The Best Car Speakers - The Top 5
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The easiest way to upgrade an old or rubbish sounding car sound system, is by swapping out standard factory speakers for the best car speakers you can afford.
The most common type of aftermarket speakers are co-axial ones. These are generally 2-way or 3-way speakers, where the sounds are dealt with by one or more tweeters combined with a standard woofer. They are usually plug and play, but you might need a wiring adapter or fitting kit so it’s worth double checking before you buy.
Just replacing the speakers can make a huge difference, but don’t expect them to rock your world when it comes to bass. For that added kick you’ll need a dedicated subwoofer and possibly a high-powered amplifier and crossover.
However, you can achieve great improvements in audio quality if you choose the right set of speakers, so its always a good place to start.
The Kenwood Kfc-1666S are a budget speaker that are packed full of standard features, that you would expect from most factory fitted speakers.
With a standard impedance of 4 OHMS they are going to match up with most factory fitted stereo systems. Unlike more expensive speakers, these are a 2-way speaker with one 6.6 inch woofer and one, 1 inch balanced dome tweeter. They are sold as a pair and with an RMS output of 30W each, you’re not exactly going to have your socks blown off. However, the sensitivity is actually pretty good at 92hz, which helps to make up for the low RMS output and lack of extra speaker cones.
Unfortunately, like most 2-way speakers, you’re not going to get the deep bass experience, if that’s what you’re after. Most budget speakers will only have a good mid to high range output at standard volumes. If you want more bass and better range, you may be able to fit some extra tweeters or a separate subwoofer. If you’re not too fussy, then a good head unit with a built in graphic equaliser will often do the trick.
These speakers look modern and should match the interior of most cars. The 6.5 inch width design will fit a wide range of vehicles without too much modification necessary. In most cases, you’ll probably only need to drill new screw holes to fix them in place. They also have standard co-axial cable fittings. This is the more common connector type across standard factory fitted stereo systems.
When it comes to in car entertainment, Kenwood are huge. They produce everything from amplifiers to high end speakers. The 1666S speakers are at the lower end of the scale when it comes to features and price. They’re probably not going to impress the most discerning audiophile.
However, if you are looking to replace a blown speaker or upgrade some old speakers to a newer model then you can’t go wrong. Overall, because of the low price and the Kenwood quality, these speakers are my top choice for best budget coaxial car speaker.
2. Pioneer TS-G1645R 250W 6.5 Inch 2-Way Speakers
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Best Premium Budget Car Speakers
These GS-61245 are also a 2-way speaker, but have a slightly higher RMS output at 40 W each. The maximum power output is also higher at 500 W per pair. This gives you a clearer sound during load peaks with a lower chance of distortion. If you want to be guaranteed a deeper bass then these speakers can be installed with a separate subwoofer and/or a stand alone amplifier.
Most 2-way speakers are fine when handling mid range sounds. Going by the reviews, these speakers are actually pretty good all rounders. They handle vocals and high ranges the best. Just don’t expect them to hold up if you like listening to heavy rock at the highest volume all of the time.
The Pioneer G range are available in six different sizes from 4 inch to 6.5inch. With a shallow mounting depth of only 1.5 inches, you will be able to fit them neatly into most doors or dashboards. If you are stuck, there are adapter kits available for some car models. These allow you to fit smaller or different shaped speakers to existing cut-outs. You can also get wiring adapters, but since these speakers are co-axial they should, in most cases be plug and play.
Overall, these budget speakers from Pioneer will make a nice upgrade to most factory fitted speakers. They are perfect for bringing an old stereo system back to life. Just don’t expect miracles. If you pair them up with a nice head unit with a built in graphic equaliser, then you may be surprised with the sound quality that you can achieve.
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Best 3-Way Car Speaker Upgrades
If you are looking for speakers with a more dynamic sound range, but you’re still on a budget, then the Rockford R165X3 are definitely worth checking out.
Sound wise, these are actually pretty good, especially since they can usually be bought for less than $40. These speakers have a standard output of 90 W when fitted as a pair, and a maximum short span output of 180 W. Not the loudest by any means, but still respectable for a sub $100 speakers set.
As they are a 3-way setup, the mid to high audio range is clearer than the budget 2-way alternatives. Rockford have fitted an integrated tweeter crossover that supplies the Piezo tweeter with it’s own high range signal. The crossover is concealed in the speaker basket, behind the front cover for a neater fit.
The 4 ohm impedance and 91 db sensitivity is standard enough in this price range. You won’t have any problems pairing them and powering them with a built-in amplifier. Like the other budget options here, a separate subwoofer will be needed if you are a fan of deep bass.
