Speakers for cars are the main components when it comes to the car audio entertainment sector. They add life to the car interior by adding sound into the space. Therefore, car speakers are a key factor worth of consideration when it comes to upgrading an existing car audio system from the factory one. Speakers for cars offer one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to upgrade your sound. This enhances the ambience and atmosphere of the car during long road trips, cross-country trips and even during the long waiting traffic jams in towns and cities.
Speakers for cars fall under a broad category which is quite technical but at carsaudio we are going to give you elaborate and detailed guides on what you need to know and consider before investing in new speakers for cars explained in a layman’s language with some of technical jargons here and there with the consideration of more experience readers who are in the car audio industry.
How many car speakers are needed for a complete setup?
Basically, there is no specific number of speakers for cars that should be present in a car audio system. Today vehicles are rolling out the assembly line with different numbers of speakers, some going to as high as seventeen to twenty-one speakers as compared to the previous past where vehicles would have four door speakers only. In the premium car audio systems manufacturing world, cars have sound systems with speakers tailored to suit the individual consumer needs of luxury and comfort. The car audio systems have perks like active noise cancellation and simulated engine noise features.
Today the car audio system has become a competitive market even amongst key players in the industry. In this article carsaudio experts will focus on the fundamentals of car loud speakers buying guide. This is because the door speaker system is still in use even today, only that now multiple speakers are being installed into one door panel.
The key point to note down when it comes to speakers for car installation is that the complete setup should be well matched from front to rear. Mismatching of car speakers will lead to problems later such as distorted, unbalanced and volume varying audio production. In order to create a good voice-matched system, the front and rear speakers should be from the same brand and series. This can be a costly exercise hence a car owner needs adequate planning and budgeting to avoid breaking the bank.
The trick for any car owner who is investing on speakers for cars is to first focus and invest on the front door speakers. This is because the owner will spend most of the time at the driver’s seat hence it is essential to start with that point. As the car owner, later you can invest on the rear door speakers and a sub-woofer to enrich the bass quality of music. The rear speakers are always advisable to have them be of the same speaker brand and series of the front speakers in order to enhance voice matching and allow a consistent sound characteristic.
Car speakers for the front section of your vehicle
The most common arrangement for speakers for cars at the front section is majorly of two types. The first setup is where there are only two speakers at the front and the other is four speakers at the front. For the two-speaker setup, each door has one speaker installed into the door panel. These speakers are full-range coaxial speakers where they produce a wide range of the audio spectrum. This includes the high, mid and low audio frequencies.
For the four speakers for cars setup, each door is installed with two speakers. The speakers are not full-range coaxial speakers hence they are component speakers. The bass speaker is commonly referred to as a mid-bass speaker while the high range speaker is referred to as tweeter. The mid-bass speaker is usually installed at the lower door panel so that it can utilise the big door cavity where the empty space also aids in boosting base reproduction. The tweeters are installed at high positions on the car cabin where they are much audible because they will be closer to the ears of the listeners. The actual position of installation is the corner pillar of the door or at times they are placed at the corner of the dashboard.
Another car speaker that is commonly disregarded is normally located at the center of the dashboard. The main functions of this speaker are audio controls and vehicle essentials from the car’s programmed control unit. This speaker typically handles door chimes, navigation system prompts, vehicle infotainment system prompts in addition to playing music. Most car owners and car audio installers ignore this speaker and leave it on the same spot. Few will opt to upgrade this speaker hence it is normally left in its original location.
Car speakers for the rear section of your vehicle
The rear speakers appear to be insignificant to most car owners because they only dwell at the front area of the car. The rear side is mostly occupied by passengers who most of the time will not spend much time inside the car. Only car audio enthusiasts will enjoy having the full car interior rich and evenly distributed in music. Rear speakers sound does not have a significant sound experience contribution to the front seats’ occupants.
