone, DeSolv-It, and WD-40 here. This is one of those things that once you start it, you're committed to seeing it all the way through - no matter what, so I was really hoping someone else would have taken the plunge and could brag about their results. I read something online about a guy who tried alcohol and claimed it was working ok, but lost the will to finish the second one - so that's not very reassuring.

    I'm not the least bit concerned about getting them disassembled or reassembled, I'm just afraid of making them worse (although I'm not sure how that would be possible). I've read through the manual and checked all the advertising materials I could find, looking to see if they gave this 'space-age polymer' a name, so I'd have a better chance of picking the right solvent. So far, I haven't found anything.

    I have another decent pair of monitors (Adam A7x), so I could take my time and do it right once I have a plan and get up the courage.

    Maybe they're dishwasher safe?
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I'm wondering if something geared for the interior of a car might be what works. Something geared towards auto detailers, would probably be plastic safe. I used isopropyl on slot of things, but is has taken the color out of a couple of plastic pieces.

    Maybe dish soap with a degreaser would be a safe start. Lol dishwasher safe.
  7. MrEase

    MrEase Active Member

    When synthetic rubbers start breaking down they can be a real pain! I've never known of any permanent solution and although solvents can remove much of the immediate problem, the goo soon returns. Short of removing every scrap of the rubber (even if it's possible) I'm not sure you'll ever find a good looking and lasting solution but once cleaned I would certainly research to see if you can find a suitable product to coat the remaining rubber. I've no idea what that product might be though...
  8. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for your input.

    There's a pretty thorough thread at GS with guys who have tried all kinds of techniques and gotten reasonable results, most without disassembling them. Some use just warm water and elbow grease, Goo-Gone, 1:1 bleach solution, rubbing alcohol, Krud Kutter, and those who sent the whole mess back to JBL.

    There's also a guy, who by all internet sleuthing appears to be an actual chemist, with a product for sale on eBay specifically for this problem. There's also an accompanying YouTube video (search eBay for JBL residue remover and it will take you to both the product and video). The eBay feedback on this product is all good, and nothing but favorable comments that it works great as advertised. Seems like he's sticking it to you (no pun intended), price wise for a small jar of liquid and shipping, but there would be some peace of mind in it having some science behind it - wanting to avoid causing further degradation of the material over time by using the wrong chemical(s). As a minor gripe, reading through the feedback over the last year or so, I can see the price has gone from $36 to $39 to $42 - before shipping. Maybe that shouldn't bother me, but that seems a bit … opportunistic to me.
    kmetal likes this.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I would imagine the premium cost is worth it, if the problem doesn't return, or goes away for significantly longer, than the otherwise cheap alternatives. My buddy has 5 lsrs on his room, I'm gonna give him a heads up.
  10. simman

    simman Active Member

    Had the same problem used the solvent and problem gone! Pain in the ass but it worked.
    kmetal likes this.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yeah, it seems a bit like that to me too, although I suppose a valid argument could be made about supply vs demand... OTOH, if JBL hadn't had this problem with those monitors to begin with, the guy wouldn't have a problem to fix ... LOL.

    I guess this is what is known as "trickle-down industry" ... LOL. I'm sure he hasn't been the first person to ever go into business selling a product or service that "repairs" another. After all, that's what every auto mechanic does.

    Actually, come to think of it, that's pretty much what we do, too. People bring us tracks that sound like crap, and in turn, through our know-how, gear and talent, we deliver back to them a better-sounding form of crap. ;)
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    As an update, to anyone else with a similar problem. I ordered the solvent that I referred to and finally got around to trying it out to clean up the JBLs this past weekend. I had a shoulder injury shortly after the stuff arrived and had a feeling this would still require a certain amont of "elbow grease", which would have been impossible with one arm immobilized. So now a couple months later, after weeks of PT, and getting caught up on the work I'd missed, I'm nearly back to 100% and had to make time to get these done. (Because apparently you can't have Christmas with a pair of sticky JBL monitors and their flight cases, in the middle of the living room.)

    The solvent arrived quickly. The guy won't win a lot of awards for packaging. You get a short wide-mouth glass jar with a piece of cling-wrap under the screw-on lid and a wrap of black electrical tape around the works. The wide-mouth jar is ideal for dipping without a big mess. The solvent itself is somewhat oily, but almost odorless, which was a nice surprise.

    The instructions are clearly written. They suggest you use a paper towel dipped in the solvent, but not dripping wet, to apply a light coat. After that, it's just a matter of working it in and rubbing the gummy stuff off. In some extreme cases they recommended leaving the solvent sit overnight, but in most cases you just have to work. If I let an area sit longer with the solvent, it didn't seem to matter, so I just did one area at a time. For me, rolling the towel as I rubbed did the best job of lifting off the bulk, then I could take a lot less solvent and keep wiping the residue off the same area until it was all gone.

    The most difficult part was getting the gummy stuff out of the little grooves that trace the outline of the tweeter waveguide and woofer. The solvent seems to make the polymer coating you're trying to remove turn whitish, or maybe it's the towels, so leaving it in the grooves wasn't an option. It looked terrible, so I had to find something to clean out the grooves. I had a couple old-fashioned cardstock pricetags, that happened to be in the box I was using to discard the spent paper towels. Those worked nicely in and around the grooves. The gum would roll up, and eventually roll out of the groove, or stick to the edge of the cardstock. Then I could cut a nice clean new edge on the tag with scissors and repeat until the crud was all out of the grooves.

