Video: What's Wrong with Factory Speakers?
Learn more about why stock speakers sound the way they do
Charlie Pastorfield writes about car audio for Crutchfield. Raised in Connecticut and the U.S. Virgin Islands, he graduated from the University of Virginia, but was having way too much fun to leave Charlottesville. After a long, beautiful career touring the East Coast from Boston to Atlanta as a professional guitarist (Skip Castro Band, The Believers), he married Emilie, had two daughters (Morgan and Emma), and got his first full-time job at Crutchfield. Still an extremely active musician, he's now a member of The Gladstones, a 4-piece group that plays just about anything, and Mama Tried, a 4-piece band that plays early Grateful Dead.
More from Charlie Pastorfield
Crutchfield car audio expert Charlie had a problem. As a lifelong musician, he loved listening to music, but he found himself listening to talk radio during his commute. Then he swapped out his factory speakers and discovered a hidden truth: factory car speakers are poorly built and sound pretty awful. Watch him tell you the story about one of the easiest ways to improve the sound in your car. Then read about Charlie's current car stereo system here.
To find out which speakers will fit your car, use our Outfit My Car tool, and we'll help you get into better sound when you're on the road.
Hi I'm Charlie. I've worked at Crutchfield for over fifteen years and I'm a musician. I've listened to music and played music all my life. I realized that I was listening to sports radio and talk radio 98% of the time and I just thought something was wrong with me, but somebody suggested changing the speakers in the car. So I put some Boston Acoustic speakers in there and low and behold I'm playing CDs again every day. I haven't listened to the radio in years.
And the point of all this is the culprit behind the bad sound in my car was something like this, admittedly a very worn factory speaker, but this is what a factory speaker looks like. And you'll see it's a paper cone with a sort of, it had a foam surround.it's probably disappeared years ago. Not a very big magnet. You'll find speakers like this in every factory system.
The manufacturer of the car sub-contracts the speakers out to somebody and they make the speaker as cheaply as they possibly can. And you know, I'm not saying every factory system sounds horrible, but as a general rule, they sound pretty horrible.
So what happens is you'll pull these things out of your car and put in an aftermarket speaker, something like this. This is an Infinity Kappa speaker, really designed to be powered with an amplifier, but you get an idea of some of the materials they use in these aftermarket speakers.
It's a woven glass-fiber cone. It's a dome tweeter that's made out of a sort of a metal hybrid material, a rubber surround so the speaker will play in your car for years without breaking down, a very large magnet, and a separate crossover network on the back that separates the highs and the lows going to the elements in the speaker.
So what happens when you take this thing out of your car and put this thing in? The first thing you'll notice is the bass sounds different. It won't boom. It gets tighter and more focused. You'll hear much better high end response and much better upper mid-range so the vocals and the instruments will sound very natural and very present.
The most impressive thing you'll hear is stereo sound stage which means you'll be sitting in your car hearing out of your speakers roughly what the sound engineer mixed when he was in the recording studio. If you spend a half an hour, you know, or more a day in your car driving to and from work in my book, for the price of a set, you know, a set of speakers up front and in back in your vehicle you just can't beat that.
That's all I got to say. Thank you.