As easy as it may sound, finding the best car speakers is more complicated than tearing down the factory-installed speakers and replacing them with new ones. In fact, you will have to completely understand how your audio system works before dashing to your local audio store and grabbing the first set of speakers you come across.
Power Range: 135W RMS / 405W Peak Frequency Response: 35 Hz – 35,000 Hz Sensitivity: 94dB Impedance: 2.5 Ohms
If you’re looking for audiophile-grade components you can’t miss with the Infinity Kappa-90CSX.
Infinity is a very well-known company that specializes in producing some of the loudest speakers to ever bless a music head’s car, and it’s considered by many as the top 6×9 component speakers – check on the 90CSX full review. But, certainly, this kind of premium set comes with top price.
Power Range: 110W RMS / 330W Peak Frequency Response: 32 – 96k Hz Sensitivity: 85dB Impedance: 4 Ohms
With over 80+ years of experience, Pioneer has gone all out to create the Z lineup of speakers.
The TS-Z65F, which sits right in the middle of the Z-Series lineup, is a 2-way coaxial system that delivers a very clear and sharp sound that will help you experience music in a way that closely resembles the original performance – clicks here for the full TS-Z65F review.
Power Range: 120W RMS / 250W Peak Frequency Response: 55 – 22k Hz Sensitivity: 90dB Impedance: 4 Ohms
Morel is a company that was conceived in 1975 out of love for music. For many, this brand is obscure and unheard of, and I’ve been one of those many until recently.
After trying a number of Tempo Ultra models, I realized that I’ve been sleeping on the Morel brand. The Tempo Ultra 602 (full review) provides outstanding performance and serious power handling that will leave you in awe.
Power Range: 100W RMS / 300W Peak Frequency Response: 63 – 29k Hz Sensitivity: 89dB Impedance: 4 Ohms
The R-Series is considered the loudest family of speakers on the Alpine block and if you’re into car audio, then you’ve probably heard of it before.
Despite being a huge part of the automobile audio industry for many years, Alpine still saw some room for improvement in the R-Series, and so they kept the beloved R-Series sound and style and added some modernized flavors to it to take it to the next level – be sure to check out Alpine R-S68 review.
Power Range: 100W RMS / 300W Peak Frequency Response: 40 – 25k Hz Sensitivity: 93dB Impedance: 2.5 Ohms
Many of us at some point in our lives have owned JBL headphones or computer speakers and were fairly impressed by their quality.
Well, JBL is also very prominent in the car audio industry, and one of their most popular products in this field are the GTO860C component speakers. An overall good audio system with great power handling and 3-way upgradability – see the GTO860C full review.
Power Range: 55W RMS / 165W Peak Frequency Response: 70 – 20k Hz Sensitivity: 91dB Impedance: 3 Ohms
Simply put, this is a well-rounded car component system featuring a UV-resistant, polypropylene woofer that will deliver one of the punchiest basses and some of the clearest mid-range notes that you can ever hear.
As a component system that can accept substantial power, it’s built like a tank to withstand such power, so you’ve ensured a long-lasting and powerful performance – read more in our JBL Club 5000C review.
Power Range: 40W RMS / 80W Peak Frequency Response: 65-21k Hz Sensitivity: 93dB Impedance: 4 Ohms
It’s not every day that you run into a brand promising to turn your car music world upside down, but there’s no way these Hertz speakers will shy from the challenge!
Made with premium quality components, the built-in crossover channels both low and high frequencies for a dynamic audio range. The light yet incredibly tough structure guarantees high sensitivity levels as well as linear frequency outcomes – as highlighted in Hertz DCX 460.3 review.
It may not take on soaring power compared to other 4×6-inch speakers but surely makes up for it in outstanding sound reproduction.
Power Range: 25W RMS / 75W Peak Frequency Response: 85 – 21k Hz Sensitivity: 91dB Impedance: 3 Ohms
The entire Infinity Reference Series has been established as some of the most popular choices for replacing factory-installed speakers.
Thanks to their great sensitivity and frequency response range that allow them to reproduce incredibly crisp notes, along with their highly affordable price tag, the REF3022CFX speakers are arguably one of the best 3.5″ speakers you can get your hands on – at least for the price.
