If I can’t listen to some of my favourite tunes on the way to work, I feel lethargic by the time I pull into the parking lot. If you’re like me and don’t like driving anywhere without good music, then you’re probably looking for the best 4 inch car speakers to enhance your listening experience.
As audio technology improves, the default 4-inch speakers in our cars keep getting better and better. Still, you may be searching for a sonic ‘sweet spot’ that you just can’t seem to get with the ones you already have.
In this article, I’m going to be reviewing my favourite 4-inch speakers of 2019, which I’ve personally tested in my own car.
Best 4 Inch Car Speakers
Buying Guide for 4-inch Car Speakers
Before we get to the reviews, I want to talk a bit about what to look for in a 4-inch speaker. This includes the technical aspects of the speaker like its sensitivity and power handling, the material it’s made of and whether it’s a component speaker or a full-range one. If all that sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. I’m going to break down each factor so that you can understand why they matter.
It’s important to pay attention to a speaker’s spec sheet because this will let you know whether it’s compatible with your existing car audio system. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be able to read and understand the entire thing! In fact, just two values are needed to tell you everything you need to know:
Sensitivity measures (in decibels) how loud a speaker can get when it’s supplied with one watt of power. For instance, if a speaker’s sensitivity is 85dB, this means that the speaker will output sound at a moderate volume when driven by one watt.
Typically, it’s best to pair low-powered car audio systems with speakers that have high-sensitivity (over 90dB). This is because the former cannot generate much power and the latter doesn’t need it to reach loud volumes. As a result, you won’t put too much load on the audio system and risk damaging it.
Power-rating or power-handling is the maximum amount of power (in watts) that the speaker can receive without suffering damage. This is particularly important to know because if the power-handling of your speakers and the output of your car’s audio system don’t match up, you can potentially damage the former.
For instance, if the audio system outputs more power than the speaker can handle, then its internal components are eventually going to be fried. On the other hand, if the speaker doesn’t receive enough power, the sound quality isn’t going to be as good as it could be.
The spec you should look out for is ‘maximum RMS’. This measures how much power the speaker can handle continuously instead of just short intervals at a time. If you’ve got a low-powered car stereo, I suggest you look into speakers with a rating of 2-50 watts RMS.
The Type of Speakers
There are two types of speakers to choose from: full-range and component. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each.
As the name implies, these speakers contain all the components needed to reproduce the full range of frequencies from lows to highs. The simplest ones contain a woofer to handle the bass and a tweeter to handle the upper frequencies. More complex models may also include a mid-range driver (for frequencies between 200 Hz to 2000 Hz – which determine how ‘present’ the sound is) or a supertweeter (for ultra-high frequencies).
In my experience, full-range speakers have always been quite easy to install. Plus they’re available in a wide variety of price points.
When compared to full-range speakers, component speakers contain one additional component – an external crossover.
Crossovers are basically filters, which direct frequencies within a specific range to the correct driver: low-frequencies to the woofer, middle ones to the midrange driver and upper frequencies to the tweeter. This removes additional strain on these drivers, which would otherwise have to work hard to reproduce frequencies that are out of their handling range.
Another important difference is that the woofer is usually placed in a separate location from the tweeter. This makes for better imaging, which is to say that the speaker will be able to more accurately replicate how the instruments and vocals were positioned during the recording process. This tends to make music sound more realistic and gives it more of a ‘live’ feel.
Last but not least, component speakers are usually made with better materials than full-range speakers. This means they’re usually more durable and output sound at a higher quality. How does the material impact quality and durability? That’s exactly what I’m going to address in this next section.
In this section, I’m going to talk about the major materials that are present in a 4-inch car speaker, and how they impact the accuracy of sound reproduction and the lifespan of the device.
Most woofer cones are made of synthetic material like polypropylene which makes them stiff but lightweight at the same time. Stiffness is important because it helps the speaker dampen out the sound in higher volumes, which prevents any unwanted distortion from coming through. Some woofer cones are made even stiffer by mixing the polypropylene with materials like mica.
In addition, polypropylene and other synthetic films are sometimes coated with metals like aluminum and titanium are strong and lightweight as well. Both synthetic films and metals are able to withstand extremes of temperature as well as moisture, which means that woofers generally last a really long time.
Typically tweeters are either made of soft materials like silk or textile blends, or hard materials like metal or ceramics. The former allows the tweeter to output a very refined, mellow and warm sound. However soft tweeters aren’t that durable and tend to lose accuracy at higher volumes due to poor dampening of the sound. That being said, you can buy silk tweeters that have been mixed with synthetic films, which are stiffer and therefore able to handle louder volumes.
Hard tweeters are of course more durable. Not only that, they produce highs which are sharper and brighter, which are able to cut through outside noise more easily. This is very useful if you take a very noisy route to work every day like I do.
The surround is the ring that encircles the woofer cone and connects it to the speaker basket. There are two things that are expected of a good surround:
- It must be flexible enough to allow the woofer to vibrate freely, which lets the bass come through unhindered.
