When I’m buying a new car, there are two things I know for certain:
- I’m always going to prefer leather seats over vinyl ones
- I’m always going to swap the factory car speakers for something much better.
Here’s a fact: I’ve never come across a pair of factory speakers I’ve liked. They are either not loud enough, tend to distort at high volumes or are missing a huge chunk of the low or high-end. That’s why the first thing I do when I get a new car is hunt for the best in car speakers available on the market.
Best In Car Speakers
How To Find The Best Car Speaker
It just so happens that I recently bought a brand new Honda civic this year. In the process of finding the best factory speaker replacement, I went through quite a lot of units. In this article, I’ve reviewed my top five picks out of the 15 odd products I tested.
Before we get to the reviews, I want to talk a bit about what factors and specs you should look for when determining which speakers to try out. By looking at technical details like the speaker’s power-handling rating, sensitivity, and impedance, I can figure out whether or not it’s compatible with my car’s stereo. Furthermore, I can get a good idea of what the speaker is going to sound like by looking into what materials its components are made of.
If you’re trying to find the ideal factory speaker replacement, pay attention to these factors too. To help you out, I’m going to describe each one, starting with:
The Technical Specifications
A speaker’s power-handling rating lets you know how much power it’s able to handle without suffering any damage. The exact spec you need to pay attention to is the maximum RMS, which gives you a very accurate estimation of the maximum power a speaker can withstand on a continuous basis.
Why is it important to know about power handling? Consider what would happen if you hook a speaker with low-power handling to a car stereo with high power output. The stereo (the amplifier specifically), will supply more power than the speaker can withstand, leading to overheating of its components.
Here’s a simple rule to abide by: If you’ve got a high-powered stereo, it’s best to pair it up with speakers that have a maximum RMS of 60 watts or above. If you’re thinking of purchasing one with 2-50 watts RMS, then make sure that your stereo is a low-powered system.
A speaker doesn’t draw all the current that an amplifier can supply. In fact, it shows some resistance. This is called impedance and it is measured in ohms. Why is impedance important?
The speaker impedance determines how much of a load is placed on the amplifier. If the speaker’s impedance is very low then the amplifier will have to supply a lot of it, forcing it to work harder. Hence, if you listen to music in the car regularly (like I do), the amplifier could end being overworked and as a result, its components may fry.
On the other hand, if the impedance is too high, the speaker won’t be able to draw enough power from the amplifier. This means that the sound will come out muted and also lose accuracy (i.e. the bass will lack depth and the treble may not cut through the mix well enough).
Have you ever wondered why some speakers are louder than others even when they’re at the same volume level? This has to do with each speaker’s sensitivity.
The sensitivity rating (measured in decibels) tells you how loud a speaker gets when supplied with just one watt of power. If the sensitivity is in the mid-eighties, that means you can reach moderate volumes at low power. Anything above 90dB is considered ‘excellent’ because the output is loud even without much power behind the speaker.
As a result, it’s best to go for a speaker with high sensitivity if you’ve got a low-powered car stereo. If you’ve got a high-powered stereo, on the other hand, you’ll be able to pair it up with a high-sensitivity or low-sensitivity speaker.
The materials that make up the speaker components impact the sound quality and durability of the unit as a whole. Here’s a brief overview of the commonest speaker materials that you’ll come across.
The commonest woofer cone material is polypropylene, which is both stiff and lightweight. When the cone is stiff, it won’t rattle excessively at very loud volumes. This means that the sound is adequately dampened and thereby the bass will not distort. It’s very important that the cone is lightweight too. If it’s too heavy, it won’t be able to vibrate enough, preventing some of the frequencies from being pushed out.
Woofer cones may also be made of fabrics or synthetic films that have been coated with metals. The former yields a mellower and more refined bass response but isn’t as stiff as the latter. If you want snappier bass, then the latter might be more to your liking.
Besides the cone, it’s also important to pay attention to the surround’s material. The surround is the thin strip that wraps around the edge of the cone and it’s most often made from rubber. This is because rubber is flexible enough to facilitate vibrations but stiff enough to prevent the cone from travelling too much. Furthermore, rubber is quite resistant to extremes of temperature and humidity.
In addition to rubber surrounds, you may also find those made of either foam or cloth. Modern foams such as ribbed polyester foam can be just as durable as rubber.
Tweeter Materials: Soft vs Hard
Soft tweeters are most often made from textiles, with silk being the most popular choice. I personally love the sound of the treble frequencies given out by silk tweeters: it’s warm and there’s practically no harshness. The downside is that silk tweeters have relatively poor dampening abilities.
In contrast, tweeters made from hard materials like metals, graphite or ceramics produce snappier and brighter highs. Plus you can crank the volume without having to worry about fizziness in the upper frequencies.
The Type Of Speaker
Finally, there are two types of speakers to choose from: full-range and component.