    The instructions warn you not to get solvent on the enamel paint white letters and numbers on the buttons and meters, and not to get any on the speaker components. They suggest wiping the solvent off with Windex if you do. The woofers in these things use a foam 'surround', so I'd hate to assume the solvent is safe with that specific type of foam. The problem is, it's hard to tell exactly where the formed curvy box ends and the speakers begin. So in addition to worrying about accidentally poking a hole through the 8", or denting the dome tweeter, now I was nervous about getting solvent on them too, but pressed on doing everything outside those grooves on both boxes. Despite my best efforts, I did lose a little white paint / lettering on the first one. The button labels and meter markings are almost gone in a couple places. No matter how careful you are, they're just too close together to avoid contacting with solvent. On the second one, I masked off the meter with tape, but there's not a lot you can do with the row of little round buttons other than be even more careful. So live and learn, there. You want to keep the gummy stuff from mucking up the buttons, so you have to get in there somehow.

    So now a football game later, everything is cleaned up pretty nicely except the area inside the grooves, where things get dicey with the woofer and tweeter. Before I discovered this solvent, as I'd mentioned in a previous post, I was considering disassembling them and treating them with a more common commercial solvent. I've been cracking things open repairing them, and putting them back together since I was a kid, so I wasn't overly concerned about damaging anything in the process. As hard as you have to rub the gummy stuff to roll it off, there was just no way to get close enough to the drivers without ruining them, or depositing big gobs, of what would basically be an adhesive, around the edges. Maybe if you had a 10,000 cotton swabs and the patience of Job you might be able to roll it off a millimeter at a time. No thank you, hand me a screwdriver.

    With the speaker lying face down, I removed the 6 large screws on the back that hold the heatsink / amp module / brain to the box. It is gasketed, so unless you want big ugly pry marks, or want to compromise the seal on your studio monitors, you have to find a way to break it loose with prying. The heatsink is cast, and the fins are deep enough that if you have a nice big screwdriver and the speaker now lying on its side, you can get enough leverage to pop the whole thing loose with very little force. Grabbing it with channel-lock pliers or vice-grips would surely do the job too, but might leave bite marks.

    You get a tiny bit of leeway on the wiring harnesses, so this is where you have to go slowly and get a light in there so you can see what you're doing. One thin ribbon cable on the left rear of the PCB, three unique (can only fit one place, so no need to mark them) molex connectors on the lower right. You have to release the ribbon from its grip, and the molex all have a small locking mechanism. Then as you ease the entire thing out, there's one more inline molex connector wrapped in a sticky foam tape you have to release to disconnect from the speaker harness. 8 short bolts hold the woofer in the box, and 4 small screws hold the tweeter in place. All of them have a red waxy threadlock type goop on them. I pulled the spade connectors off the woofer, and left the rest of the speaker harness attached to the tweeter and set them aside. Caution, there's a thin rubber O-ring around part of the tweeter / waveguide you have to account for.

    I worked the solvent around the rest of it and it was very easy without the drivers in there, so in hindsight, the whole process would have been easier had I disassembled them from the start.

    I took some pictures along the way incase anyone is considering doing it.

    The solvent works. And they recommend when you're done with a surface, going over everything with Windex a few times, which did shine things up nicely. (and maybe neutralizes the solvent?) You might have been able to accomplish the same thing without any chemicals, or a cheaper goo remover, but I went with something specifically suited for the job, no regrets. Had I disassembled them first, I might have been more liberal with the solvent, but after I was finished, I see I got the job done using maybe 1/20th the amount in the jar. I'd barely made a dent and probably have enough left to do 40 more. After several hours and half a roll of paper towels, the solvent still only had a very faint oily smell. This time of year, without any fresh outside air, that was a pleasant surprise.

    The big decision someone else might have, is whether or not they're confident enough / skilled enough to disassemble (and reassemble) fairly expensive speakers on their own. Tool-wise, it took 2 phillips head screwdrivers,( 1 large and 1 small) plus 1 flathead screwdriver for releasing the ribbon connector. Had I known that to get the results I wanted, it was unavoidable - I would have been much better off taking them apart first.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone else who stumbles across this thread in the future with the same sticky JBL problem.
    kmetal likes this.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Gee, pal... If I were you, I think I'd be sending a copy of this thread to JBL, not only to show them what a huge PITA situation they've created for their customers, but to also show them that you are their biggest and most loyal fan, willing to go to these ridiculous lengths to keep using their monitors... LOL
  14. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    If I thought it would do any good, I would do that Donny.

    JBL has been well aware of the polymer problem for years, and as near as I can tell, put minimal effort into rectifying it.

    Unfortunately for me (for all of us really), we live in a world where corporations have a "legal obligation" to their shareholders to maximize profits, and no obligation to the consumer whatsoever the minute the expressly limited warranty expires. Even under warranty, someone may have to pay freight one way, or both ways. In my case PA to CA, would be expensive with suitable insurance, even if they replaced the fronts for free.

    So in the end this exercise was about keeping an otherwise good pair of monitors working to avoid throwing down another fifteen hundred to replace them. It started out as a slightly tacky cosmetic issue, which I could live with, and over time they turned into glue-traps.
    kmetal likes this.
  15. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    It's always scary when an otherwise good company becomes #1, or top dog in the mainstream. It's really cool you were able to salvage these monitors. I think it's difficult to find monitors that really speak properly to each individual. There's no reason they should t last a lifetime (with the expected maintence from time to time). You definatly get the medal for perseverance man, hope they continue to treat you well.!!!
  16. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Even as someone who doesn't have these JBLs', I think for prosperity its great that you would take the time to detail how you resolved the issue @dvdhawk ...if not only for those who may google the issue and find this thread and resolve the issue for themselves...and thats what RO is all about...problem based learning(y)

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