Rear speakers for the car are engineered to provide car audio sound to backseat passengers and the rear fill for the front row. Full-range speakers are popularly used as rear speakers although today due to high demand for high quality car audio experience, car manufacturers are now installing component speakers which have increasingly become popular. The classification of rear speakers depends on their location and the type of car. There are three main categories which are rear door speakers, rear deck speakers and tailgate speakers.
What size car speakers should I buy?
Speakers for cars are of various sizes and shapes depending on the taste and preference of the car owner and also the car audio system manufacturer specifications when they installed the factory audio system. Car speakers’ sizes are determined by their physical size and shape. There is a standardised way of manufacturing speakers for cars therefore they come at various specified sizes and shapes hence that should not be much of a worry.
If you are a car owner and would like to replace your factory car audio system, there are various ways of determining the size of your speakers. The first method is going to the internet and searching for an online car audio and equipment shop. Some websites offer a search bar where they have a catalogue of various car brands and models. From this database you can find the actual size of car speakers that you got, mostly the factory ones and not the replaced ones. Information from these websites most of the time is reliable hence you can work with it to find the best speaker choices.
The second option is getting the speaker from the speaker compartment and measuring its physical size. Speakers are normally measured in terms of their diameters and depth that is for the round speakers but for the oval speakers, their cone area is measured as length by width then the depth. Once you get the dimensions of your car speaker, it will be an easy task sourcing for the speakers even remotely through online shops.
There are very many types of car speaker sizes that the list is normally overwhelming to go through. Some big car audio aficionado can pre-order custom speakers for cars depending on their car customisation features. Cars which are modified for car audio enthusiasts can be installed with big speakers for cars which are made custom to fit the designs.
Also, a key aspect to put into consideration is to ensure that the speakers are front or rear options if you are not shopping for all speakers at a go. Depending on the position of the speakers, you might opt to choose a couple of speaker sizes for a given location. Mostly in accordance with the rule of the thumb, bigger is better.
Fitting car speakers
Fitting speakers for cars can be a challenging task especially when the speaker compartment is not of great shape. If fitting the speakers to some old cars you might find the door panels are beaten up so sometimes this affects the installation of car speakers. Therefore, when we are looking at car speaker fit, we do not just talk about the diameter of the speaker opening. We also have to put into consideration the allowable depth of that opening. This should provide sufficient room for the tweeter in front of the speaker and the speaker cone protrusion. Speakers for cars with good bass need to be provided with enough compartment space.
Various types of speakers for cars
Full-range vs. components
Aftermarket speakers for cars can be put into two main categories: full-range speakers and component speaker systems. We as carsaudio, will provide a brief but detailed explanation of each of the above major categories.
Full-range car speakers contain all the speaker elements in one basket. Full range speakers also known as coaxial speakers have a good audio experience. These are inexpensive types of speakers, manufactured to produce sound within the audible range to the human ear. They cannot produce all sound frequencies hence they are of less audio quality as compared to component speakers.
The car speaker is one component only made to produce a wide range of sound frequencies. Their limitation is their physical size, design and manufacturing specifications. Their frequencies are optimised by use of a whizzer cone and voice coil, which controls the movement of the diaphragm. The whizzer cone acts as a tweeter to produce high frequencies while the voice coil combined with the diaphragm to produce the mid- range audio.
Materials used to manufacture these components are highly customisable hence bringing the difference of car audio components and their quality depending on their built quality. The enclosure of the speaker also influences the audio quality. Most are enclosed in plastic boxes for the low-end speakers to large home-loaded enclosures in high-end speakers. These speakers are made to produce frequencies above 100Hz and the lower ones by use of a separate subwoofer or by the enclosure of the speaker specially made to reinforce low frequencies. Therefore, full range speakers are made to produce all ranges of frequencies in the audio spectrum.
They are the most common car audio systems because of their capabilities in wide frequency range audio production. They are affordable, durable and easy to install as compared to component speakers. Commercial full range speakers can be expensive because of their size, built quality and material components. Speaker design is the most crucial factor to consider when looking for coaxial speakers to purchase.