These speakers have all the essential sound drivers required to handle the ‘full range’ of frequencies from the low-end to the high-end. Typically, full-range speakers consist of woofers, tweeters and one additional driver (either a mid-range driver or a supertweeter). In my experience, full-range speakers have always been very easy to install and they come in a variety of price points.
Components speakers have one additional part which full-range speakers lack: a crossover. A crossover is something that separates the different frequencies in an audio signal and sends it to the appropriate driver. So the low frequencies will be sent to the woofer, the middle frequencies to the mid-range driver, and the highs to the tweeter and supertweeter.
The result is, of course, clearer and more refined sound output.
Best Car Speaker Reviews
Now that you’ve received a crash course on the most car speaker factors, let’s take a look at my absolute favourite picks for this year, starting with the:
Massive, thumping bass
There are a lot of things that are great about the JBL GTO609C, but first, we’ve got to talk about the massive bass! It comes at with such a force that you can almost feel the air moving inside the car. Considering how impactful the low-end was I had my worries about excessive rattling at higher volumes. Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case. No matter how much I turned up the volume, the bass remained detailed and undistorted.
Plus One Cone Design
The GTO609C’s woofer cone sports a Plus One design, which basically means that it’s 30% larger than average. The result? More air is pushed out of the cone at once, resulting in a more powerful ‘punch’ at the listener.
In order for the bass to remain undistorted at high volumes, the cone needs to be particularly stiff. In the GTO609C’s case, the polypropylene cones have been injected with carbon to improve its dampening capability greatly.
The JBL GTO609C comes fitted with two soft tweeters, and you know what that means – mellow, more refined highs with no harshness at all. These tweeters are ‘edge-driven’ which means that they’re designed to dissipate heat more effectively. Because of this I could have my music playing for a really long time without worrying about overheating the tweeters.
But that’s not all! The tweeters also came with level control. This allowed me to spike up or dim the highs to my liking. Just make sure you know what you’re doing because otherwise you may end up with a mix that you don’t enjoy.
The Tech Specs
The JBL GTO609C has a power handling of 5-90 watts RMS, so it’s safe to connect it to a high-powered stereo system. However, it’ll work well with low-powered systems as well, considering that it’s got a sensitivity of 93dB.
- Excellent sound reproduction
- No worries about overheating with extended use
- Can work with both high-powered and low-powered stereos
- You’ll need to pair it up with a subwoofer to handle the sub-bass.
- 600 Watts Max Power (100 Watts Nominal)
- Optimally Blended Pulp Cone Woofer and Bullet Tweeter
- Designed for High Sensitivity and High Power Handling
The Pioneer TS6900PRO is available in 6.75”, 6×9 and 8” variants. This review is about the 6×9 speaker which I had the chance to personally try out.
If you like cranking up the volume often during the best parts of a song, then you’ll love how much headroom the Pioneer TS6900PRO offers. If you’re not familiar with what headroom is, a very simple explanation would be: how much power a signal a speaker can handle without producing a distorted sound. In other words, it’s an indicator of how much you can dial up the volume control before the music begins to sound fizzy.
Thanks to the TS6900PRO having a maximum RMS of a 100 watts, this isn’t going to be an issue at all. You can hook up the speaker to a high-powered stereo and blast the volume without worrying about whether you might blow it up.
Pulp Cone Woofer
Pulp (paper) cones are both lightweight and stiff, which means that the bass comes through the woofer with excellent clarity and nuance. The drawback of typical paper cones is that they do tend to fare better against extreme temperatures and humidity. However, the TS6900PRO’s cones are ‘optimally blended’, which means they’re treated to withstand harsh environmental conditions.
The TS6900 contains a steel frame which means that it can take some abuse with no problem at all. Also, all the cones are covered with dual-layer rubber surrounds, which means that the drivers won’t suffer from excessive travel no matter how loud you crank up the music.
The Technical Specs
As mentioned above, this speaker can handle tons of power without a problem. That being said, it doesn’t need much power to reach high volumes, considering its sensitivity is at 92dB. Furthermore, with an impedance of 4 ohms, you don’t have to worry about too much load being put on the amplifier.
- Huge amount of headroom
- Clear and well-defined bass
- High-quality construction
- Can be a bit heavy
- A bit difficult to install
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The CT Sounds Meso should be synonymous with the phrase ‘beautiful highs’ because that’s exactly what I got from this speaker. The upper frequencies had a well-rounded quality to them; they were sharp but not to the point of being distorted. I definitely found a fresh admiration for guitar solos and violin arpeggios thanks to this well-made unit.
The woofer in the Meso was made from a fiberglass material, which caused the mid-bass to sound really ‘present’ and ‘punchy’. The cone was made from rubber, which meant that excessive vibration wasn’t a problem I had to deal with.
