What Is Car Speaker Impedance? Speaker Impedance And Ohms Explained

What is car speaker impedance featured image

Impedance is kind of a “scientific” sounding word, right? At first glance it’s fairly confusing and you might not know how much – if at all – it matters for hooking up speakers.

But what is car speaker impedance? As it turns out, it’s really important and can have some serious consequences on your vehicle’s sound, your car amplifier, and more. Let’s dig in!

Contents

What does speaker impedance mean?

What is speaker impedance diagram

Speaker impedance, measured in Ohms, is the voice coil total resistance to the flow of electric current as it operates with a musical signal.

Just like you can’t have a short circuit across a battery, an amp or stereo needs some amount of speaker load impedance to limit how much electrical current the radio or amp tries to supply.

Unlike straight wire that goes from point “a” to point “b” when you hook up power, the voice coil’s wire winding forms a loop that has an electrical property called inductance. Inductance is a bit different from resistance as it changes as the frequency changes. This is called inductive reactance.

For car speakers, this means that the real impedance (the total resistance) actually changes a little bit as music plays! However, the good news is that we can still categorize car speakers according to an Ohms rating since it’s always pretty close.

When we talk about the impedance of a speaker, most of the time people are referring to the category (general range) of the speaker as used to match home or car stereo amplifiers.

In the electrical world, Ohms are sometimes represented by the Greek symbol Omega, or “Ω.”

How does speaker impedance work?

how does speaker impedance work diagram

When a musical signal (made up of alternating current) is applied to a speaker it generates magnetic fields as current flows through the tightly wound wire coil. Interestingly enough, a coil of wire develops magnetic fields that resist the flow of the current (resistance, also called reactance in this case).

Similarly, many other electrical components like motors deal with the same electrical resistance as alternating current (AC) is applied.

How to calculate the total impedance (if you like!)

How to calculate speaker impedance diagram

Because of how inductance works and the physics involved, the speaker “impedance” (total resistance) isn’t the sum of the resistance and the inductive reactance. Instead it’s the “algebraic” sum, meaning it’s the square root of the sum of the squares. You may remember this kind of math from trigonometry class.

Speaker impedance isn’t as simple as just adding the measured DC resistance of the coil wire and the inductive reactance for a given frequency.

Instead, speaker impedance is found from the algebraic sum of the coil’s wire resistance and inductive reactance. You can find this by squaring each and then taking the square root of the two numbers added together.

Inductive reactance is commonly written as “Xl”, pronounced “X sub L” and is measured in units of Ohms just like resistance. Inductance is measured using a unit called the “Henrie” and commonly noted with an “H”: “uH” for microHenries, “mH” for milliHendries, and so on.

There’s also a corresponding value for capacitors called capacitive reactance (Xc) but that doesn’t usually apply for speaker voice coils.

How to tell the impedance of a car speaker

Car speaker impedance example

There are a few different ways to tell what a car speaker’s impedance is – even if it’s missing the label or it’s not printed on it anywhere.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • A speaker’s impedance is usually listed on the speaker magnet, packaging, and/or box and specifications. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case as some manufacturers might not have printed it on the speaker.
  • If the Ohm rating (impedance) is not available on the speaker, you can measure the impedance of a speaker using a test meter set to the Ohms (resistance) function. This will give the resistance of the voice coil which will let you determine the speaker’s impedance range/category such as 2 ohms, 4 ohms, 8 ohms, etc.
  • Unlike when a speaker is playing, measuring resistance with test meter won’t give you the total impedance – just the DC resistance of the speaker coil. However, that’s all you need to figure out the Ohms rating of your car speaker.

Long story short, if your speaker doesn’t have the impedance listed anywhere or you can’t find the manufacturer’s specs, the best thing to do is to measure it.

That’s the best way as you can be 100% sure of what you’re dealing with – especially if you need to match the impedance to an amplifier, car stereo, or crossover.

How to measure the impedance of a car speaker

How to measure speaker impedance with an Ohm meter example

It’s easy to measure car speaker impedance using a test meter set to read resistance (Ohms). Once you get a reading you can tell what Ohms rating your speaker is.

To measure the impedance of a car speaker you’ll need a multimeter (test meter with multiple functions) or a dedicated Ohm (resistance) meter. Digital multimeters are inexpensive and easy to find these days so I recommend using one of those.

  1. Turn on the meter and set it to measure resistance (Ohms) on the lowest range. This is usually the x1 range, 0-10, 0-20, or auto range setting.
  2. Disconnect one or both speaker wires from the speaker to avoid a false reading due to other resistance that may be connected to it.
  3. Hold the probes tightly against the speaker terminals on a clean, bare metal spot. The meter should quickly settle to a reading. The meter will show the resistance of the voice coil inside the speaker.
  4. Use the meter reading to determine the closest approximate speaker impedance (see my chart below for help).
  5. For speakers inside a box or enclosure there may be a crossover connected elsewhere which can interfere with your reading, so be sure to disconnect at least one speaker wire if possible. Subwoofers are usually fine to measure while installed in a subwoofer box.

As I mentioned above, the goal here isn’t to try and measure the perfect impedance rating.

Remember that you won’t measure exactly 4 ohms, 8 ohms, etc. You’ll measure an Ohms value that’s close to that and will help you tell the actual Ohms/impedance range of your speaker.

Note: Speakers like tweeters with a capacitor  crossover connected to them will act as an open circuit and will interfere with your measurement.

See my notes below on how to deal with that.

How to set your test meter for measuring car speakers

Image showing examples of test meter resistance setting for measuring speaker impedance

Shown are some example test meter resistance range settings to use for typical test meters.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to use the correct resistance range on your meter when measuring speaker impedance. that’s because the wrong setting may display nothing or give you the wrong idea that perhaps the speaker is blown when it isn’t.

If you’re not sure, check the test meter’s manual. Many modern digital meters often have an auto setting that will automatically adjust for the Ohm measurement it detects and will display the reading & decimal places accordingly. Other meters require you to select the correct range manually.

As a general rule, use the lowest range that includes 0-10 ohms (or similar).

Once you’ve got your measurement, use my speaker impedance chart to find the next closest speaker impedance value listed.

Measuring speaker impedance for tweeters & after crossovers

Diagram showing where to measure speaker impedance of tweeters with crossover

Tweeters often are supplied with a high-pass crossover in the form of a capacitor. To get a correct reading you’ll need to disconnect it or measure around it. Be sure to disconnect the tweeter from an amp or head unit!

Measuring the speaker impedance where crossovers are in place is a problem. That’s because capacitors, which are commonly on tweeters as a high-pass filter, appear to behave like an open circuit when measuring resistance as the capacitor charges.

You’ll want to measure around the capacitor if used or disconnect one capacitor lead or one tweeter wire. 

For 2-way speakers, there may or may not be a crossover used on the woofer. Often there’s an inductor in series with it. The good news is that directly reading resistance across a speaker and an inductor doesn’t make much difference – inductors have a tiny resistance value.

In fact, they’re usually in milliOhms (thousandths of an Ohm) which is almost nothing. However, as a general rule, it’s best to disconnect speakers from their crossovers before measuring Ohms.

Car speaker measured Ohms to impedance chart

Measured Ohms*Speaker impedance rating
3.1-4.0 ohms4 ohm
6.0-8 ohms8 ohm
1.2-2 ohms2 ohms
4.0-6 ohms6 ohms
0.5-1.0 ohms1 ohm**
12-16 ohms16 ohms**

To use this chart, take the speaker resistance measurement you got from your test meter reading and use it to compare to the measurements here. Your car speaker should fall into one of the common ranges you see above.

*This is an approximate range and should cover nearly all speakers but may vary slightly.

**1 ohm is rare but can be found in some car stereo products such as Bose premium amplified systems. 16 ohm speakers may sometimes be used for home or guitar amp systems, but aren’t very common.

Can I hook up 8 ohm speakers to a 4 ohm amplifier or radio?

4 ohm vs 8 ohm speaker power comparison graph

This graph shows what happens when you use an 8 ohm speaker in the place of a 4 ohm one. The 8 ohm speaker will work – however, it comes with a price. Since the 8 ohm speaker isn’t matched to the 4 ohm amp, it can only receive up to 1/2 the power output (and a lower volume) than a 4 ohm speaker would.

Using a speaker that’s not properly matched to an amplifier or car stereo can have minor – or major – consequences. 

Using an 8 ohm speaker in place of a 4 ohm won’t hurt anything. However, it can only develop 1/2 the power output of a 4 ohm speaker meaning lower volume. It also won’t work properly with speaker crossovers since it will shift the cutoff frequency.

For example, if you were to use some home stereo 8 ohm speakers or subwoofer instead of 4 ohm speakers, you’d notice the volume would be lower than when using 4 ohm ones. That’s because a speaker needs more and more power output to increase the volume more and more.

Car amplifiers & car head units don’t have much supply voltage to work with unlike home stereo receivers and amps. That means they need a lower impedance speaker to develop the same amount of power by letting more current flow.

I also don’t recommend mixing 8 and 4 ohm car speakers because they won’t have the same volume level once you turn up the volume. That means the sound won’t be right and you’ll be left having to deal with some sound frequencies being poor after a certain point.

What is better: 8 ohm or 4 ohm speakers? Are 2 ohm or 4 ohm speakers better?

What is better 4 ohm 2 ohm 8 ohm speakers

8, 4, and 2 ohm speakers aren’t necessarily “better” than one another. The correct answer is that it depends on the application and what stereo or amplifier is being used. The best impedance is the one that matches an amplifier or stereo’s impedance spec correctly.

Traditionally 8 ohms are used for home and some theater speakers. 4 ohm speakers are generally used for car use, with some 2 ohm models used at times (usually subwoofers).

For example:

  • 8 ohm speakers are used in home stereo systems and require 1/2 the current of a 4 ohm speaker. That means they can use smaller speaker wire as they can take advantage of home electrical systems that have a high voltage supply for driving speaker amplifiers.
  • 4 ohm speakers are used because car stereos and amplifiers (particularly car head units) can’t make large amounts of power in speakers as they have a very low 12V power supply. Reducing the speaker impedance from 8 to 4 means we can double the power for the same output voltage.

In fact, car stereos can only put out about a measly 15-18 watts RMS per channel, despite the exaggerated peak power ratings you may see in advertisements. That’s because they can only work with a 12V supply to develop power across a speaker.

Car amplifiers are able to deliver huge amounts of power to 4 and 2 ohm speakers by using an internal power supply that generates higher voltages for amplifying the speaker signal. Without that, it wouldn’t be possible to drive car speakers with tons of power to get boomy bass like many people enjoy.

When are 2 and 1 ohm speakers used?

Image of a Bose factory installed car amplifier

Factory-installed amps sometimes use 2 or 1 ohm speakers to develop more power without spending the money on amplifier designs using an improved power source.

2 and even 1 ohm (yes, 1 ohm!) car audio speakers are rarely used except for car subwoofers and some special cases for main speakers. Some factory-installed premium amplified car audio systems use lower impedance speakers to “cheat” using a “real” amplifier and save money.

That’s because they use the 2 or 1 ohm speaker to develop more power at each speaker without having to supply an amplifier with an internal power supply as is normally done. While it does technically work, it’s not a substitute for simply using a proper amplifier. 

They introduce other problems, like not being compatible with standard 4 ohm speakers when it’s time to upgrade or replace faulty ones. They also still can’t produce as much power as a decent aftermarket amp can with 4 ohm speakers, meaning you’ll still end up needing to replace them.

Speaker impedance matching

Example of matching speaker impedance to an amplifier

In order to get the most enjoyment (and power) for your dollar – along with avoiding damaging audio electronics – it’s important to match the speaker impedance (impedance load the amp sees at its output).

Here are some simple reasons to help you understand what happens when you don’t:

  • Using a speaker properly matched to the amplifier or radio’s minimum Ohms rating allows it to deliver the maximum output power it’s designed for.
  • Using a higher than specified speaker impedance will work. However, the speaker won’t be able to develop the full power that you paid for. As I mentioned earlier, a speaker needs more power to produce more volume, meaning you’ll lose volume because of this.
  • Using a lower than specified impedance speaker will cause an amp or stereo to run hot and can permanently damage the output transistors. Don’t do it!

While in some cases an amplifier might be able to shut itself off before it becomes damaged when a lower speaker impedance is used, don’t ever assume it will. Sometimes the damage still happens and you’ve just ruined an amp.

Most car stereos don’t have any type of overheating or high-current self-protection circuitry built-in so they’re likely to have their output stages destroyed.

Subwoofer impedance options

It’s a little bit different when we’re talking about car audio subwoofers, but the same rules hold true. Since a subwoofer channel on an amp usually has a lot power output on tap it’s not always an issue when using say a 4 ohm sub vs a 2 ohm sub with a 2 ohm min. amp.

However, as a general rule, it’s best to match the subwoofer impedance to get the power you’re paying for.

More great speaker articles

There’s lots more to learn!  Check out my other great articles you’ll love:

Something on your mind? Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

What Are The Best Equalizer Settings For Car Audio? A Car EQ Guide

best settings for car audio featured image

Tuning your car sound system with an equalizer can be a frustrating mess and a waste of time if you’re not sure what to do. To make matters worse, there’s a lack of good information out there. I’d love to help clear things up!

In this article I’ll explain in clear words along with great diagrams and images:

  • What an equalizer is, how they work, and the different kinds
  • Why speakers and car audio systems benefit from using an equalizer
  • Some basic recommended EQ settings for many cases
  • How to set your EQ and tune your system the right way (using affordable tools that work great)
  • What to do if you’re still having sound problems
Contents

What are the best equalizer settings? The honest truth

Image of man thinking about car equalizer settings

The honest truth is that there’s not a true “best” equalizer or audio system setting. It depends on your goals, but ultimately, the best settings are those that let you tailor the sound in a way that pleases your ears the most.

However, I do have some general equalizer guidelines that can help you. I’ll make sure to cover those in a separate section below after explaining why an equalizer (EQ) is so helpful and the problems with speaker sound.

Sound systems for cars always have areas that need improvement if you really want to enjoy your music to its full potential. I’ll explain specifically what those are and the EQ settings you’ll need to fix that.

But before we get to that, let’s better understand what equalizers do and how they work.

What is an equalizer? How does an equalizer work?

Car audio equalizer examples

Examples of the most common type of car audio equalizers you’ll find are shown here. It’s possible to find good EQs in some aftermarket head units. However, you can also use an external add-on EQ to get great sound in your ride.

What does an equalizer do? Why are equalizers needed?