These are car audio speakers made separately where the tweeters and mid-bass speakers are manufactured separately and paired together to form component speakers. They are common with premium car audio systems, which mostly are found in high-end cars in the market. The two speakers’ installation into vehicles is done at different positions in the car interior in order to have a distinct audio experience. They are good bass speakers for car audio. Tweeters are small physically but produce high pitch sound hence they are placed on the dashboards, upper door parts or above the window panels. This allows them to utilise small spaces and prevent distortion of the high pitch sound. This also makes the high range sound closer to the listeners’ ears.
The mid-bass speakers are bigger in size as compared to tweeters hence need more space for installation. They work as beat speakers for car audio because they produce a mid-base range of audio. They are installed at the lower parts of the door panels. At this part they utilise the spaces there efficiently in the car cabin. For the two-component speakers to produce accurate audio quality, a crossover is used to limit the frequency range. The crossover acts as a distributor where it directs high sound frequencies to the tweeters and low sound frequencies to the mid-bass speakers. These frequencies are received via the amplifier or radio connected to the crossover then to the speakers.
Component speakers are a bit complex to install but are the best combination for car audio experience. They take much time to install and test but are worth listening to in the next coming years of the car owner. The tweeter and mid-bass speakers should not be located far from each other to allow the sound to reach the ears at the same time and not at separate intervals. The advantage of component speakers is that they have better sound clarity since the crossovers assign frequencies to the respective speakers hence a speaker does not play frequencies which it cannot handle. A boost in audio clarity is experienced since the music is raised to the ear level in the car instead of knee level hence an enhanced stereo clarity.
This is the car speaker that is responsible for the throbbing and shaking of your car interior and even at loud volumes, it will shake your surrounding neighbourhood. Aftermarket subwoofers provide the deep low bass that standard woofers cannot produce. For better performance the subwoofer speaker needs to be paired up with a powerful aftermarket amplifier. Typically, this speaker is responsible for the frequencies between 20 Hz – 300 Hz.
They are big sized speakers used to produce the low audio frequencies in the audio spectrum. Subwoofers are big in size ranging from 8 inches to 15 inches in diameter. A car audio system buyer should first consider sourcing a component subwoofer which means that a subwoofer without the box enclosure. If it is a hustle for the buyer, he or she can buy a “off the shelf” subwoofer, which includes the subwoofer speaker and its box.
Subwoofer speaker installation is normally at the rear of the car, in the boot or behind the rear seats. The reason for rear installation is due to their big volume of air entrapped at the rear section therefore the bass sound originates from the rear rather from the front of the car. An enclosure is the box required in which the speaker is mounted. For car audio this is mainly needed for subwoofers. There are two main types of enclosures which are sealed and ported subwoofer enclosures. Another less common subwoofer enclosure is the bandpass enclosure box. Each of these boxes have their own unique characteristics. We are going to give a brief explanation to each but we have a detailed review on the best subwoofer enclosure boxes at carsaudio.
The ported subwoofer box which is the most popular subwoofer box. A ported subwoofer, also known as a “vented box” comprises a box with a port. The port is tuned to a specific frequency which makes it reinforced to low bass response hence making it the most efficient subwoofer box in the market today. Ported boxes allow maximum volumes of music to be reached as well as that sonic boom of bass to be produced. That forceful bass is produced since the enclosure allows more output as compared to sealed boxes which require high wattage amplifiers for greater sound reproduction.
Ported subwoofer boxes require a bigger enclosure as compared to sealed boxes. The advantage being that it can be used to produce more sonic, deep bass by use of a subwoofer of a similar characteristic. The design of this box allows back waves to reach the listener’s ears as well as the front waves. This makes them produce more sound output. Port design allows the ports to produce sound to a tuned frequency but if the power handling is below the tuned frequency, thus poor, it will compromise the subwoofer speaker hence susceptible to damage.
