Has Your Stereo Lost That Lovin’ Feeling?
Most factory installed speakers are constructed of lesser quality components that drastically affect the performance of your system. Inferior speaker cone material will breakdown over time and lead to a flat sounding stereo system. Upgrading your system with higher quality more efficient speakers will breathe new life into your car’s stereo.
Speakers are one of the most important components within your vehicle’s audio system, after all they are the devices that are responsible for reproducing the audio that you choose to listen to. Not all speakers are the same; they may be the same size, or even look the same, but there are important differences that you may not notice. There are many options available for different applications within your vehicle’s audio system, the deciding factors will be what you expect from your stereo.
What Do You Want From Your Car Stereo?
This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself when it comes to your vehicle’s audio performance. The type of media that you listen to will greatly affect the type of system that you require. Do you want a system that will rattle your insides, one that is crystal clear at extreme volumes, or maybe something in between? Speakers have many classes of performance, each engineered for a specific type of application, so once you have decided on the type of car audio system that you would like you can choose your components based on your decision.
4 Attributes To Consider When Choosing A Speaker
Speaker Cone Material:
There are dozens and dozens of different types of materials used in the production of speaker cones. Speaker cone material affects the sound quality, longevity and power handling capabilities of the unit.
The ideal speaker cone is lightweight, which helps with the speaker’s signal response capacity. When in operation, a speaker moves in and out to create sound waves, so the lighter the cone the quicker it will respond to the signals that it receives.
Cone rigidity is also an important factor in speaker cone material. If a cone is not rigid, it will flutter and introduce unwanted frequencies to the listening environment.
Paper/Treated Paper Cones: These cones can produce great sound, but for how long? Traditional paper speaker cones are frowned upon in the world of car audio. The mobile audio environment inherently contains a great deal of moisture and temperature variation. These two factors over time will wreak havoc on a paper cone and eventually it will deteriorate, rendering the speaker useless. Thankfully speaker manufacturers have developed synthetic material to combat these issues.
Polypropylene Cones: A step above Paper Cones and very popular in the car audio world, these cones are fairly rigid and are extremely moisture resistant.
Kevlar Cones: Yes, this is the same material used in body armor. Extremely lightweight, very strong and exceedingly rigid, these are the 3 things that you want in a speaker cone. Additionally this material possesses excellent damping capabilities which helps control unwanted vibrations. Of course Kevlar is not the only exotic material that possess these properties, other materials such as fiberglass, aluminum and flax fiber have also proven their worth in car audio. As far as which cone material is the best, that is up to your ears to decide.
This is a measurement of how efficiently the speaker converts power into sound. The less sensitive the speaker the less volume it will generate per watt. The more sensitive the speaker the more sound you will get out of the amplifier, lending to a fuller and more robust sound.
There are two power ratings when it comes to speaker power handling, Peak Power and RMS (Root Mean Square) Power. Peak Power is the amount of power the speaker can handle before it fails. RMS is the amount of power that it can handle comfortably and perform at its optimum. Any sound generated above the speakers’ RMS Power rating will cause damage to the speaker. With a higher powered speaker, the chance of failure at high volumes is less likely.
This is the frame of a cone type speaker. The speaker basket does more than just hold the cone in place. Like every other component of a speaker, the design and material greatly affects the sound of the speaker.
Design: One consideration of speaker basket design is back wave management. When a speaker is in operation, it produces sound waves from both the front and back of the speaker. The wave generated from the rear of the speaker, the back wave, can add unwanted frequencies or even cancel out desired waves and affect the overall sound of the speaker in a negative way. A well-designed basket diffuses the back wave allowing it to escape without coloring the sound of the speaker.
Material: It is important that the basket is rigid enough to endure normal operation without deformation or adding additional frequencies due to the materials resonant properties. Although they are more expensive, cast aluminum and magnesium perform much better than stamped steel baskets. Because of their thermal properties these baskets help dissipate heat that is generated when the speaker is in operation. In addition to these benefits cast material will not bend; it may break, but that would require a great deal of stress in order for that to happen.
Polymer composite baskets are the latest innovation in speaker technology. They are much cheaper to produce than stamped steel, speaker manufacturers are developing more and more speaker lines using this material due to its cost of manufacturing, lighter weight, resonant properties and rigidity.
Types Of Speakers
Full Range Class Speakers
This speaker class does the lion’s share of sound reproduction within your car’s audio system. Traditionally a full range speaker is a single speaker that reproduces all frequencies within the 20 Hertz (Hz) to 20 Kilohertz (kHz) spectrum. In today’s car audio the full range speaker class also includes Coaxial Speakers and Component Speaker Systems.
