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What are component car speakers?

And why do they sound so much better?

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.

More from Ken Nail

JL Audio C2650 component speaker system

At Crutchfield, we've never settled for ho-hum car sound — and speakers firing at your knees leave a lot to be desired. However, component speaker systems (also called "separates") allow you to lift your music to your dash by separating the woofers and the tweeters. Components deliver realistic sound with outstanding imaging in the car, making them the choice of serious audio enthusiasts. Now, let's take a look at what makes up these superiour speaker systems and why installing them in your vehicle is worth the extra effort.

Why do you want separate woofers and tweeters?

Normal coaxial speakers, whether factory-installed or aftermarket, combining the woofer and tweeter into one 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.

Component speaker  locations

The tweeters in a component system are separated from the woofers and elevated

In 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 importantly, independent tweeters can be positioned for optimum imaging and soundstaging, which results in better sounding music.

So, what exactly will you be installing in your car?

When you buy an aftermarket component system, you can generally count on finding these four elements when you open the box:

  1. Woofers — these drivers handle the midrange frequencies where acoustic guitar, piano, and most instrumentation lives. Woofers are typically mounted in factory door locations.
  2. Tweeters — these drivers handle the sparkling detail of high notes from female vocals, woodwinds, and snare drums, to name a few. Tweeters need to be custom-mounted if no factory location exists.
  3. Crossover systems — these small boxes ensure that the high frequencies are cleanly diverted to the tweeters and lows to the woofers. 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.
  4. Mounting hardware — since tweeters and crossovers often need to be adaptable to a variety of car interiors, you'll need options when it comes to mounting them.
Crossover

High-quality internal components, like those in this crossover, make a big difference in the quality of your sound.

Add an amplifier to give them the power they need

Often, component systems are designed to handle higher amounts of power than their same-brand coaxial counterparts. They'll work fine when powered by an aftermarket stereo, but they'll really sound their best when powered by an external amplifier. Keep this in mind when you're planning your system.

Also, many crossovers have extra input terminals to allow bi-amping. Instead of driving the woofer and tweeter with a single channel of amplification, you can 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.

If you don't intend to add an outboard amp, then make sure the component speakers are rated to perform well on just deck power.

More questions about component speakers?

Our car speakers buying guide, goes into a lot more detail about how to choose the right speakers (whether a component system or coaxials) for your car audio system. Be sure to check it out. And then use our vehicle selector to find out which speakers will fit your car.

For more information about where to mount tweeters, check out this article. If you have any questions about your options, contact our advisors via phone, chat, or email (all found at the top of this page). They're here to help.

Last updated April 18, 2016
  • John

    Posted on 4/27/2015 2:51:11 PM

    I have a 2000 Toyota 4Runner and I am looking to replace the entire radio and sound system would I be looking for component speakers to replace everything or 3-way/2-way?.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2015 4:59:40 PM

    John, While components generally give you better stereo imaging and a more detailed soundstage than full-range speakers, there are plenty of folks who find full-range speakers just as satisfying. We certainly have lots of high-quality full-range speakers to choose from. Without knowing what you will choose to power the speakers, it's difficult to say what will work best for you. Generally speaking, however, installation of component speakers is more challenging than full-range speakers. Call us on the number at the top of this page, and an advisor will be able to give you a better idea of what to consider based on your powering scenario and the dimensions of your factory speaker openings.

  • shakeel from india

    Posted on 6/30/2015 3:51:09 AM

    i have 4.1 channel amplifier in my car . can i use component speaker also ????

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/30/2015 10:33:19 AM

    Shakeel, you should be able to connect component speakers to a 4-channel amp, but you'll want to make sure that the amp's power rating matches the power handling of the speakers. A good rule of thumb is that amp power should be within the range of 75-150% of speaker's max RMS power. So, if your speakers are rated 2-60w RMS, an amp should have minimum of 45w RMS per channel and a max of 90w RMS.

