Best 3.5 Inch Car Speakers

Best 3.5 Inch Car Speakers for 2019

Perhaps the biggest advantage with smaller speakers (like the 3.5 inch ones) is that they’re easy to install and they can fit in pretty much any vehicle. Further, they place minimal strain on the amplifier, while still giving you crisp and clear audio quality.

In this article, I’ve reviewed what I believe to be the five best 3.5 inch speakers for this year. If you’re looking to replace your factory car speaker with an excellent aftermarket 3.5 inch unit, perhaps you might find what you’re looking for among these five.

Best 3.5 Inch Car Speakers

Buying Guide for 3.5 inch Speakers

Before we dive into the reviews, let’s talk about how you can determine whether a set of speakers are right for you. Mainly, you should be considering two things when you’re looking at a particular unit:

  1. Whether it’s compatible with your existing car stereo
  2. Whether it’s going to give you the sound you’re looking for

The first can be determined by looking at three technical specifications: power-handling, sensitivity, and impedance. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with these terms, because I’ll be breaking down each.

If you want to figure out what a speaker might sound like without actually testing it out, just pay attention to the materials that make up its components. Just like the wood of a guitar has a significant influence on its timbre, the woofer and tweeter materials will impact how the lower and upper frequencies will sound coming out of the speaker.

Power Handling, Sensitivity And Impedance

Power Handling

Speakers need a decent amount of power in order to achieve optimal sound quality. This is because they need the energy to vibrate at the right levels and push out sound waves into the air. However, there’s a limit to how much power a speaker can handle before it overheats and blows. This is known as a speaker’s power handling rating and it’s measured in watts.

A lot of people pay attention to the peak power-handling which gives you the absolute maximum that a speaker can process but it’s more worthwhile to know how much it can be safely supplied with on a continuous basis. That is indicated by the ‘maximum RMS’.

Generally, if a speaker has a maximum RMS of 2-50 watts, then it’s best paired with a low-powered speaker. If it’s well over 50 watts, then it would be safe to hook it up to a high-powered speaker.

One major downside with the 3.5 inch speakers is that most don’t have enough power-handling ability to be safely hooked up to a high-powered stereo system. So take that into consideration, before you move on.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity, measured in decibels (dB) tells you how loud a speaker can get when it’s driven by one watt of power. For instance, if a speaker has a sensitivity rating of 85dB, then that means it’ll get moderately loud with just one watt. To jump up another 3dB, a speaker typically needs double the power input. So at two watts, the speaker will reach 88dB.

If you like blasting music on the way to work, you should probably look for speakers with a sensitivity of 90dB or more. Similarly, if you’ve got a low-powered car stereo system, it’s definitely better to hook up a highly-sensitive speaker to them. Otherwise you might lack the power to get the speakers to go beyond moderately loud volumes.

Impedance

Speakers don’t just accept all the current that is supplied to them by an amplifier; they show some resistance to it. This is known as speaker impedance and it’s measured in ohms. Why is speaker impedance important? Because it determines how hard an amplifier will have to work.

The higher the impedance, the lower the amount of current that is drawn by the speaker which means that the amplifier doesn’t have to work as hard to supply it. However, if the impedance is too high, then the speaker won’t receive enough power and the sound will feel less ‘lively’ and muted.

On the other hand, if the speaker impedance is too low, then the amplifier will have to work very hard, perhaps to the point that it begins to overheat and gets damaged.

Typically, speaker manufacturers aim for an impedance of 4 ohms which seems to allow enough power to be drawn without placing a huge load on the amplifier. Some speakers may have an impedance of 3 ohms to compensate for the undersized wires that you find in a lot of modern vehicles. Due to the smaller diameter of these wires, more resistance is shown to the current that travels through them.

The Materials

Speaker materials don’t just impact the sound but also the durability of the unit.

Woofer Materials

Most woofer cones are made of polypropylene because it’s both stiff and lightweight. So it prevents the cone from rattling excessively at high volumes (dampening) and isn’t so heavy that it prevents the cone from vibrating to the required extent. Some polypropylene cones may be injected with minerals like carbon or mica to add to the stiffness.

In addition, you may also come across woofer cones that are made of softer materials like paper or harder materials like metal and graphite. The former, like propylene, is stiff and light in weight but is much less durable. This is especially true of untreated paper, which can react to changes in temperature and humidity.

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Other than the cone, you should also consider what material the surround is made of (the thin strip that surrounds the edge of the cone). Surrounds should ideally be flexible enough to let the cone vibrate as it needs to but firm enough so that it prevents too much travel. Hence, you’ll find that most surrounds these days are made of rubber.