These types of boxes are popular for quality bass production. They are small in size as compared to ported subwoofer boxes hence can fit in different car sizes. They deliver a punchy deep bass, hence the best subwoofer box design for deep bass, not thunderous bass. All bass notes are accurately produced where the air retained in the box acts as a shock absorber to the subwoofer cone. This cushions the cone during its back-and-forth motion therefore all notes are produced accurately, hence an increase in transient force.
Sealed subwoofer boxes have excellent power handling capabilities where the subwoofer speaker cannot undergo excursion beyond peak excursion commonly referred to as “bottom out”. A sealed subwoofer has a low frequency response and tends to play tight full bass that provides a low-level frequency foundation to the music played. The air being held into the box has several negative impacts on the subwoofer speaker. The main one being heat produced by the cone does not escape due to the trapped air by the seal which may affect the performance of the speaker. Due to the limited displacement of the cone, the subwoofer is less efficient, hence less sound production.
How much power do my new car speakers need pumped into them?
Car speakers convert electric power into sound waves. Different car speakers work better with certain power sources which highly depend on the speaker’s wattage specification and the power of the amplifier. Factory stereos mostly deliver lower power as compared to aftermarket stereos which offer more power. They can also work excellently when paired up with aftermarket amplifiers in order to provide the most power possible. Therefore, a car owner should not just concentrate on buying speakers only but speakers and amplifiers for cars. The more power you use in car speakers, the more loudness and musical detail you get out of your speakers. You also want to make sure that your speakers can play accurately while playing loudly, therefore their RMS value power output should be substantive or high enough. So, here are the two main specifications to consider, depending on your power source of amplification that you have in your system.
Speakers for cars sensitivity explained
Sensitivity is simply the measure of how much sound a speaker yields from the power channeled to it. If a car owner has a low-powered factory stereo which typically has an output of 10-15 watts RMS per channel or less, the best speakers for such a car stereo will be those with a sensitivity rating of over 90 dB will make the best match. If you have a high-power system like an aftermarket stereo or external amplifier, then consider speakers with lower sensitivity ratings. If properly powered and paired up, they will provide excellent sound quality.
Speakers for cars power handling explained
Power handling lets you know how much power, measured in watts, a speaker can handle. If you have a low-powered system, your speakers do not need to handle lots of power. On the other hand, a system with powerful external amps will require speakers whose power handling is close to the output of the amplifier.
The key specification in power handling is the maximum RMS power-handling, not the peak power handling. RMS ratings realistically measure how much power the speaker can handle on a continuous basis, not just for a short period of time. A speaker rated at “up to 50 watts RMS” will make a better match for your low-powered stereo than another speaker rated “10-80 watts RMS.” Most car speakers’ manufacturers will always put the PMPO rating in car speakers packaging because its values are large numbers yet that power output normally appears at milliseconds of music production hence the best value to consider is RMS ratings.
- If you are a car owner who is using a factory system for powering the new speakers, source for speakers with low RMS wattage and sensitivity of 90dB or higher.
- If you are a car owner who is using just an aftermarket stereo for power, source for speakers with a power-handling not much higher than 75 watts RMS.
- If you are a car owner who is using an aftermarket amp for power, source for speakers that match RMS power-handling to the specs provided in your amp’s manual.
How much should I spend on car speakers?
If you are unsure how much to spend on the car audio upgrade, consider your expectations for sound production and experience and how long you intend to keep your vehicle with you. If you intend to sell your car soon, you might opt not to do much of a major upgrade hence settling for mid-range speakers or if you still want to consider adding the cost of the upgrades to the selling price of the car. If the cost of upgrade is not inclusive in the selling price of the car, you can opt to remove the car audio system. If you plan to not sell the car soon you can invest in a premium audio system with high end speakers.
Generally, as you step up in investment cost, you are stepping up the quality of design and materials. Better design makes more efficient use of power when converting energy to sound. Better materials ensure better sound quality and long-lasting durability.
