During the decade or so that I’ve been driving, I’ve never come across a pair of factory car speakers I’ve been satisfied with. The sound quality in factory sets has always been sub-par with missing details on the lows and highs, excessively rattling at loud volumes and the inability to cut through road noise. Not only that, they tend to deteriorate quickly if they’re exposed to extreme temperatures or humidity, or if you simply use them too often.
Because of these reasons, I’ve always replaced factory sets with the best 5.25 speakers I could find.
In this article, I’ve reviewed my top five picks from all the 5.25 aftermarket speakers I tried this year.
Finding The Best Pair Of 5.25 Speakers
Before we get to the actual reviews, I want to talk about how you can find the speakers that suit you the best. There are mainly two things to consider when you’re browsing:
- What are your preferences when it comes to sound?
- What sort of speakers your existing car stereo is compatible with
How do you know what a speaker might sound like without actually testing it out? By looking at what materials the speaker’s components are made out of. Similar to how the wood in a violin or a cello has a huge impact in its timbre, the speaker materials determine the tone, clarity, and accuracy of its sound. I’ll be talking more in-depth about the materials in this section.
Speaker-stereo compatibility can be determined by looking at the specification sheet. I look for three specs, in particular, power-handling, impedance, and sensitivity. Don’t worry if these terms don’t make any sense to you. I’ll explain what they are in a bit.
‘Thumping’ bass and ‘singing’ highs – how do the best speakers achieve these characteristics? And why are some speakers more durable than others? Most of it has to do with the speaker materials:
Woofer Cone Materials
Woofer cones vibrate and output bass frequencies and so the material used to build them has to be both stiff and lightweight. The material needs to be lightweight so that the cone is allowed to vibrate as much as it needs to, allowing all the details in the music to come through at the correct volume. At the same time, it needs to be stiff to prevent the cone from vibrating excessively at really loud volumes.
The commonest woofer cone material is polypropylene and it meets most of these requirements. However, some speaker manufacturers inject minerals like mica and carbon to the polypropylene to make it even stiffer. This allows the bass to retain all its details and tonal characteristics even at max volume.
Other common woofer cone materials include paper, metals, graphite, carbon fiber, Kevlar…etc. If I’m considering a speaker with a paper woofer cone, I’m always checking whether it’s the treated kind. Untreated paper isn’t durable at all as they’re quick to react to extremes in temperature and humidity.
Woofer Surround Materials
The surround is the thin strip that is wrapped around the edge of the cone. Most often, surrounds are made out of rubber because they’re both stiff and flexible. This allows it to keep the cone in place while not hindering vibrations.
Tweeters handle the treble frequencies you hear in your music and they come in two different categories: ‘soft tweeters’ and ‘hard tweeters’. Soft tweeters are most commonly made of textiles like silk, which helps smooth out the upper frequencies and help all the details to come through. The problem, however, is that materials like silk tend to rattle excessively at very high volumes which in turn distorts the sound.
On the other hand, hard tweeters (commonly made out metals, graphite, and ceramics) don’t have this problem. They tend to make the high frequencies a little bit brighter (especially aluminium tweeters) and make them sharp enough so that they’re able to cut through ambiance and road noise.
The Technical Specs
Power-handling refers to the maximum amount of power (in watts) a speaker can safely receive. This is very important to know if you’ve got a high-powered car stereo. If it supplies more power than the speaker can handle, the latter might end up overheating to the point of blowing out!
The specification I always focus on is the RMS, which indicates how much power a speaker can handle on a continuous basis. Typically, if the RMS of a speaker is 2-50 watts, I avoid pairing it up with a high-powered speaker.
Some speakers are inherently louder than others because they’re more sensitive. Sensitivity (measured in decibels) indicates how loud a speaker will get when you drive it with one watt of power. For instance, if a speaker’s sensitivity is in the range of 80 – 85dB, then that means it’ll get moderately loud. For each additional dB, you’ll then have to double the power supplied. So if the sensitivity id 85dB, you’ll need to drive two watts into the speaker in order to get to 88dB.
If I’ve got a low-powered stereo in my car, I’d definitely look for a speaker with high sensitivity, preferably 90dB or above. This will allow me to listen to music quite loudly even if my stereo isn’t able to supply a whole lot of power.