- It must be strong enough to prevent the woofer from traveling too much.
Materials that fit this requirement include rubber, foam, and cloth. Out of these, rubber seems to provide the best durability and accuracy. That’s probably why most surrounds I’ve come across have been made of rubber.
Best 4 Inch Car Speakers
Now that you know what factors to consider when looking for a new 4-inch speaker for your car, let’s take a look at my top picks for the year:
- Power Handling: Peak: 420 watts per pair / RMS: 60 watts per pair
- Injection molded polypropylene with mica cone
- Rubber coated cloth surround / 1-3/16 Balanced dome tweeter
- Top-mount Depth: 1-3/4" / 4 ohms impedance
- Frequency Response: 35 - 27000 Hz / Sensitivity: 87dB
First of all, let’s talk about material. The Pioneer TS-G1020S’ woofer sports a polypropylene cone with mica added to it, which gives it great dampening abilities. In addition, it’s got a rubber surround, which protects the woofer while it’s vibrating, letting the bass come through uninterrupted. Its tweeter is made of terephthalate (a type of synthetic film) which isn’t as stiff as metal or ceramic but more so than silk. As far as sound quality goes, this tweeter was able to deliver crystal clear and sharp highs regardless of what genre of music I played through it.
One thing I especially loved about the Pioneer TS-G1020S was its Progressive Flex Suspension System which prevented the unit from rattling at really high volumes. This seemed to make up for the fact that the speaker wasn’t made of metal, because I never had accuracy or distortion problems whenever I cranked up the volume.
The bass coming through the TS-G1020S always felt deep and rich and I’ve got to thank the sturdily-built woofer for that. In addition, it also comes with an external crossover, which made sure the bass was separated from the higher frequencies. Of course, if you want to really hear those sub-bass frequencies in EDM, then you’ll have to pair this up with a separate subwoofer.
- Great build quality
- Good dampening abilities
- High clarity in sound at both low and high volumes
- Doesn’t come with grilles so it could be susceptible to dust
- This refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like...
The Kicker 41DSC44 comes with a polypropylene woofer that has been reinforced with a ribbed polyester foam surround instead of a rubber one. While most regular foam will deteriorate pretty quickly, that doesn’t appear to be the case with this modern variety. When I did some research, I found that modern foam materials are ribbed to allow the woofer the freedom to travel. The woofer was still able to produce a very impactful and detailed bass response despite not having a rubber surround so I really have nothing to complain about.
The higher frequencies are handled by PEI (plastic) tweeter which reproduced them in high detail and nuance. In addition, the accuracy of the reproduction didn’t seem to dwindle whenever I pumped up the volume.
The Kicker 41DSC44 has a maximum RMS of 30 watts, so it’s best to pair it up with a low-powered car stereo. Since its sensitivity is quite high (88dB), it doesn’t really need much power driving behind it. Lastly, I loved the thin design of the 41DSC44 because it never protruded out and got in the way.
- Thin mounting profile
- Pairs well with low-powered stereos
- Great clarity in sound output
- Cannot handle high-powered audio systems
- Durable butyl rubber surround stands up to the stress of extreme...
- Equipped with a dynamic balance polymer/mica composite mineral filled...
- Equipped with a 0.75 inch liquid cooled silk polymer composite dome...
- Pair of marine certified speakers perfect for use in boats of all...
- Maximum input power: 135 watts
Something I immediately noticed with the Polk Audio DB401 was that it had excellent imaging, thanks to its high-quality 2-way crossover.
I played some Bach and Beethoven through it and felt like I was sitting through a live performance, with the violins coming in from the left, violas and the woodwinds from the center, and the cellos and brass from the right side of the stage.
The tweeters in the DB401 are made from a silk/polymer combination. As a result, you hear the mellow, detailed high-frequency reproduction of a textile tweeter combined with improved dampening ability that you find in pure silk tweeters.
If you take a look at the spec sheet, the Polk Audio DB401 has a sensitivity rating of 91DB and a maximum RMS of 45 watts. This means that it’s best paired with a low-powered car stereo. Finally, the DB401 is very flexible when it comes to mounting, thanks to its slim profile and the multi-hole pattern design. As a result, I had no trouble switching them between my sedan and pickup truck. I’m willing to bet that these will fit into any type of vehicle.
- High-quality imaging gives more of a ‘live’ feel to music
- Does not need lots of power to get loud
- Slim profile
- Refined high frequencies
- It did tend to distort a bit at really high volumes
Having used the JBL GTO429 for a couple of weeks, I found a number of things I loved about it. First up, it’s ‘Plus One’ woofer cone design expanded the area of its diaphragm (the component that moves back and forth to push air from the speaker). Plus its carbon-inject rubber surround made sure that the low-end didn’t ring out of control when I cranked up the volume. The result? A bass response that could only be described as ‘massive’.
The JBL GTO429 sported a silk tweeter which produced shimmering upper frequencies that never turned harsh. I also found that the treble frequencies were never really ‘reined back’ by the bass notes, which attests to the quality of the included two-way crossover.