Diagram showing example equalizer settings to use

Equalizers allow you to improve the sound of a speaker system by boosting or cutting ranges of sound as needed where they’re lacking or have “peaks” (too much volume). The goal is “smoothing” the sound to remove harshness or a lack of bass, for example. Ultimately though, they’re also a great way to adjust the sound to your liking.

Equalizers allow you to correct problems with a sound system in car audio by boosting (increasing the volume of) or cutting (reducing the volume of) small sections (limited-width segments) of sound in the range of musical sound frequencies. These specifics “sections” are fixed around a central point called the center frequency.

In a perfect world, speakers would produce a perfectly flat sound output with no dips or harshness in the sound you hear. That’s impossible and there are always areas where the sound can use improvements.

The basic bass and treble controls included with many head units can’t correct much, sadly. Fortunately, an equalizer lets us correct many of these problems.

Equalizer bands and boost or cut (attenuation)

Equalizer band comparison diagram

Equalizers split up sound adjustment into small “bands” of sound frequencies centered around a single frequency. The amount of bands (amount of adjustment slots if you will) available determines how much control you have. The more bands, the finer and better the improvements you can make.

The amount of boost or attenuation you can apply is measured in decibels (dB) and usually there’s a maximum range of +/-9dB to +/-18dB. However, it depends on the particular model and design. 9dB and 12dB EQs are very common.

The number of bands an EQ has increases the amount of control you have over the audio sound adjustment range. More bands provide a means for better sound adjustment (you’ll be able to better correct speaker sound problems when tuning).

A 31-band EQ, for example, offers a lot of audio control but take can take a lot of time to tune a system. When choosing a more basic equalizer vs one with more bands, the best choice is the one with more bands

How does an equalizer work?

How does an equalizer work diagram

Equalizers work by dividing up the full range of sound into smaller sections called bands. These are centered around the EQ center frequencies. This section of sound is then increased or decreased as you like to adjust the sound. The bands are then recombined and output as a full range again with the EQ adjustments included.

Equalizers work by taking the full-range sound of each stereo channel (or mono, if it’s a subwoofer crossover, for example) and dividing them into “bands” using filters. Each filter directs the sound frequencies of that band, based around the band frequency, to a circuit that increases or decreases the volume of that range depending on your adjustments.

The sound from each of those circuits is then combined back together and sent out to your amplifier or speaker system. The end result is the same input sound but with EQ adjustments applied to it – not just a simple bass and treble improvement!

Some equalizers use a single set of controls for both of the front and rear speakers (one set of EQ controls for both stereo channels) while others have separate left and right channels for better tuning. Some provide EQ channels for both front and rear speakers.

In some cases, another smaller set of bands for subwoofer bass tuning is provided. This is often the case for digital equalizers like those in touchscreen car stereos.

Analog vs digital equalizers

Analog equalizers use electronic hardware such as op-amps, resistors, or integrated circuits to adjust the sound output as you adjust it. Digital equalizers (in most cases) are different in that they do this in software using mathematical software routines.

While both have their pros and cons, digital equalizers offer more features these days and save money since and space since they don’t need the added hardware to do the work. In many cases they also include adjustable crossovers that make system adjustment even better.

Basic recommended car equalizer settings – setting your EQ by ear

In dash car stereo with equalizer shown

In this section, I’ll share with you some basic steps and EQ settings when doing it by ear. In the section after this I’ll go the best way to do so: by tuning your system using the right tools.

Note that tuning audio in car systems by ear is more for correcting just the most obvious problems you can hear easily. To really know what’s going on with your system, you’ll need the right tools and approach I’ll share in the sound system car tuning guide below.

Getting started with the basics

You’ll want to do a few things before trying to adjust an equalizer because having too many adjustments means they can work against each other, meaning you might not get anywhere!

Image showing bass boost and EQ of car stereo turned off

My advice is to do the following before adjusting an EQ:

  • Disable any special audio modes like bass boost or “musical enhancement.” Turn the bass boost, if present, to “flat” or off.
  • Set the equalizer band adjustments all to flat. That is, to 0dB level, in the middle of the equalizer display (or to 0dB if it uses a number style control).

Diagram showing example equalizer settings to use

For many speaker systems (for example factory speakers with a factory-installed head unit), typically the sound is lacking in 2 or more areas:

  • Not enough bass
  • Too much mid range
  • Not enough treble (high frequency sounds like cymbals and string instruments)
  • Music has poor detail and doesn’t sound like the recording should

In this case, I recommend doing the following, being sure to use small increments of the equalizer and make changes slowly while listening carefully.

  1. Increase the bass a bit in the low-end range. This will be a band with a frequency of 60Hz or close to it – this depends on your particular EQ. You can then increase it a bit in the band above it and hear the results (ex.: 120Hz band, which is still bass but on the lower end of mid range sound & vocals).
  2. Increase the treble 6dB or so around the highest band on the upper end of the EQ, then continue increasing by 3dB if you hear an improvement. Continue until it sounds unpleasant to you, then decrease back until it’s better. This is usually a band with 16KHz or similar (some only go to 12KHz, which isn’t good, sadly). Treble can be a problem because of speaker placement being less than ideal in vehicles along with poor quality factory-installed speakers, too.
  3. If you hear “harshness” and the vocals and instruments in music sound like they’re grating on your nerves, you probably need to decrease mid range sound. Start with a band around 1KHz and decrease by about 3dB and listen for improvement. If there isn’t any, set it back to 0, then move up to 2KHz, 4KHz, and so on as needed.

Diagram showing typical EQ bands for adjustment

Note: I recommend using a music test track to do this. You can buy audio test tracks for download or CDs to buy online. Alternatively, you can use a song you know extremely well that you’ve heard on a high-fidelity system before.

The idea is to know how the music should sound with everything set up properly and judge your EQ settings by ear using test music.

Our ears are most sensitive in the midrange span of sounds so that’s often one of the biggest problem areas of speakers that need attention. Tweeters very often need some increase at the high end, too. It’s a huge problem with factory-installed tweeters that have a poor response (sound output) at the highest end of the sound range.

It’s also a common issue since many car tweeters are mounted in a location where they’re pointing away from you. That’s because tweeters are most effective with a directional installation where they’re facing your ears (called “on-axis”) and not to the side or away from them.

If not, you’ll hear get a fairly high loss in the treble range in music.

How to tune your system for the best EQ settings

Car audio real time analyzer examples

Some examples of your options for measuring and tuning your car audio speaker system. Of the 3, using a laptop and RTA software or smartphone app are the best values for the dollar. Today’s smartphone apps like AudioTool offer many of the same features as much more expensive options.

As I mentioned earlier, without question the best way to tune your system (find the optimal equalizer settings) is to use a measurement tool and find the areas that needed adjusting. To do so, you’ll need a real-time analyzer (RTA) and microphone. There’s simply NO WAY to get the best sound using only some music and adjusting it by ear.

In the past this use to be a serious pain in the neck – if you could even at all find an RTA to use. Until some years ago, real-time analyzers were far too rare and expensive. A dedicated portable unit like the AudioControl SA-3050, for example, often sold for $1,500. They were heavy, limited in functions, and battery power wasn’t even standard!

Thankfully, these days you can find get professional results using your laptop and RTA software (such as TrueRTA, for example) or use an RTA app with your Apple or Android phone.

Of the two, the most affordable and convenient option is to use your smartphone. For the sake of keeping things simple, I’ll cover using a smartphone and an RTA app. I recommend AudioTool for Android as it’s very good and while it’s not free, it’s cheap! ($7.99 at this time).

Using a smartphone app for tuning isn’t as accurate as say a much more advanced (and costly) real-time analyzer tool setup. However, you’ll still get pretty good measurements and results you’ll enjoy if you use it properly.

Using an RTA app for tuning (and why you need a good microphone)

Smartphone vs calibrated test microphone comparison diagram

Although you can use your smartphone’s built-in microphone to get you by, I don’t recommend it for tuning your equalizer/sound system. Built-in mics have poor frequency measurement performance compared to a real test microphone. Calibrated microphones also include a file to allow them to give a near-perfect measurement if your RTA supports it.

While you can use your smartphone’s built-in microphone with an RTA app to tune your system and set your EQ, I don’t recommend it. They’re poor for measuring sound and your readings will be off – way off in some cases!

Dayton Audio iMM-6 calibrated smartphone mic

You’re much better off buying an affordable calibrated microphone like the Dayton Audio iMM-6 at about $17. Each one includes a unique calibration file to help you get more accurate readings. You don’t have to use calibration (the mic is already pretty good) but it’s free, so why not get the most out of it?

How to tune a car equalizer

Using RTA for car audio tuning in car placement diagram

Your goal should be not to get perfect sound but to correct the areas where the speakers have bad peaks or valleys in the sound output.  For that, you’ll want more expensive tools and a lot more effort and time.

The most important thing is to have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with the sound output and correct the most troublesome sound points.

how to tune a car audio system using a real time analyzer diagram

To tune your system and measure where you need to make improvements using your EQ, you’ll want to do the following:

    1. Park your vehicle in a quiet area without outside noise that can interfere with your measurements. Leave the vehicle engine off.
    2. Set up your RTA to an “octave” mode similar to the number of bands on your EQ. Set the measuring speed to medium or slow. I personally prefer 1/3 octave (31 bands) mode but for those of you with fewer EQ bands, setting it to a smaller number of bands for the RTA display should help.
    3. Set your equalizer to all-flat (all settings at zero), bass boost OFF, and any other sound enhancement disabled.
    4. For systems using amplifiers, be sure you’re not using a bass boost for the subwoofers.
    5. With the RTA running and your microphone connected (set up the RTA’s mic option if needed), play a pink noise test track for measuring the system’s sound output with the RTA. (You can use an audio file or CD, but it needs to be high-quality and not compressed audio to make sure you’re generating real pink noise that’s not altered and that could result in bad measurements.) Note that some RTA apps can generate noise so you can connect the output to the AUX input of some head units.
    6. With the RTA running and held in a middle place between the seats near ear level, note areas where there are dips and peaks in your system’s response. 
    7. Begin adjusting the EQ a small amount for the bands in those spots and carefully watch the changes. Turning the EQ up or down too much for each frequency can cause you to have to constantly compensate by changing other bands as they interact. Do it a little at a time.
    8. A near-perfectly tuned system would appear as a nearly flat RTA line across the entire audio range. However, that’s not realistic. We’re aiming to get as close as we can to that then make custom adjustments later.
    9. Once you’re satisfied you’ve got it corrected (it takes a bit of time and patience!), save your EQ settings as a preset if it’s a digital equalizer. For analog (dial or slider type EQs) units, take notes for future reference.
    10. Final touches: play a music track (with good bass) that you’re VERY familiar with and know the sound on a proper system. Carefully make changes as you need to for what sounds best to you. In my experience, this is increasing the low-end bass (around 60Hz), lower midrange (around 120Hz), and higher frequencies (16 to 20KHz) depending on your hearing and taste.

The best goal isn’t to get perfect sound but instead (1) correct the worst problems in your sound system and (2) adjust the results to get the sound that YOU really enjoy with your music.

After tuning the system, feel free to use bass boost or other features if you think you like how they sound. However, be aware that a properly tuned system with good speaker performance normally doesn’t need a bass boost or gimmicks to make it sound right.

You should be able to hear sufficient bass when it’s adjusted optimally.

Those are instead for:

  • Making up for what your system is lacking (for example, poor subwoofer output
  • Occasionally adding that extra slam to your favorite music when you’re in the mood – just not every day
Important: Sometimes there’s only so much you can do. If you’re not able to tune your system enough and there are still terrible “dips” in the sound, it’s because of the speakers.

In that case, no amount of tuning can help. You’ll need to work on improving either the installation, the speakers, or both.

Upgrades that make a huge difference when your EQ can’t

Examples of recommended car audio upgrades for better sound

Equalizers are great but they can only do so much. Since they’re limited to a range of +/-12dB to +/-9db of sound adjustment typically, that means for problems exceeding that, you won’t be able to correct it enough.

Some of the biggest problems with car audio systems are very common based on what I’ve seen over the years. It depends a LOT on the particular vehicle, the speakers used, and much more.

In most case it’s due to one or more of the following problems:

  • Poor or no low-end bass: needs a subwoofer to be added or better subwoofer to replace the current one
  • Poor/very weak treble: Needs tweeters to be replaced and/or added. Also, consider moving tweeters to a better location facing the driver & passenger seats.
  • Music sounds “thin” and unnatural (poor midrange): Requires a speaker upgrade as this is a sign of poor speaker performance.
  • Distortion during playback especially at high volume: Insufficient power to drive the speakers. Consider driving them with an amplifier or replace a factory amplifier (if equipped) or a higher power aftermarket model.

The good news is that these days you don’t need to spend a ton of money on any of these. Each one can be found (with pretty good quality and sound, I might add!) for around $100 or less. In fact, by replacing all of the main components (a better sounding head unit, front and rear speakers, add a subwoofer for bass, driving speakers with an amp, and so forth) you’ll get great sound that no factory system can match.

More related articles you’ll enjoy

I’ve got some other great info to help you learn more:

Questions, comments, or etc?

If you’ve got questions or a comment feel free to post them below! Feel free to contact me here on my Contact page.

What Is A Class D Car Amplifier? How They Work And Why They’re Great

What is a class D car amplifier featured image

There’s a big range of car amplifiers out there and at first glance, they nearly all look the same. However, there are some big differences (and great benefits) you should know more about.

Thanks to modern technology, class D car amps can be one of the best choices for your money. But what is a class D car amplifier? How do they compare to others, and why does it matter?

Read on and I’ll show you!

Contents

Infographic – Class D car amp facts

What is a class D car amplifier infographic

What is a class D car amplifier?

Examples of class A/B and class D car amplifiers

You often can’t tell a class D amp apart from a regular class A/B car amp just by looking. That’s because they do the same thing, have the same features, and the main difference – how they work – is hidden inside. Some though are much smaller than other types of amps so they differ in size vs another amp with the same power rating.

Class D car amplifiers are audio power amplifiers that use a more efficient amplifier based on pulse width modulation (PWM) technology.

Unlike some misleading or misunderstood descriptions, class D amplifiers are not “digital amps.” Instead, they still work with analog (non-digital) signals although they use a different approach.

In the past due to the limitations of technology and sound quality at the time they were used only for powering subwoofers since the lower sound quality they offered wasn’t noticeable in the low frequency range of bass in music.

The good news is that car audio technology & electronics have improved a lot. You can now find a wide variety of class D amps to drive full-range speakers, subwoofers, or both – all from one small amp!