Speaker impedance (measured in ohms) indicates how much a speaker will resist the current supplied to it. Why is this important? If the speaker’s impedance is very low, it’ll draw lots of current. This means that the amplifier has to consistently work really hard in order to supply this much current. If this continues, the amplifier might eventually overheat and malfunction.
On the other hand, if the speaker impedance is too high, the speaker may draw very little power. In that case, the sound output may sound weak and muted.
Most of the time, speakers tend to have an impedance of 4 ohms. This allows it to draw enough current while not putting too much of a load on the amplifier. Some speakers may have an impedance of 3 ohms to compensate for the undersized wiring you’ll find in a lot of modern cars. The smaller the wires, the more resistance they’ll have.
Type Of Speaker
There are two types of aftermarket car speakers that you can purchase: full-range and component. Here’s a very brief overview of each:
The simplest full-range speakers typically come with just tweeters and woofers, which handle the high frequencies and low frequencies respectively. More complex models may contain one additional driver, which is usually either a supertweeter (which handles extended highs) or a midrange-driver, which processes frequencies between 250Hz to 2000Hz. To put it simply, the former helps to clean up things like high-pitched vocals, and synths while the latter improves the overall ‘presence’ of the sound.
Full-range speakers are available in a variety of price points, so if you’re on a budget they’re a good option. In addition, they’re relatively easy to mount as well.
The main difference between component and full-range speakers is that the former has one additional component known as a ‘crossover’. Crossovers are devices that take an oncoming signal and separate the bass, middle and treble frequencies. Afterward, it sends it each frequency to the appropriate sound driver present inside the speaker.
The biggest benefit of separating frequencies is that it leads to better imaging, which is to the say that the speaker can more accurately recreate how the instruments were panned in the original recording. So for instance, if you’re listening to a rock song, you’ll be able to better distinguish the left and right-panned guitars and tell where the drum splashes, cymbals, and rides are placed.
5.25 Car Speaker Reviews
Now that you understand what you need to consider when buying a new pair of speakers, let’s take a look at my top picks for this year, starting with the…
- Vacuum Polypropylene cone
- Rubber surround
- Silk dome flush mounted tweeter
- Integrated tweeter crossover
- Grilles and mounting hardware included
Excellent Bass Response
The Rockford Fosgate R1525X2 sports the classic combination of a polypropylene woofer cone with a surround sound. Thanks to the stiffness, reduced weight and flexibility afforded by these materials, the drums and bass sounded quite powerful and front-placed.
Flush Mounted Tweeter
The R1525X2 is fitted with a silk tweeter, which produced smooth, well-rounded highs at moderate volumes. I could listen to harsher instruments like the electric guitar and distorted violin without experiencing any unpleasantness. The tweeter is actually fixed onto the woofer in order to save space. This allows the speaker to be installed in a wide variety of vehicles. Not only that, the mounting mechanism (flush mount) brings a couple of benefits to the table as well. Most importantly, it is very good at preventing phasing issues in speakers which could otherwise lead to the bass and stereo imaging being lost.
I only like to listen to classical music through speakers with crossovers, like the R1525X2. Thanks to the split between bass and treble frequencies, I could detect each instrument’s position relative to the others, which made for a very lively and three-dimensional listening experience.
The Tech Specs
The R1525X2 has a power-handling rating of 2-40 watts RMS, which means that it’s safer to keep it paired to a low-powered stereo. With a sensitivity of 88dB, it doesn’t really need a whole lot of power to get loud, to begin with. Last but not least, its speaker impedance is rated at 4 ohms, which means it’ll safely draw power without stressing out the amplifier.
- Powerful low-end, especially in the bass and drums
- Flush-mount eliminates the risk of phasing issues
- Built-in crossover provides accurate imaging
- Not really compatible with high-powered speakers
- Upper frequencies tended to distort and really high volumes
- 225 Watts Max Each, 75 Watts RMS Each
- 1/2" Polyether imide (PEI) balanced dome tweeter
- Polypropylene mid-woofer cone material
- 4 Ohms Impedance
- Sensitivity: 90dB
Traditional foam surrounds may not be as durable as rubber ones but modern variants such as polyester foam certainly get close. In the case of Kicker 46CSC54, the foam is actually treated with UV-light. While this doesn’t significantly impact the sound, it certainly does improve the surround’s ability to withstand extremes of temperature and humidity. Considering how hostile a door panel can be to speakers, this is quite useful.
