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Aftermarket Car Speakers

 

Replacing your car speakers is one of the quickest ways to improve the sound quality in your car. In an effort to keep vehicles affordable for consumers, auto manufacturers use single driver, paper cone speakers with small magnets that simply don’t perform for even the most relaxed audiophile. Before you decide on your new speakers, there are a few things to consider when shopping for car speakers.

Choose Speakers to Match Your System

The two most important specifications to understand when choosing your new car speakers are:


Sensitivity

Sensitivity is a measure of how much sound a speaker produces from the power that is applied to it. If you using a low-powered car stereo (15 watts RMS per channel or less), similar to most factory speakers installed by the car manufacturer, a speaker with high sensitivity (over 90dB) is the best match. However, if you have a high-powered stereo with 16 watts RMS or more, like most aftermarket car stereos or amplifiers, then a lower sensitivity rating is a better match for your setup. When properly powered, low sensitivity speakers will provide exceptional sound quality.



Power-Handling

A power-handling rating indicates how much power (measured in watts) a car speaker is able to handle. With low-powered stereos, speakers don’t need the ability to handle a lot of power. However, if you are adding after-market amplifiers or a higher powered aftermarket head unit, speaker power-handling will become an important consideration. When adding more power to your car audio system, you need to match your speakers with the output of your new amplifiers and head unit.

When evaluating power-handling, the key specification is maximum RMS power handling, not peak power handling. While peak power handling is a measure of what a speaker can handle for brief periods of time during high music notes, RMS power is a measure of how much power a speaker can handle on a continuous basis. If you need any help calculating the power handling you need, check out our car audio calculators page.

Speaker Types

Car speakers come in two main flavors: full-range speakers and component speakers. Here is a brief explanation of the differences in these speaker types:

Full-Range Speakers

A Full-range speaker combines different sizes of drivers into one speaker to cover a full range of sound. The full-range speaker contains a woofer to handle the low sounds and a tweeter mounted just above the woofer to produce the high sounds. Some full-range speakers will include midrange drivers and additional tweeters to provide a wide range of sounds delivered to the most capable driver. The audio signals in full-range speakers are controlled by various capacitors and resistors to send specific sound frequencies to properly sized drivers.

Full range speakers are a good choice when you are looking for the least hassle for replacing factory speakers. Full-range speakers come in a variety of sizes and specifications and are generally a direct replacement which reduces labor to install them. Generally, you can just swap the factory speaker out with the new speakers and call it a day. As with any audio gear, full-range speakers come in a variety of materials, build quality, and power handling ability.

Component Speakers

Component speakers are the choice of true audiophiles. They provide superior speaker design and the best quality of sound. Typically component speakers separate the tweeters from the woofers and include an external circuit board crossover system to provide the best frequency filtering available. This provides superior sound quality by ensuring the best driver for the sound is utilized.

Another benefit of component speakers is they allow you to mount tweeters separately from the woofers so you can design a system that has ideal acoustical positioning and imaging. When you position speakers properly in your vehicle, your music will have a realistic sound that replicates music as the artist intended. The sound will have greater depth and will provide a “live” sound as if you were attending a live concert. Additionally, the component speakers are generally built from higher quality materials than their full-range counterparts allowing them to deliver exceptional dynamics and detailed sound.

Speaker Materials

The materials used in a speakers design are the key components to determining a speaker’s durability and sound quality. There are a few things to be aware of when it comes to determining build quality of a vehicle speaker.


Woofer Materials

The best material for the woofer of a component speaker or full-range speaker should consist of material that is lightweight, yet stiff in order to produce the low notes of your music. Most car audio manufacturers build their woofer cones from synthetic fibers such as polypropylene which perform well across a range of frequencies. If a speaker is made out of polypropylene mixed in with additional materials like mica, the result is a stiffer woofer which produces a more accurate bass response. Woven fibers, or synthetic materials coated with metals such as titanium or aluminum, are lightweight, strong, and provide excellent response. All of the above materials stand up well to moisture, cold, and heat.



Tweeter Materials

The materials used to manufacturer tweeters has a significant effect on the sound they produce. Generally, when a tweeter is made of soft materials like silk, textile, or poly blends, it will produce a mellow, refined sound. If you prefer high frequencies that are snappy and crisp, then a better material for your tweeter are hard materials like metal, graphite, or ceramics.

Surround Materials

The materials that surround the woofer of a car speaker perform a critical role. These materials allow the woofer of a speaker to emit bold bass and move freely. The material must be able to withstand extreme humidity and temperature. If the surround material is made of rubber, the speaker will perform at its peak potential and last the longest. If cloth or foam is used as a speakers surround, the speaker will still perform well but may not hold up very long.

Additional Speaker Features

There are a few other features when it comes to car speakers that are important to consider.

Swiveling and Pivoting Tweeters

If you are replacing factory speakers that are positioned low on your vehicle’s door, pivoting tweeters or full-range speakers can make a big difference with your sound. By their nature, tweeters produce directional high-frequencies. This feature allows pivoting tweeters to be positioned to point toward directly at the listener for an improved soundstage.

External Crossovers

Component speaker systems generally employ a passive external crossover system which will achieve a clean separation between the frequencies sent to the tweeter and woofer. By splitting the frequencies, the tweeters and woofers will not waste electrical energy attempting to reproduce frequencies they are not intended to reproduce. As a result, your car audio sound system will produce a more efficient, and cleaner sound reproduction.

Detachable Tweeters

Some speakers feature detachable tweeters which allow the speaker to be used either as a component system or a full-range speaker. This is a helpful solution if you ever want to use the speakers for a different application or in a different car or truck.