Tweeter Materials

There are two types of tweeters: ‘soft’ and ‘hard’. Soft tweeters, as you may have already guessed, are made of softer materials like silk. As a result, the high frequencies they emit sound very mellow and warm and very detailed. However, silk tweeters lack stiffness so they tend to lose accuracy when you crank up the volume on your stereo.

Hard tweeters, on the other hand (typically made from metal, graphite or ceramics, or a hybrid of these) are much better at dampening the sound at higher volumes. As a result, the higher frequencies are less likely to distort. The highs sound noticeably different from soft tweeters as well, having more sharpness and some bright overtones (especially if you’re using a metal tweeter). This helps it cut through all the road noise that you might be dealing with on your daily commute.

The Types Of Speakers

Finally, you’d need to decide whether you want to go with a full-range speaker or a component speaker. Let’s delve briefly into what each brings to the table.

Full-Range Speakers

The simplest full-range speakers contain a tweeter and woofer, with the former usually mounted on top of the latter. More complex units may also contain an additional driver, which is often either a midrange-driver or a supertweeter. Full-range speakers are usually easy to install and you can find them in a variety of price-points.

Component Speakers

Component speakers, unlike full-range speakers come with crossovers. Crossovers split an incoming signal into low, middle and high frequencies and redirect them to the appropriate driver. This leads to greater clarity of sound because the bass and treble are better separated. However, if the crossover doesn’t cut off at the right frequencies, there can still be some mingling of frequencies.

Generally speaking, component speakers are made of higher quality materials than full-range speakers, meaning they’re more durable.

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Best 3.5 Inch Car Speaker Reviews

Now that you know what details to keep an eye on, let’s take a look at my speaker picks for this year, starting with the:

Infinity REF3022CFX

Infinity REF3022CFX 3.5' 75W Reference Series Coaxial Car Speakers With Edge-driven Textile Tweeter,...
539 Reviews
Infinity REF3022CFX 3.5" 75W Reference Series Coaxial Car Speakers With Edge-driven Textile Tweeter,...
  • Edge-driven, textile tweeters
  • High quality product
  • Manufactured in United States

Plus One Polypropylene Woofer Cone

If you like your bass sounding ‘massive’, then you might appreciate the Infinity REF3022CFX Plus One polypropylene cone design. What it does is make the cone about 30% larger than average, which means more surface area to pump out a wider variety of bass frequencies at once. As a result, the bass coming from the REF3022CFX felt like it had a lot of depth to it and it was very detailed instead of just sounding like a rumbling mess.

Rubber Surround

Thanks to the surround being made of rubber, I was able to push up the volume without any worry about damaging the cone or the sound being distorted.

Textile Tweeters

The Infinity REF3022CFX sports a soft tweeter which produced very smooth and well-rounded highs. I never could stand the harsh extended highs that factory speakers produce so this was a very welcome change. However, I did notice that they tended to distort slightly if I pushed up the volume a little over the top.

On the other hand, these tweeters are ‘edge-driven’, meaning that they’re able to dissipate heat very quickly, preventing any heat damage to their components.

Technical Specs

Considering that the Infinity REF3022CFX has a power-handling rating of 25 watts RMS, it’s safer to pair it up with a low-powered stereo. With a sensitivity of 91dB, this speaker can still get really loud if you want it to.

Finally, the REF3022CFX uses True Four Ohm Impedance technology. This means that the speaker’s actual impedance is 3 ohms but combined with the speaker wire’s impedance, this totals out to 4 ohms. This prevents the speaker from resisting too much to the current.

Pros

  • ‘Massive’ bass and well-rounded highs
  • Rubber surround keeps the bass from distorting at high volumes
  • High-sensitivity
Con

  • Not safe to pair up with high-powered speakers
  • Highs tended to distort a bit when pushed

Kicker 43DSC3504

On Sale
KICKER 43DSC3504 3-1/2-Inch 3.5-Inch 30W 2-Way Speakers DSC35 DS35 Coax (Pair)
87 Reviews
KICKER 43DSC3504 3-1/2-Inch 3.5-Inch 30W 2-Way Speakers DSC35 DS35 Coax (Pair)
  • U-treated foam Surround for longevity when mounted in Sun A soaked...
  • Extended voice coil technology for the best Sonic quality
  • High sensitivity Design for more output when used with stock receivers
  • Minimal tweeter protrusion
  • Thin mounting profile for tight window mechanism clearances

Polypropylene Woofer Cone With Ribbed Polyester Foam Surround

While most surrounds are made of rubber, the Kicker 43DSC3504 sports one that’s made out of ribbed polyester foam. Based on my listening experiences, this doesn’t seem to have a noticeable effect on the actual sound. The ‘ribs’ in the form are there to ensure that the woofer cone has enough room to travel.

Furthermore, the foam is actually UV-treated, making the surround more resistant to high temperatures. This is useful if you live in a city or town that’s warm most of the year.