Polyetherimide (PEI) Tweeter
Polyetherimide tweeters sound similar to silk tweeters but they have an added advantage: extra stiffness. This allowed me to really push the volume to ear-splitting levels without having the highs turn harsh.
Another thing I loved about the 46CSC54’s tweeter is the low-protrusion design. This made it extremely easy to mount the speaker in the door panel of my car, without having to perform any modifications. It also meant that the speaker stayed out of my way while I was sitting down.
The Technical Specs
The 46CSC54 has a maximum RMS of 75 watts, which means that it can be safely hooked up to a high-powered stereo. On top of that, it’s got a sensitivity of 90dB, so this can get really loud. In fact, a couple of times, I stepped out of the car with my ears still ringing after blasting some classic rock tunes for several minutes straight. Like most aftermarket 5.25 speakers, the 46CSC54 has an impedance of 4 ohms.
- Durable sound allows the speaker to withstand the harsh conditions of a door mount
- Excellent sound reproduction with no distortion at loud volumes
- Easy installation thanks to a low-protruding tweeter
- Compatible with both low-powered and high-powered speakers
- Especially considering its price, it’s really hard to find anything negative to say about this speaker
- The Punch P152 is an impressive 2-way full-range speaker designed for...
- The P152 5.25" 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...
Reinforced Woofer Cone
The Rockford Fosgate P152’s woofer cone is stiffer than your average polypropylene one, thanks to the fact that it’s got minerals injected into it. This means that you can drive the low-end pretty hard and it’ll still retain all its nuances and details. As someone who’s not that into EDM, this speaker convinced me to explore a little more of that genre, just because I wanted to hear a variety of bass lines through this speaker.
Vertical Attach Surround Technique (VAST)
This is a unique way of attaching the surround to the woofer cone, which increases the surface area of the latter by about 25%. As a result, the cone can push out more ‘air’ and sound waves, resulting in a bass that sounds particularly powerful. This doesn’t mean that the bass overpowered other frequencies; it just drew a bit more attention to itself.
Like with the Kicker CSC5, the PEI tweeter in the Rockford Fosgate P152 always held its own whenever I turned up the stereo.
With a power-handling of 6-40 watts RMS, the Rockford Fosgate P152 is best paired with a low-powered speaker. Its sensitivity is rated at 87dB which is pretty decent. You can certainly get loud enough for a car karaoke session with friends and family.
- Very powerful, mid-focused bass
- Sound doesn’t distort at high volumes
- Not safe to pair up with high-powered car stereos
- 500W Max (70W RMS) 5.25" G-Series 2-Way Coaxial Car Speakers
- IMPP composite cone woofer
- 1.19" polyetherimide (PEI) balanced dome tweeter with ferrite magnet
IMPP Composite Cone Woofer
‘Injection-molded polypropylene composite‘ is a fancy way of saying that in addition to polypropylene, the Pioneer TS-G1320S’s woofer cone also contains minerals like mica or carbon. The end result is, of course, more stiffness and less resonation of the cone. In other words, it is less likely to rattle excessively when you push the volume.
Polyetherimide (PEI) Tweeter
Well-rounded highs that don’t really distort at high volumes – that’s what you get with PEI tweeters.
The technology known as ‘Progressive Flex Suspension System’ helps the TS-G1320S dampen cones at particularly loud volumes, thus retaining the accuracy of the sound production. This means that certain instruments or vocals lines won’t sound louder than they’re supposed to, will be panned correctly and there will be no distortion in the extreme frequencies.
The suspension system contains two parts: a soft part and a hard part. The former makes sure that the vibration of the cone happens as smoothly as possible while the latter prevents excessive travelling when you crank up the volume and the cone starts working extra hard.