The benefits of class D amplifiers

These types of amps have become more and more popular because of the benefits they offer:

  1. High efficiency: Class D amps typically have about 85% efficiency as they work, meaning they use a lot less electrical current than class A/B and other amps. This also means you can often use a smaller gauge for power wiring which saves money.
  2. Compact size: Since they waste less power, they don’t run hot like other amps and can be made smaller in size than traditional car amplifiers. This also saves money by reducing the metal needed for the amp’s chassis.
  3. More power for your money: They’re capable of delivering more power since the power limitations of other amps make this harder. Class D amps can provide a lot more power for the same money as very expensive amps of the past. Since heat is not a problem, they can deliver power (watts RMS, not “peak power”) without the side effects.
  4. More installation options: Obviously, a smaller amp can fit in more places. However, since they don’t generate much heat, that means you don’t have a risk of them overheating like other kinds. You can fit a class D amp in places with no or very little airflow or space: under seats, inside motorcycle storage containers, and even inside a dashboard near the head unit.

Since the draw less electrical current (amps) than older models, some can be installed using the factory radio wiring. This means you’ll avoid the need to buy & install extra wiring as you’d normally have to. Nice!

What does car amplifier class mean?

Teacher discussing car amplifier classes

An amplifiers class is a name used to categorize an amplifier by the technology used for the operation of an amp. All audio amplifiers fall into one of a few classes. 

Amplifier classes have been around for decades with the number of classes increasing as technology has improved.

In addition to D, here’s a list of others:

  • Class A: The most inefficient but highest-fidelity amplifier type. Not that popular and usually reserved for audiophile use.
  • Class B: Not very common – an older amp class where amplification splits up the positive and negative halves of the audio signal. More efficient than class A, amps but lower sound quality as a result of the way it works. These were used in some vacuum tube amps years are go but are outdated now.
  • Class A/B: For many years, the most popular because they’re a good all-around compromise between low cost, sound quality, and efficiency. These types of amps combine the way class A & class B designs work. However, their power efficiency is somewhere around 50-65% so they still waste a fair amount of power. 

How does a class D car amp work?

How does a class D car amplifier work diagram

Diagram showing how a class D amplifier works. Unlike other designs, this one uses a very high-frequency switching frequency circuit to mix the incoming signal with a waveform to create an on/off series of pulse width modulation (PWM) signals. This is then used to drive power transistors where it’s amplified. The amplified result is then “smoothed” to recreate the original musical signal and filtered to remove high-frequency noise added as it works.

As I mentioned earlier, class D amplifiers are not digital amplifiers as they’re sometimes called for some reason. They don’t convert a stereo’s musical signal into a digital series of numbers; rather, they use an analog square wave design based on pulse width modulation (PWM) technology.

Here’s how a class D car amp works:

  1. The low-level input signal from the head unit is modulated, or altered, by a high-frequency circuit that changes the audio signal into a series of square on/off signals that vary in width based on the input level.
  2. These signals are then used to drive power transistors which amplify them. The square wave signals are amplified to a higher voltage from the amp’s switching power supply and are now capable of delivering high power to speakers. Because the square waves turn on and off rapidly, the transistors never stay switched on for long reducing the power used and wasted.
  3. The amplified square waves are smoothed by electronic circuits that change them back into an amplified version of the original curved musical signal.
  4. Before the speaker output terminals, filters remove high-frequency noise from the output signal as the amp works to eliminate it from the range of sound you can hear. The output is an amplified version of the input signal with a high power capacity.

Nearly all class D amplifiers (unlike class A or A/B models) use a special integrated circuit (IC) that handles chopping up the audio signal and driving power transistors. Some miniature versions are designed to be an “all in one” product and drive the speakers directly. These are usually used for lower-power computer speakers or miniature home stereo amps.

Budget car amps often use an off-the-shelf class D amp controller chip while brand names more often use a more advanced custom IC.

Just like other amps, many also offer high level inputs to work with factory stereo units.

Note: You may see some home & car amplifiers advertised as being “class T”, “class G”, or some similar name. Despite how they sound, those also are just renamed versions of the same basic class D design with some custom changes or tweaks.

Are Class D amplifiers high fidelity?

Man listening to amplifier fidelity

In the strictest sense, no, these types of amps are not high fidelity unlike class A amps with super-low distortion specs or the sound quality of high-end class A/B designs. That’s because the sound fidelity of class D amps must be compromised a bit in order for us to benefit from the efficiency they offer.

In order to provide world-class sound clarity, Class A amps waste a lot of power which is turned into heat. However, they’re still preferred by some people because they offer no-compromise audio amplification, ultra-low distortion, and reproduce the musical signal very faithfully.

High-end class AB amps, while not quite as good as class A, also offer excellent sound quality at the added expense of a higher price tag. Even budget and mid-level class A/B amps can offer high-fidelity sound if they’re properly designed because of how the technology works.

Because class A/B amps offer good sound quality in addition to decent efficiency and are cheap to build, they’ve been the most common type of car amplifier for years. Despite that, class D amps have improved and are becoming more popular.

Here’s why class D amps are lower fidelity:

  • Class D amps use PWM technology to convert the original signal into square waves and back again. This means a small amount of fidelity can be lost. Any time a musical signal is converted some accuracy is lost.
  • As they work, more noise is unintentionally added to the sound signal than other kinds of amps. Because of this, these amps often have a lower signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio than their counterparts. Generally speaking the higher the SNR, the better.

Don’t let that give you the wrong impression, though – today’s amps are very good!

They’ve improved a lot – but quality matters!

5 to 10 years ago, the class D amps I tried were disappointing. The good news is that today’s amps are much better. As long as you shop carefully and pay attention to the details, you’ll be happy with the sound.

For example, the Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel class D amplifier I reviewed here is a great-sounding little amp that I enjoyed.

Most people will find it nearly impossible to tell the difference in sound quality when comparing a very good class D amp to an average A/B amp. Unless you’re extremely picky about sound quality, it shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re only planning to use an amp for bass the sound quality doesn’t really matter since we can’t hear the difference for bass frequencies. That’s why they were used only for subwoofer amp before the technology improved.

What is a class D mono car amplifier?

What is a class D mono car amplifier

Class D mono car amplifiers are designed to deliver a lot of power to subwoofers for high-volume bass that really slams. Unlike full-range amplifiers, they’re limited to only producing bass.

Most mono car amplifiers have some common features:

  • Lower speaker impedance (Ohms) rating: Many can handle down to 2 ohms or even 1 ohms for maximum power delivery.
  • Not full-range capable. Most can’t be used for coaxial or component speakers, for example. The audio they can produce is limited to only a low-end bass range.
  • High power output: These days, class D mono car amps have power ratings such as 500W RMS, 750W RMS, and even 1,000 watts or more! This is made possible by the class D PWM efficiency.
  • Subwoofer level control: some models provide a rotary knob to adjust the amp’s volume from your dashboard.
  • Adjustable bass filter: Typically, even though they can’t produce sound above 250Hz or so, you can adjust the crossover output cutoff from 20 to 250Hz, depending on the particular amp.

While they use a single monoaural (mono) channel output, some have an extra set of speaker terminals to make it easier to connect multiple subs if you like.

Are Class D amps good for subs?

Most importantly the thing to understand is that these mono amps (also called “monoblock” amps) are designed only to deliver a lot of high power to subwoofer and nothing more. In this regards they’re excellent for subs!

They offer a higher watts-per-dollar value than any other kind of amplifier. In fact, you can find some today that can deliver 500 watts RMS (or higher!) for $100 and below.

Is a class D amplifier better?

Are class D amps better man wondering

There’s not a true “best” amplifier class – at least not currently. Each one has strengths and weaknesses, meaning it comes down to what’s best for you. For example, if you’re like most people and want good sound but the best value for your money, then yes, it’s likely better in that case.

However, when it comes down to what matters for most people, class D car amps are better in most but not all categories that count.

Here’s a comparison of the different amplifier classes and their pros and cons:

Car amp class comparison diagram

Car amplifier classes comparison diagram

A diagram comparing the main things you care about with audio amps. As I mentioned earlier, class A/B amps are a good compromise between sound quality, cost, and power. However, as you can see here, class D amps these days now are a better value and offer more for the money. They’re a better all-around choice for most people who don’t need audiophile-level sound quality.

Like I mentioned before, class D amps now are becoming more and more popular along with being a better value for most people. Unless you’re after the best possible sound quality you can buy, you’ll get more power for your dollar, an affordable price, and easier installation for your money.

As you can see in my diagram above, class A amps excel in sound quality (they’re ultra-low in distortion and do a great job of reproducing the musical signal) but fall short in nearly all other areas. 

A/B class amps were for many years the best all-around choice. They offer very good sound quality even with budget models, fair power availability, they’re affordable, but they’re not as compact. Class A amplifiers aren’t commonly available for car audio much anymore so they’re not really a competitor.

Class D amplifiers as you can see have more pros than they do cons – they’re smaller, you can get more power for the money, and they use less electrical current, but aren’t audiophile-level in their sound quality. When shopping you can find 4 x 100 watts RMS power model vs a 4 x 50 watts RMS power A/B amp, for example.

Ultimately, for most people class D amps are great and the best choice if you’re not very picky about sound quality. Don’t get me wrong – today’s models have very good sound quality – just not high-end, audiophile-level sound. If that’s not what you’re after you’ll find them very enjoyable.

Class D vs class A/B car amplifiers

Class A/B vs class D amplifier operation diagram

A diagram comparing the operation of class A/B vs class D amps. Unlike class D amps, A/B models don’t change the original signal but instead, amplify it and split it into a positive and negative half to drive output stages. Class D amps take advantage of PWM principles and only drive the transistors part of the time, saving power use and wasting less.

What is a class AB car amplifier?

Class A/B amps have been around for decades and range in price from both super-budget levels to high-end designs. In all cases the basic design used is the same: the input signal is used to drive output transistors with a positive and a negative half, boosting the input using the amp’s internal power supply voltage to drive speakers.

Due to how they work, some power is wasted (around 45-35% or so, depending) and ends up as heat that warms the heatsink (heavy metal chassis). They offer very good sound quality as they don’t change the audio signals but instead only amplify them.

Class D circuitry uses PWM principles to save power wasted as they only switch the power output transistors part of the time. Unlike class A/B amps, they do change the input signal: it’s converted to square waves that are converted back to smooth waves just like the input signal as they leave the amplifier.

Are Class D amps better than AB?

Pioneer GM-D9605 review test amp rack image

Class D amps can offer more power and/or more amp channels in the same or smaller size than class A/B. This Pioneer 5 channel amp, for example, can deliver more power to 4 speakers and a dedicated subwoofer channel than A/B amps of the same size. For that reason, you could say it’s better.

There’s a slight difference in sound quality that varies by brand and the quality of the design. As a compromise, the signal to noise ratio is somewhat worse than A/B designs. For example, 90dB or so is more typical for good ones while A/B amps often start at 90dB and 100dB isn’t uncommon.

It’s not really the case that class D amps are better than A/B but to most people they are. For example, not that many people care about the finer sound quality specifications like noise or SNR.

They care more about the power they’ll get for their money – in this regard, D class amps are better. They’re also easier to install in many cases since they’re smaller.

I think the best response is to say they’re better for power, size, and value than most A/B amps. They’re not better for higher-end sound quality. There are, however, some class D amps with excellent sound quality. 

You’ll have to spend more for those as they’re more advanced designs in order to produce a higher level of sound quality than most.

RB-XD400/4 amp side view

Some class D amps like this one from JL Audio offer excellent sound quality that can compete with most A/B amps. They’re more expensive, though.

Can I use a marine class D amplifier in a car?

Example image of a Rockville marine amp installed in a car

A marine amp installed for in-vehicle use & testing. Don’t hesitate to use a class D amp yourself if you like!

Yes, you can install a marine amp in your car, truck, or motorcycle!

As a matter of fact, they offer some great installation options you might not have otherwise!

Here’s a list of some great options possible and problems they solve:

  • Class D marine mini-amps are excellent for reliable power and great sound in motorcycles since they can fit in smaller spaces and won’t overheat.
  • A marine amp is suitable for outdoor vehicles and is far more affordable than specialty amps from the vehicle manufacturer.
  • You can build a sound system without a stereo! Some class D marine amps have a built-in Bluetooth receiver & controller option that makes this possible.

Image of marine amp with Bluetooth in classic car

Marine amps offer some excellent solutions for some special case installations like in classic cars. Rather than spend a ton of money for custom fabrication or metalwork you can use an amp for a direct, easy-to-install sound that works great.

They’re really aren’t any “cons” to worry about, aside from the cosmetic color and style. Additionally, when shopping that means it’s possible to have even more options and you can possibly find a great deal.

More articles about amplifiers and speakers

I’ve got some other great info to help you learn more:

Questions, comments, or etc?

If you’ve got questions or a comment feel free to post them below! Need direct help? Feel free to contact me here on my Contact page.

Component Vs Coaxial Speakers: Differences, Pros/Cons, And Which Is Best

component vs coaxial speakers featured image

Getting better car or home speakers can make a huge difference in the music you enjoy. Everybody has certain wants, needs, and of course, a budget.

On that subject, it’s helpful to understand component vs coaxial speaker differences why they matter before you go shopping. Not just the differences, but also:

  • Pros and cons of coaxial and component speakers
  • What type of sound coaxial and component speakers put out
  • Which one is best for you, and if there’s really a “better” choice
  • Installation difficulty

I’ll also help you better understand which is a better choice for you. Let’s get started!

Contents

What is the difference between coaxial and component speakers?

Component vs coaxial speaker comparison

What are coaxial speakers?

What are coaxial speakers diagram & parts labeled

Coaxial car speakers are basically a 2-way speaker system built together: the tweeter, woofer, and a simple crossover are assembled into one piece. They’re designed to replace older & lower-quality speakers by fitting in the same hole for easy installation. They provide better sound than a single cone speaker and allow more price options along with easier installation choices.

Coaxial speakers are a 2-way speaker design with a tweeter, woofer, and a simple crossover built into a single speaker assembly. Most provide a woofer cone with a separate tweeter for good full-range sound quality and frequency coverage, unlike basic single-cone speakers.

You can think of coaxial speakers as a compromise between single cone speakers (the cheapest type of speaker, with poor sound quality) and a more advanced component speaker system. They’re very popular as they offer good sound quality but don’t cost as much as more expensive speaker options like component speakers.

Coaxial speakers have some great advantages:

  • Easy sound upgrade: they’re a drop-in replacement for older factory-installed & bad sounding single cone speakers.
  • There’s a wide range of performance & price options for buyers: different levels of tweeter quality, crossover design, cone materials, higher power ratings, and so on.
  • They give somewhat similar performance to separate 2-way component car speakers – but without the need for a separate speaker crossover you have to install, too.
  • They’re easy to find and very popular – in fact, they’re the most popular car speaker upgrade and it’s really easy to find them when shopping.
  • Affordability: good coaxial car speakers can be found for around $25 and up. Very good quality coaxials are only about $50-$65 or so.
  • Coaxial speakers can immediately fix the poor frequency response many people have with their older speakers.

