According to a recent study, Americans spend an average of 24.3 minutes every day commuting, and the yearly nationwide average comes up to almost 100 hours. If you live in a big city, of course, this average commuting time goes up by several hours. When you consider the fact that you may very well spend 1-2 hours every day commuting, getting a set of the best car speakers becomes a must.
For many people, the car is the only space within which they listen to music. Some even get their reading done inside the car through audio books. To get the best out of this experience, you need a set of high quality car speakers.
The car is a different space than compared to a living room or bedroom. It is much smaller, is usually completely enclosed, has unique acoustic properties, and when the windows are down, offers a great deal of wind noise. Car speakers are specially designed to offer the optimum listening experience within this space. You can get a pair of cheap car speakers, but the quality of your listening experience will be much poorer than what you can get from a high quality speaker system.
Car speakers can be largely classified into two categories:
1. Coaxial Speakers
The most common type of car speakers, these are typically factory installed by the manufacturer. Usually, there are two pairs of speakers, one pair in the front, one in the back, though some manufacturers offer up to 8 speakers. In terms of construction, they have a cone woofer with one tweeter mounted on top. The woofer is usually of mid-range, while the tweeter takes care of higher range frequencies.
Factory installed coaxial car speakers typically lack an amplifier and sub-woofer. The quality of sound reproduction is mediocre, but gets the job done quite adequately. Audiophiles will of course want to purchase something higher end than what comes pre-installed in their cars.
You may have come across terms like ‘2-way, 3-way, 4-way coaxial speakers’. Simply put, a 2-way car speaker means a woofer with a tweeter attached on top, a 3-way means one woofer and two tweeters, and so on. The more the tweeters, the better the audio quality. This is because the woofers fulfill the function of reproducing sounds within the 15-10,000 Hz range. The range of frequencies that humans can hear (and car audio systems can reproduce) is up to 20,000 Hz. To reproduce the frequencies from 10,000 to 20,000 Hz, you need tweeters.
Hence, the more tweeters you have, the clearer the audio reproduction.
Caveat: many car manufacturers are nowadays offering 6 and 8 car speaker systems. Unless otherwise mentioned, these are typically just your four regular mid-range cone woofers. The tweeters aren’t mounted on top of the woofers. Instead, they make up the last two “speakers”, hence giving you the 6 or 8 speaker configuration. This is a trick employed by car manufacturers to increase the perceived value of their product without delivering any difference in the performance.
Nevertheless, car makers have become much more aware of the importance of audio systems and acoustics. Consequently, the systems that come pre-installed with cars nowadays are of a superior quality and would satisfy most.
2. Component Car Speaker System
This is the higher end, custom installed speaker system. In this system, the tweeters and woofers are separate. Additionally, it includes a set of crossover filter networks. These filters essentially improve the sound quality by distributing the audio signal to the relevant components. If the signal is of a high frequency, then it would be diverted to the tweeter. If it is below 10,000 Hz, it would be directed to the woofer. The result is far greater fidelity and clarity in audio reproduction.
Additionally, many component car speaker systems also have a sub-woofer for handling low level frequencies (i.e. more bass or ‘punch’). Some systems also have an amplifier that further increases the audio output quality and ‘punch’.
Also take a look at the material used. Denser materials such as fiber glass, Kevlar, etc. tend to produce deeper, richer bass in the cone woofers. Woofers should ideally be made of dense, thick wood. Last, but not the least, to get the best car speakers, take some time to listen to a demo. Play a song that stretches the limits of the system – that is, one that has plenty of deep bass, as well as high frequency, ‘thin’ sound. This will give you a real idea of the performance of the best car speakers.