Car speakers buying guide

What to look for in full-range and component speakers


Ken Nail

Ken Nail has written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. He's an avid music listener, whose favorites are classical and film music. When not chained to a desk, Ken spends most of his time training for triathlons and marathons, and likes getting outside for backpacking, downhill skiing, and bicycle touring. He attended West Virginia University, where he received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History.

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New speakers can put the life back into your music. Crutchfield carries car speakers of nearly every size, shape, and type, but with so many choices available, it can be hard to know what to look for. But if you keep a few important points in mind, you'll be able to pick out the perfect speakers for your vehicle.

JL Audio speakers

Match your speakers to your system

You should consider two main specifications when considering which speakers will work best in your car.


Sensitivity measures how much sound a speaker yields from the power applied to it. If you have a low-powered car stereo (15 watts RMS per channel or less), like most that are factory-installed, speakers with high sensitivity ratings (over 90 dB) will make the best match. If you have a high-power system (16 watts RMS or more), like that provided by an aftermarket stereo or external amplifier, then consider speakers with lower sensitivity ratings. Properly powered, they'll provide excellent sound quality.


Power-handling lets you know how much power (measured in watts) a speaker can handle. If you've got a low-powered system, your speakers don't need to be able to handle lots of power. On the other hand, a system with powerful external amps will require speakers whose power-handling is close to the output of the amps. And remember, the key spec in power-handling is the maximum RMS power-handling, not the peak power handling. RMS ratings realistically measure how much power the speaker can handle on a continuous basis, not just for a short period of time. A system rated at "2-50 watts RMS" will make a better match for your low-powered stereo than another system rated "10-80 watts RMS."

Installed speaker

What type of speakers do you need?

Aftermarket car speakers can be divided into two main categories: full-range speakers, and component speaker systems. Let's explain each and look at their advantages and disadvantages.

Full-range speakers

Full-range speakers contain all the speaker elements in one basket. In their simplest form they consist of a woofer for the lows, and a tweeter mounted onto the woofer to produce the highs. Some models will have additional drivers, like midrange or supertweeter. You should choose full-range speakers if you're looking to replace factory speakers with a minimum of muss and fuss. They come in a variety of sizes that mount easily into factory speaker locations. In most cases, you simply remove the old speaker, connect the new speaker with a free Crutchfield wiring harness, and mount it. You'll find full-range speakers at nearly every price point and power range.

Component speakers

Component systems use a superior speaker design to give you the best possible sound. A typical component system includes separate woofers, tweeters, and external crossovers — all of which come designed to work in concert with one other.

Kicker 40CSS654

Kicker's 40CSS654 component system includes separate woofers, tweeters, and external crossovers.

In a component system, the tweeter comes separate from the woofer, and you can mount it in a location that provides the best imaging. Your music will sound more realistic, more "live," and have greater depth. The crossover network in a component system comes external to the woofer and tweeter, so higher quality internal components can be used to ensure a sharp delineation between the frequencies sent to the different drivers — that means more realistic sound for the listener. Component systems are generally made of better materials than their full-range counterparts, so they're capable of delivering exceptional dynamics and detailed sound.

Speaker materials

A speaker's material design will determine its durability and sound quality.

Woofer materials

To effectively produce the low notes in your music, the woofer of a full-range or component speaker should be made of material that is stiff, yet lightweight. Manufacturers make most car speaker woofer cones out of synthetic films like polypropylene, which serve well. Polypropylene mixed with other materials, like mica, is often stiffer, yielding more accurate bass response. Woven fabrics, or synthetics coated with metals like aluminum or titanium, are also lightweight, strong, and provide excellent response. All of these materials stand up well to heat, cold, and moisture.

Tweeter materials

A tweeter's material has a big effect on the type of sound it produces. Generally, tweeters made of soft materials, like poly, textile blends, or silk will give you sound that's refined and somewhat mellow. If you like the highs bright and snappy, go with hard materials, like metal, ceramics, or graphite.