  • Michael from Clermont,FL

    Posted on 7/31/2015 12:42:09 AM

    I have a 2011 Nissan Frontier and want to put component speaker in all 4 doors, is this a good idea or is there a better idea. I plan to install Kenwood P709 6.5 speakers and a good amp, what would you recommend? I also have a Kenwood DNX6190HD head unit

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/31/2015 7:40:54 AM

    Michael, give us a call at 1.888.955.6000. An advisor will be able to help you sort out what the best layout for your truck will be as well as give you some advice based on our research on the Frontier. Generally speaking, components give you a better soundstage than full-range speakers, but installation can be a bit more challenging. Those Kenwoods, while great speakers, aren't an ideal fit for your truck, and depending on who regularly sits in those back seats, you may not benefit that much from components in the rear.

  • Mike from Hamilton

    Posted on 9/5/2015 2:06:41 AM

    Do component speakers have to be all the same set

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/8/2015 12:54:19 PM

    Mike, if you're using an outboard crossover, then no, but make sure that none of the speakers you're using have inline crossovers. Otherwise, it's not recommended to break up a component set. They're designed to work optimally together, with the included crossover systems negotiating the balance between the woofers and tweeters.

  • CHAD from Houston

    Posted on 9/24/2015 9:45:29 PM

    I have a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado Extended Cab. I recently purchased a jl audio jx1000/1d. I am hoping to use the amps maximum output. What 1 or 2 jl audio subs will fit behind the back seat? Also I am wanting to install a nice component pair of speakers in the front and a pair of full range in the back. What amp will power all 4 speakers and 2 tweeters. I want everything to be jl audio and I'm going to be using a KDC X998

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/25/2015 9:20:00 AM

    Chad, I've passed along your information to our sales department. An advisor will contact you soon to help you find the right speakers for your vehicle.

  • Adrian from New Port Richey FL

    Posted on 11/2/2015 7:45:54 PM

    After connecting component woofer and tweeter via crossover what is the independence. 4 ohm? If i have a coaxial 6x9 4ohm connected to 1 channel and i add a 4ohm tweeter to it is it 2ohm now? How can i make it 4? My amp is too powerful at 2ohm load...

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/3/2015 8:47:33 AM

    Adrian, impedance may vary from brand to brand. For the most part though, you'll find an impedance of 4 ohms for speaker sets. Check the Details tab of the speaker set in which you're interested, or give us a call. An advisor will gladly help you find the speakers that are right for your system. You can take the impedance for the set at face value rather than trying to break down the individual impedance for the woofer and the tweeter. Adding new tweeters does impact the impedance of those speaker channels, but that impact is almost negligible. This is because tweeters have tiny motor structures and play over such a narrow frequency range that they don't add much to the overall impedance load.

  • Les from houston

    Posted on 11/26/2015 6:30:39 PM

    2011 Silverado Crewcab without bose system, but does have factory tweeters in the windshield post. I had installed JL stealthbox with 12's wired to 1ohm, Memphis 1100/1 to push them, and a pioneer avh-x4700bs head unit. (I had stereo shop install) I decided to upgrade my door speakers, so I bought a pair of JL c2650 full range for the rear, and a pair of JL c2650 components for the front, along with a jx400/4 to push them. Should I replace the factory tweeters in the windshield post with the new JL's? JL recommends not putting them further than the 8 inches away from the woofer. Did I buy the proper amp considering I have 6 speakers from the factory with only 4 outputs from amp. Should I use the JL in line crossover that came with the 6.5 components, or use the pioneer head units crossover?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/30/2015 11:06:34 AM

    Les, generally, using your factory tweeter locations makes installation easier, but if you're willing to alter your door panels, JL Audio points out (taking a look at JL Audio C2650 Evolution components manual for example), that ideally you won't want a distance greater than 8" between where you place the woofers and where you place the tweeters. Again, given the layout of your door, that may not be possible, which is why many vehicles use the A-panel or windshield column as a tweeter location. Perhaps the best advice in the JL Audio manual is to experiment with tweeter locations before committing to a final mounting location. In the end, the sound that pleases you best is the best sound there is. Re: the JX400/4, that amp will work with your speakers. You'll wire your tweeters to the included external crossovers included with the C2560 system. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • jean from miami

