Building the perfect car audio system for all needs

The love of driving is intrinsically linked to having access to great music and this is why upgrading your car audio system is probably the easiest way to upgrade your entire driving experience. Without exception, factory installed speakers are low quality, tend to blow out and aimed to serve a basic minimum function. Of course, choosing the right audio gear for your car is not the easiest task. Car audio systems can range from a few hundred dollars to basically as much money as you can afford. Here are some of the things that you need to know and keep in mind before you part with your hard earned cash.

1. How do car speakers differ from home speakers?

Home speakers system

Home speakers system

Impedance: The term impedance refers to the opposition electric current faces while passing through a conductive object. Car speakers function in low voltage-high ampere environments making 4ohm speakers perfectly suited while home speakers may be closer to 8 ohms.

Design: Home speakers are completely encased in a single cabinet or box while car speakers are sold separately as drivers, woofers, and tweeters.

Size: There is a much stricter size constraint on car speakers and thus every component is smaller than home speakers.

Optimization: Car speakers are optimized for small spaces with what is typically called as ‘near-field’ design while home speakers can function in much larger rooms.

2. What features should a good quality car audio speaker have?

There are certain fundamental qualities that every good quality car speaker will definitely have and ones you should never compromise on. The first is to be able to pump out music without any distortion within a reasonable volume range. You want to listen to the music as the people who made it wanted you to hear it, so this is not too much to ask in our opinion.

The speakers should be able to play a wide range of music making it versatile and allowing you to hear any kind of music that you prefer.

The last feature that we are looking for is the ability to pump out some bass because that is how most of the music nowadays is being geared. Bass makes you feel good!

3. How many types of car speakers are there?  

The types of car speakers include: Component speakers, Coaxial speakers and full range speakers. There is also a common misconception that full range speakers and co-axial speakers are always the same, however, that may not be true.

Full Range Speaker

Full range speakers are those that try and reproduce the entire gamut of audio frequencies but frequently fall short in the bass reproduction.

How does it work?

A full range speaker will usually include a woofer and a tweeter placed over it. This set up will attempt to handle the low-mid frequency sounds through the woofer and route the mid-high frequencies through the tweeter.

One driver is handling this entire setup and thus every sound of every frequency ultimately originated from the same place.

Pros:

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    Full range speakers are less expensive
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    They are easier to fit into cars
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    Contain less number of components and thus require a lesser amount of expertise to install
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    Available much more easily

Cons:

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    The name ‘full range’ is a misnomer since they cannot compete at the lower end of the frequencies
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    Common drivers are unable to do the same job that dedicated ones can provide
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     The truly high-quality full range speakers can be very expensive

Coaxial speaker

Coaxial speakers

Coaxial speakers

A coaxial speaker is one that has multiple drivers on a common central axis with the tweeter mounted in front of the woofer.

How Does it Work?

The speaker system works by employing individual driver units radiate sound from the same axis. For the purposes of car audio systems, two or three speaker drivers are the ones that are generally preferred while professional audio systems utilize a two-way design.

Pros:

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    Versatile design that can include 2 speaker drivers, 3 speaker drivers or more as per the requirement.

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    The inherent design of coaxial speakers makes them compact and perfect for use in car audio systems

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    Extremely high-quality sound can be reproduced from these speaker systems

Cons:

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    Can be more expensive than single driver full range speakers
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    The tweeter and midrange driver can be mounted in front of the woofer and thus obscure it partially
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    A misalignment may occur in the time that takes the sound from the tweeter to arrive as compared to the sound from the woofer, however, it is generally not perceptible or pertinent for non-professional uses.

The most common types of co-axial systems that are used in cars in high-quality systems are the 3-way set up that has three drivers for the woofer, midrange driver, and the tweeter. A 2-way speaker will have two drivers for the woofer and the tweeter but will compromise on the sound quality somewhat. It will help you save some money though.

Component speakers

These are the best kind of speakers that you can get for your car. These speakers separate their drivers and thus allow a great amount of versatility in the setting up of the sound stage.

How do they work?

Component speakers separate the woofer and the tweeter and have dedicated speakers for each that means that the sound produced is of the highest quality. Normally, the tweeters are placed higher than the woofers so that delicacies of extreme sound frequencies at both the ranges remain undistorted.

There is also a crossover that is introduced into the mix which basically ensures that right frequencies are being channeled to the right drivers. Experts, in fact, believe it is the addition of this dedicated crossover that provides the massive jump in sound quality and experience along with the other high-quality components, of course.