Rubber-Coated Cloth Surround
Cloth is a stiff material but it lacks durability. Thankfully, the TS-G1320S cloth surround is coated with rubber, which not only makes it more resistant to weather and humidity but also gives it some added flexibility.
The Tech Specs
The fact that the TS-G1320S has a maximum RMS of 70 watts means that it can be paired with a high-powered stereo. However, thanks to a sensitivity of 88dB, you can hook it up to a low-powered stereo and still get quite loud.
- Sound reproduction remains accurate regardless of how hard you push the volume
- Durable construction
- Compatible with both high-powered and low-powered stereos
- I honestly can’t think of any
- High performance audio upgrade that delivers signature quality sound...
- Marine certified with IP55 rating (water- and dirt-resistant) and...
- Polypropylene and UV tolerant cone with waterproof inner and outer...
- Simple drop-in installation for any vehicle including cars, boats,...
- Cut out Diameter - 4.76" Bottom Mount - 2.01" Top Mount - 1.74"
Polypropylene Woofer Cone And Silk Tweeter
This is a very common combination you’ll find in most 5.25 speakers. It will give you a really detailed sound, with the bass being particularly ‘mids’-focused, i.e. more ‘present’ in the mix. The highs aren’t as sharp as what you might hear from metal tweeters but the details are all there, as long as you don’t push the volume control too hard.
This certification means that the Polk Audio DB522 is able to withstand much harder conditions than your average car speaker. While the internal circuitry between a regular speaker and a marine certified speaker like the DB522 may be the same, the latter contains protective additives. This allows it to be unaffected by extremes in temperature, salt, UV light, and humidity.
Hence, essentially, the Polk Audio DB522 is tough enough to be installed in a boat or a ship with no problem at all.
The Tech Specs
With a power-handling rating of 100 watts RMS and a sensitivity of 91dB, the Polk Audio DB 522 is completely safe to be paired with either a low-powered or high-powered stereo system.
- Extremely durable, surviving the harshest conditions
- Clear and detailed sound
- Compatible with both high-powered and low-powered stereos
- Upper frequencies tend to distort a bit at really loud volumes
What Is The Best 5.25 Car Speakers For The Money…
Picking my overall favourite out of the top five was easier said than done. All of the aforementioned speakers were of the highest quality and excellent in different aspects. For instance, the Polk Audio DB522 was by far the most durable speaker out of the list while I found the Rockford Fosgate P152’s bass sound to be the most appealing. The extra surface area of the woofer cone really seemed to add more of a ‘punch’ to the low-end.
After much tossing and turning, I finally landed on the Pioneer TS-G1320S.My reason is quite simply that it had my favourite sound out of the bunch. The extra stiffness of the mineral-injected woofer cone and the P.F.S.S. technology, made for a very impactful bass while the treble frequencies came out with no details lost, thanks to the PEI tweeter. In addition to this, the construction seemed so solid that I have no doubts that it’s going to last a really long time, even with a door mount.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best 5 1 4 Car Speaker?
Personally, I’d recommend any of the top five reviewed in this article. They’re made of high-quality material, have excellent sound reproduction and are generally easy to install.
Which Car Speakers Are The Best?
Speaking from experience, brands like JBL, Infinity, Pioneer, Kicker, Rockford Fosgate put out high-quality car speakers in a variety of sizes. Your ideal pair of speakers will depend on your existing car stereo, your tonal preferences and what size you’re going for.
What Are The Best 6.5 Speakers?
Here are my personal recommendations for this year:
- JBL GTO629
- JVC CS-J620
- Infinity REF-6522EX
- Pioneer TS-A1680F
- Polk Audio DB6501
Are Aftermarket Speakers Better Than Factory?
Yes. Aftermarket speakers are almost always made of better quality materials than factory speakers. To give an example, factory speakers almost always use either regular foam or paper surrounds which tend to deteriorate faster. In contrast, aftermarket speakers mainly use rubber surrounds.
Do 5.25 Speakers Wear Out?
All speakers will wear out eventually but high-quality devices will last a really long time. In order to keep a speaker’s lifespan long, it’s best not to push it too hard. Listen for the point of breakup – when the sound starts to distort and make sure not to go past that volume.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-02-23 at 09:25 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.