    Posted on 1/4/2016 9:45:27 PM

    Hello I have a pair of JBL P660c component systems for my 2008 hinda civic and wanna buy an amp for them, can you please recommend a good amp for this component system? this are the specs for the comp. system each General Features 6-1/2" Power Series Component System Power Handling: Peak: 540 watts per system / 270 watts each side RMS: 180 watts per system / 90 watts each side

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/5/2016 9:34:58 AM

    Jean, I've passed your question along to our sales team. An advisor will contact you soon with recommendations. If you'd like to speak to someone right away, give us a call at the number above.

  • Long Nguyen from Seattle

    Posted on 4/20/2016 11:46:02 PM

    I have a 2016 honda accord sport with 160watt stock head unit. This trim comes with 4 speakers. What does the 160watt mean? Is it 160watt to power each of the 4 speakers, or is the 160watt combined? (I guess the latter) Reason for asking is that I'm trying to upgrade my stereo system, potentially starting with upgrading all 4 speakers. What speaker wattage will fit my car? There isn't 2016 honda accord sport trim selection on crutchfield.com.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/21/2016 10:15:07 AM

    Long, unfortunately, we haven't researched your vehicle yet, but given its popularity, we will as soon as possible. Your best bet is to check back with us in a couple months. Re: your "160 watt" system, this is probably a peak power rating for all four speakers, but if it's an RMS rating, then you'll want to shop for speakers with power handling up to 40 watts RMS. You'll have plenty of choices. If you're planning on adding a new receiver or an amplifier, you'll have even more options. However, keep in mind that when shopping for replacement speakers, your biggest concern will be fit (mounting depth, in particular). Once we have the '16 Accord in our system, we'll be able to help you with that.

  • Steven Chavez from Albuquerque New Mex

    Posted on 5/20/2016 12:40:04 AM

    I'm wanting to install component speakers on my motorcycle. It's a road King, I have a small 4 channel 400 watt amp. The speakers I need are 5.25s. There is six of them, 3 speakers in each saddle bag. I was wondering do I have to hook up a crossover for every speaker? or am able to just get away with just using two? One in each bag. Also too how will I mount that many tweeters on a bike? Thanks for your support!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/20/2016 9:29:22 AM

    Steven, yes, you will need the crossovers that come with every set, but given the space restrictions of your motorcycle, you're a prime candidate for coaxial speakers instead of components. Since the tweeters and crossovers are built into one chassis, you won't need to worry about where to stash those extra components. Give us a call and one of our advisors can help find the right speakers for you.

  • John from Lansing

    Posted on 6/14/2016 12:49:43 PM

    I have a 1999½ Nissan Pathfinder. Title says 99 but some parts I need to order for a 2000. Does this matter for stereos? Should I order for 1999 or 2000?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/14/2016 4:53:32 PM

    John, go by the year on the title. For our purposes, your vehicle actually falls in the year range of 1996-2000 Nissan Pathfinders. A key qualifier, however, will be whether you have the factory Bose system or not. Be sure to specify the factory audio package when using the Crutchfield vehicle selector to find gear for your Pathfinder.

  • Chase from Baltimore

    Posted on 7/9/2016 5:02:45 PM

    I have a full aftermarket system with full-range speakers and an aftermarket head unit with no external amp and being that its going on 10 years old now I was getting ready to upgrade the system to a new head unit with an external amp and component speakers instead of full-range ones. However, I notice with my current speakers that I have to turn the high end way down because it is almost too much and sometimes even hurts to listen to some of the really high notes. I wanted to know if there was a way to remedy this with the new system by either leaving out the tweaters in the components on one or both sets of speakers or possibly somehow lower the amount of power they get with respect to the woofer.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/11/2016 8:04:16 AM

    Chase, you'll want to look for component speaker sets that have selectable tweeter levels -- that way you can adjust the "brightness" of the tweeters in relation to the woofers. I've passed your question along to our sales team, and an advisor will contact you soon to help find the right gear for your next upgrade.