Some of the most heated discussions take place on internet forums, at big conventions like CES and SEMA, in mobile audio installation shops and amongst enthusiasts themselves when it comes to the subject of brands – after all, everyone’s opinion is so subjective, and with a myriad of companies and brands out there making everything from blenders to navigation systems, there are bound to be different perspectives regarding quality, value or honest-to-goodness bragging rights.
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Never is this conundrum more apparent in the world of audio – whether it’s mobile or home flavor – than when discussing loudspeakers. Indeed, most electronics aficionados swear that there is no more important element to sound systems than the speaker, and there’s some logic to this train of thought: it is the loudspeaker that our ears are actually hearing at the end of the sound chain, not so much the amplifier or source components, all things being equal. But perhaps even more important in the context we’re discussing here is the fact that speakers are so polarizing amongst electronics fans because of the sheer number of models, companies, and types available.
This, at times, seems to go double for the car audio world.
Ask any mobile audio fanatic, installer or company rep what makes a good speaker, or, better yet, why he or she prefers a certain brand over another, and be prepared to endure a litany of opinions, viewpoints, and passion-fueled perspectives. To be honest, speaker shopping can be a daunting task without a guide, so we’ve assembled what we feel are the best brands to consider to make things easier for you.
Below, we’re going to talk about each chosen brand’s strengths, approaches to quality and even some of their current offerings worth checking out.
Perhaps one of the most recognized names in all of the car audio, Alpine has become famous for its legendary high-quality head units, but since that time has gone on to produce some sought-after speakers, amplifiers and more.
As of late, Alpine has garnered a myriad of praise for its X-Series of loudspeakers, a collection that includes the X-S69C 6×9-inch two-way component model, X-S65C 6.5-inch two-way component model and X-S65 6.5-inch two-way coaxial model.
Also available in Alpine’s current speaker lineup are the R-Series, S-Series, E-Series, and vehicle-specific products.
Right up there with Alpine in terms of the most respected and recognized car speaker brands in the mobile audio industry, Kenwood is another company that, like Infinity, shifted its focus from well-made home audio components (including amplifiers, CD players and receivers) to mobile sound – to the point that it only manufactures mobile audio products today.
Though highly regarded for its cutting-edge head units, Kenwood has made a name for itself in the speaker and subwoofer areas of a car stereo as well, its current lineup consisting of models in the Performance, D-Series, Sports, and Custom-Fit Series.
Known in some circles for its head-crushing club and professional speaker/subwoofer products, Cerwin-Vega also makes a splash on the car audio scene with some mobile speakers that are just as impressive.
The word most associated with the CV brand is “rugged,” and that extends to the company’s mobile products division – case in point: Cerwin-Vega’s mobile speaker lineup includes the highly-versatile (and longevity-oriented) Stroker, Vega, HED, XED Elite, and XED series, in addition to a line of professional mobile products, all available in a mind-numbing array of sizes, configurations and system packages.
Focal (pronounced “foe-cale”) designs and manufactures loudspeakers and architectural speakers for the home, speaker drivers for automobiles and headphones for both music lovers and some of the world’s finest recording studios.
The company, often thought of as an esoteric, boutique brand, has been offering mobile audio products in the categories of speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers, with some of its most popular speaker models being the Integration ISS 165 component system, Integration ISC 690 6×9 two-way speakers and the IC 690TOY 6×9 two-way speakers (the latter of which is designed to fit select Toyota models).
Not to be confused with the car rental giant, Hertz Audio designs mobile sound products that are above and beyond the ordinary, specifically geared towards those who like it loud.
While not as immediately recognizable as some of the other car speaker brands on our list here, Hertz offers an almost bewildering range of components, separates, and subwoofers throughout its collections, a series that includes Mille, Energy, Cento, Dieci, Uno, SPL Show, and SPL Monster.
Part of the Harman International family of fine products – a group that encompasses JBL, Mark Levinson and others – Infinity has been at the forefront of home hi-fi, home theater, and mobile audio since its inception.