The Technical Specs
The CT Sounds Meso’s power handling is rated 60 watts RMS. So while technically, you could hook this up to a high-powered system, I would go for a more low-powered one just to be safe. Plus it’s got a sensitivity of 89dB which means that you won’t need much power, to begin with. Like most speakers, the Meso’s impedance is set at a very safe 4 ohms.
- Refined highs and lows
- It felt like a solidly built unit
- Compatible with both low-powered and high-powered stereos, although the former is more recommended
- The upper frequencies did tend to distort a little bit when I pushed the volume to really loud territory
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The Rockford Fosgate R165X3’s power handling is rated at 45 watts RMS, which means that it can’t handle all that much power. However, to compensate for that, it’s got a sensitivity of 91dB. As a result, I was still able to achieve loud volumes after pairing it up with a low-powered stereo.
The R165X3 comes with three sound drivers: a woofer constructed out of polypropylene, a silk tweeter and a piezo supertweeter. Supertweeters are drivers that handle very high-pitched frequencies (we’re talking over 20kHz, which is the average cutoff for most regular tweeters). This means that you can really pick up certain details coming from treble instruments like the electric guitar or viola that you wouldn’t normally hear from speakers with just a regular tweeter.
The R165X3’s crossover was actually placed inside the tweeter which meant that I didn’t have to attach it to the speaker basket manually during installation.
- Extremely detailed highs
- High Sensitivity
- Easy to install
- Can’t pair it up with high-powered audio systems
Plus One Cone Design
Similar to the JBL GTO609C, the Infinity Primus PR6500CS sports a Plus One woofer cone design. This means a greater cone surface area and therefore more air being pushed out, which makes for a more impactful sound. There’s much to ‘feel’ as well as hear, based on my experience with both these JBL and Infinity speaker models.
This is another feature that the PR6500CS has in common with the JBL GTO609C. These heat-dissipating textile tweeters reproduce singing highs that won’t turn harsh with extended use.
The PR6500CS has dedicated crossovers for handling upper and lower frequencies. When the highs and lows are separated like that, the sound comes through with the utmost clarity. I found that it was hard to miss out on details when listening to music through these speakers.
The PR6500CS has a power handling rating of 5-80 watts RMS and a sensitivity of 93dB. This means that it can work safely with both high-powered and low-powered stereos.
- Excellent sound reproduction with no distortion at loud volumes
- Two crossovers for more accurate segregation of frequencies
- Can work with both high-powered and low-powered car stereo systems
- The PR6500CS does not have the standard bolt pattern which means you’ll have to drill new screw holes to install them.
What Is The Best Car Speaker On The Market?
At the end of my review process, I was faced with the question: which speaker am I going to place in my brand new car? That was quite difficult to answer, considering that each of these speakers was excellent in different ways. For example, the CT Sounds Meso had the ‘punchiest bass’ while the Pioneer TS6900PRO topped every other speaker when it came to headroom. However, when it came down to it, the JBL GTO609C was my final pick. Why? Well, here are the main reasons:
- Built to last – carbon-injected polypropylene woofer cones and edge-driven tweeters give this speaker excellent durability.
- Incredible bass – I can’t praise the bass enough. It comes at you with an incredible amount of force but at the same time, every detail comes through.
- Compatibility – knowing myself, I’ll inevitably change out the car stereo in the future. When it comes to that, I don’t want to be confined to either a low-powered or high-powered system. Hence, I need a speaker that can be safely paired with either.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Makes The Best Car Speakers?
Brands like JBL, Infinity, Kicker, Rockford Fosgate, Infinity, and CT sounds are always safe bets. Not only do they make quality products but they have excellent customer service as well.
What Are The Best Car Speakers For Bass?
Speakers like the CT Sounds Meso, JBL GTO609C and Infinity Primus PR6500CS are excellent at reproducing bass accurately and they don’t distort at high volumes. However, in order to truly hear the sub-bass frequencies, you’ll need to pair up most car speakers with a subwoofer.
What Are The Best Sounding 6.5 Speakers?
Here are some excellent options at the moment:
- JBL GTO609C
- Rockford Fosgate R165X3
- Infinity Primus PR6500CS
- JBL CLUB6500C
- JL Audio C5-653
In order to determine which speaker suit you best, you need to think about compatibility with your stereo and your sonic preferences.
Are JBL Car Speakers Good?
Yes, in fact, they’re excellent. JBL makes car speakers in a wide variety of sizes and price points, so you’ll definitely be able to find one that resonates with you. My current favourite from their line-up is, of course, the GTO609C which I’ve crowned the winner out of all my top picks for this year.
How Can I Make My Car Speakers Sound Better?
Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Replace your factory pair with high-quality aftermarket ones
- Install an amplifier. This will allow you to drive more power into your speakers and thereby improve the sound quality
- Listen to FLAC or WAV quality music files
- Cover your door panel with dampening material. This will prevent road noise from entering your car and overpowering the music.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-02-22 at 17:43 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.