Coaxial Speakers (Full Range)
This is a speaker system in which multiple speakers project sound from the same axis. Basically a tweeter or speaker is mounted on top of the voice coil of the woofer. The most commonly used types of coaxial speakers are the 2-way (2 speakers) and 3-way (3 speakers) combinations. A 2-way system contains a woofer to handle the lower frequencies and a tweeter to handle the higher frequencies. With the 3-way system an additional speaker is added to handle the mid to mid-high frequencies. Although this configuration is typically better than a single full range speaker, the tweeter mounted over the woofer impedes the woofer sound output.
Component Speaker Systems (Full Range)
Another option for your Full Range speaker selection. This system, most commonly 2-way, is made up of individual components that can be finely tuned to get the most out of your audio system. The typical setup contains a woofer, tweeter and a proprietary crossover. The woofer is mounted in the factory door location while the tweeter is mounted in a much higher location on the door. Since tweeters are inherently directional, the higher location allows them to be more prevalent in the audio field. The crossover routes the audio signal depending on the frequencies. Low to mid frequencies are sent to the woofer and the highs are sent to the tweeters. Most of the crossovers are adjustable so that you can tune these speakers to your vehicle. With this configuration the woofer is no longer impeded by the tweeter like it is on a coaxial configuration and offers more sonic clarity.
These are on the small size, typically from ¾” to 1 ½”. A tweeter is the speaker that handles the high end frequencies usually from 2 kHz to 20 kHz. This is the speaker that adds the crispness to the sound. Many models offer additional features that allow the audio to be catered to your vehicle.
This is the speaker that can make your car shake. It provides the deep low end that standard woofers cannot. Typically this speaker is responsible for the frequencies between 20 Hz - 300 Hz. Depending on your preferences, this type of speaker can shake your car, make you really feel the kick drum, or just add extra low end to your system. In order for them to function correctly the subwoofer will need to be mounted in their own enclosure and have their own dedicated amplifier.
An enclosure is the box in which the speaker is mounted. For car audio this is mainly needed for subwoofers. There are 2 types of enclosures: sealed and ported (or vented). Each has their own unique characteristics.
This configuration generates an equal output for all frequencies in its spectrum.
- Reproduces the bass uniformly across the spectrum
- Tight, punchy sound
- Takes more power
- Balanced response
Ported (Vented) Enclosure: This enclosure type delivers that earth shaking bass. This enclosure is tuned to a specific frequency,usual determined by the listeners desire or taste. At the tuned frequency, the speaker is much louder than any other frequency within its specified range.
- Extremely Powerful bass response at the tuned frequency
- Little to no bass output below tuned frequency
- Reproduces the bass unevenly
- Sound produced below tuned frequency causes speaker fatigue and will shorten the life of the speaker
Bass Party Packs:
This is an all in one package that includes a subwoofer, enclosure, and an amplifier. A very simple way to add more low end bass to your system. A wide variety of packages are available to fit your needs.
It is possible for you to enjoy great sound from your typical 4 speaker system (Front Left, Front Right, Rear Left and Rear Right). To achieve amazing sound quality, the best option is to assign different jobs for different speakers. So basically it goes like this: Hey Subwoofers? I’m going to need you be responsible for the frequencies between 20 Hz through 100Hz. Full Range? You handle the frequencies from 100 Hz to 5000 Hz and Tweeters, you just worry about all of the frequencies above 2000 Hz. Now these numbers I just listed are just there to illustrate a point. It is likely that these would be different in your vehicle depending on the model of your car and the make and model of your speakers, whether you have an amp, how much power your amp produces...it can go on and on. With this type of setup, you are not relying on one type of speaker to produce all of the sound. When you have three types of speakers working together, none of the components are going to be doing all of the work like they would on a typical 4 full range speaker system. Not only will the audio sound better, you will have the ability to control each speaker group, ie. its volume and frequency response, and since none of the components are being overworked the lifespan of the speakers is increased.
The bottom line is, what sounds good to you? It’s your vehicle, you choose what you listen to, if it sounds good to you and you are happy with it, then perfect. If there are things about it that you would like to change, maybe you would like more low end, or some additional punch to the mid range, or may the high end is sounding a little flat, then you may want to consider replacing your current speakers with some aftermarket units to add new life to your vehicle's sound system. We have been in business for over 31 years and have 100s of years of combined experience. Our product experts and professional installers know how to give you the sound that you crave.