Car Speakers Buying Advice
It is of paramount importance to look for speakers that fit your car, first and foremost. The sensitivity, impedance, and power handling specifications are all secondary.
When looking for car speakers, you need to prioritize either replacement or upgrades. If you’re prioritizing the former, your best bet is to go for factory car speakers tailored to the specifications of your manufacturer and model. However, if you would like to upgrade your speakers, then you have your work cut out for you.
What Speakers Will Actually Fit in Your Car?
The obvious choice is to go for factory speakers that are tailored according to your car’s measurements and acoustics. But if you are in a search for aftermarket ones be sure to check out guide – What speakers fit my car?
Of course, you have a budget that you want to stick to but that shouldn’t stop you from getting the best. The most expensive speakers aren’t necessarily the best and likewise, the cheapest isn’t always that bad contrary to common perception – see our cheap options (under $50&$100).
However, you will have to set aside a good amount to get a quality set that offers great value for your hard-earned cash. For instance, a set of top quality Pioneer Z-Series speakers will roughly set you back $200, but those on a budget can go for a nice Alpine S-Series speakers going for around $100 – and still have an great sound experience.
What Types of Speakers Are There?
There are two main types of car speakers – Component speakers and Coaxial (Full range speakers).
The Component speakers consist of three speaker drivers. These drivers are:
Tweeters handle high-frequency sounds. In songs, these are mostly the sound of bells and cymbals and whistles.
The low-frequency sounds, on the other hand, are produced by the woofer. Low-frequency sounds can be better thought of as the bass notes that you hear in music.
Lastly, mid-range (like these 8-inch) drivers handle sounds that come in between the low and high frequencies. A mid-range driver is not always necessary, however, as woofer and tweeter drivers can be specialized further for ultra-low and ultra-high frequencies.
Component speaker drivers are constructed separately from one another, and they can be placed in different areas of the vehicle. An example of this is the following setup:
Woofers and mid-range speakers can be placed on either of the front doors.
The tweeters can be placed closer to the dashboard.
The subwoofer can be placed in the trunk.
The Coaxial speakers are the more common car speaker design. In coaxial speakers, the tweeter is placed over the woofer. The latter handles lower and mid-range frequencies, and the former handles the mid-range to high-frequency sounds. The drivers of the coaxial (full-range) speakers are all connected so that all the frequencies originate from the same place.
Components vs. Coaxials (Full-Range Speakers)
Comparing component and coaxial speakers is somewhat complicated – read the full explanation on component vs coaxial speakers. Component speakers provide better sound, and they’re more expensive as a result. Coaxial speakers or full-range speakers are easier to install and can be found in aftermarket replacements which are direct replacements for OEM units.
You’ll have to be a lot more savvy to get component speakers since the best ones for your car will work with its design and acoustics. You’ll also have to get a professional to install them if you’re not well versed in automobile repairs and upgrades yourself.
The argument comes down to that of sound quality vs. ease. If you care about the former, then you need to consider component speakers. Alternatively, if you care about the latter, then getting full-range speakers is your best bet.
Power handling is usually meaningless. There is often just a maximum power rating listed on the speakers without an explanation as to how the specifications were derived. There is no explanation whether it’s a maximum continuous level, average level, or peak level wattage. There is also no mention of how long it can be sustained and what type of material it derives from.
This may be a little confusing, but it’s just a matter of the size of amp that you need. You can do the calculation on your own using the specs from your speaker. Take the sensitivity rating first, which is expressed in decibels at 1 watt/meter.
Then calculate how much wattage is needed to get to 102 dB, which is as loud as a movie theater. For instance, if your speakers have a sensitivity of 30 dB per watt, then you will need 4 watts to reach that volume.
Peak Power Handling
Peak power is the highest voltage that your amp can put out before it fails.
This peak wattage can be sustained for almost a fraction of a second before it causes the amp to fail. This is true for speakers as well. Peak power handling is the highest voltage that a speaker can handle for less than a second before it blows. There’s no exact definition of what peak power handling is and how long it can be sustained, but the time is usually extremely short.
Maximum RMS Power Handling
RMS Power is the maximum power the amp will continue to put out and sustain.
RMS values are much lower than peak power ratings, but they more accurately represent the amplifier or speaker’s true capability.