These 3-way speakers are also available in six different sizes from 4 inch to 6.75 inch in diameter. They are slightly deeper than the Pioneer G range at 2.15 inches, but should still fit most cars. They come with a mounting kit, grille and wiring adapters. Be warned though, before you buy any speakers it’s worth checking out the fitment for your specific car or truck. You may need to order a separate adapter kit to make them fit properly.
These speakers are a perfect option if you want to upgrade from factory speakers but you are keeping a standard head unit. With a maximum output of 90 W per speaker, they won’t be able to handle a high powered amp. So if it’s really loud music you’re after, then choose speakers with a higher output.
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Best Budget 4-Way Car Speakers
The TS-A series of speakers from Pioneer, offer a wide range of speaker sizes and power outputs across the range. In most cases, fitting them will give you a much better sound quality than factory fitted speakers.
The model that I have picked from the range is the TS-A6886R. They are a 6” by 8”, 4-way speaker with a 60W nominal output per pair. The fact that they are a 4-way speaker will mean that they can reproduce a much wider range of sounds than 2-way speakers.
With a fairly standard 91db sensitivity and an impedance of 4 ohms, they are going to be compatible with most vehicles. Pioneer have constructed the speaker cones from what they call a ‘Multilayer Mica Matrix Cone’. This gives a better quality sound and is a more rigid material than you’ll find in other speakers. The extra rigidity makes them more sensitive to changes in frequencies.
The built in crossover, feeds the paper tweeter with a dedicated mid to high frequency signal. You will also get some more bass than in 2 or 3 way speaker, because the high ranges are being handled by the tweeter. Overall, the sound quality will be better, especially at higher volumes.
If you read through the hundreds of positive reviews online for these speakers, it’s obvious that the design features of these speakers are what make the difference. Most seem to agree that they produce a much clearer, louder output than standard factory speakers.
One downside to these speakers is the shape. Measuring 6” by 8”, they aren’t the classic round shape, so they may not fit all cars. The A series are available in five different sizes, including a more standard 6.5 inch circular shape. These are also 4-way speakers with the same 350 W maximum output per pair.
Overall, the Pioneer A-series are a great choice if you want to upgrade your car speakers and you’re willing to spend a little more. In most cases, you should be able to find a set to fit your vehicle, whether you want to fit them to the dashboard or doors.
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Best High Powered Coaxial Car Speakers
JBL is another innovative power-house when it comes to speaker technology. The JBL GTO939 speakers are an excellent choice if you are taking the first steps towards into audiophile territory.
The GTO series consists of a wide range of speakers and tweeters in various shapes and sizes. I’ve chosen to look at the GTO939 6 by 9 inch model because I have fitted these recently to a vehicle and was impressed by their build quality and sound. They were also a very reasonable price, and in my opinion a steal considering the excellent quality.
This 3-way speaker was designed to work well as a straight upgrade to a factory speaker, or as part of a custom audio system. Each speaker has a massive RMS range of 5 to 200W. This means you can use it directly with a low powered head unit or a high powered stand alone amplifier.
Some of the other specs include a 94 db sensitivity and a lower than average 3 ohm impedance. This increases the chances of getting a good sound from the average head unit fitted to most cars in the factory.
The 6” by 9” speaker market is a popular one, but if they don’t fit, then the GTO series is available in the most common aftermarket sizes. As far as fitting goes, there are some wiring adapters included but these may not suit all cars so you may need to get out the soldering iron if they need to be modified.
It’’s also clear that JBL invest a lot of time and money into the development of their products. These speakers are packed with the latest patented technologies, that on paper at least look impressive.
The woofer fitted to these speakers is made from a carbon-injected cone material. JBL say it results in a stiffer, more responsive cone. They also include a non magnetic, non resonating frame, that JBL say increases the accuracy of the sound reproduced by the speakers.
I’m not sure if this is all just press release jargon, or if these features make a difference to the sound quality. It’s clear that JBL are a company that take pride in their products, and strive to differentiate themselves from other speaker manufacturers.
In my experience, JBL produce excellent speakers and in my experience, these are no different. It’s hard to find any faults with the the GTO range of speakers, especially when you consider the price.
Best Factory Speaker Upgrade
These 2-way speakers from Infinity are a premium speaker by a leader in speaker innovation. Just like JBL, Infinity are part of the Harmon Corporation, a well respected entity in the world of car audio products.
The Kappa Series are a different looking range of speakers from most others. Their unique design is well suited to modern car interiors. They look and feel premium, right down to their soft-touch rubberised protective grilles.
