Buying guide: Car speakers and subwoofers
In most cars, the pre-installed car stereo system (that is, the audio system), though well functional, is no where near what the best the market has to offer. This is particularly true for budget and lower-end cars. And if you really want to enjoy your favorite music while riding, it is imperative that you install a good custom in-car audio system. However, given the huge selection of systems and system components that are available, purchasing an in-car entertainment system can be a daunting task. This guide will assist you in making an informed decision.
Once you decide on going for a customized entertainment system for your car, you will be faced with two choices: you can either go in for a co-axial speaker system or you can go in for a component speaker system. That’s not all, in any good in-car audio speaker system; the speakers need to be complimented by a big and powerful car subwoofer that will ensure excellent sound reproduction even in the lowest of sound frequencies, and a good CD player or DVD player. In a co-axial speaker, the tweeter (that produces high frequency sounds) is suspended over the woofer (that produces low frequency sounds). In a component speaker set, the tweeter and the woofer are separate and can be position to optimize the sound quality. While a co-axial speaker set up is cheap, it does provide less customization options and also entails certain compromises in terms of speaker type and quality. On the other hand, a component speaker set up would is most rewarding but also more time consuming and more expensive. While the former set up would be quite restricted by the speakers’ audio capability, the latter set up allows you to get the most out of your car’s spatial characteristics, which will allow you to have a viewing/listening experience that delivers pro-quality sound. In addition, not only can you buy complete car speakers box sets, you can also customize and mix and match the various components. Typical speaker sizes are 6 in x 9 in, 6 in x 5 in, and 12 in x 12 in.
Also remember, that for efficient performance, your set of speakers needs to be at least placed appropriately. Also, a set of speakers and a subwoofer may perform brilliantly in the store or in a studio, how good are they when placed in your car or when you are riding in a noisy environ? This is what matters in the end. Every car has its own spatial characteristics that are unique and one of a kind.
Furthermore, it is difficult to predict (by means of a thought experiment) how a given set of speakers or a subwoofer for an in-car audio system will sound in your car. As such, it is very essential that you try to obtain a live demo of the speakers in your car and get familiar with the audio experience they provide.
Now, we look at some of the more important criteria that you ought to consider before purchasing any car audio system component speaker:
- 1. Brand: While it is easy to make car speakers and subwoofers, it is rather difficult to make good car speakers and subwoofers. So when shopping for one, it would be preferable to look for known and trusted brands only. There are two main reasons for this. Car speakers and subwoofers not only have to deliver good sound, but have to do it while the car is being driven and at times over rough and bumpy surfaces. Needless to say, a lot of R&D goes into creating a high performance car speaker and subwoofer system, and it is usually only big-name manufacturers (such as Bose, Sony, Alpine, etc.), with deep pockets and research expertise, that can better develop such products and technology. This, however, does not in any way imply that a product from a big-name manufacturer is the best out there or is necessarily a good choice.
- 2. Speaker size: Most manufacturers install rather small speakers in their cars, and given that speaker size determines the volume and frequency range, you would be left wanting for more. At the same time, if the size of the speaker is too large, sound quality will suffer as a result of vastly increased distortion. Hence, getting a right sized speaker is important. Typical speaker sizes are 6 in x 9 in, 6 in x 5 in, and 12 in x 12 in.
- 3. Type of music you will be playing: The type of music you listen to will have a big influence on the type of the configuration of your car audio system set up. If you like to listen to bass heavy music such as rock and heavy metal, you would need to have a good car amplifier and car subwoofer to enjoy music properly. If you like to listen to classical or pop music, you would prefer an audio set up that covers all sound frequencies in a balanced way.
- 4. Mounting space and depth: While these two factors need to be considered when buying any component of your car audio system, these are particularly important when it comes to such large components as subwoofers. Before making a purchase, it is important that you check the available mounting depth in your car and whether or not there is enough space for the subwoofer you have chosen. Also, you need to check for mounting space for there is no point in buying a speaker or a subwoofer that you would trouble fitting in your car.
- 5. Custom mounting: Some high-end in-car audio entertainment system speakers and subwoofers require custom mounting solutions; these, thus, can prove to be rather expensive, and you are advised to think twice over the improvements in audio quality and the rarity factor that such speakers and subwoofers provide vis-à-vis their price and installation costs.