This can be considered a true listening rating, and though it’s not a great means of comparison, most RMS ratings are comparable among branded products.
Sensitivity refers to the minimum power that speakers require to give out a certain volume level.
Speakers that have high sensitivity require less power. Hence, sensitivity – measured in decibels, and power – measured in watts, are inversely proportional to each other. Sensitivity can also be thought of as a measurement of how efficient the speaker is.
Take the example of an anemic factory stereo. If you’re working with one of these, you’ll require speakers with a high sensitivity level. High powered amps, on the other hand, require low sensitivity levels so that the speakers don’t blow.
If you truly want to understand impedance, think of the speaker like a pipe and the sound as water. The bigger the pipe is, the more water can be pumped through. Think of impedance as the resistance to that flow of sound. If the impedance is low, then the speaker can produce a higher volume of sound, and if it’s high, then the volume is softer.
Even though the impedance of a speaker will not have any effect on the performance or audio quality, a low impedance will draw huge amounts of power from your stereo. Failure to match the impedance correctly can possibly lead to a speaker blowout or be overheating.
The impedance of a speaker can be thought of as the resistance to the electrical current that flows through the speaker. Amps are thus rated to deliver power as high as 100 W at 8 ohms of impedance or 150 to 200 W at 4 ohms of impedance.
Frequency response is the range of audible frequencies that can be produced by speakers between the audible ranges (20 Hz to 20 kHz). The most meaningful ratings of frequency response range between deviations rather than a flat or solid number.
Frequency response ratings often include a deviation of ±3 or ±2 dB which signifies how much the volume of a flat response will vary. The lower this number, the better. ±3 dB is a typical deviation for a speaker. If you want to produce the deepest bass for your speakers, you will have to buy a subwoofer.
A voice coil is an electromagnetic piece of equipment that can be found in your car’s speakers (as part of the subwoofer). A magnetic field is produced by running a current through the wire. This, in turn, magnetizes the metal and creates polar orientations of north and south.
This property of electromagnets can be used by stereos to reverse electrical flow. This moves the coil back and forth quickly like a piston in an engine. All of this movement pulls on the speaker and causes it to make vibrations in the air around it. The end result of all of this moving and vibration is what you hear as sound.
Most subwoofers have a single voice coil, but ones with dual voice coils are preferred for better sound since they have separate connections. Dual voice coil subwoofers have become more commonplace now, while they were once only restricted to enthusiasts.
Component systems usually have passive external crossovers that are used to achieve a clean separation between sounds of different frequencies produced by the woofer and the tweeter. Both of the drivers don’t waste energy by trying to reproduce frequencies that they’re not intended to reproduce.
Instead of driving the woofer and tweeter with a single channel of amplification, crossovers do have extra input terminals that allow bi-amping.
What Difference Does Material Make?
The materials used in a speaker cone can be made with treated paper, synthetics, and even composites. Because their main task is to produce the stronger bass notes, woofer cones are required to be strong and durable.
Paper is a less durable material, but its response is a lot quicker than any other materials that are used for this purpose. All these materials sound great, and choosing one over the other is just a matter of personal taste.
The most expensive stereo system is not necessarily one that provides the best value for money. You need to know what you want in terms of sound quality, bass, frequency, and power. Don’t go for low-tier brands just to spend less on a subpar system.
2-Way vs. 3-Way vs. 4-Way Speakers
As their names suggest, 2-way speakers have two drivers and 3-way speakers have 3. The extra drivers in 3-way systems control individual frequency ranges and can technically produce higher quality sound. More on this you can read in our separate article – 2-Way vs 3-Way vs 4-Way Car Speakers.
2-Ohm vs. 4-Ohm Speakers
As mentioned before, higher impedance restricts the amount of power which can produce a certain level of volume in a speaker – for further explanation see our 2-Ohm Vs. 4-Ohm article. They both produce great sound. You just need to match the impedance rating of the speaker to the amp that you purchase. Otherwise, you will damage both.
Rear vs. Front (Door) Car Speakers
As stated earlier, the speaker size found on your doors varies from those found on the rear deck of your car. This is simply because they aren’t designed to serve the same purpose.
