Understanding Different Types of Car Speakers and What to Look For
A Guide to Help You Choose the Right Car Audio Speakers for You and Your Sound System
Purchasing car speakers can be a complicated process if you are not familiar with the different types of speakers on the market. But with a bit of help understanding the differences between speakers, you can find the right ones for your car and improve your listening experience.
When shopping for car speakers, consider this guide on the types of car speakers and features available that will upgrade your car audio system.
Types of Speaker Systems
Aftermarket speakers are divided into two main categories—component speakers and full range speakers. Here’s a comparison of full range vs component speakers to help you choose the best speakers for you and your car audio system.
If you want the best possible sound from your speakers, consider component speaker systems. Component systems have speakers with superior design and multiple drivers for optimal sound quality.
Each driver is designed to operate within its own ideal range of frequencies. And these components are often made of better materials than full range speakers, allowing them to produce detailed and dynamic sounds.
Component systems consist of separate woofers, tweeters, and external crossovers. And while separate, these are designed to work together to produce high-quality sound.
With a component speaker system, you can mount drivers in different areas around the car so the sound will have greater depth and clarity.
And the crossover network is external from the tweeter and woofer, so internal components can be of higher quality, ensuring a sharp delineation between the frequencies sent to different drivers.
Full Range [Coaxial]
If you’re looking to replace your factory speakers easily and without the fuss, consider full range speakers, also known as coaxial speakers.
Full range speaker systems are the most common type on the market and consist of all the speaker elements in one, with a woofer for low bass sounds and a tweeter for high notes.
Some full-range speakers will also have midrange or super tweeter drivers. And they are available at almost every price point and power range.
These speakers come in various sizes to fit into existing factory-speaker locations, so you can simply have the old speaker removed and the new speakers connected and mounted.
Other Types of Speakers
Here are the other main types of speakers/drivers used in car audio systems:
Subwoofers reproduce the lowest frequency sounds (bass), adding depth to music. Subwoofers often require an enclosure and a power amplifier, and they range in size from 8 inches to 15 inches.
These versatile speakers reproduce deeps sounds in mid-to low-bass frequencies, such as bass drums and lower octave vocals. They range in size from 6.5 inches to 8 inches and serve different functions in component and full range systems.
Midrange speakers reproduce frequencies in the middle of the audio spectrum that midbass and tweeters can’t reproduce with as much detail and accuracy. Midrange drivers range in size from 3.5 inches to 6.5 inches.
Tweeters reproduce the highest sound frequencies, such as cymbals and high hats. Tweeters also provide clarity and detail to voices and instruments.
Tweeters are usually the smallest speakers in a car audio system (0.5 to 1.5 inches in size) and are placed higher in the car than woofers in component systems. In a full range coaxial system, tweeters are suspended and mounted in the middle of the woofer.
Features to Look For
When shopping for speakers, consider these important features to find the right set for your car audio system.
When adequately powered, speakers produce optimal sound quality. Sensitivity refers to the amount of sound speakers produce based on the power supplied from the stereo.
If you have a low-powered, factory-installed car stereo with a power rating of 15 watts RMS per channel or less, it will pair well with speakers that have a high sensitivity rating—e.g. over 90 dB.
And if you have a high-powered aftermarket stereo system or an external amplifier with a power rating of 16 watts RMS or more, then you’ll want speakers with low-sensitivity ratings.
So be sure to match low-powered stereos with high-sensitivity speakers, and high-powered stereos with low-sensitivity speakers to get the best sound.
Power handling refers to how much power (in watts) a speaker can handle. So, if you have a low-powered car audio system, then your speakers won’t need to handle a lot of power and can have a low power handling—e.g. a maximum RMS power handling of 2 to 50 watts RMS.
But if your system has powerful external amps, the power handling of the speakers must be near the same power output of the amps.
Pivoting or Swivelling Tweeters
Since tweeters produce directional high frequencies, full-range speakers with pivoting or swivelling tweeters can be aimed toward the listener for greater depth and more realistic sound. These are ideal if you are replacing the speakers low in your door.
Component systems usually use passive external crossovers for a clean separation between the frequencies sent to the woofer and tweeter. This separation allows for a cleaner sound that is more efficient.
External crossovers help stop the tweeter and woofer from wasting energy while trying to reproduce frequencies they’re not supposed to reproduce.
Many crossovers also have extra input terminals for bi-amping—connecting two sets of cables, with each set carrying a signal from a separate amplifier or amp channel.
Bi-amping allows dedicated amplification for both high-frequency drivers (tweeters) and low-frequency drivers (woofers).
Matching Your Speakers to Your Vehicle
You’ll need to find speakers that will match your vehicle’s make and model, as well as match the stereo system. Check the size of the speakers you already have so you can choose a new set of speakers that are the same size.
Or, you can install new speakers in a different size with the help of car audio professionals. They can customize the space to fit the speakers you want. The pros can also help you choose a subwoofer and box enclosure based on the available space in your trunk or car if you want to add more depth to your sound system.
For more tips on finding the right speakers for your vehicle, visit your local car audio experts.
With the right speakers, you will improve your listening experience and make your music sound the way it’s meant to be heard.