What are component car speakers?
And why do they sound so much better?
Alexander Hrabe is a member of Crutchfield's car audio A/V writing team. It was only a matter of time. He's been writing professionally for a decade, and his first car stereo was purchased from Crutchfield. Worlds have officially collided.
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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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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.
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:
- Woofers — these drivers handle the midrange frequencies where acoustic guitar, piano, and most instrumentation lives. Woofers are typically mounted in factory door locations.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.