- 6. Subwoofer enclosure: A car subwoofer enclosure is the rubber/plastic surrounding material that (literally) encases the subwoofer. This improves the sound quality of a subwoofer, and is thus, essential. While some subwoofers are enclosed subwoofer systems, that is, they come with an enclosure and can be readily attached; others require you to buy an external enclosure for fitment.
- 7. Power output: In most cases, people replace their stock car speakers and subwoofers to get an increase in the power output. Our ears are designed to assess sound-volume on a non-linear scale; what’s more, human ears are also less sensitive to louder sounds. Therefore, it is highly recommended that power output (in watts) not be the only criterion when choosing a speaker. Also when looking at power output, you will come across two types of figures: watts root mean square (RMS) and watts peak music peak output (PMPO). The watts RMS rating, denotes the output level at which the speaker can operate for extended lengths of; on the other hand, the time watts PMPO rating stands for the loudest sound that a speaker can produce in peaks. Thus, RMS output is a more reliable and important statistic. As such, to get the correct picture, it is advisable that when comparing power outputs, you compare the power output at a resistance of 8 ohm for this is usually considered to be the “benchmark” for the measurement of power output.
- 8. Total harmonic distortion (THD): Total harmonic distortion (THD) is a measure of the sound distortion that a speaker produces when playing at a given volume. Distortion is particularly noticeable when playing the speaker at a high volume. Ideally, the THD of a car audio system component speaker should be in the range of 0.1-0.01.
- 9. Signal-to-noise ratio (S/N): The signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) is the ratio of desirable sound to background noise. A high S/N ratio implies the car speaker is very capable when it comes to separating desirable sound from background static, thus ensuring higher clarity.
10. Frequency response: It is also important to check the frequency response of the speakers and the subwoofer. However, frequency response should be looked at in conjunction with THD and SNR, and also power output. Frequency response is particularly important if you are buying a high-power subwoofer. You see, as is known, a subwoofer is meant to produce bass, and the lower the frequency of the sound a subwoofer can produce, the better it is.
11. System power: Though the power system that runs the in-car audio entertainment system is more than adequate for a stock set-up, when upgrading or installing newer components (such as speakers ad larger subwoofers), it is absolutely necessary that you check as to whether or not your car audio system has enough system power to run your speakers and subwoofer. Furthermore, a subwoofer consumes a lot of power (as compared to other speakers of a car audio system), and many car subwoofers require a car amplifier. Some subwoofers also come pre-loaded with a power amplifier; these are known as powered subwoofers.
12. Style: An in-care entertainment system is also meant to up the style quotient of your car, and though you may not be one of those buyers who look to show their car around, having a good looking speaker, in particular, one that sounds good, is definitely a good advantage.
13. Build quality: As far as possible, it is advisable to go in for car speakers and subwoofers that boast of some wood in their construction. Any speaker or subwoofer that is made from cheap plastic and is characterized by sub-standard manufacturing practices is probably a bad bet for it will be unable to provide sound with a high level of fidelity.
- 1. For any in-car audio entertainment system, the primary components are in-car speakers and subwoofers. As such, it is very much essential that one takes care while selecting a set of speakers or a subwoofer for his/her in-car audio entertainment system.
- 2. There are mainly two types of in-car audio speakers: co-axial speakers and component speakers. In a co-axial speaker, the tweeter (that produces high frequency sounds) is suspended over the woofer (that produces low frequency sounds). In a component speaker set, the tweeter and the woofer are separate and can be position to optimize the sound quality.
- 3. In any good in-car audio speaker system, the speakers need to be complimented by a big and powerful subwoofer that will ensure excellent sound reproduction even in the lowest of sound frequencies. In addition, not only can you buy complete car speakers box sets, you can also customize and mix and match the various components. Typical speaker sizes are 6 in x 9 in, 6 in x 5 in, and 12 in x 12 in.
As can be seen from the above, buying a decent set of car speakers and subwoofers is a rather complicated affair, and at times, the best in the market may not be the best for your car. Among the most important thing to remember when buying a set of speakers or a subwoofer for a car audio set up are the spatial characteristics of your car for this has a bearing on the speakers that are most apt for you. As such, it is always recommended that you try to obtain a live demo of the system.
Car speakers and subwoofers
Copyright © 2000-2013 eBay Inc. All Rights Reserved