Featuring a power range from 5 to 55 Watts RMS, these guys can be paired with a wide range of head units and external amplifiers. They also incorporate an unusually low 2 Ohm impedance. This is to compensate for the low quality speaker wiring found in many cars. Remember, the lower the impedance, the more power that the speaker can pull from the amplifier. This low impedance is paired with a high sensitivity of 95 db. This means that these speakers can output a better quality sound without over-powering the amplifier.
Just like the JBL GTO series, The Infinity Kappa series use some very special, patented materials to produce their speakers. These include carbon glass matrix frames and glass-fibre woofer cones. These result in a stronger speaker frame, with a stiffer and lighter woofer cone. All of which gives a better overall performance.
One other interesting design feature is the adjustable 1 inch soft dome tweeter. It’s a fairly unique feature. in that it can be adjusted to point in a different direction if necessary. If you are creative, this allows you to bounce those high-frequency sounds around your car to produce the best possible sound.
It’s no surprise then that the reviews for these speakers are overwhelmingly good. They are clearly a premium speaker aimed at the more discerning audiophile. One downside is that while they are compatible with a wide range of amplifiers, you need to make sure that they are not going to get damaged by an older or inferior head unit or underpowered amplifier.
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Best Waterproof Car Speakers
The DB series from Polk are another premium aftermarket speaker, that are even certified for use in your car, boat or motorcycle!
The DB652’s are another over-performing 2-way speaker from an innovative company based in the USA. They’ve been around since 1972, so they know a bit about making great speakers. These speakers feature a 6.5 inch polymer woofer. These speakers were designed with the outdoors in mind. The materials used are UV, salt-fog and humidity resistant. The cones are surrounded by IP56 waterproof seals. So basically, you can throw all sorts of mud and water at these things, and they’ll still keep going.
If you are fitting them to a car, they are also available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. The inner 3/4 inch silk dome tweeter is low profile in design. This means it sits flush with the front of the speaker, so you can fit one of the supplied grilles or your existing grilles. It also means you can fit these speakers to a dashboard or under a parcel shelf with fixed grilles.
The woofer and tweeter are powered by a built in crossover, that takes care of distributing the right signal ranges to each. In terms of power, you can run these at a continuous 100 W of power, or at a peak short term power of 300W. They have a 4 ohm impedance, so will match up with a wide range of head units and amps.
If you are looking to upgrade your car stereo, or build one from scratch, these speakers won’t disappoint. Aside from use as a simple upgrade, they are also perfect for use with a high powered amplifier, subwoofer and powered crossover. Just make sure you don’t skimp on the speaker cable!
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Best 5.25 Inch Car Speakers
The Alpine SPS range is another high powered range of vehicle speakers, perfect if you are designing a custom sound system.
The Type-S speaker range are available in multiple sizes, so you should have no problem finding the perfect fit for your car, truck or SUV. Just like the Polk speakers, the centre tweeter is constructed from a silk material wrapped around an aluminium frame. The soft silk material is very efficient at reproducing mid to high range sounds. It also rotates by 10 degrees, so you can get the perfect balance when used as part of a multi-speaker system. This makes up for the relatively low sensitivity of 87dB.
The woofer cone is a standard poly-mica cone. This particular speaker from the range is capable of outputting 55 W of power continuously and up to 170 W at peak power. The large range of available sizes coupled with the 4 Ohm impedance makes them compatible with a wide range of vehicles.
For 2-way speakers, they create a truly impressive sound. If you have ever owned a set of Alpine speakers, you won’t be disappointed when compared to these. Being 2-way speakers, you can expect clear mid to high range audio. These speakers also deliver a surprising amount of bass too. Ok, they’re not going to replace a dedicated subwoofer, but will in most cases be a huge improvement over stock factory speakers.
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Best 5-Way Car Speaker Upgrade
If you’re looking for some cheap, loud speakers then the Boss SK553s may well be the speakers for you. With a peak handling power of 600W per pair, these speakers are seriously loud. Nominal power is 80 W per speaker, with a 4 Ohm impedance. This makes them ideal as an upgrade for standard speakers connected to a factory head unit.
They are the only 5-way speaker I have reviewed today. Considering their normally really low price, I’m not sure how Boss have managed to create an effective 5-way speaker. However, Boss call them a “full-range” coaxial speaker. The audio is split between a woofer, midrange speaker, a 1 inch dome tweeter and 2 half inch piezo tweeters. On paper, this should cover all possible audio ranges that you can throw at them.