How many different kinds of component speakers are there?

There really is no limit to the number of speakers that you can have installed in your car, however, typically a high-end car audio system will include a sub-woofer, a woofer, a mid range speaker, a tweeter and a super tweeter to be able to reproduce the complete range of audio frequencies.

tweeters on car

Old car audio tweeter speaker, isolated on white background

Pros

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    Sound quality. There is no other type of speaker that can come close to a high-performance set of component speakers.

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    The presence of a cross over allows the dedicated drivers to do the job that they were optimized for and nothing else.
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    The sound stage created by a correctly installed set of component speakers is something that has to be experienced to be truly believed.

Cons

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    Expensive
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    Require technical know-how and experience to install correctly
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    The time required as well as the space required for the installation of all the components can be much more than the other speakers

4. Do car audio system really need upgrading 

There is one simple reason why people want to upgrade their car audio system: The ones included from the factory suck.

Most of the cars come with full range speakers that do a terrible job of reproducing music and audio in general while even the high-end cars come with co-axial speakers at best. For people that enjoy driving and consider listening to music a large part of that experience, upgrading their car audio system is a no-brainer.

Even people that may not consider themselves experts on the technicalities behind sound production or transmission are able to notice the lack of bass in factory installed speakers and thus want to rip them out and replace them with something better.

5. Are aftermarket car speakers compatible to your car?

This is something that you need to be very sure about before making your purchase. A lot of the speaker systems will come with guidance as to the cars in which they can be installed or the amount of space that will be required.

The simplest way to is to measure the size of your factory installed speakers and the space that you have available before looking for aftermarket speakers. Our suggestion is to involve a professional at this point in time because there are a lot of small things that can go wrong during the installation of these speakers.

Choose someone with experience and be sure that the speakers you order are compatible with your car and can be installed in it without any problem.

6. How should you upgrade your car audio system?

Different people have different needs and this is why it is important to identify what kind of a system you want. Start with identifying your favorite kind of music and then tailor your search according to that. If you listen to bass heavy music then the low-end range become very important in your system, something that single driver full range car audio systems will not be able to fulfill.

A high quality co-axial system or a component speakers car audio system will be good for your need. A point to be noted here should be that just a large amount of bass does not equate to a great music system. A lot of the speakers, particularly those that fall in the mid-range, have started to amplify the bass much beyond what was originally intended by the speakers because that is what is being dictated by the market.

If that is something you want then go for it, otherwise do your research before investing a considerable amount of money.

Similarly, if you are someone who listens to pop music, classical music or orchestras then you want to invest in a component speaker system that allows you to hear the individual instruments clearly and set a high quality sound stage. The sound imaging that is possible with this kind of system is simply unmatched.

If you are someone who listens to a bit of everything and not really limited to a particular general then we recommend a high quality co-axial system which will cover most needs and easy to install as well. If you are someone that listens to podcasts and the occasional bit of music then stick to something simple like a full range car audio system.

Of course, the amount of money that you can spend on a car audio system is a very important consideration as well. If you are an audiophile with no restrictions on budget then we recommend you build the dream component speaker car audio system, however, if you do have a tighter budget than a co-axial or a full range speaker system may be more suited for you.

Even those people that do not want to spend too much on their car audio system can just have a subwoofer system installed in addition the audio system that cam installed from the factory and notice a huge quality bump immediately.

If you are an audiophile but does not have the budget to be able to splurge on a top of the line car audio system right now then we recommend you save some money and wait. Do not go for the best that you can afford right now because that will not satisfy your needs and end up being a waste of money. It will also push your eventual goal away because you would have spent the money you had right now instead of saving for what you actually want.

7. Our advice for you to get better sound quality without breaking the bank!

We have seen too often people with the nest intentions make some of the silliest mistakes. They end up buying the best speakers that they can afford and then skimp on the installation cost which negates a lot of what they intended in the first place: Great sound quality.

Excellent sound is just not about the kind of speakers but also where they are placed. There are a lot of technical considerations that go into the placement of the tweeters, the subwoofers, the woofers and the crossover. It is not just about hooking them up to the power and switching them on. Done incorrectly, you may notice a lot of interference and noise that will ruin the experience you should be getting from top notch speakers.

Make sure that you get an experienced professional to install your speakers for you so that the job is done right without too much fuss. It is also a smart thing to take advice from a professional about the size of the speakers you are ordering before you actually do so to avoid any incidental costs of returning them or creating more space than you have easily available.