Coaxial vs standard/single cone speakers

Standard vs coaxial speakers comparison image with frequency response graphs

Coaxial speakers provide much better sound than standard low-end single cone speakers – even those with a whizzer cone added to supposedly improve the sound. Coaxial speakers are a type of 2-way design where the job of producing sound is split between them for best results. This way a full range of sound can be produced.

The thing is that plain ‘ole car speakers like you’ll find in many vehicles and home stereo systems are terrible! They’re well-known for bad sound and have been one of the single biggest complaints of my car stereo installation customers for years.

But why? As you can see in my picture above, they’re bad sounding because only have a single speaker (woofer/midrange) isn’t good enough. There’s a big range of sound they can’t produce well – if at all.

The truth is that single cone speakers simply can’t produce great sounding music like coaxial models do. Coaxial speakers make up the difference by using a tweeter to take care of the upped end of the musical sound range, filling in what other speakers can’t produce.

2-way vs 3-way coaxial speakers

2-way vs 3-way coaxial speaker examples image

3-way coaxial speakers are simply an extension of 2-way models with an additional small speaker (usually another tweeter or type of mid range) added for extra sound performance. 

It’s important to understand that just because they might look better doesn’t mean they sound better than a very good 2-way model. Some definitely do have improved sound production, however.

For example, some 3-way full range speakers add a tiny piezo type tweeter than can exceed the upper-frequency limit of standard tweeters, allowing for enhanced sound. Really good models offer not just a higher range of sound frequencies but a nearly flat sound response which is ideal.

The main thing to take away is that a quality and well-designed 2-way speaker can give great sound and most of the time is your best value for the dollar. Don’t spend the time, effort, and money chasing after 3-way speakers due to thinking they’re better just because of the added speaker.

Like many other things, it comes down to the quality and the design details. I recommend shopping primarily for a good quality 2-way coaxial speaker set.

What are component speakers?

What are component speakers diagram

Component speakers are a speaker system in which separately mounted speakers and a more advanced crossover are designed to provide advanced sound quality. They’re the next level above coaxial speakers and offer better performance than coaxials can provide.

Components speakers, which are made up of a separately mounted woofer, tweeter, and crossover, are a more advanced speaker system that provides better sound quality than coaxial speakers.

One reason for this is that component speakers often use better dome tweeter and woofer materials along with a more advanced (and better) speaker crossover. They may also include features such as a tweeter volume reduction option, tweeter fusing to protect against overload, and additional wiring configurations.

Some are even designed to allow assembling them together so they resemble coaxial speakers for easier installation.

Unlike coaxial speakers, component speakers offer:

  • Better frequency response and sound accuracy overall – even entry-level component speaker sets can have really great sound quality!
  • Tweeters with a more rigid and high-performance design: silk, aluminum, ceramic, or other special dome materials are common.
  • More power handling – often 75 watts RMS, 100 watts RMS, or more.
  • -12dB per octave crossover slopes (or greater) versus the standard -6dB/octave crossover used on coaxial tweeters.
  • Better crossover component quality.
  • Better speaker connector terminals and installation accessories.
  • The ability to mount the tweeters at a line-of-sight listening angle and height for better stereo imaging during music playback.

That being said, it’s important to understand that the installation process is harder than for coaxial speakers and can require custom fabrication for the tweeter mounts. Also, you’ll need to mount the crossovers as well, ideally away from moisture, and relatively close to where the speakers are mounted.

They’re also a bit more costly, too, as many component speaker sets cost around 1.5x to several times more than coaxials of the same size.

I’ve been a longtime user of component speakers and love them. Hands down, I can confidently say that a good (not even the most expensive model!) set of them can sound fantastic when used properly and powered by an amplifier.

Coaxial vs component speaker crossover differences

Component vs coaxial speaker crossovers diagram

Shown here is a diagram comparing coaxial vs component speaker crossovers. Coaxial speakers normally use a simple high-pass crossover only for the tweeter to block bass and none for the woofer. The result is overall good sound, but with room for improvement. Component speakers, however, use a more advanced crossover design that filters unwanted sound frequencies from reaching the woofer or tweeter. The result is less distortion, more accurate sound, and a better listening experience.

As I mentioned before, component speakers use more advanced crossovers than coaxials. They use 2 stages of filtering vs the single stage used with coaxials. This means more effective filtering of bass and midrange sound from the tweeter and more high-range sound is blocked from the woofer.

Most coaxials use a single cheap capacitor connected to the tweeter mounted and nothing for the woofer. Instead, they use a lower-cost design that relies on the fact that most woofers “roll off” (gradually stop producing) higher frequencies naturally.

Although it gets the job done and it works, there’s still room for improvement and the sound quality is compromised.

Component speaker crossovers use a better design

Component speakers, by comparison, use an external crossover with a designed for the specific speakers used and are made using better quality capacitors and inductors. They’re much more effective at preventing unwanted sound frequencies from reaching the speakers that aren’t suited for them.

The end result is much better clarity & lower distortion, allowing you to better hear the music as it was intended to be heard.

Even better, some component speaker crossovers include a tweeter volume control option. This is helpful if the tweeter seems too harsh sounding to you. Some also include tweeter overload circuit protection to avoid burning them out during high power delivery.

Wiring component speakers and coaxial speakers

Component vs coaxial speaker wiring diagram

Both types of speakers are fairly easy to wire – aside from the additional wire & labor needed for mounting component speakers properly.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the wiring connections needed:

  • Coaxial speakers: wired from the head unit or amplifier positive wire and negative wire to the same terminals on the speaker, same as factory-installed speakers. (Note that when replacing some factory-installed “premium” speaker systems, you may need to run new speaker wire to bypass the troublesome original wiring).
  • Components: 
  • Connected from the head unit or amplifier’s speaker outputs to the INPUTS of the speaker crossover.
  • Connect the tweeter output of the crossover to the tweeter’s positive and negative terminals.
  • Connect the woofer output from the crossover to the woofer’s positive and negative terminals.

example of component speakers installed in car door

Shown here is a typical component speaker installation: the woofer, tweeter, and crossover are mounted inside a car door. This is a pretty common installation and gives excellent sound, although it takes more time & money to complete.

Note: While it’s not required, I highly recommend using an amplifier with component speakers for the best results and maximum sound quality. (More about that further below)

Which is better, coaxial or component speakers?

Coaxial or component speakers image

The best way for me to answer this question depends on what the definition of “better” means to you. After all, you’re the best judge of what you like, right?

The simplest answer is that component speakers are the best in terms of sound quality, power handling, tweeter & woofer technology options, and installation creativity.

However, that’s not what everyone needs – not everyone cares about super-crisp sound, more power handling, or better speaker crossovers. Perhaps the best thing for me to do is to simplify it with a short comparison below.

There are several differences between coaxial speakers and component speakers you should know:

  • Coaxial speakers fit the entire 2-way speaker system into a single speaker assembly. Most component speaker systems (aside from a few rare designs) are separate and everything has to be mounted individually.
  • Coaxial speakers, in order to keep costs down and fit into a small space, have some compromises. A basic -6dB/octave crossover for the tweeter and many use a lower-cost tweeter material. Component speakers, however, have better crossovers (-12dB/octave minimum, usually) and better tweeter materials like silk, aluminum, or others.
  • Coaxial speakers tend to have lower power ratings while component speakers tend to have higher power rating limits. Coaxials tend to range around say 35W-65W RMS or so while components typically are available in 65W-100W RMS or higher options.
  • Coaxial speakers are simple to install while component speakers are harder and take more time & effort.
  • Component speakers, because of their design, offer better sound quality and clarity than coaxial speakers. Coaxials are good, but many are average (however, still much better than standard single-cone speakers).

It’s a lot easier to find coaxial speakers when shopping than it is to find component speakers. Coaxial speakers, as I mentioned earlier, are a lot more popular and because of it, many stores have them in stock.

Even your local department store, auto parts store, and “mom and pop” electronics stores probably has some in the car audio section.

Coaxial speakers are great for budget sound!

As far as price is concerned, prices for component speakers start at about the same price as a very good pair of coaxial speakers. You’ll pay less for coaxial speakers and have more options to choose from depending on what you can afford.

For example, I installed quite a few average quality coaxial speakers in cars, trucks, and even boats over the years. They’re good enough for many people yet still within reach of what they could afford when you add in the cost of installation.

Most of the time you can expect to pay somewhere around $45 for good coaxials and about $75-$100 for a good component set.

Should I get component or coaxial speakers?

Here’s a comparison to help you decide if you’re unsure.

You should get coaxial speakers if:

  • You don’t have a lot to spend or just need something that’s good enough to sound ok – not “high end” sound
  • You want an easy way to replace your old speakers
  • You’re not planning to amplify your speakers and will use a standard stereo
  • You don’t want to do the extra work or running extra wire needed for component speakers
  • You don’t have the time, tools, or money to spare on a custom installation

You should get component speakers if:

  • Sound quality is your what you’re mainly after
  • Want to use speakers with more advanced materials (especially for the tweeters)
  • You prefer speaker crossovers with a steeper cutoff and/or tweeter volume reduction option
  • Will be doing a custom home, car stereo, or marine speaker installation with higher-end electronics
  • You want improved stereo imaging for music playback and critical listening with high-fidelity recordings
  • You would like to drive your speakers with an amplifier for extra power and clarity

The good news is that there are some component speaker systems that can be used a lot like component speakers, making them easier to install. You’ll save a lot of work & hassle in the process.

As I noted above, component speakers should be driven with an amplifier for the best results. You simply won’t get great sound from them using a low-power stereo unit.

Coaxial style component speaker set example

An example of a component speaker set (in this case by speaker company MB Quart) that can be put together to work like a coaxial speaker for easier installation and using less space.

Do I need an amp for component or coaxial speakers?

Image of a car amplifiers installed with component and coaxial speakers

It would be a bit misleading to say you “need” an amp for your speakers. The better thing for me to say is that there are some great advantages you’ll get by using an amplifier to drive component or coaxial speakers.

Here’s a list of reasons why amplifying your speakers is a good idea:

  • Lower distortion & cleaner sound
  • The ability to block power-robbing & distorting low-end bass by using a crossover
  • Lots of power available for much more volume
  • A lot more flexibility for system set up

For example, most car stereo units, despite the misleading advertising they have, output only about 15-18 watts RMS per channel at the most.

And that’s not clean, great-sounding power, either. They’ll start to distort badly and sound poorly when pushed to their maximum output.

You’ll be fine for every day listening to your speakers at a moderate to moderately high volume with a good car stereo head unit. However, using an amp can take your audio system to the next level.

How does an amp make speakers sound?

Using an amplifier (even a decent one, not a high-end unit) can make a big difference in how your car audio system sounds. Amplifiers will provide several sound options you can’t get from a head unit – even the expensive ones!

Here’s a list of what an amplifier can offer:

  • Built-in high pass crossovers to block distorting and power-robbing low end bass your speakers can’t handle
  • Higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio, giving better clarity than a head unit can provide
  • Much better listening volume & power left over, without the high distortion you get when you crank up a head unit
  • More installation options and bass boost

I’ve been powering my component speakers with amplifiers for years and it’s like a night and day difference in sound quality! It’s a bit more work, but well worth it and I’ve had readers report exactly the same too.

I recommend using a decent quality amplifier with 50 watts RMS per channel or higher for best results.

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Why Do 6×9 Speakers Look Different? A 6×9″ Speaker Facts Guide

Why do 6x9 speakers look different featured image

At first glance, it may seem like there’ no real reason for 6×9″ speakers to have their unusual shape. But as you’ll learn, there are some good reasons for them. Not only that, but they have some advantages you might find interesting!

But why do 6×9 speakers look different? Are they a good choice for your car stereo system?  How do 6x9s compare to other speakers?

Read on and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Contents

Why do 6×9 speakers look different?

Example of older car with 6x9 speakers

Why 6×9 speakers?

6×9″ car speakers were originally used to make good use of limited space in vehicles from the factory. This was mainly the deck near the rear window in older vehicles (sometimes called a parcel shelf). In many vehicles – everything from muscle cars to luxury vehicles – there wasn’t much space to fit speakers.

In fact, in a fair amount of cars back in the day, there weren’t any front speakers at all! It wasn’t until further into the 1970s and afterward that adding a decent stereo and better factory speakers became common with vehicle manufacturers.

Back in those days, the car audio speaker sizes we have now weren’t standard so speaker options that would fit were limited.

Their shape offers more sound in a narrower space

As early as the 1960s some cars and other vehicles used 6×9″ car speakers to offer a better sound by using an oval shape. This allowed taking advantage of the longer width (side to side) rather than the shorter back to front panel measurements.

This allows fitting an overall larger speaker cone which wouldn’t be possible otherwise by using a round speaker. Similarly, 4×10 speakers do the same thing but in even more limited rear deck space.

How big are 6×9 speakers?

6x9 speaker size measurements diagram

Example measurements for a typical 6×9″ speaker. The overall measurements vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and can be slightly different for both the outside measurements and the cutout size too.

6×9 inch speakers aren’t standardized in their measurements which means that different brands and models vary a little bit from each other. However, in general, they’re roughly 6.5″ x 9 5/16″ (164mm x 235mm) in size.

The cutout size, in which the speaker basket will fit for top or bottom mounting, is about 5 5/16″ x 9 5/16″ (143mm x 235mm).

One thing that’s important to know is that the depth can be very different. In most cases, 6×9″ speakers with large magnets have a depth of slightly over 3 inches while lower-power and budget models are closer to 2.5″ or 2.75″ or so.

Why 6×9 speakers? 6x9s vs round speakers

Diagram comparing 6x9 speakers vs round speakers

If you compare the area of an ellipse (oval) from a 6×9″ speaker to a similarly sized round speaker, you’ll see that the 6×9 speaker offers much more cone area. (Note: This is a simple comparison – speaker cone area is more complicated to figure out so I’ve used a more basic example).

You might not have realized it, but when it comes to speakers at least, size does matter! It matters a LOT, in fact.

That’s because the larger the surface area of a speaker cone, the more air it can move when in motion. This means for you more volume and especially more bass sound.

What is the difference between 6×8 and 6×9 speakers?

6x8 inch vs 6x9 inch speaker comparison image

6×8 inch speakers are extremely similar to 6×9 speakers and are made for replacing special factory vehicle speakers. They’re just slightly smaller than their counterparts.

6×8 inch speakers are identical to and very close in size to 6×9 inch speakers. They’re simply slightly smaller and look nearly the same.

