There is arguably no better feeling than cruising down the highway, entire weekend laid out ahead of you, and “Spirit in the Sky” blasting through your sound system. Of course, you’ll want to hear your favorite song with the best sound quality possible, and your standard-issue car speakers are probably not going to do it for you.
To get the sound that perfectly suit your needs, you’ll need to decide on which speakers will work best. In essence, there are two types of speaker systems to consider for cars, with a number of variables to consider. These are:
Coaxial (full range) speakers and component speakers.
Their differences are highlighted by a few factors, including:
- Sound quality
Let’s take a dive into the various types of speakers available and their differences, to help you choose the right fit for your car.
Component speakers are fairly self-explanatory: the system is made up of various components (speakers and drivers) that can be installed at various locations in your car. They are exceptionally suited to customization but far more complicated to install. You will need to get separate speakers to handle the bass, middle, and high frequencies, and external crossovers to control the signals. And unless you have the required skills, you will need to hire someone to install them for you.
There a few different types of component speakers you can choose from, all of which have their unique use(s).
A subwoofer is the speaker which typically produces the lowest sound frequencies possible, ranging from 20-200 Hz (Hertz). This bass adds depth and power to your music. These speakers work best with a custom box enclosure to contain and direct the bass frequencies accordingly. Subwoofers are generally placed behind or under the seats, or in the trunk of your car. They typically range in size from 8 inches through to 15 inches.
Midrange speakers control the middle-range frequencies in your music, typically reproducing the sound in the range of 250-2000 Hz. These add the “mid-scoop” and clarity which cannot be handled by a subwoofer or tweeter. Midrange speakers produce the main detail of sound and clarity to your system. Most of the time they are round in shape and usually placed in the doors of your car. They typically range in size from 3.5 inches to 6.5 inches.
Tweeters produce the highest sound frequencies, ranging from 2000 to 20,000 Hz(generally considered the upper limit of the human ear). They provide clarity to sounds like cymbals and voices in your music. Tweeters are typically the smallest speakers in a component setup, and are placed higher up in the car than the other drivers. They range in size from 0.5 inches to 1.5 inches.
Lastly, for the real sound enthusiast, there are super-tweeters. These are even smaller than a typical tweeter and used to supplement the high frequencies. A typical tweeter can sometimes distort or fail to handle ultra-high frequencies in your music. A super-tweeter solves this problem by producing frequencies around and over the 20 kHz range.
Component Speaker Sound Quality
Component speakers are specifically designed for either bass, middle, or high frequencies, and thus, will give you the best sound quality possible. Because they are separate speakers, you can mount them in the locations that best serve their purpose, giving you customizable stereo-imaging options. This will give your music more depth and clarity, and an immersive quality due to the different frequencies coming at you from different places. The separate crossovers will help provide a distinct difference in sound throughout the specific speakers.
Because component speakers are so specialized, they are typically made from superior quality materials; thus, making them expensive. Additionally, having to buy separate components— including crossovers—can add up, making this system far more pricey than coaxial setups. You will also need a separate amplifier specifically matched to your speaker’s power needs. Depending on the size of your component system, sometimes multiple amps are even required.
The major upside to component speakers is customization: options on component setups are nearly endless. Depending on your tastes, you can install massive or even multiple sub-woofers, as many mid-range speakers as you like, and tweeters adjusted perfectly to match. You can decide and adjust where you place them in your car in order to get the best immersive musical experience possible.
The power and volume capabilities of your component system will be entirely up to you, and not limited by the built-in amplifier of your car’s stereo. You can add as many speakers as you like in as many variations as you like. Not only will you have a far higher volume than coaxial speakers are capable of, but the quality of sound will be noticeably superior. This is because even at high volumes, the separate crossovers will make sure the speaker components are not being pushed beyond their capabilities. Overdriven speakers will create a muddy or even distorted sound.
It’s very likely you’ve heard coaxial speaker systems before; most car manufactures standard speaker systems have coaxial setups. Put simply, coaxial are speakers that have the full range of sound built into a single contained unit. Most of the time they consist of different sized woofers with a tweeter attached either to the top or on a pole running to the middle.
Coaxials have a simple crossover built-in that takes the input signal and splits it into separate bands of high, middle, and low frequencies. This serves to allocate the signals to different parts of the speaker. They come in a few different band configurations.
At its most basic level, a car speaker has one single driver. This is just a speaker with no additional properties. However, most coaxials will at least be in the 2-band range; these are speakers that contain another sub-speaker housed within. A 2-band coaxial typically consists of a woofer and a tweeter. The larger speaker will handle the lows and middle frequencies, and the tweeter the highs. This is the most common configuration of a coaxial.
3-Band coaxials have an additional midrange speaker. This will give your sound system an extra “mid-scoop”, and is a noticeable upgrade if you want more depth to your sound system.
Finally, we have the 4-band coaxial. This major upgrade is for true the true sound enthusiast. Not only do you get the bass woofer, mid-range speaker, and tweeter, but these come with an additional super-tweeter. This makes it the most comprehensive model of coaxial available.
Coaxial Quality of Sound
With all these separate parts in one unit, the quality of sound is bound to be compromised. Even the best brands of coaxial speakers have limitations because of the inherent problem of combined components. Having the tweeters fixed to the speaker limits the separation of frequencies that allow for truly good quality sound. With coaxial speakers, the drivers are placed too close together to have a real dynamic sound quality. This can sometimes result in a “muddiness” caused from different frequencies being mixed together at close range.
The advantage that comes with a combined unit is affordability. The speakers are made with the bass-woofer, middle, tweeter, and crossover all built into one, thus making them easier and cheaper to manufacture. However, the ease of manufacture and high demand for coaxial systems often make the build materials and quality inferior to what you’d find in a component system. But having the choice of 2-band, 3-band, and 4-band, lets you easily decide on the speaker you want according to any budget.
Another advantage of coaxial systems is installation. Unless you have the required skills, you’ll need to budget in a lot of extra money in order to have a professional install component speakers. Coaxial’s make this process faster and far simpler. If you’re just looking to replace your car’s factory speakers, they are the natural choice. They come in a wide variety of sizes that mount easily into standard factory speaker locations in your car. You can do this at home in an hour or less with a few limited tools. The units have only one input connection, making it literally just a case of plug-and-play.
Coaxial speakers also come in a huge variety of power ranges. They usually run just fine with the built-in amplifier in your car’s stereo, mitigating the cost of the extra amp you’ll need with a component system.
The type of speaker setup you choose depends entirely on your specific needs and musical tastes. If you are a bass lover who likes listening to loud dance music, coaxial speakers just aren’t going to cut it. You’ll need separate, customizable sub-woofers to optimize the low frequencies you desire. If you aren’t too much of a musical enthusiast and just want to listen background music, easily installable and affordable full-range coaxials are the perfect fit.
Featured image credit: Car speaker by MikePhotos, Pixabay