Component car speakers: What to look for
Choosing the system that's right for you and your vehicle
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 are the best way to get high-quality sound in your vehicle. You'll find a wide variety of component speakers available, so choosing a set can be a bit daunting. But if you keep a few key points in mind, you'll make a smart choice.
Component speakers, like this Infinity Kappa 60.11cs system, use external crossover systems to ensure that the right frequencies travel to to the right speakers so that your music sounds clearer and richer.
Match your speakers to your system
Your car's sound system will determine if you buy speakers with a high or low sensitivity rating. Simply put, sensitivity measures how much sound a speaker makes from the power applied to it. If your car's system is low-powered (15 watts RMS per channel or less), you'll get better results from speakers with high sensitivity ratings (over 90 dB). If you're using a high-powered stereo (16 watts RMS or more) or an external amplifier, extend your search to less efficient systems which are built to handle more power.
Power handling is another important spec to keep in mind when selecting your component speakers. Be sure the speakers you choose can handle the power output of the amplifier that will be driving them. And remember, the key spec in power handling is the maximum RMS power, not the peak power rating. RMS power ratings realistically measure how much power the speaker can handle continuously, not just for a short burst. The recommended power range can also give you a clue about how a component system will perform in your car. 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."
Component speaker system construction and materials
How your speakers are made, and what they're made from, can have a big impact on the durability and sound quality of your component speaker system.
A woofer should be made of material that's stiff, yet lightweight in order to produce the low notes in your music effectively. Most car speaker woofer cones are made of synthetic films like polypropylene, which serve well. Polypropylene is often mixed with other materials, like mica, to create a stiffer cone for more accurate bass response. Woven fabrics, or synthetics coated with metals like aluminum or titanium, create light, strong cones that provide excellent response. All of these materials stand up well to the heat, cold, and moisture that car speakers face daily.
The material used for the tweeter exerts a profound effect on the type of sound produced by the speaker. Generally, tweeters made of soft materials, like polypropylene, 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.
The surround on a woofer performs a vital role — it allows the woofer cone to move freely, so you get better bass output. It needs to be durable, so it can stand up to temperature and humidity extremes. Surrounds made of rubber will provide the best overall performance and longevity, while treated foam and cloth surrounds are often found in less expensive component systems.
High-quality internal components, like those in this crossover, make a big difference in the quality of your sound.
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.
Use our Vehicle Selector to find out what fits in your car, then contact us via phone, chat, or email if you have any questions. When you're ready to install them, check out our component speakers installation guide for tips.
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