Polyetherimide (PEI) Tweeter

PEI is a much stiffer material than the likes of silk, which meant that I could have my music playing out loud without the highs distorting. The upper frequencies were sharper too, helping to cut through the road noise. In addition to this, PEI is also great at withstanding high temperatures.

The Tech Specs

The Kicker 43DSC3504 is best paired with a low-powered stereo system considering that it has a power-handling rating of 6-15 watts RMS. However, with a sensitivity of 88dB, it can still get quite loud with this amount of power. Lastly, with an impedance of 4 ohms, you can be sure that the audio system isn’t unnecessarily stressed out.

Pros

  • Highly durable, UV-treated surround
  • Excellent sound output with no distortion at high volumes
Con

  • Not compatible with a high-powered stereo system

Rockford Fosgate P132

Rockford Fosgate P132 Punch 3.50' 2-Way Full Range Speaker (Pair)
1,770 Reviews
Rockford Fosgate P132 Punch 3.50" 2-Way Full Range Speaker (Pair)
  • The Punch P132 is an impressive 2-way full-range speaker designed for...
  • The P132 3.5” 4-Ohm black speakers come as a pair, have a power...
  • Featuring a PEI dome tweeter with built-in crossover and injection...
  • FlexFit basket design utilizes slots instead of single screw sized...
  • Famous Rockford Fosgate build quality with a full 1-year warranty when...

Mineral-injected Polypropylene Woofer

While polypropylene is already a stiff material, the addition of minerals improves the P132’s ability handle very powerful signals. Plus the rubber surround helps too, keeping the cone from vibrating out of depth no matter how loud you turn up the volume.

If you’re an EDM person and you like to listen to bass-heavy beats regularly, then the Rockford Fosgate P132 is definitely worth considering.

Vertical Attach Surround Technique (VAST)

VAST involves attaching the surround to the cone in such a way that it increases the surface area by 25%. As a result, more air is pushed out of the cone, allowing you to actually ‘feel’ the bass as much as hear it.

PEI Tweeter with integrated Crossover

Warm, rounded highs with clear details are what you’ll get with Rockford Fosgate P132’s PEI tweeter. Plus you get the ability to crank up those guitar solos and violing arpeggios without having to sit through fizziness in the mix.

The tweeter actually has a built-in crossover, which separates the lows and highs, leading to clearer sound output and more accurate panning of the instruments.

Technical Specs

The Rockford Fosgate P132 has a power-handling rating of 6-20 Watts RMS with a peak power of 40 watts. This means that it should only be paired with a low-powered audio system. It has a sensitivity of 85dB, which is the lowest out of all the speakers on this list. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, you can still get quite loud with this speaker. You just have to crank up the volume a bit more than you would with more sensitive speakers.

Pros

  • Deep, rich bass and clear highs
  • Extended upper-frequency response (22Khz) for those really high-pitched vocal lines and ‘squealing’ guitar solos
  • Built-in crossover
Con

  • Only compatible with low-powered stereos
  • Lower frequency cut off is quite high at 120Hz. This doesn’t come close to the sub-bass region at all

Jbl Gx302

JBL GX302 150W 3.5in 2-Way GX Series Coaxial Car Loudspeakers
162 Reviews
JBL GX302 150W 3.5in 2-Way GX Series Coaxial Car Loudspeakers
  • Peak Power: 150W
  • RMS Power: 50W
  • Plus One,, polypropylene cone
  • Mounting Depth: 1.44"
  • Rubber speaker surround & Balanced dome tweeter

Plus One Woofer Cone

Similar to the Infinity REF3022CFX, the JBL GX302 comes with a Plus One woofer cone. This means more surface area, which makes the bass feel more pronounced and ‘present’ than what you could get with your average 3.5 speaker. Listening to music through the GX302, it honestly felt like I had installed a larger speaker in my car.

Edge-Driven Tweeter

The GX302 sports a soft tweeter, meaning that the highs sound very smooth and nuanced. In addition, these tweeters are edge-driven, which means that you can listen to music for an extended period of time and not have to worry about causing heat damage.

Tweeter Deflector

Not all car interiors are the same and different layouts can impact how well the sound waves reach your ears. However, the JBL GX302 compensates for this with an included tweeter deflector which ensures that the upper frequencies are sent directly to your ears.

Technical Specs

The maximum RMS for the JBL GX302 is rated at 25 watts but with a sensitivity of 89dB, that’s quite enough for it to get loud. It does, however, have a peak power of 75 watts, which means that you could hook it up to a high-powered stereo if you don’t plan on listening to music really loud on a regular basis.

Finally, its impedance is at 2.3 ohms which is quite low. This means that it’s going to place more stress on your amplifier than other speakers on this list.