Those on the rear deck, are larger and have a bigger woofer to handle the low frequencies coming through your stereo. The ones on doors usually come in sizes of 5.5-inches to 6.5-inches and are designed to take care of the midrange and high frequencies. Next time you go shopping, remembering this fact could go a long way in getting you the right speakers for every purpose.
Car Speakers FAQ
Is an external amplifier required for car speakers?
This depends completely on you. If you’re an audiophile or if you need to blast music at full volume while you cruise to your destination, then an amp is a must. However, there are other ways you can achieve a louder sound without using an amplifier.
How to measure car speakers?
Measuring car speakers is tricky since they come in various shapes and sizes. Most sizing numbers pertain to the diagonal measurement of the speakers. However, there are other factors to be considered like the bottom mounting depth, the tweeter profusion, the top mounting depth, the mounting height, etc.
How difficult is to install car speakers by myself?
Unless you’re in possession of the tools and expertise necessary to dismantle large portions of your car and install the speakers by yourself, you shouldn’t go for it. There are lots of guides online which differ depending on the car model and the type of speakers. Hence, it’s much better to leave this job to the professionals.
But, if you want to give it a go you can start with this video.
How much does it cost to install car speakers?
The quotes to install speakers in your car obviously differ depending on the car and the speaker as well as the service you go to. A quick search online can yield prices ranging from $30-$65 to well over $100.
Adding accessories, including amplifiers, subwoofers, etc. can cost hundreds of dollars more. And this is only the cost of installation. We’re not including the price of the components themselves.
Car Speakers Troubleshooting (most common problems)
Problems with car speakers can occur due to a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s just the age and general wear and tear that damages them, and sometimes, it’s some faulty repairs.
Lack of Bass
If you’re someone who loves to turn up the bass, this can be a real pain. This issue often occurs when you have your speakers replaced or upgraded. Factory speakers are primed for performance in your car, and replacements aren’t suited to the exact shape of the car, which prevents air from flowing through them properly. This completely destroys the bass.
If you’ve chosen to replace your old speakers with aftermarket ones instead of factory ones, then the loss of bass can be attributed to the difference in weight and hardness. An easy fix to this problem is lining up the positive and negative polarities or adding an amplifier.
This is a fairly common issue, in-car speakers. It’s also very hard to diagnose since there could be a number of reasons for an unwanted sound. Here are some quick tips to remember in case you sense an audio intruder.
If there is a whining sound coming from the speakers, it’s most likely due to an error in the amplifier or the head unit’s ground placement. It could also be the result of a faulty connection.
If there is a popping sound originating from the speaker, there is a high voltage issue. However, if your speaker is quite old, then it could be the result of bad input. Here’s a guide on how to fix the issue.
There may come a time when the sound is completely cut off from your speakers. This could be the result of a loose wire or an amplifier overheating. Make sure to keep your amplifier cool and allow for uninhibited airflow to prevent this from happening.
The overheating can also impact the stereo. If you live in a particularly arid and hot locality, you could install a heat resistant RCA cable in your car to prevent overheating.
Will changing car speakers improve the sound?
If you get factory speakers, then the sound may improve. However, aftermarket speakers may not have the same effect.
Factory speakers are specifically designed for your car and won’t restrict the airflow or dampen any of the sounds. Aftermarket speaker design will conflict with the acoustics of your car and dampen the sound produced.
Getting upgraded and customized aftermarket speakers can improve the situation as well if they are sized correctly for your car.
Do I need crossovers?
Yes, you do – especially if you’re looking to get a component system. It divides different frequencies of sound that comprise any song. High, medium and low frequencies should go to the tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers, respectively. This can’t happen without a crossover splitting the signals and sending them to the right components of the speaker.
What is the difference between car speakers and home speakers?
The basic difference between car speakers and home speakers is acoustics. The car is an enclosed space where speakers have to be fitted to work properly (near field design). They need to have unrestricted airflow, properly customized shapes and need to be sized for the specific model of the car.
For home speakers, a general design will do, since there are no restricted spaces they have to fit inside and they also don’t have to account for unrestricted airflow.
Other differences include:
Car speakers are usually rated for impedance up to 4 ohms, while home speakers can go above that rating.
Car speakers feature unusually optimized drivers which can deliver the best combination of power and sound quality. They are also primed for a flashier appearance as compared to home speakers.
Last update on 2021-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API