They’re designed to replace some factory-installed original manufacturer speakers where 6×9″ models won’t fit without modification. They offer a way to get a better-sounding replacement but without the need to modify the car’s speaker openings or use a special adapter.

In fact, in some cases, a 6×9″ speaker can’t fit in the place of a factory 6×8″ speaker due to extremely limited space or not enough clearance for a 6×9″ speaker cone to move freely without touching.

Are 6×9 speakers good for bass?

6x9 vs 8 inch speaker comparison image

6×9″ speakers offer a big advantage over standard round speakers: despite taking up about the same front to back space as say 6″ or 6.5″ speakers, their width is much bigger, giving them a much larger cone for moving air.

This means 6×9″ speakers can produce more bass compared to others.

Yes, they’re better (in many cases – it depends on the speakers being compared) than other speakers for bass. They’re not a substitute, however, for subwoofers and shouldn’t be used for them.

However, in high quality & properly matched speaker enclosures, it’s possible to get great sound with plenty of bass from them. In fact, 6×9″ speakers have a similar cone size to 8″ woofers!

How much bass do I get from 6×9 speakers?

The amount of low-frequency bass sound you can get from 6×9 depends on a lot of things, but you can roughly expect about the same as mid-level 8 inch woofers.

Some of the things that make a big difference are:

  • The speaker box size – many 6×9″ speaker boxes are too small to produce good bass, so they often work best in trunks or larger boxes.
  • The speaker quality & power rating: speakers with stiffer cones and a higher power rating are better for power-hungry bass.
  • The speaker’s frequency response: You’ll need to pick 6x9s that work well for lower bass. Optionally, you can find 6×9 woofers that are designed just for bass or are part of a 2-way speaker set.

What is the frequency range of 6×9 speakers?

6x9 speaker frequency response examples diagram

Shown here are some graphs showing the frequency response for common 6×9″ speakers you’ll find anywhere. Just like any other type of speaker (6.5″, 4″, and so on) the frequency range depends on the speaker’s design & level of performance.

The frequency range of most full-range 6×9 inch speakers is just like any other size: somewhere between 60hz to 20KHz or so depending on the performance of the speaker.

For example, a 1-way speaker has a more limited range and is a poor performer overall. They’re weak in the upper range with higher-pitched sound response dropping off badly somewhere before 16KHz. That means they have lousy higher-frequency sound production and don’t sound very “crisp.”

High-quality 2-way and 3-way 6x9s add one or more tweeters to cover the additional high-frequency range that the woofer can’t produce. These can produce sound in the range of somewhere around 60Hz to 20Khz and even higher.

While 1-way speakers may have an extra cone called a “whizzer” cone attached for better high-frequency sound, they don’t really add much and these types of speakers have disappointing sound quality.

What about the bass range?

6x9s are just like any other car speaker in that they aren’t subwoofers and most can’t produce very deep bass like a subwoofer can. However, 6x9s, as I mentioned earlier, are some of the best speakers for bass for full-range music.

Some can perform to below 60hz and still produce good bass levels. This is especially true for 6×9″ component speaker sets which separate the tweeter and woofer cones with 2-way crossovers for great sound performance.

Do 6.5 speakers sound better than 6×9?

6x9 vs 6.5 inch speaker comparison

There’s not a “one size fits all” answer to this question because there are many factors that affect car speaker sound. To make a long story short, the best answer is that it depends.

To summarize:

  • A high quality 2-way 6.5 in. speaker will sound better than most 1-way or lower quality 6×9 in. speakers.
  • A high quality, 2 or 3-way 6×9 in. speaker that’s well designed will outperform an identical 6.5 in. speaker.
  • If the installation quality or sound system isn’t done right, even a great quality 6×9 in. speaker can sound worse than a 6.5″ speaker that’s installed & used correctly.

Ultimately, assuming all things are equal (proper installation, the same audio source & power, and the same speaker type) a 6×9 inch speaker will outperform an identical 6.5″ speaker. Don’t forget that as I mentioned earlier they’re the best choice for bass compared to a similar round speaker.

Do I need an amp for my 6×9 speakers?

Image of 6x9 speakers and car amplifier

It would be a bit misleading to say you “need” an amp for 6×9 speakers. The better thing for me to say is that there are some great advantages you’ll get by using an amplifier to drive 6x9s.

Here’s a list of reasons why amplifying your speakers is a good idea:

  • Lower distortion & cleaner sound
  • The ability to block power-robbing & distorting low-end bass by using a crossover
  • Lots of power available for much more volume
  • A lot more flexibility for system set up

For example, most car stereo units, despite the misleading advertising they have, can provide only about 15-18 watts RMS per channel at the most.

And that’s not clean, great-sounding power, either. They’ll start to distort badly and sound poorly when pushed to their maximum output.

You’ll be fine for every day listening to your speakers at a moderate to moderately high volume with a good car stereo head unit. However, using an amp can take your audio system to the next level.

How does an amp make 6×9 speakers sound?

Even a decent budget car amplifier can provide some of the cleanest sound you’ll hear with good car speakers. Since most amplifiers these days have an optional crossover feature built-in, you can block the low-end bass that smaller speaker systems can’t handle.

This will prevent distortion and you can get great volume from your 6x9s while still having really clean & crisp sound.

The sound you’ll get with a good amp and proper installation will be very clear. That’s because an amplifier will have a much higher signal to noise (SNR) ratio compared to an in-dash stereo, meaning the audio will be more clear and accurate.

How big of an amp for car 6×9 speakers do you need?

What to look for in amplifier for 6x9s

The good news is that these days it’s pretty easy to get a great deal on an excellent-sounding car amp for 6x9s. While it’s still true that budget brands don’t have the same technology or ultra-high end specs like more expensive brands like Rockford Fosgate or JL Audio, they’re still pretty good if you shop carefully.

When picking a car amp for 6x9s I recommend you use these guidelines:

  • 50 watts RMS or more power per channel. 65W or 75W or more is even better if you get the option. (Don’t go by the peak power rating listed on an amplifier – it’s very misleading)
  • A good signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio of around 90dB or higher. This is an electrical spec for the level of the internal noise signal to the music signal. The higher, the better, with 100dB being excellent. (90dB is still good for most people)
  • High-pass crossovers for blocking lower-end, distorting, and power-robbing bass below 60Hz. I recommend an adjustable crossover, but that’s not important.
  • For factory systems, you’ll save money by buying an amplifier with speaker level (high-level) inputs built-in. You can use RCA line-level adapters if you like also, of course.

How hard you can push coaxial 6×9 speakers with an amp?

Coaxial 6x9s should be treated like other speakers. The amount of power they can take from an amp will be limited by:

  • The RMS power rating of the speaker
  • Whether or not you’re driving them with heavy low-end bass in the music
  • Clipping from the amplifier (hitting the output limit of the amplifier, driving it to clipping)

Ultimately, you’ll get close to, but not all the way, to the RMS power rating for the speakers assuming it’s accurately stated by the manufacturer.

If you really want to drive them hard, you’ll want to (1) use an amplifier capable of more power per channel than the speakers to avoid clipping, and (2) use a high-pass crossover to block low-end bass.

You’ll need to pick good quality speakers with voice coils suited to more power handling if you want to drive them hard without them burning out.

What is a good 6×9 crossover frequency?

The high-pass crossovers in an amp are usually a preset crossover frequency, a 2-3 selectable switch positions, or an adjustable dial. I recommend using a high-pass frequency of around 56Hz to 60Hz or so with 6x9s for most full range car speakers.

This will block the lower end bass they can’t handle and that should be sent to subwoofers, while still allowing the lower-end range of vocal and drums in music to be heard. Of course, if you’re still getting distortion from your speakers it’s a good idea to try increasing the frequency (100Hz or a bit higher are good).

What is a component 6×9 speaker set?

What is a 6x9 component speaker set example diagram

A 6×9 component speaker set uses separate tweeters and woofer along with a speaker crossover for great sound quality. The speaker crossover filters out midrange & bass sound before it can reach the tweeter. Likewise, the woofer receivers only midrange & bass sound frequencies. The result is very low distortion and very clear & enjoyable musical production.

Component speakers use separate tweeters and woofers, along with a speaker crossover, to provide a higher level of sound quality along with lower distortion and improved musical accuracy. They’re similar to 2-way coaxial 6×9 speakers, but without the compromises required in manufacturing those.

Tweeters distort when subjected to midrange or bass sound. Likewise, woofers perform very poorly when driven with higher-frequency sounds. By blocking these from reaching the speakers they’re not suited for, the speaker crossover splits up the incoming musical signal.

The result is some of the best sound possible. There are a few advantages but also some disadvantages when compared to coaxial 6x9s.

Component vs coaxial 6×9 speakers

Here’s a basic comparison chart to help compare the two.

ItemCoaxialComponentCostCheap to medium priceMedium to high priceSound qualityDecent to goodVery good to excellentInstallationEasy/mediumModerate to hardBuying selectionVery goodFairFeatures availableLowGood (depends on the set)

There are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to choosing coaxial vs component 6×9 speakers:

  • It’s much easier to find coaxial speakers in retail stores than component sets. Also, there’s a very wide range of prices so coaxial speakers are great for people on a budget.
  • Component speakers can take some work to install while coaxial speakers are usually pretty easy. 
  • Coaxial speakers have tweeters that are most often a cheap material like Mylar or PEI. They’re ok, but not very good when compared to those included with a component set.

Most coaxials use a single capacitor to the tweeter mounted on top and use none at all for the woofer. Instead, they use a lower-cost design that relies on the fact that most woofers “roll off” (stop producing) higher frequencies naturally. Despite that, some treble will always get through and affect the sound quality a little bit.

Component speakers, on the other hand, have an external crossover with more advanced circuitry that blocks unwanted frequencies to both the tweeter and the woofer. The end result is better speaker performance and sound, higher volume without distortion, and more clarity.

Not only that, but some component speaker crossovers include a built-in setting to reduce the tweeter volume if it’s too bright (too harsh sounding) to you. Some also may include built-in fusing to prevent you from accidentally blowing the tweeters at high volume.

Which is better, coaxial or component 6×9 speakers?

Component vs coaxial 6x9 speakers image

In my opinion, the best way to answer this question depends on what really matters to you and what you need to enjoy your music. After all, you’re the best judge of what you like, right?

The short answer is that component speakers are better in terms of functionality, power handling, dome tweeter and woofer material options, and of course, they sound better.

However, that’s not what everyone needs – not everyone cares about super-crisp sound, more power handling, or better speaker crossovers.

Should I get component or coaxial 6×9 speakers?

Here’s a comparison to help you if you’re having a hard time deciding.

You should get coaxial 6×9 speakers if:

  • You have a tight budget or just need something that’s fairly good and you’re not super-picky
  • ou want an easy sound upgrade over your existing speakers
  • You’re not using an advanced sound system with amplifiers powering the speakers
  • You don’t want to do the extra work or customization needed for installing component speakers
  • You don’t have the time, tools, or money to spare on a custom installation

You should get component 6×9 speakers if:

  • Sound quality is your most important goal
  • Want to use speakers with more advanced materials (especially for the tweeters)
  • You prefer speaker crossovers with a steeper cutoff and/or tweeter volume reduction option
  • Will be doing a custom home, car stereo, or marine speaker installation with higher-end electronics
  • You want improved stereo imaging for music playback and critical listening with high-fidelity recordings
  • You would like to drive your speakers with an amplifier for extra power and clarity

Ultimately, it’s up to you. Additionally, there are some component speaker systems available that can be used a lot like component speakers, making them easier to install. You’ll save a lot of work & hassle in the process.

As I noted above, component speakers should be driven with an amplifier for the best results. You simply won’t get great sound from them using a low-power stereo unit.

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What Are Coaxial Speakers? The Coaxial Speaker Fact Guide

What are coaxial speakers featured image

You’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to speakers. As it turns out, coaxial speakers are hands-down one of the most popular types of speakers in the world. I’ve installed tons of them over the years myself!

But what are coaxial speakers? How are they different from component speakers, 2-way & 3-way systems, and standard speakers? And why are they so popular?

In this article, I’ll explain what they are, their pros and cons, and show you which coaxial speakers are the best type to buy. I’ll also show how they stack up against component speakers.

Contents

What are coaxial speakers?

What are coaxial speakers diagram & parts labeled

Coaxial speakers are a type of 2-way speaker designed to take up less space and to replace single-cone speakers. Unlike standard single-cone speakers, they include a tweeter and a crossover for improved sound. Coaxial speakers provide not only better sound but also more installation options, they save space and are a good compromise between sound quality and price.

What does coaxial speaker mean?

Coaxial speakers are 2-way speakers mounted on the same “axis” – in other words, multiple speakers built together in the same speaker assembly. Most coaxial speakers provide a woofer cone and a separate tweeter with crossover for improved sound quality over that of a standard single cone speaker.

You can think of them as a middle point between lower-end, lower-cost single cone speakers (used by manufacturers to cut cost) and component speakers (more expensive and complex, but with better sound quality). They’re a good compromise between performance, price, and ease of use.

Those are some of the reasons they’re the most popular type of speakers for car stereo systems. That, and the fact that they’re one of the easiest to install and most affordable sound upgrades you can buy.

Coaxial speakers offer several advantages:

  • Easy sound upgrade: they’re a drop-in replacement for existing poor-sounding single cone speakers.
  • More speaker manufacturing options and price ranges for buyers (different levels of tweeter quality, crossover design, cone materials, etc).
  • Somewhat similar performance to separate 2-way component speakers without the need for a bulky separate crossover box.
  • They’re very common – in fact, they’re the most popular car speaker upgrade and they’re easy to find when shopping.
  • Very affordable: good coaxial speakers can be found for around $25 and up per pair depending on the size & quality.
  • Coaxial speakers can fix the poor frequency response (missing sound frequencies) you find with single-cone speakers. You nearly always get a big improvement in sound right away!

8 ohm coaxial ceiling speakers example

Coaxial speakers are more common for car stereo use but aren’t limited to only that. 8 ohm coaxial speakers are available for both home stereos and sound from walls, the outdoors, and ceilings for music broadcast in business or other buildings, too.

Coaxial vs standard single cone speakers

Standard vs coaxial speakers comparison image with frequency response graphs

Coaxial speakers give you better sound performance than lower-end single-cone speakers – even those with a “whizzer” cone added to supposedly improve higher frequency production. They’re able to do so because unlike a standard speaker that can’t produce the full range of sound your ears can hear (and that is present in music), the additional tweeter added makes up for this. The end result is full-range music production with good high-frequency crispness.