Pros

  • Impactful bass that doesn’t distort at high volumes
  • Heat-dissipating tweeters for prolonged use
  • High frequencies are guided straight to your ears
  • Can be hooked up to a high-powered speaker if you don’t plan on reaching really loud volumes
Con

  • Can place a lot of stress on your amplifier

Kicker 46CSC354

On Sale
Kicker 46CSC354 Car Audio 3 1/2' Coaxial Full Range Stereo Speakers Pair CSC35
18 Reviews
Kicker 46CSC354 Car Audio 3 1/2" Coaxial Full Range Stereo Speakers Pair CSC35
  • Features EVC technology for improved woofer performance
  • Includes 2 3.5-inch coaxial speakers with 0.5-inch tweeters for rich...
  • Neodymium tweeter magnets ramp up high frequencies
  • UV-treated polyester woofer surround resists heat and sunlight
  • Made to fit most cars

UV-Treated Polymer Foam Surround

Something this speaker has in common with the 43DSC3504 (reviewed above) is the UV-treated Polymer foam surround. While UV-treatment doesn’t really impact the sound emitted by the woofer, it does make the surround more durable to extremes in weather and humidity. As we all know, car doors can heat up quite a lot during summer and so this is a really handy feature to have in a door-mounted speaker.

PEI Tweeter

The 46CSC354’s PEI tweeter produces very detailed highs that are sharp enough to cut through a lot of road noise. Plus PEI is much better at dampening the sound at loud volumes than fabric. Furthermore, the 46CSC354 has a low-protruding design which means that it’s easy to mount and doesn’t get in your way.

The Technical Details

The 46CSC354 can handle up to 30 watts of power on a continuous basis and it’s got a fairly respectable sensitivity of 88dB. Its peak power handling is rated at 90 watts which means that you could hook it up to a high-powered speaker if you’re careful not to crank up the volume too much.

Pros

  • UV-treated surround makes the speaker more durable to extremes of temperature and humidity
  • Easy-to-install tweeter
  • Can be hooked up to a high-powered system if you’re careful about handling the volume
Con

  • Needs to be paired up with a subwoofer to handle the sub-bass frequencies

What Is The Best 3.5 Inch Speaker For The Money

What 3.5 inch speaker would I choose if I had to stick with one for at least a couple of years? Here are my requirements:

  • High clarity in sound – I’m an audiophile so I need to hear every tiny detail when I’m listening to my favourite music. This includes everything from the bass lines to the highest-pitched falsettos and vocal belts.
  • The ability to ‘blast’ music in my car – I like listening to music out loud and so I need a speaker that doesn’t distort when I crank up the volume.
  • Durable construction – if I’m going to be using it for a couple of years then it better not randomly break down on me. Hence I need a speaker that can handle harsh temperatures and humidity as well.

Considering all of this, my pick would be the Kicker 43DSC3504.

On Sale
KICKER 43DSC3504 3-1/2-Inch 3.5-Inch 30W 2-Way Speakers DSC35 DS35 Coax (Pair)
87 Reviews
KICKER 43DSC3504 3-1/2-Inch 3.5-Inch 30W 2-Way Speakers DSC35 DS35 Coax (Pair)
  • U-treated foam Surround for longevity when mounted in Sun A soaked...
  • Extended voice coil technology for the best Sonic quality
  • High sensitivity Design for more output when used with stock receivers
  • Minimal tweeter protrusion
  • Thin mounting profile for tight window mechanism clearances

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A 2-Way Speaker?

A 2-way speaker is one that contains two sound drivers: a woofer and a tweeter. A 3-way speaker, on the other hand, will contain an additional driver like a mid-range driver or a supertweeter.

What Is The Best Brand Of Speakers?

You can’t go wrong with brands like Infinity, Pioneer, JBL, Kicker and so on. Not only do they make great 3.5 inch speakers but their 6×9, 6.5, 4 inch offerings are top of the line too. Plus they offer great customer service as well.

Do Expensive Speakers Sound Better?

It all comes down to the quality of materials that make up the speaker. For instance, mineral-injected polypropylene cones allow for better dampening than pure polypropylene ones. The former definitely adds to the final price of the speaker.

What Are The Best 6.5 Speakers?

Here is a list of 6.5 Speakers I’ve personally tried and would recommend:

  • JBL GTO629
  • JVC CS-J620
  • Infinity REF-6522EX
  • Pioneer TS-A1680F
  • Polk Audio DB6501

Which Is Better: A 2-Way Or 3-Way Speakers?

3-way speakers have one more sound driver than 2-way speakers, which means the frequencies are spread more evenly in the former. This leads to a clearer and more detail sound output.

The products featured on this page were last updated on 2019-12-13 at 00:08 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

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