The GTO429 has a high sensitivity of 92dB and a power-handling rating of 5-35 watts RMS. This means that these speakers are most compatible with low-powered stereos.
Lastly, these speakers come with grilles, so you don’t have to worry about dust getting into them.
- Expanded diaphragm produced a massive bass response
- High-quality crossover
- Produced warm, refined high frequencies
- High sensitivity
- Has an impedance rating of 3 ohms which may put some load on your amplifier. As a result, I had some concerns about having the volume pushed up for extended periods of time
- The Punch P142 is an impressive 2-way full-range speaker designed for...
- The P142 4.0” 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...
Rounding up this list, we have the Rockford Fosgate Punch P142. At first glance, it didn’t look different from any other 4-inch speaker e. However, I soon discovered that it did have a couple of unique features.
First of all, the P142 uses a proprietary technology called VAST which apparently makes the cone area around 25% larger. That means the cones have more space to vibrate and are able to push out frequencies without any hindrances. As a result, the sound was one of the most accurately reproduced of all the 4-inch speakers I’ve tested. In fact, I actually heard new details in songs I’d been listening to for ages!
The frequency response was excellent with this speaker. The woofer cone was made of mineral-injected polypropylene and its edge was wrapped with rubber surround. As a result, the cone was stiff enough to dampen out excessive rumbling at high volumes but so stiff as to cut out some of the pleasant low-end frequencies. The P142 came equipped with PEI tweeter which brought out plenty of liveliness in all the treble instruments.
Something else I noted about the P142 is that it never distorted even after playing through for several hours at a time, making it one of the most reliable speakers that I’ve tried so for.
Unlike all the other speakers I’ve reviewed in this list, the P142 pairs well with a high-powered speaker, thanks to its power handling rating of 60 watts RMS.
Finally, the installation process was easy thanks to a couple of things. First of all, the crossover was concealed, meaning that all the connecting wires were tucked away inside the basket. Secondly, the design sports slots instead of screw holes, which made it much easier for me to fit the speaker into my factory car stereo.
- Pairs well with high-powered stereos
- Very durable and great for long road trips
- Easy installation
- No grille included
What Is The Best 4 Inch Car Speakers For The Money
The hardest part of the reviewing process was picking my overall favourite. Each of these 4-inch speakers had unique strengths which made them appealing in different ways. For instance, the JBL GT0429 undoubtedly had the richest bass response while the Rockford Fosgate Punch P142 is no doubt the one I’d pick for prolonged listening sessions inside the car.
However, if I had to pick just one speaker to go with for the next couple of years, I’d choose the Polk Audio DB401.
Being an audiophile, I really care about accurate sound reproduction and the DB401 absolutely nails it in my opinion. First of all, it beats out every other speaker on this list when it comes to imaging. Having all the instruments panned precisely made for an incredibly lively listening experience. I listened to more classical music than I’ve ever done in my life just to hear it all through this speaker!
Having listened through so many different types of tweeters over the years, I’ve found that I prefer the sound of silk tweeters. This is because they bring out all the details of the music but don’t colour the tone with like certain metal tweeters do. The silk tweeter in DB401is actually reinforced with a polymer, which really helped the sound cut through all the road noise that I had to wade through every morning on my way to work.
Most Frequently Asked Questions On 4 Inch Car Speakers
In this section, I’m going to be answering some of the commonest questions that people have about 4-inch car speakers.
What is the best brand for Car Speakers?
You can’t go wrong with any of the brands mentioned in this list (Polk Audio, JBL, Kicker). Not only do they put out the best quality products but you can expect great customer service as well. Most of these companies also make great tweeters and other speaker drivers.
What’s the best car speakers for bass?
I’d recommend the JBL GT0429 for anyone who’s looking for the best low-end device. Thanks to the carbon-injected surround giving it some extra reinforcement, you can push the volume to ear-deafening levels without worrying about the bass being distorted. However, you will need to pair this up with a separate subwoofer if you really want to ‘feel’ sub-bass drops in music.
Are 2 or 3 way speakers better?
First of all, ‘2 way’ and ‘3 way’ refers to the number of drivers present in the speaker. Typically, 2 way speakers have a woofer and tweeter while 3 way ones also include a mid-range driver. As a result, 3 way speakers will generally sound more accurate due to the middle frequencies being handled separately. Also 3 way speakers can give you more of a ‘live’ feel as a result.
Are 4 way speakers worth it?
It depends on how much of an audiophile you are. 4 way speakers contain two tweeters. The additional tweeter exists to increase the number of high-end frequencies that are handled. Personally, I don’t notice a quality difference to really justify the upgrade from a 3 way speaker to a 4 way one.
Will replacing factory speakers make a difference?
Most type factory speakers are made of cheaper material. For instance, most factory woofers have surrounds made of foam or paper. This means lower sound quality as well durability.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-02-22 at 12:28 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.