Standard (single cone) speakers are notorious for mediocre and even lousy sound quality. That’s because, as you can see from the picture above, they’re pretty poor when it comes to the range of sound they can reproduce. A woofer cone alone can’t normally produce high frequency sounds well, if at all, and that’s a glaring weakness.

Single cone speakers can’t produce a crisp full-range sound as 2-way coaxial speakers can. Coaxial speakers are designed to improve upon standard low-fidelity speakers by producing the missing upper-frequency sound range your ears expect to let you enjoy your music the way it should be heard.

Are coaxial speakers better?

Image of confused man thinking about car speakers

The short answer is yes: coaxial speakers are better than standard speakers. However, they’re not better than most component speakers systems and some 2-way speaker systems. (More about that later)

While some cheaper standard speakers may have a “whizzer” cone added (a small 2nd cone attached to the dust cap for improved treble sound) they’re still disappointing. I’ve yet to hear one that sounded very good.

Coaxial speakers, on the other hand, use at least one additional speaker (usually a tweeter) to make up the difference and produce crisper & better-sounding higher frequencies.

In fact, in all my years of car speaker installation work I can’t recall a single basic speaker that wasn’t good enough to keep instead of replacing it with a coaxial model.

While factory-installed speakers are often very low cost, coaxial speakers – even for a nice sounding pair – aren’t expensive. You can get a great-sounding pair for $25-$30 or so these days and around $20 if you’re on an extreme budget.

As cheap as that is, you can immediately hear the difference versus factory-installed single cone speakers.

What is a 3-way coaxial speaker?

3 way coaxial speaker examples image

3-way coaxial speakers are the same but with an additional speaker added (usually another tweeter). They offer a slightly different design, especially for extended tweeter performance. I’ve seen some (usually lower quality brands) with a fake 3rd speaker for marketing purposes.

3 way coaxial speakers are simply 2-way coaxial speakers with an additional speaker, usually a tweeter, added for extended or enhanced sound production. These aren’t necessarily better than 2-way coaxial speakers but sometimes offer better performance and sound.

For example, 3-way models typically use a very small piezo tweeter that can produce treble sound at higher frequencies or with better quality for certain ranges to supplement the main tweeter. For well-designed models, you can get better sound quality & performance than more basic 2-way models.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re better in general. In fact, a quality and well-designed 2-way coaxial speaker can sound excellent! Like many other things, it comes down to the quality and the design details.

Tip: I recommend spending your time and money for a very good  2-way coaxial speaker. Don’t spend the effort on search for a 3-way coaxial speaker on the assumption that they’re better.

3-way coaxial speakers with a fake tweeter

One strange thing I’ve run across with lower-end brands is that in some cases, speakers sold as 3-way coaxials may actually be 2-way. Some speakers I’ve seen include a fake miniature tweeter, simply a plastic placeholder, to give you the impression they’re more sophisticated than they really are.

If you stick with reputable brands, though, that won’t be a problem.

What is the difference between coaxial and component speakers?

Coaxial vs component speakers

There are several differences between coaxial speakers and component speakers you should know:

  • Coaxial speakers fit the entire 2-way speaker system into a single speaker assembly. Most component speaker systems (aside from a few rare designs) are separate and everything has to be mounted individually.
  • Coaxial speakers, in order to keep costs down and fit into a small space, have some compromises: a basic -6dB/octave crossover for the tweeter and many use a lower-cost tweeter material. Component speakers, however, have better crossovers (-12dB/octave minimum, usually) and better tweeter materials like silk, aluminum, or others.
  • Coaxial speakers tend to have lower power ratings (say 35W-65W RMS) while component speakers tend to have higher power rating limits. (65W-100W RMS or higher).
  • Component speakers, because of their design, offer better sound quality and clarity than coaxial speakers. Coaxials are good, but many are average (however, still much better than standard single-cone speakers).
  • Coaxial speakers are simple to install and use but component speakers aren’t.

I should also add that it’s far easier to find coaxial speakers in a retail store nearby than it is to find component speakers. Coaxial speakers, as I mentioned earlier, are much more popular and because of it, many stores keep them in stock.

Even your local department store, auto parts store, and “mom and pop” electronics stores probably has some on the shelf.

Coaxial speaker vs component speaker crossover comparison

Coaxial vs component speaker crossover comparison diagram

A comparison of the kinds of crossovers used in most coaxial and component speakers. Because they use a more advanced design and more parts, component speakers sound better than coaxials. That’s because they’re able to better block unwanted sound frequencies from going to the wrong speaker.

As I mentioned earlier, component speakers use more advanced crossovers in most cases. They use a higher “order” crossover, meaning that the level at which they cut off unwanted sound frequencies is better (steeper).

For example, most coaxials use a single capacitor to the tweeter mounted on top and use none at all for the woofer. Instead, they use a lower-cost design that relies on the fact that most woofers “roll off” (stop producing) higher frequencies naturally. Despite that, some treble will always get through and affect the sound quality a little bit.

Component speakers, on the other hand, have an external crossover with more advanced circuitry that blocks unwanted frequencies to both the tweeter and the woofer. The end result is better speaker performance and sound, higher volume without distortion, and more clarity.

Not only that, but some component speaker crossovers include a built-in setting to reduce the tweeter volume if it’s too bright (too harsh sounding) to you. Some also may include built-in fusing to prevent you from accidentally blowing the tweeters at high volume.

Coaxial speakers are great for “good enough” budgets

As far as price is concerned, component speakers start at about the same price as a very good pair of coaxial speakers. You’re simply going to pay less for coaxial speakers and have a lot more options to choose from depending on what you can afford.

For example, I installed quite a few “meh” quality coaxial speakers in cars, trucks, and even boats over the years. They’re good enough for many people yet still within reach of what they could afford when you add in the cost of installation.

Which is better, coaxial or component speakers?

Which is better component or coaxial speakers

In my opinion, the best way to answer this question depends on what the definition of “better” means to you. After all, you’re the best judge of what you like, right?

When it comes down to it, component speakers are better in terms of functionality, power handling, tweeter and woofer material options, and of course, they sound better.

However, that’s not what everyone needs – not everyone cares about super-crisp sound, more power handling, or better speaker crossovers. Perhaps the best thing for me to do is to simplify it with a short comparison below.

Should I get component or coaxial speakers?

Here’s a comparison to help you decide if you’re unsure.

You should get coaxial speakers if:

  • You have a tight budget or just need something that’s fairly good and you’re not super-picky
  • You want an easy sound upgrade over your existing speakers
  • You’re not using an advanced sound system with amplifiers powering the speakers
  • You don’t want to do the extra work or customization needed for installing component speakers
  • You don’t have the time, tools, or money to spare on a custom installation

You should get component speakers if:

  • Sound quality is your most important goal
  • Want to use speakers with more advanced materials (especially for the tweeters)
  • You prefer speaker crossovers with a steeper cutoff and/or tweeter volume reduction option
  • Will be doing a custom home, car stereo, or marine speaker installation with higher-end electronics
  • You want improved stereo imaging for music playback and critical listening with high-fidelity recordings
  • You would like to drive your speakers with an amplifier for extra power and clarity

Ultimately, it’s up to you. Additionally, there are some component speaker systems available that can be used a lot like component speakers, making them easier to install. You’ll save a lot of work & hassle in the process.

As I noted above, component speakers should be driven with an amplifier for the best results. You simply won’t get great sound from them using a low-power stereo unit.

Coaxial style component speaker set example

An example of a component speaker set (in this case by speaker company MB Quart) that can be put together to work like a coaxial speaker for easier installation and using less space.

How to pick coaxial speakers

Coaxial speakers to buy examples and comparison image

There are a number of things you should know before shopping for coaxial speakers, many of which depend on your installation needs, sound quality wishes, budget, and car or outdoor vehicle use. And of course, it goes without saying you’ll want to get the correct size if you’re replacing speakers.

Here are some helpful tips I have as both an installer and a sound fanatic:

  • Vehicles with tight speaker room: (And this is important!) Don’t buy replacement speakers with giant and oversized magnets as in many cases the new speakers won’t fit. If the speakers are too large it may hit the interior of the dashboard, enclosure, or other surface and you won’t be able to install it. Slim-mount coaxial speakers are often the answer for very limited installation space.
  • Sound quality: If you’re a sound quality fan or audiophile like I am, you’ll want to avoid coaxials with mylar tweeters. They’re not “bad”, however, better tweeter types like silk dome, aluminum dome, and others sound much better, smoother, and won’t sound harsh. You’ll usually pay a bit more, however. Unfortunately, mylar tweeter coaxials are the most common type.
  • Marine, motorcycle, Jeep, and outdoor vehicle use: You’ll want to avoid standard speakers with a paper cone material or similar as they’re prone to damage from humidity or moisture. Consider plastic cone speakers, especially marine-rate as they’ll last longer and sound good as expected.
  • Brand names are best: There’s nothing wrong per se with buying no-name-brand speakers, however, they have higher defect rates, worse design (and worse sound), and tend to be a bit more difficult to install sometimes.
  • Get the best you can afford: I recommend overlooking $25 etc speakers (unless you’re nearly broke) and instead spend closer to $50 or higher if possible. There’s a big difference in quality and sound. For about $65 you can get some wonderful-sounding coaxial speakers that you’ll love and will last a long time.
  • Check the speaker’s hole dimensions: It’s always a good idea to be sure that the diameter of a speaker will fit. Check the specs and measure the old speaker opening by measuring it before buying replacements.
  • Watch out for coaxials with tweeters poking out too far. In some cases, I’ve seen coaxial speakers with tweeters that extend way too far out vertically. The end result was that I couldn’t install a speaker grill over them. Be sure to check the old speaker versus the new one you’re thinking about buying.

There are so many speakers to choose from that it’s headache-inducing almost! My advice mainly is to avoid mylar dome tweeter speakers if you can find affordable alternatives.

Silk and aluminum dome (or other advanced material) models from brands like Polk, JBL, Kicker, Infinity, Alpine, and similar are excellent.

For budget options, Pioneer, Rockford Fosgate, Alpine, and Kenwood have some good choices, too.

Be careful which speakers you buy if you own a motorcycle, open-back Jeep Wrangler, or other vehicles exposed to outside air and humidity. Speakers that aren’t moisture resistant can begin to absorb moisture and deteriorate over time. Polymer/mica, metal, carbon fiber, and plastic-type cone speakers usually hold up well.

Do you need an amp for coaxial speakers?

Coaxial speaker and car amplifier installation example image

The truth is that you don’t need an amplifier for coaxial speakers. However, you’ll get even better sound, lower distortion, and potentially more enjoyment (and more volume) out of them if you use one.

Car and home receivers have enough power to drive coaxial speakers with fairly good volume and clarity up to a point. Car stereo head units are very limited in their power output – on average, you’ll get a maximum of about 15-18 watts per channel out of one.

To make matters worse, they’ll begin to distort and “bottom out” quickly if you play music with heavy bass. This sounds terrible! Using an amplifier (and its built-in high-pass crossover) can make an amazing difference in volume and clarity.

You’ll be fine for every day listening to coaxial speakers at a moderate to moderately high volume with a good car stereo head unit. If you’d like to add an amplifier, I recommend using one with a minimum of 50W RMS per channel and a high-pass crossover option.

How hard you can push coaxial car speakers with an amp?

Coaxial speakers should be treated like other speakers. The amount of power they can take from an amp will be limited by:

  • The RMS power rating of the speaker
  • Whether or not you’re driving them with heavy low-end bass in the music
  • Clipping from the amplifier (hitting the output limit of the amplifier, driving it to clipping)

Ultimately, you’ll get close to, but not all the way, to the RMS power rating for the speakers assuming it’s accurately stated by the manufacturer.

If you really want to drive them hard, you’ll want to (1) use an amplifier capable of more power per channel than the speakers to avoid clipping, and (2) use a high-pass crossover to block low-end bass.

What to set the high pass filter to on coaxial speakers

Coaxial speaker amplifier high pass crossover setting example

For better sound and volume, you’ll want to use the high-pass crossover built into your car amp. I recommend about 56 to 60Hz as a good compromise between blocking low-end bass that causes distortion and still allowing music to pass.

For coaxial speakers, I recommend setting your amplifier’s high-pass crossover somewhere between 56 to 60Hz or close to it. That’s enough to let the lower end of musical frequencies pass but still block distortion-causing bass that should be sent to subwoofers.

It doesn’t have to be exact. If your amplifier has an adjustable crossover frequency dial, it’s near impossible to get it exactly right, so don’t worry about that. Get it close to that based on the labels on the dial.

Basically, anywhere under 80Hz or so is fine, but based on my experience I recommend it’s a bit lower. Whatever works best for your ears is good too, of course.

Bass that’s very hard on small speakers is located below 60Hz so preventing it from getting to them is the most important thing.

More helpful speaker info, diagrams, and ideas to read

Check out my other articles as I’m sure you’ll find something useful!

Questions, comments, or suggestions?

Got questions, comments, or feedback? Feel free to leave a comment below or you can use my Contact page.

How To Tell The Impedance Of A Speaker And Understanding Speaker Ohms

How to tell the impedance of a speaker featured image

We take for granted how certain stereos and amplifiers need  2, 4, or 8 ohm speakers to work right. But what is speaker impedance?

And how can you tell the impedance of a speaker if it’s not on the speaker or you can’t find it?

Great news – it’s not that hard! In this helpful article, I’ll explain how speaker impedance works, how you can measure speaker impedance (Ohms), and much more.

There’s also a handy speaker Ohms chart to help you identify what impedance your speaker is to know for sure.

Contents

How to tell the impedance of a speaker

Let’s cover the main ideas before going into more detail as I cover each topic more.

How to find a speaker's impedance
  • If the Ohm rating (impedance) is not available on the speaker, you must measure the impedance of a speaker using a test meter set to the Ohms (resistance) function. This will give the resistance of the voice coil which will let you determine the speaker’s impedance category. (see below for more detail)
  • A speaker’s impedance is usually listed on the speaker magnet, packaging, and/or box and specifications. This is not always the case, however, as it depends on the manufacturer and model.
  • The total impedance changes with frequency as speakers don’t act like resistors but instead have inductance which opposes the flow of current as the audio signal frequency increases. You can calculate impedance based on the formulas included here. Note: you won’t need this just to determine the general impedance range of your speakers.

Long story short, if your speaker doesn’t have the impedance listed anywhere or you can’t find the manufacturer’s specs, the best thing to do is to measure it. That way you can be 100% certain and avoid problems with your stereo, amplifier, and crossovers.

You definitely don’t want to use a speaker with lower impedance than expected as it’s possible to damage your stereo or amplifier permanently!

What is speaker impedance? (Speaker Ohm ratings explained)

What is speaker impedance diagram

Speaker impedance, measured in Ohms, is the voice coil’s total resistance to the flow of electric current as it operates with a musical signal.