Getting speakers installed professionally is much cheaper than having incorrect speakers and wiring ripped out and then replaced correctly!

8. What are the right positions to place your speakers?

The most convenient position to place your new speakers are in place of the factory installed ones but to get the best experience some amount of custom work may need to be done.

Added Subwoofer: The enclosure for the added subwoofer can be a little bulky and take up a lot of space so the best placement position for it is in the trunk. Not all cars have trunks or enough place in them or you just may not want to compromise that sort of space in your trunk.

In such situations, the area under the rear seat works perfectly as well.

Coaxial speaker: These speakers come with a tweeter and/or a mid-range driver partially obscuring the speaker and thus the tweeter direction should always be kept upwards. The best place for them is under the car’s dashboard directed towards the driver.

Component Speaker: The ideal placement position for the tweeter is a high up level as close to ear of the driver as possible but not too far away from the woofer otherwise the sound will reach at different times. The woofer should be kept low in the car while the crossover is hidden in the middle.

Subwoofers placed in the trunk

Subwoofers placed in the trunk

Tweeters should ideally be placed on the dashboard with a slant spacer or on the A Pilller of the car. 

9. Common problems with car speakers and solutions

No sound comes from your speakers

Having a complicated and intricate set of speakers in the car means that it can be slightly harder for you to figure out what the problem is when something goes wrong. The most common problem that people face is when the sound stops coming from the speakers.

The first thing that you should do is to check all the connections in the car and see if everything is connected. If everything is still connected then have the amplifier checked out because that is generally where the problem lies.

Car speakers suddenly stop working

If your car speakers suddenly stop working then check out the head unit or the amplifier for the root of the problem.  Occasionally, the wiring itself may be the problem and may need to be changed out.

Unwanted noise comes from speaker

Unwanted noise or interference from the speakers does not mean that there is something wrong with the speakers but it almost certainly indicated that the speakers are not installed correctly. The problem could be with their placement or with their wiring or may be even both. This would require you to go back to the professional who fit the speakers in or to get the problems rectified that may have been created when you attempted the installation yourself.

10. How to maintain car speakers?

The best way to maintain your car speakers is to take care of them like you would anything else that is precious to you. Use them for listening to music but avoid blaring out music at the top of the volume because that will just blow them out.

Make sure the power connections to your speakers are secure and that they provide consistent and reliable energy to them. Also, avoid any physical damage to the speakers of a car, something that can happen quite often.

There is not too much else that you need to do but if you do end up with some trouble then always go back to a trusted professional to rectify the problem rather than trying to tinker yourself and end up worsening it.

11. How to choose the best car speaker?

Type of speaker

The type of speaker you buy will be determined by the kind of music you listen to. A person that really does not care about music and just wants something better than the factory fitted speakers that came in the car will be benefited by a simple full range speaker system or even just the addition of a subwoofer.

On the other hand, if you are a true audiophile then spend time on buying and having a high quality component speaker system installed in your car because the result will be worth every penny.

Sound quality

The sound quality will be dictated by the kind of speakers that you buy as well as their placement in the car. Money always does not equate to sound quality in this case and so we recommend that you take the advice of a professional to help narrow down the choices for your needs.

Built-in material

The speakers that you buy should be made with high quality materials, come with a warranty and preferably be manufactured by a brand that has a rich history in audio. Too many fly by night operators that do not do original research or even in-house design have started to fill up store shelves. Most of these car audio systems are mass manufactured without adequate quality controls and so should be avoided.

Speaker’s sensitivity

The sensitivity of a speaker must be taken into account when making your choice. Most factory installed car stereos are low powered (15 watts per channel or lesser) and thus you will need speakers with a high sensitivity rating (more than 90dB) to be able to get the best out of them.  

Head Unit and Amplifier Compatibility

Upgrading the stock amplifier with a high quality external unit will do wonders for the sound quality but system compatibility with the head unit needs to be kept in mind. The ideal situation would be to have a head unit with preamp outputs and an amplifier with line level inputs.

12. Conclusion

Upgrading the car audio system from a factory installed one to a custom one that fits your needs can be a hugely rewarding and satisfying experience. It is also something that helps makes the car unique to you without doing any structural changes or modifications to it.

If you are someone who enjoys music, enjoys driving or is in the car for a long time then take the plunge to upgrade your car audio system right now. Once you upgrade, you will wonder how you ever listened to music in your car any other way.

Scarlett
 

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