It doesn’t appear that Boss have skimped when it comes to their choice of materials. The polymer woofer is standard across car speakers and an aluminium voice coil is used by audio heavyweights like Pioneer and Alpine. They’ve also gone for Piezoelectric tweeters. These are usually capable of standing up to what ever you can throw at them.
Ok, so the red woofer with silver coated tweeters may not match the interior of every car. But they are a tidy design, with everything sitting below the level of the rubber seals, so you should be able to fit a less flashy grille to the front if you like.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried these speakers myself. I decided to include them here because I was intrigued by their massive specs for such a low price (in my opinion). Personally, I find it hard to believe that they could be that good, or will be resilient enough to last through years of abuse. If you check out the reviews online, they are mostly positive. So I for one will be giving them a go.
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Best For Bass On A Budget
Kicker are another speaker company that have been around for over 40 years. They make all sorts of audio equipment for all types of vehicles.
Their Kicker DS range of speakers, are coaxial speakers that Kicker say will fit almost any vehicle straight out of the box. They come in selection of eight sizes, from 3.5 inch up to 6 by 9 inch, so you should be able to find a size that fits.
Aesthetically, they’re nothing special. They are finished in black with a flush piezo tweeter. The front grille is removable, so they should fit neatly behind any factory grille, be it in a dashboard or door.
Power wise, they can handle up to 200 Watts at peak per pair, and 60 Watts each during normal use. With a standard 4 Ohm impedance, and 90 dB sensitivity, you aren’t going to experience a massive range of sounds. They do however perform well in the low to mid ranges. If you read the reviews online for these speakers, you’ll see that people are surprised at the really loud, clear bass that they can generate.
The reason I picked these speakers is because they are a great choice if you to easily swap out your factory speakers for louder speakers with a lot more bass. If you don’t want the hassle of external amplifiers and subwoofers, these speakers are a great compromise.
Ok, they’re not going to perform as well as an expensive component speaker system, but they are going to be much better than stock factory speakers.
5 Tips For Making your car speakers sound better
1. Install Dynamat or other sound proofing
If you want to get more from your car stereo, then it's a good idea to block out as much external noise as possible. Most car manufacturers go to a lot of trouble to block out as much road and engine noise as they can. But if you want to take it a step further then installing extra soundproofing is really easy. I'd recommend buying some Dynamat of Noico sound proofing material. It's easy to install, is self adhesive and once rolled into place it won't budge. Depending on your car, you can benefit from using extra sound proofing in the floor, in the doors, under the dashboard, in the roof and under the bonnet.
2. Upgrade the amplifier
Installing an external, and more powerful amplifier is one of the best ways to improve your car audio experience. External amplifiers are always going to be more powerful and will use better components than a standard factory head unit amp. They also allow you to separate out the audio into different channels providing the opportunity to add on separate tweeters, subwoofers and mid-range speakers to your factory speakers. This will transform the sound coming from your stereo, as you'll now be able to hear the highs and lows that your car speakers can't handle by themselves.
3. Add a subwoofer
Adding a subwoofer to your existing car stereo is an easy way to generate a richer, deeper sound. The majority of standard car stereos rely on standard speakers to generate the full spectrum of sound, from the highs to the lows. A good bass is difficult to generate without a dedicated amplifier and subwoofer. Installing an aftermarket subwoofer is about the only way you can really improve the bass from your factory system.
4. Upgrade the head unit
Most head units, even factory upgraded units are underpowered and are not designed to output the full range of audio that you need for a top notch sound experience. If you are driving an older car, your car stereo probably won't support bluetooth audio streaming or smartphone connectivity. Aftermarket head units support all of these features and more. They also usually have a more powerful built-in amplifier, and some allow you to hook up a subwoofer without the need for a external amplifier. Most newer units will also have a built-in graphic equalizer. This will help you to improve the sound from your factory speakers.
5. Use an equalizer app, car sound optimisation app
If you car supports smartphone connectivity and audio streaming, you can use an app to improve the sound coming from the speakers. Most newer cars and aftermarket stereos will allow you to stream music files stored on your phone or mp3 player. You can also stream music from your favourite music streaming service. As the audio is coming via your phone, it's possible to tweak the output using a graphic equalizer app. There are hundreds of options out there for Android and ioS, including lots of free (ad supported) apps. So it's just a matter of downloading a few and trying them out until you find one that works for you.
You can also install a sound optimisation app. These apps can generate virtual subwoofers, surround sound and arena or big stadium effects to really bring your music to life. They can also tweak the sound to generate a virtual 'sweetspot' in your car. This means that even though you may be sitting in the driver's seat, you will get the best possible experience and sound from your car speakers.