As of late, the Infinity division has been taking something of a backseat with regard to its home audio loudspeaker offerings to focus on its mobile products – and the car audio scene is better for it. Some of Infinity’s more popular car speaker selections include the Kappa 62IX, Perfect 300M, Reference 9633IX, Reference 8632CFX and Reference 4032CFX.
Like its aforementioned sister brand, JBL is part of the Harman International family and has been producing high-quality loudspeakers for the home and car for generations. What’s more, JBL’s speakers have been the go-to choice for many car manufacturers’ “premium” step-up systems, notably in Toyota models, with affordability, performance, and quality continuing to reign as the company’s notable hallmarks.
Its current lineup of fine mobile audio speakers includes the Stadium GTO 620, Stage3 627, Stage3 9637, Stage3 8627 and GX862.
Known mostly for its ground-rocking subwoofers and amplifiers, JL Audio has become a favorite amongst car audio aficionados. The company’s products can be seen in competition vehicles the world over, and that’s not a coincidence – these are some of the most rugged, well-built items in the market.
JL’s current speaker lineup is comprised of varying classes of its Evolution series and includes the C7, C5, C3, C2, and C1, with a bevy of subwoofer systems also available.
There are some who believe the classic JVC brand is dead and buried – after all, how many VCRs are actually still out there in production? This company is alive and well, especially in the mobile audio world (it manufactures some pretty serious home theater projectors, too), and it has moved far beyond the video cassette recorder of yesteryear.
Boasting a complete line of both component speakers and subwoofers, JVC’s most popular models include the CS-ZX6940 6×9 four-way coaxial, CS-ZX640 6 ½ four-way coaxial, CS-ZX630 6 ½ three-way coaxial, CW-DR124 12-inch subwoofer, CW-DR104 10-inch subwoofer, and CW-DRA8 compact powered subunit.
This is yet another car speaker brand in the mobile audio world that’s instantly recognizable by enthusiasts the world over. Originally renowned for introducing one of the world’s first so-called “kicker boxes” – those fully-loaded subwoofer enclosures that packed quite the punch – Kicker has grown to become a manufacturer responsible for some of the most cutting-edge and competition-ready amps, speakers, crossovers and more.
Today, Kicker offers speakers in the QS Series, KS Series, CS Series, and DS Series, as well as a plethora of legendary subwoofers residing in the L7, CompQ, Solo-Baric L7S, CompVX, L7R, CompR, L7T, CompRT, CompVR, CompVT, CompC and Comp families.
While not a name instantly recognizable except by those car audio enthusiasts deeply engrossed in the hobby, Morel offers components and full systems renowned for their accuracy and dynamic sound reproduction. The brand caters to every mobile audio need by way of unique technologies that overcome the acoustic limitations of the automotive environment.
The current Morel speaker lineup consists of such models as the CCWR254, Virtus Nano Integra Carbon, Supremo two-way, 38 Limited Edition two/three-way, Elate Titanium two/three-way, Hybrid two-way, Hybrid Integra, Virtus Nano two/three-way and many others.
Here’s a brand that needs no introduction. Unless your car has been parked under a rock for the last few decades, you have heard of Pioneer.
While once revered for its high-quality head units, the company has branched out to become a leading provider of speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers and more, with its latest speaker lineup encompassing the Z-Series, D-Series, A-Series, G-Series and Pro Series.
Ask any diehard home theater or two-channel home hi-fi enthusiast which speaker brand immediately springs to mind when the words “performance” and “value” are emphasized, and you’ll almost always hear “Polk Audio” as an answer. Indeed, Polk has become legendary for its incredibly over-performing home theater speaker systems, and when the company decided to branch out into the mobile audio world, we knew good things were going to happen.
The modern Polk car speaker lineup consists of the DB 652 6 ½ two-way, DB 522 5 ¼ two-way, DB 6502 6 ½ component system, DB 572 5×7 two-way and a host of others.