The 8 Best Car Speakers
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in March of 2018. If you spend a reasonable amount of time in your vehicle, a quality sound system is probably high on your wish list. But the world of automotive speakers is crowded with nearly endless options. To help you wade through it all, we've compiled our ten favorite picks, ranging from low-cost models that make great replacements for standard units, to high-end choices that will appeal to audiophiles. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 18, 2021:
Removed from this iteration were a pair from Morel and Pioneer that have been discontinued, as well as the JL Audio C2-650X, which no longer perform as well as newer, less expensive options. Don't worry, though, there are still a lot of worthwhile options out there. The Morel Tempo Ultra 602 would make a fine choice for anyone who's also upgrading their amplifier and subwoofer, as would the Focal Access. Meanwhile, both the Alpine S-S69 and Rockford Fosgate Punch offer better-than-average output at reasonable prices. The Infinity Reference X is another that's well known for accurate mid-range and high-end output, although it's substandard at bass levels, so it really works best alongside a solid sub. We also really like the Image Dynamics iDQ for their high-end sound and articulate component design.
Of course, sizing is of prime importance in choosing car speakers, so it's imperative that you keep in mind not just the height and width your car requires, but also the door depth. Some speakers, particularly the Alpine S-S69, are designed to fit well in even the slimmest spaces.
May 17, 2019:
Though a good amp goes a long way in improving your car's sound system, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't match them with a pair of capable speakers. It doesn't take much money to do so, either. If your budget is tight, you can get away with a pair like the Infinity Reference X, which are well-made and relatively easy to install on your own.
Once you look to the other end of the price spectrum, you'll enter audiophile territory. For a minimal investment, you can have a pair of coaxial speakers that approaches studio-monitor level sound reproduction. Our #1 and #2 picks, the JL Audio C2-650X Evolution and Morel Tempo Ultra 602, respectively, do just this. The latter will better serve somebody who already has an aftermarket amp and wants to push it to its upper limits, whereas the former can deliver exquisite, high-fidelity audio even when connected to a factory setup amp/radio.
DynAudio Aftermarket No stranger to studio-quality playback, DynAudio offers three levels of high-end speakers for dedicated audiophiles. One is a coaxial system, and one a component configuration, and the level of installation difficulty depends mostly on which of those you choose. It should be noted, of course, that any of these premium models will require a quality amplifier and accompanying subwoofer to sound best. dynaudio.com
Focal America If both clarity and volume are important to you, Focal should be on your short list. If you can afford the relatively major investment, their Utopia, K2 Power, and Expert series all offer car audio solutions to satisfy even the most demanding listeners, who enjoy the loudest music. The same high-grade supplier also offers a wide variety of amps, subwoofers, and accessories to go with your new full-range speakers. focal-america.com
Why You Should Upgrade Your Car Speakers
But there are more subtle forms of damage that can befall your sound system, and that can be fixed by upgrading your speakers to something new.
Learning to drive is a serious right of passage in many cultures, and it marks one of the first steps toward independence that we take away from our parents. Out on the road, out from under their roof and rules, there’s a real sense of freedom. And that freedom is bolstered significantly by the soundtrack. There’s a good chance that the music you were listening to when you and your friends came of driving age remains some of your favorite. There’s also a good chance that you still enjoy every opportunity to roll down the windows on a nice day and blast your favorite tunes.
If you commute to work or take the kids to school, those speakers become even more important, as some good music or the right podcast can be the difference between starting your day off on the right foot and letting frustration start to sink in. Even with the right playlist pumping, however, if the speakers in your car aren’t up to the job, you’re in for a lot of rough days.
Now, there’s the obvious situation in which your speakers have simply stopped working, or they’ve been damaged so badly that all you can hear coming out of them is an alarming crackle. But there are more subtle forms of damage that can befall your sound system, and that can be fixed by upgrading your speakers to something new. If for example, you feel like you can’t push your speakers as hard as you used to without the sound quality degrading, you probably need a new set. And if part of the frequency range — the lows or the highs — doesn’t sound quite as well-articulated as it used to, you likely need an upgrade.
Upgrading doesn’t have to happen only when there’s a significant problem, however. Most people ride around with stock speakers in their car and are perfectly happy with that. That is, until they get into a car with nice aftermarket speakers installed and they immediately feel like they’ve been missing out on a whole world of audio quality. There’s nothing inherently wrong with stock speakers, but they simply will not offer the kind of expression you get when you upgrade. You’ll be able to hear little details in the music you might otherwise have missed, and develop a deeper appreciation for the music you love.
Choosing The Right Speakers For Your Car
When you’re upgrading your speakers, you want to make sure that the cones you choose are going to be an easy fit. I say easy fit knowing that if they prove either too big or too small to install in minutes, there are plenty of tricks you can apply to cut away at the stock opening or try to fill in empty space. That will add a lot of time and effort to the process, however, and it could result in some unwelcome rattling if you aren’t careful. It’s best to make sure that the make and model you have your eye on is specifically available for your vehicle.
That will add a lot of time and effort to the process, however, and it could result in some unwelcome rattling if you aren’t careful.
Beyond that consideration, there’s a dividing line among these speakers that can be somewhat easy to spot when comparing price tags. There are speakers out there that are designed as replacements and subtle upgrades to what you have now, undeniably increasing sound quality, and maybe even maximum volume level without completely breaking the bank. Then, there are audiophile speakers, which are much more expensive, but that are capable of creating a sense of being right in front of an artist. They do this by utilizing more nuanced frequency responses to create a kind of sound stage in which listeners could swear they were hearing the space in which the music was recorded in addition to the music itself.
If you’re dealing with some busted speakers and you just need a reliable replacement, you might not want to reach for the audiophile stuff. It could prove a good opportunity or even an excuse to spend that extra money on yourself, however, especially if your music is particularly important to you. But if you’re the type to leave CD cases and empty soda cans in the storage compartments of your doors, or to have junk around the floors or other areas of your car that might block the natural flow of all that pricey sound, then you really shouldn’t bother. Audiophile speakers deserve a more curated space in which to perform.
Other Upgrades To Your Car’s Stereo
Once you’ve gotten your new speakers installed, you might find that other aspects of your sound system are lacking by comparison. After all, you’ve spent all this time slumming it with your stock speakers, and now you’ve had a taste of what’s possible. You’re liable to want more. Fortunately, there are some additional things you can do to increase the quality of your audio environment.
Keep in mind that these are sound waves, vibrations in the air, and if anything stands to absorb or deflect them on their way to your ears, it can spoil your experience.
For starters, as we mentioned above, make sure there’s nothing physically inhibiting the performance of the speakers you’ve got. Anything from a stray piece of paper to a stuffed animal living by your back windshield is enough to disturb the flow of sound. Keep in mind that these are sound waves, vibrations in the air, and if anything stands to absorb or deflect them on their way to your ears, it can spoil your experience.
After that, you might want to consider replacing your car’s subwoofer. This can be a dangerous prospect however, as a sub with too much power can be a problem. If you’ve ever heard a car go rattling and vibrating down the street, its very chassis embarrassingly shaken by the power of its sub, you’re aware of this pitfall. When shopping for a sub, make sure it’s adjustable within a range that won’t actually make your music sound worse.
You can also upgrade things like the amplifier and even the interface in your vehicle. An investment in a new amp can drive aftermarket speakers to higher volumes and richer, more expressive soundscapes. And a new interface — whether that’s a CD player, Bluetooth and navigation panel, or something else entirely — can modernize your vehicle and make your music selection process a lot smoother.