Key elements of car speaker design
Some crossovers have extra input terminals to allow bi-amping. Instead of driving the woofer and tweeter with a single channel of amplification, you actually connect two sets of wires, with each set carrying the power from a separate amplifier or amp channel. This way, the woofers and tweeters receive dedicated amplification. This is a key feature to consider when planning for a serious high-performance system.
Factory speaker cones are typically made of paper, which degrades over time. Aftermarket speaker cones are made of durable fabric materials that are stiff, yet lightweight. They are designed to move easily yet retain their shape for more accurate sound production. Bass speakers for cars and beat speakers for cars need to be built of high-quality materials.
Tweeter material and design have a big effect on the type of sound it produces. Tweeters made of soft materials like poly, textile blends or silk will give you a sound that is refined and somewhat mellow. If you like the highs bright and sharp, best are hard materials, like metal or graphite.
In the market there are crossovers that provide switchable levels of tweeter attenuation. After testing your new speakers, you may discover that your highs sound too loud in the mix. Tweeter attenuation allows you to adjust the tweeters to your vehicle layout with consideration to your taste and preference.
The surround on a woofer performs a vital role where it allows the woofer cone to move freely and emit bolder bass. It must be durable to stand up to temperature and humidity extreme conditions. Surrounds made of rubber will provide the best overall performance and longevity. Foam and cloth surrounds cost less, yet still perform well. Box speakers also need to have a good and solid surround due to their shape.
Pivoting or swiveling tweeters
If you are replacing speakers for cars positioned low in your door panels, full-range speakers with pivoting tweeters can have a big effect on your sound. Tweeters produce very directional high-frequencies, so pivoting tweeters can be positioned and directed towards the listener for a higher soundstage. Your music will sound more realistic with a greater sense of depth.
Some piece of advice
Most factory installed speakers for cars are constructed of lesser quality components that drastically affect the performance of your system. This is normally a measure for cost cutting in order to make the cars affordable. Inferior speaker cone material will break down over time and lead to a flat sounding stereo system. Upgrading your system with higher quality, more efficient speakers will breathe new life into your car’s stereo system.
Speakers are one of the most important components within your vehicle’s audio system. Not all speakers are the same; they may be of the same size, or even look the same physically, but there are important differences that you may not notice depending on their specifications. There are many options available for different applications within your vehicle’s audio system, the deciding factors will be what you expect from your stereo.
What are your car audio needs, from your car speaker system?
This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself when it comes to your vehicle’s audio performance and system preferences. The type of media that you listen to will greatly affect the type of system that you require. Do you want a system that will rattle your body organs, car parts or your neighbourhood, one that is crystal clear at extreme volumes, or maybe something in between? Speakers have many classes of performance, each engineered for a specific type of application. Therefore, once you have decided on the type of car audio system that you would like, you can choose your car audio components based on your decision.
Attributes to consider when choosing a car speaker
Speaker cone material
There are dozens and dozens of different types of materials used in the production of speaker cones. Speaker cone material affects the sound quality, longevity and power handling capabilities of the speaker unit.
The ideal speaker cone is lightweight, which helps with the speaker’s signal response capacity. When in operation, a speaker moves in and out to create sound waves, so the lighter the cone the quicker it will respond to the signals that it receives. Also do not forget that cone rigidity is also an important factor in speaker cone material. If a cone is not rigid enough, it will flutter and introduce unwanted frequencies to your listening environment.
Main types of cone speaker materials
- Paper or Treated Paper Cones. The traditional paper speaker cones are frowned upon in the world of car audio. The mobile audio environment inherently contains a great deal of moisture and temperature variation. These two factors over time will wreak havoc on a paper cone and eventually deteriorate thus rendering the speaker useless. Synthetic materials have been manufactured to combat these issues.
- Polypropylene cones. This is a step above Paper Cones and thus very popular in the car audio world, these cones are fairly rigid and are extremely moisture resistant.
