What are component car speakers?

And why do they sound so much better?


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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Component speaker systems (also called "separates") feature separate woofers, tweeters, and crossovers. Components deliver realistic sound with outstanding imaging in the car, making them the choice of serious audio enthusiasts.

JL Audio C2650 component speaker system

The JL Audio C2650 component speaker system features 6-3/4" woofers and seperate 3/4" silk-dome tweeters.

Separate woofers and tweeters

Most factory-installed and brand-name car speakers contain two elements, combining a woofer and tweeter into one speaker (also called a "coaxial speaker"). It's a convenient way to get great sound from a single speaker opening, but the design of the woofer and tweeter are both compromised in this arrangement. Also, a tweeter mounted on top of the woofer cone will always, to some degree, interfere with the sound waves produced by the woofer.

With a component speaker system, the woofers and tweeters are mounted independently — each component can operate to its full potential, eliminating the problem of the tweeter impeding woofer performance. More important, independent tweeters can be positioned for optimum imaging and soundstaging.

Manufacturers will often use better materials in separate components than in their 2- or 3-way counterparts. When properly powered, component speakers deliver exceptional dynamics and detail.

External crossovers

A component system usually includes externally-mounted passive crossover networks, designed to complement the woofers and tweeters in the system. These networks of filters direct specific frequency ranges to the woofer and tweeter, so they don't strain to reproduce notes out of their intended range. High-quality crossovers allow you to adjust the relative volume of the tweeter, so the system produces natural, realistic sound.

More component questions?

If you're interested in adding a great-sounding component speaker system to your car or truck, read our car speakers buying guide, and then use our vehicle selector to find out which speakers will fit your car.

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