Unlike standard electrical conductors, the voice coil’s wire winding forms a loop that has an electrical property called inductance. Inductance is different from resistance as it changes as the frequency changes. This is called inductive reactance.

How does speaker impedance work?

Magnetic fields are created as current flows through the tightly wound wire coil. These fields have an opposition (resistance, also called reactance) to the current flowing through the coil wire. (Similarly, many other electrical components like motors have this too).

Because of how inductance works and the physics involved, the speaker “impedance” (total resistance) isn’t a simple addition of the resistance and the inductive reactance together.

Instead, speaker impedance is found from the algebraic sum (the square root of the sum of the squares) of the coil’s wire resistance and the inductive reactance.

Inductive reactance is commonly written as “Xl”, pronounced “X sub L” and is measured in units of Ohms just like resistance. Inductance is measured using a unit called the “Henrie” and commonly noted with an “H”: “uH” for microHenries, “mH” for milliHendries, and so on.

How to calculate speaker impedance

How to calculate speaker impedance diagram

If you’re a math person, you can see here how speaker impedance is calculated. As I mentioned, it’s the geometric sum of the resistance in the voice copper wire winding and the inductive reactance at a given frequency.

The most important thing to understand about speaker impedance is:

  • The speaker impedance is always equal to or greater than the voice coil wire resistance. You can measure this with an Ohm meter.
  • The impedance number on a speaker is a general guideline for compatibility, not exactly what the speaker measures.
  • The impedance changes slightly (goes up) as the frequency being played increases.

In fact, if you were to use a test meter to measure the Ohms (impedance) of the voice coil on a speaker, you’d find a reading of about 3.2-3.6 ohms or so for a 4 ohm speaker and 6 ohms or higher for an 8 ohm speaker.

Example of calculating speaker impedance

Let’s take an example. We’ll use an example speaker and real-world specifications then do the math.

Calculating speaker impedance example parameters used

Example parameters to use from a real speaker for the voice coil’s resistance (Re) and the winding’s inductance (Le).

Example of calculating the speaker impedance using 1kHz as the frequency:

  1. Calculate the inductive reactance. Use the formula given earlier Xl = 2*Pi*Le*frequency: 2*3.14159*.000028*1,000 = 0.1759 Ohms (Ω)
  2. Find the total impedance (represented by “Z”). Find the root of the sum of the squares of both Re and Xl: Z = ( (3.0)^2 + (0.1759)^2)^-1 = 3.005 Ohms (Ω)

Therefore, for our example speaker, the total impedance at 1kHz is 3.005 Ω, only a tiny bit higher than the voice coil’s own resistance.

This is because (1) most speakers have a very small amount of inductance, and (2) speakers work in the audio range and no higher than 20kHz, meaning the inductive reactance will be limited.

Speaker impedance due to the resonant frequency

That’s not to say that speakers never have a high impedance. In fact, at their resonant frequency where they behave differently, the impedance can be HUGE! In fact, as high as 50 ohms. However, that’s a separate topic.

(Note: as you see from the example speaker’s specs, the parameter “Fs” tells us the resonant frequency of 84.8Hz is where that happens for this particular speaker)

How to measure speaker impedance

How to measure speaker impedance with an Ohm meter example

In this picture, you can see an example of how to measure speaker impedance using an Ohm meter or any standard test meter set to measure resistance in Ohms. To do so, set it to the lowest range that measures units of 1, 0-10, 0-20, or auto-ranging and the meter will measure it accordingly. Hold the test probe leads firmly against clean metal on the speaker terminals with speaker wire removed.

To measure the impedance of a speaker you’ll need a multimeter (test meter with multiple functions) or a dedicated Ohm (resistance) meter.

Use the following steps:

  1. Switch on the meter and set it to measure Ohms on the lowest range. This is often the x1 range, 0-10, 0-20, or auto-ranging setting.
  2. Disconnect one or both speaker wires from the speaker to avoid a false reading due to other resistance that may be connected to it.
  3. Hold the probes firmly against the speaker terminals on a clean, bare metal spot. The meter should quickly settle to a reading. The meter will show the resistance of the voice coil inside the speaker.
  4. Use the measured value to determine the closest approximate speaker impedance (see my chart below for help).
  5. For speakers inside a cabinet or enclosure such 2-way speakers, crossovers may be in use and these can interfere with this reading with a few exceptions. However, in many cases, you still measure the resistance of a woofer fairly well.

The important thing to bear in mind is that you won’t measure exactly 4 ohms, 8 ohms, etc. Speakers are given an impedance rating for stereo purposes that are approximate – or close to – what you’ll measure with a test meter.

Note: Speakers like tweeters with a capacitor connected inline with them will act as an open circuit and will interfere with your measurement.

See my notes below for how to measure those correctly.

Selecting the correct resistance (Ohm) range for speakers

Image showing examples of test meter resistance setting for measuring speaker impedance

Shown are some example test meter resistance range settings to use for typical test meters.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to use the correct resistance range on your meter when measuring speaker impedance. that’s because the wrong setting may display nothing or give you the wrong idea that perhaps the speaker is blown when it isn’t.

If you’re not sure, check the test meter’s manual. Many modern digital meters often have an auto setting that will automatically adjust for the Ohm measurement it detects and will display the reading & decimal places accordingly. Other meters require you to select the correct range manually.

As a general rule, use the lowest range that includes 0-10 ohms (or similar) then go up if necessary.

That should almost never happen – but in the case of a poor connection, blown (or almost blown) speaker, strange things can happen and you might get a reading that’s far outside the speaker’s normal impedance.

In my experience, however, that’s very rare.

Once you’ve got your measurement, use my speaker impedance chart to find the next closest speaker impedance value listed.

How to measure speaker impedance when there is a crossover

Diagram showing where to measure speaker impedance of tweeters with crossover

Tweeters are one of the most common types of speakers with a crossover. To measure speaker impedance on them, you’ll need to place the test meter’s probes around the capacitor crossover. Otherwise, the reading will be an open circuit or far too high.

Measuring speaker impedance where crossovers are used is a bit of a problem. That’s because capacitors, which are commonly on tweeters as a high-pass filter, act as an open circuit when measuring resistance.

Obviously that’s a problem as you’ll never get a correct reading if you use the test leads on the speaker wiring.

To avoid this, you’ll want to measure around the capacitor, if used, which is normally on the positive speaker terminal. You should be able to then get a correct reading.

For 2-way speakers, in many cases, no crossover is used on the woofer. In some cases, there’s an inductor in series with it. The good news is that directly reading resistance across a speaker and an inductor doesn’t make much difference – inductors have a tiny resistance value. In fact, they’re usually in milliOhms (thousandths of an Ohm) which is almost nothing.

Diagram showing where to measure speaker impedance with crossover use

For 2-way crossovers, the same applies, too. Following the diagram above, your main concern is avoiding measuring across capacitors.

Speaker impedance example chart (use with speaker measurements)

Speaker impedance label and ohm meter examples

An 8 ohm speaker, in the real world, will have a resistance measurement less than its 8 ohm rating. That’s normal and is due to how the speaker is made. Speakers do not have exact impedance values but instead will fall into a general range close to their rating. You can use that range to identify their impedance if you don’t know it.

To use this chart, take the speaker resistance measurement you got from the instructions earlier and use it to compare to the measurements here. You’ll see your speaker should fall into of the commonly sold speaker impedance standards.

Speaker impedance measurement chart

Speaker measurement range*Speaker impedance rating
3.1-4.0 ohms4 ohm
6.0-8 ohms8 ohm
1.2-2 ohms2 ohms
4.0-6 ohms6 ohms
0.5-1.0 ohms1 ohm**
12-16 ohms16 ohms**

*(This is an approximate range and should cover nearly all speakers but may vary slightly)
**(1 ohm is rare but can be found in some car stereo products such as Bose premium amplified systems. 16 ohm speakers may sometimes be used for home or other speaker systems, but aren’t very common)

What happens if my speaker impedance is too low or too high?

4 ohm vs 8 ohm speaker power comparison graph

This graph shows what happens when a higher impedance speaker is used with an amplifier or stereo rated for a lower impedance speaker. As this example shows, using an 8 ohm speaker in the place of 4 ohm ones means it will develop 1/2 the power and consequently, lower volume than a 4 ohm speaker.

Using a speaker that’s not matched to the stereo or amplifier it’s rated for can have relatively minor – or even horrible – results depending on which case we’re talking about:

  • Using a higher impedance speaker won’t damage equipment. The result will be lower power developed and therefore lower possible volume. You may also introduce problems with speaker crossovers, however.
  • Using a lower than specified impedance speaker will cause radios or amps to suffer extreme heat and even permanent damage because the current output will be much more than what it’s designed for.

For example, if you were to use 8 ohm speakers in the place of 4 ohm car stereo speakers you won’t damage anything, as less current will flow to the speaker. The problem will be (although it will play fine, otherwise) is that the total power available will be 1/2 that of a 4 ohm speaker.

Ohm’s Law and speaker power

Car amplifier power output formulas image

A radio or amplifier is designed to output a certain voltage level for a given volume and so higher impedance speakers won’t have the same power available at the same volume level. That’s because the power to a speaker depends on the voltage available.

By the electrical formulas called Ohm’s Law, P (power, in Watts) = Voltage^2/R (speaker Ohms)

For a low volume (2V output from an amplifier) a 4 ohm speaker would have 1W of power available. An 8 ohm speaker, however, would have only 1/2W. That means for the same amplifier or radio volume, higher impedance speakers can’t produce the same volume.

How does speaker impedance affect sound?

Using the wrong speaker impedance can affect the sound in a few ways:

  • If you mix and match 4 ohm tweeters with 8 ohm woofers, for example, they’ll be mismatched and at some point won’t sound right as the power increases because their volume levels won’t be the same.
  • Using the wrong speaker impedance with speaker crossovers can have a very big impact on the crossover frequency (it will be shift a lot) and will dramatically affect the sound output. Your speakers won’t sound right, can have a lot more distortion, and will generally be much less pleasant to listen to.

What happens to a car stereo if a speaker has a lower impedance than the stereo is rated for?

Using a lower impedance speaker than your stereo or amplifier is rated for is a terrible idea and should never be done! That’s because it’s not designed to handle the excessive amount of current it will have to supply thanks to the decreased resistance of the lower speaker impedance.

If you’re lucky the unit will go into “protect mode” in which it shuts off until the condition is removed and it’s safe to operate. However, from my experience, many electronics become extremely hot and can burn out their output transistors meaning they’re permanently damaged.

Don’t risk it! Always check the minimum Ohm rating of your equipment and be sure to follow it. Never assume the amp, radio, or receiver, etc, will be able to protect itself from damage.

Speaker impedance and crossovers – yes, it’s important!

2 way speaker system and crossover diagram

Crossovers are designed for a specific speaker impedance. Changing the speaker impedance means you’re changing how they function and shifts the crossover frequency, giving worse sound and potentially adding distortion that wasn’t there before.

When using speaker crossovers, it’s really important to understand that you can’t change the speaker load (speaker impedance they see connected) as the results won’t be good.

Changing a 4 ohm speaker to an 8 ohm one, or vice versa, will have a huge impact on the sound because the crossover cutoff frequency will change greatly since it depends critically on the speaker load used.

As a general rule:

  • Doubling the speaker impedance will halve (decrease) the crossover frequency.
  • Halving the speaker impedance will double (raise) the frequency cutoff.

For tweeters, increasing the tweeter impedance means you’ll be allowing in more bass & midrange, leading to poor sound since tweeters can’t produce those ranges. For woofers, that means introducing poor-sounding midrange or treble that they’re not suitable for.

In both cases, just remember that the crossover frequency changes inversely proportional to the speaker load you’ve increased or decreased.

Note: When reducing tweeter volume, using an L-pad or properly designed L-pad resistor network will properly maintain the speaker load the crossover sees so it won’t affect the sound.

More great speaker-related articles you’ll love

Check out my other articles as I’m sure you’ll find something useful!

Questions, comments, or suggestions?

Got questions, comments, or feedback? Feel free to leave a comment below or you can reach me directly via my Contact page here.

How Do Speakers Work? A Speaker Guide For Everyone – With Diagrams

How do speakers work featured image

Have you ever been listening to music and wondered, “How do speakers work?” The problem is that while there are plenty of articles out there, they’re just not very good.

To help, I’ve decided to do something about it! In this detailed article, using clear explanations and diagrams, I’ll explain how they work along with:

  • The parts inside a speaker
  • Single cone vs coaxial speakers
  • 2 way and 3-way speakers explained
  • Speaker crossovers
  • What speaker impedance, sensitivity, and frequency response mean
Contents

First things first: What is inside a speaker?

Diagram showing speaker parts and close up examples
Shown here is a speaker diagram labeled with its parts inside shown for understanding. Nearly all standard magnet-driven speakers have the same basic design: a magnet, voice coil or coils, a speaker cone, and some other supporting parts.

While there are some unique and unusual speakers out there, nearly all speakers, regardless of  their size or sound function, use the same basic design and parts.

What is inside a speaker?

Most speakers are made of the following parts that work together to create sound:

  • Permanent magnet: A magnet is used to provide a fixed magnetic field surrounding the voice coil to make movement possible.
  • Voice coil and bobbin: The bobbin is a round tube attached to the bottom of the speaker cone. A very long and tightly wound coil of wire, called the voice coil, creates a magnetic field as electricity flows through it from the musical signal from an amplifier.
  • Spider: the spider is a wavy-shaped thin woven material that supports the voice coil bobbin assembly and helps push the cone back in place as it moves.
  • Speaker cone & dust cap: the speaker cone is a cone-shaped stiff material that’s moved by the magnet & voice coil together to move air & create sound. The dust cap is a thin material (like a “cap”) that covers the opening in the speaker cone to keep out dust & dirt.
  • Speaker basket: the basket is a cast metal or stamped metal frame that the speaker parts attach to an keeps everything aligned. It also provides a way to mount the speaker assembly to a box.
  • Speaker terminals & braided wire: speaker terminals are metal tabs or connectors that connect speaker wire to the speaker. These connect to the voice coil using a flexible braided wire that moves with the speaker cone.
  • Surround: this is a flexible and durable circular material (usually rubber or some type of foam) that attaches the top edge of the speaker cone to the basket.

What does a speaker cone do?

Speaker cone example labeled

A speaker cone is the main speaker component responsible for creating sound by moving air back and forth rapidly. These are typically made of a lightweight but stiff material such as pressed paper, plastics, carbon fiber, or even thin metal.

The speaker “cone” name refers to its shape: an inverted cone shape with a central opening where the bobbin & voice coil assembly is attached. A dust cap is attached to the cone over this opening at the bottom to prevent contaminants from getting inside.