- Kevlar cones. This material is extremely lightweight, very strong and exceedingly rigid hence these are the features that we need in speaker design. Additionally, this material possesses excellent damping capabilities which helps control unwanted vibrations. There are other exotic materials that possess these properties, such as fiberglass, aluminum and flax fibre which have also proven their worth in car audio. Material choice of the cones boils down to an individual’s taste and preference.
This is the frame of a cone-type speaker. The speaker basket does more than just hold the cone in place. Like every other component of a speaker, the design and material greatly affect the sound of the speaker.
- Design. One consideration of speaker basket design is back wave management. When a speaker is in operation, it produces sound waves from both the front and back of the speaker. The wave generated from the rear of the speaker, which is the back wave, can add unwanted frequencies or even cancel out desired front waves and affect the overall sound quality of the speaker in a negative way. A well-designed basket diffuses the back wave allowing it to escape without colouring the sound of the speaker.
- Material. It is important that the basket is rigid enough to endure normal operation without deformation or adding additional frequencies due to the material’s resonant properties. Although they are more expensive, cast aluminum and magnesium baskets perform much better than stamped steel baskets. The thermal properties of these baskets help dissipate heat that is generated when the speaker is in operation. In addition to these benefits, cast material will not bend; it may break, but that would require a great deal of stress in order for that to happen.
Polymer composite baskets are the latest innovation in speaker technology. They are much cheaper to produce than stamped steel baskets. Speaker manufacturers are developing more speaker lines using this material due to its cost of manufacturing, lighter weight, resonant properties and rigidity.
Other Things to Consider
Deciding on the best speakers for cars can be a difficult task without actually hearing them. However, paying attention to the following specifications will give you a rough outline of a speaker’s capabilities.
Different models of car speakers are capable of producing different frequencies of sound. A car speaker’s frequency range details the highest and lowest notes that it’s capable of producing. In general humans are capable of hearing sounds ranging from 20 to 20,000 Hz. While the frequency range of many car speakers extends beyond the 20,000 Hz limit of our hearing, the high notes in this range can harmonize with notes we do hear, modifying our listening experience. Just because a speaker can produce a wide range of frequencies, doesn’t mean that it will sound good doing so. Unfortunately, the complexity of speakers prevents us from measuring their quality with a simple, single metric.
For speakers to produce sound, they need power in the form of electrical current. A speaker’s impedance is a measure of its resistance to this current, dictating the amount of power that it pulls from the amp. The lower a speaker’s impedance, the more power it will pull. Measured in ohms (Ω), the impedance of car speakers generally ranges from 2 – 4 ohms. Amplifiers will push twice as much power to speakers with 2 ohms of impedance than to those with an impedance of 4 ohms.
A speaker’s impedance changes constantly based on the frequency of the sound it is producing at any moment. Rather than publishing a speaker’s impedance curve, which details its impedance at any given frequency, speaker companies offer “nominal” impedance, a constant that is typically slightly higher than the speaker’s minimum impedance. This simplification makes it easier to pick the right combination of speakers and amps.
Cost of the Speaker
Different car speakers come at varied prices depending on the manufacturer, brand, model and category of the speaker. Bluetooth speakers for cars are much easier to install due to no wiring needed. Simple replacement speakers can be very affordable while bespoke and modern systems with high performance can be very expensive.
A car audio installer or car owner should therefore determine the budget before going to shop for speakers. The budget can be adjusted to favour more speaker capabilities or features. The speaker size does not necessarily reflect on the systems’ overall sound performance and the same is true for the price. There is no guarantee whatsoever that expensive speakers will work better, sound better and be durable than inexpensive ones.\
The following factors and features that we have outlined are very key and crucial for any person who is planning or used to upgrade their Most factory-installed speakers for cars’ system. The article gives a briefly explained highlight of what is required in order to source the best speakers for cars in the car audio market.