Surround materials

The surround on a woofer performs a vital role — it allows the woofer cone to move freely and emit bolder bass. It must be durable to stand up to temperature and humidity extremes. Surrounds made of rubber will provide the best overall performance and longevity. Foam and cloth surrounds cost less, yet still perform well.

Other features

Several other common features in car speakers may be important for your system's needs.

Pivoting or swiveling tweeters

If you're replacing speakers low in your door, full-range speakers with pivoting tweeters can have a big effect on your sound. Tweeters produce very directional high-frequencies, so pivoting tweeters can be "aimed" towards the listener for a higher soundstage. Your music will sound more realistic with a greater sense of depth.

Infinity Reference X REF-9602ix

Infinity's UniPivot tweeter design in their Reference X Series lets you aim the high frequencies at your ears.

External crossovers

Component systems typically use passive external crossovers to achieve clean separation between the frequencies sent to the woofer and tweeter. The woofer and tweeter don't waste energy by trying to reproduce frequencies they're not intended to reproduce. As a result, you'll enjoy cleaner, more efficient sound reproduction.

Many crossovers have extra input terminals to allow bi-amping. Instead of driving the woofer and tweeter with a single channel of amplification, you actually connect two sets of cables, with each set carrying the signal from a separate amplifier (or amp channel). This way, both low-frequency drivers (woofers) and high-frequency drivers (tweeters) receive dedicated amplification. Look for this feature if you're planning to put together a serious high-performance system.

Detachable tweeters

Speakers with detachable tweeters can be used as either full-range speakers or component systems — a nice feature if you want to reuse the speakers in a different vehicle.

Match your speakers to your vehicle

If you're ready to put new speakers in your car or truck, use our vehicle selector to find out which speakers will fit your vehicle. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to give us a call at the number above. Our advisors help customers select new speakers every day!

Get everything you need

Foam baffles protect your speakers from dust and moisture.

Bass Blockers improve smaller speakers' efficiency by removing low frequencies they weren't designed to handle.

The right tools make taking a door panel off or removing a window crank a lot easier.

Dynamat lowers noise levels inside your vehicle, giving you improved clarity, volume, and bass response from your speakers.

  • Terence Anderson from Memphis

    Posted on 6/21/2015 10:02:07 PM

    I have a Pontiac g6, stock head unit, and a alpine power pack amp 45rms x 4. I have installed hush mat in front doors for pioneer 6/12 tsg models and ts-a 6964r in rear. According to specs if true seems to be the best speaker out there @31-37000hz. My question was what are the best set of speakers for the alpine power rating. Should I be focused on specs or just trust my ear because the pioneers sound good but just wondering if any speakers would sound better

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/23/2015 11:26:52 AM

    Terence, you've already done the three of the most important things: you've replaced the stock speakers, bumped up the power a lot with that power pack, and added Hushmat to dampen the ambient noise. It doesn't get much better than that! At this point, it's all a matter of finesse and fine tuning. If you're happy with the way those Pioneer speakers create the mids and highs in your music, then just enjoy your system! What matters is how the music sounds to YOU. But since you asked, check out our article about tweeter design to learn about how different speaker materials can change the way your music sounds.

  • Ji from Cary

    Posted on 7/14/2015 2:11:02 PM

    I've been looking around for potential speaker upgrades, with amp, etc. I am only seeing one set of speakers listed as a replacement for the speakers in my 2013 Miata Grand Touring--the Focal Integration ISS 200's. I have long been out of the car audio interest market, so I am not familiar with this brand, although I'm sure they sound fine. Is there anything else recommended?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/14/2015 4:05:45 PM

    Ji, we're big fans of Focal here at Crutchfield. They're a well-respected brand that take high fidelity sound very seriously, and the Focal Integration ISS 200's are great speakers. That said, you do have more options. I've passed your information along to a Crutchfield advisor, who will contact you soon to help.

  • Chris Farabaugh from Pittsburgh, Pa

    Posted on 7/23/2015 11:48:53 AM

    I want to build a new system for my 2015 Chevy Silverado. Where should I start? I want a good system but can't afford to buy all at one time. My music preference is blues/classic rock. I don't like too much base. I like clean crisp sound. What would suggest?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/23/2015 1:58:04 PM

    Chris, if you're on a budget, you may want to start with a new amp and speakers, but check out this series on improving the sound in a late-model F-150.

  • Kala from Puerto rico

    Posted on 7/27/2015 8:55:50 AM

    If i am trying to buy speakers over the internet, how many does it bring? Because in the picture i se two but indont know if it comes with both or if there just showing them inside and out?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/27/2015 2:05:40 PM

    Kala, typically car speakers are sold by the pair, and they should say so next to the price. Pairs are the norm. However, we do carry a few exceptions, but we try to go out of our way to point out that you are buying a single speaker if that's the case.

  • Jacob O. from United States

    Posted on 8/2/2015 10:10:05 AM

    I just recently replaced the failing hu in my Ford F150 crewcab with a Kenwood DDX372BT. I'm happy with this unit and the next thing I'd like to do is replace the door speakers. I don't want to add an amp at this point and budget is a concern, so I'm thinking full range speakers. If I replace the factory speakers up front first, should I shop for a 2 or 3 way speaker? I mostly listen to rock and metal so some decent mid and low ranges are a must. Thanks

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/3/2015 10:57:22 AM

    Jacob, I've passed your information along to one of our advisors who will be contacting you soon to help. But to answer your question re: 2-way vs. 3-way, 3-way speakers are typically the largest of the full-range speakers. If our vehicle selector shows 3-way speakers as a fit for your factory opening, go for it! With three drivers per speaker, you'll often extend your frequency response and gain finer detail.

  • Nathan from Orlando

    Posted on 8/8/2015 9:58:48 AM

    Hello I just bought a 2013 toyota FJ cruiser. It does not have the premium jbl audio system. It appears to have speakers on top of the dash and the obvious front door speakers. If it does have speakers on the dash, is it a factory component set up? The factory stereo displays the song being played on the radio. Is it possible to get another aftermarket radio that does this? Thank you Nathan

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2015 2:10:02 PM

    Nathan, yes, you do have factory components. If you'd like to replace them, keep in mind that those tweeters are an uncommon size. So, you'll need to fabricate mounts for the replacements. Give us a call if you'd like advice on new speakers. As far as your stereo question goes, you'll want a replacement stereo that features RDS (Radio Data System) to receive that artist/album info. Look under the "Details" tab to find out if the radio you want uses RDS. Also, HD Radio typically gives you artist/album info, and we have quite a few stereos that have HD Radio tuners.

  • Alan Somers from McKinney, TX

    Posted on 8/21/2015 12:31:26 PM

    I recently purchased and installed a Pioneer AVH-4100NEX head unit in my 2012 Toyota Highlander. I'm using the factory speakers with a low-profile powered subwoofer initially until I can scrape together the funds for better door speakers. I see that 6.5", 6.75", and 6"x9" speakers will fit with only brackets. What are the advantages/disadvantages of round vs. oval speakers? Also, should I be looking for 2-way or 3-way speakers when using a separate subwoofer?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/21/2015 2:47:26 PM

    Alan, speakers vary in size (and shape) in order to accommodate a variety of factory speaker openings. That's the primary reason for the existence of oval vs. round speakers. However, a larger woofer (more surface area) will give you a fuller sound on the low end of the midrange. This isn't as much of a concern since you already have a sub in play, but you might as well go for the 6"x9"s since they fit. A three-way speaker gives you two tweeters as opposed to one for better articulation of the high end. That's unrelated to a separate subwoofer. Again, since they'll fit, go for the three-way 6"x9". I sent your question to our advisors. They should be reaching out to you via email soon.

  • Lu Young from Sacramento

    Posted on 9/3/2015 11:38:52 PM

    Looking for a pair of 6X9 speakers for my 1995 Saab 900se for the rear hatch back ledge. It calls for the JVC cs V6934, but that speaker is no longer being made. Is there another speaker you can recomend for the 95 Saab.

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