Speaker cone types vary by the type of speaker. For example, subwoofers produce very large bass sound waves and substantial air movement and need a thicker, more rigid design.

By contrast, tweeters use a very small, dome-shaped, and lightweight design for higher-frequency performance because this sound range uses smaller sound waves.

As electric current flows through the voice coil, a magnetic field is created that moves the cone away from or towards the permanent magnet. This creates sound from the movement of air as the speaker cone moves.

What does a speaker magnet do?

Labeled example of a speaker magnet

Speaker magnets are usually a permanent magnet with a thin circular gap in which the voice coil is suspended. The magnet provides fixed magnetic fields the voice coil can move towards or away from to move the speaker cone.

The purpose of a speaker magnet is to provide a fixed magnetic field area that the voice coil can move towards and away from (alternating) to move the cone and create sound.

A permanent magnet (usually ceramic or neodymium) is most commonly used. Neodymium magnets are are stronger for their size (denser magnetic fields) but ceramic magnets, while larger, are more cost-effective. That’s one reason why ceramic magnets are more popular for speaker use.

The magnet is designed to provide a small circular gap in which the voice coil is suspended to keep it close to the magnet’s polarized fields. Some, but not all, speaker magnets have a hole in the center to help keep the voice coil cool during high power handling.

What is a dual voice coil speaker?

Dual voice coil subwoofer speaker example

Dual voice coil speakers offer a second voice coil winding in the same speaker and on the same voice coil bobbin assembly. These types of speakers allow some additional options that single voice coil speakers do not:

  • Flexibility in how they’re wired (2 ohms, 4 ohms, 8 ohms, etc) for better compatibility with amplifiers and stereo receivers.
  • For subwoofers or other larger speakers, you can power them with more wiring configurations or even 2 amplifiers each which you can’t do with single voice coil models.
  • These can be driven with 2 channels from amplifiers that can’t be bridged for more power.

You’ll most often find subwoofers that are available in a dual voice coil version for a little bit more money.

While they offer more wiring configuration options, dual voice coil (DVC) speakers don’t offer better performance than their single voice coil (SVC) counterparts.

Additionally, speakers like tweeters for treble sound and midrange speakers for instrument & vocals aren’t normally made in a dual voice coil version.

Dual voice coil speaker bobbin examples

Examples of two speaker bobbins with dual voice coils. Left: the two coils are not together while (right) on this example woofer they’re layered one on top of the other.

How do speakers work? Step by step explanation + animated diagram

How do speakers work animated diagram image GIF

In this animated diagram, you can see how a speaker works. A stereo or amplifier drives the speaker with an electrical signal that alternates from positive to negative in the shape of the musical signal.

As it does so, electric current flows through the speaker’s voice coil, creating a magnetic field that causes it to move toward or away from the magnet as it changes from positive to negative. This moves the speaker cone that creates sound waves as the air moves rapidly. Speakers use alternating current (AC).

How does a speaker work? A step by step explanation diagram

how does a speaker work step by step diagram

Speakers (also referred to as loudspeakers, a name from the older days) use an alternating current (AC) electrical power signal and are driven by a stereo or amplifier.

The electrical signal to the speaker is an amplified voltage that’s a duplicate of the original musical signal from an audio source but with enough power to drive the speakers with a good volume.

Here’s a step-by-step detail of how speakers work:

  1. (Starting from the zero output point) An output voltage representing the musical waveform starts and begins to rise. The electrical current starts flowing through the speaker’s voice coil from the positive side to the negative side.
  2. A magnetic field is created around the voice coil and is the same polarity as the permanent magnet attached to the speaker basket (frame). (Remember that identical magnetic fields repel and opposites attract)
  3. The cone begins moving forward and pushes air, creating sound.
  4. As the electrical signal voltage rises towards the top of the sine wave in the musical signal, the current increases, and the voice coil increases its magnetic field strength.
  5. This pushes the speaker cone out even further.
  6. The signal passes the highest output point and begins to fall. The current starts to fall also and the cone will begin to return closer to its off (zero voltage) position.
  7. The signal reaches zero (also called the “zero voltage crossover threshold”) and the cone is back where it started.
  8. The electrical signal begins to reverse as it changes to a negative voltage. When this happens, current flows from the negative voice coil side to the positive, creating a reversed polarity magnetic field.
  9. The voice coil magnetic field is now the opposite of the permanent magnet which attracts it and the cone begins to move from front to rear (instead of the original rear to front).
  10. As the signal continues the speaker cone moves in reverse, creating the other half of the sound waves created by the movement of air.
  11. The amp or stereo output returns to zero and the next audio signal begins as the new signal output voltage starts to rise, with the cycle starting over again.

In a matter of speaking, speakers are just an electric motor of sorts: they do work (moving air using a cone) which duplicates an electrical signal and changes it into a mechanical output in the form of sound you can hear.

Sometimes speakers are referred to, in scientific terms, as transducers. This just means they’re an electrical device that converts electrical signals to sound.

What does speaker impedance mean? (Speaker Ohm ratings explained)

What is speaker impedance diagram

Speaker impedance, measured in Ohms, is the total resistance to the flow of electric current through a speaker voice coil.

Unlike standard conductors, as the voice coil is tightly wound in a coil the makes this complicates things because it adds inductance. Inductance is different from resistance as it changes as the frequency changes and this is called inductive reactance.

In other words, when the magnetic fields of the voice coil are created they oppose the flow of electrical current a bit.

Because of the property of physics and how inductance works, the speaker “impedance” (total resistance) isn’t the sum of the resistance and the inductive reactance – it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Instead, it’s the algebraic sum (the square root of the sum of the squares) of each. Inductive reactance is commonly written as “Xl” and is measured in Ohms just like standard resistance.

Speaker impedance formula

How to calculate speaker impedance diagram

If you like fancy math, you can see here how speaker impedance is calculated. It is the geometric sum of the resistance in the voice copper wire winding and the resistance caused by its inductance at a given frequency.

The most important thing to understand about speaker impedance is:

  • The speaker impedance is always equal to or greater than the voice coil wire resistance. You can measure this with an Ohm meter.
  • The impedance number on a speaker is a general guideline for compatibility, not exactly what the speaker measures.
  • The impedance changes slightly (goes up) as the frequency being played increases.

In fact, if you were to use a test meter to measure the Ohms (impedance) of the voice coil on a speaker, you’d find a reading of about 3.2-3.6 ohms or so for a 4 ohm speaker and 6 ohms or higher for an 8 ohm speaker.

Image showing an example of how to test speaker ohms with a multimeter

Image showing how to measure speaker impedance with an Ohm meter. This measures only the direct current (DC) resistance of the wire in the voice coil, not the total impedance of it with music playing due to inductance. however, it will be very close in most cases and you can tell the speaker Ohm category (4 ohms, 8 ohms, etc).

Where did 4 ohm and 8 ohm speakers come from?

4 ohm speakers (and sometimes 2 ohm) are most commonly used for car stereo systems. The practice began long ago when radios and speakers were first installed from the factory when cars were built. Because only a lower voltage (12V) is available to power them in cars, it’s more difficult to produce power for the speaker than it is for home stereos where plenty of voltage is available.

4 or 2 ohms allows more power to be delivered to speakers with simple & basic electronics as you’ll find in car stereos.

In this way, 4 ohm speakers became the unofficial standard for car speakers as cars came from the factory with them. Over the years, aftermarket manufacturers followed the same practice too and it became common.

Likewise, 8 ohms is most commonly used for home stereo system speakers. Home stereos are powered by a higher voltage source (110V like in the USA) so they’re easier to design and can power higher impedance (8 ohm) speakers easily. 

Similar to car stereo radios back in the day, 8 ohm speakers became common and sort of became an unofficial standard for home stereo systems as well.

What is speaker frequency response and speaker sensitivity?

What is speaker frequency response?

Example speaker frequency response graph with explanation labeled

An example of a typical speaker frequency response graph is shown here. Speakers aren’t perfect and don’t produce a perfectly even volume over the range of sound we can hear. Because of that, it’s helpful to know their frequency response – or how they perform over the range of music frequencies – to pick the right speaker or correct problems in the sound performance.

Speaker frequency response is the measured performance of a speaker, in decibels (dB) of volume, over a range of sound frequencies. This is usually the 20 Hertz (Hz) to 20 kiloHertz (KHz) range used as the standard for audio speakers.

The 20-20kHz range is used because it’s the range of sound a human with good hearing can perceive and music is often recorded within.

Speaker frequency response is helpful for several reasons:

  • Matching speakers together for 2 or 3-way systems
  • Choosing the best performing speakers for an audio design
  • Designing speaker systems and speaker crossovers
  • Using audio equipment such as an equalizer or digital signal processor (DSP) to correct areas where the speaker produces too much (a peak) or not enough (a dip)

While some speakers include a graph or other specifications to help you understand how they perform, not all do. It’s something you’ll usually find from retailers who stock bare speakers for more advanced speaker design.

Most off-the-shelf car or home speakers don’t include the actual response graph but instead an approximate range instead. More expensive speakers may do so, however.

If you have the right equipment you can also measure it yourself at home using a real-time analyzer (RTA) program and a high-quality microphone for this purpose.

What is speaker sensitivity?

Diagram showing how speaker sensitivity is measured

A speaker’s sensitivity is a measurement made by the manufacturer. It’s a measurement of the volume produced at a fixed sound frequency and (usually) with 1 watt of power is delivered to the speaker at 1 meter (3.28 feet) from the test microphone.

Speaker sensitivity is a manufacturer-provided specification useful for comparing or matching speakers. It’s a measurement of the volume produced, in decibels (dB), from a speaker at 1 meter (3.28 feet) from a test microphone for a single frequency.

The sensitivity parameter is usually expressed as “89dB @ 1W/1M” for example.

In most cases, the standard measurement is the dB volume at one watt of power at 1 meter distance and often a sound frequency like 1KHz (depending on the type of speaker) may be used.

The sensitivity varies from speaker to speaker, with tweeters being more “efficient” (producing more sound at the same power level) than others and with subwoofers being less efficient as they need more power to move the heavy cone and create sound.

Subwoofers tend to have a sensitivity around 87dB, midrange speakers around 89dB or so, and tweeters as high at 93-102dB depending on the type.

Sensitivity measurement differences

Sensitivity is sometimes measured slightly differently. That’s because a different voltage is needed for 4 ohm vs 8 ohm speakers to produce the same amount of power as the resistance in Ohms (speaker impedance) is different.

Therefore less current flows through an 8 ohm speaker, causing it to receive less power for the same voltage as a 4 ohm speaker.

In that case, a sensitivity of dB at 2.83V/1M may be used for 8 ohm speakers. At 2.83V an 8 ohm speaker develops 1 watt of power. Similarly, for 4 ohm speakers, a dB of 2V/1M may be used.

These measurements aren’t really standardized in the speaker industry, so the measurements provided by a manufacturer may be “1W/M” or “xV/M”, depending on what they happen to provide. When using this measurement to compare or match speakers it’s important to pay attention to this.

What are coaxial speakers?

What are coaxial speakers diagram & parts labeled

Coaxial speakers are type of 2-way speaker designed to take up less space and to replace single-cone speakers. They usually include a separate tweeter and one or more crossovers built-in. Coaxial speakers provide improved sound over a single cone speaker and allow more pricing choices and installation options.

Coaxial speakers are 2-way speakers mounted on the same “axis” or in the same speaker assembly. Most coaxial speakers provide a woofer cone and add a separate tweeter with crossover for improved sound quality & frequency response versus a standard single cone speaker.

Think of coaxial speakers as a middle point between single cone speakers (the most basic speakers, with mediocre or poor sound quality) and component speakers (separate speakers with an external speaker crossover). They offer good sound quality at an affordable price in most cases.

Coaxial speakers offer several advantages:

  • Easy sound upgrade: they’re a drop-in replacement for existing poor-sounding single cone speakers.
  • More speaker manufacturing options and price ranges for buyers (different levels of tweeter quality, crossover design, cone materials, etc).
  • Somewhat similar performance to separate 2-way component speakers without the need for a bulky separate crossover box.
  • They’re very common – in fact, they’re the most popular car speaker upgrade and they’re easy to find when shopping.
  • Very affordable: good coaxial speakers can be found for around $25 and up per pair depending on the size & quality.
  • Coaxial speakers can fix the poor frequency response (missing sound frequencies) you find with single-cone speakers.

Coaxial vs standard/single cone speakers

Standard vs coaxial speakers comparison image with frequency response graphs

Coaxial speakers offer better sound performance than standard single-cone speakers, even those with a “whizzer” cone added to improve the treble sound. Coaxial speakers can provide better frequency response and sound quality because they add one or more speaker cones (usually a tweeter) to produce the sound that a single cone woofer speaker is poor at.

Standard (single cone) speakers are notorious for mediocre – or bad – sound quality. But why? As you can see from the image above, they’re poor performers because having only a woofer cone isn’t good enough.

Single cone speakers can’t produce a great-sounding full-range sound as 2-way coaxial speakers can. Coaxial speakers are designed to improve upon standard low-fidelity speakers by filling in the missing range of sound and providing a much more enjoyable listening experience.

Coaxial speakers sound better

While some cheaper standard speakers may have a “whizzer” cone added, which is a small 2nd cone attached to the dust cap, for improved treble, they’re still disappointing. I’ve yet to hear one that sounded very good.

Coaxial speakers, on the other hand, use at least one additional speaker cone (usually a tweeter) to make up the difference and produce crisper & better-sounding higher frequencies.

In fact, in all my years of car speaker installation work I can’t recall a single standard speaker that wasn’t good enough to keep vs replacing it with a coaxial model.

While factory-installed speakers are often very low cost, coaxial speakers – even for a nice sounding pair – aren’t expensive. You can get a great-sounding pair for $25-$30 or more these days and around $20 if you’re on an extreme budget.

What is a 2 way speaker? What is a 3 way speaker?

What is a 2 way speaker?

What is a 2 way speaker example image

2 way speakers use a tweeter and separate woofer, working together, to the full range of music reproduction with better sound quality. In this type of speaker system, tweeters are supplied only a high frequency sound from a high-pass crossover while the woofer is fed midrange and bass from the low-pass crossover. The result is a very clear & enjoyable sound.

2-way speakers are the most common low-cost speaker design in use today both for home and car stereos.

2-way speakers use a tweeter, receiving only higher frequencies from a high-pass crossover, and a woofer, receiving only bass & midrange sounds from a low-pass crossover, to produce the full range of sound with better clarity & performance.

In other words, 2-way speakers separate the sound you hear between two speakers for better results than a single speaker alone.

This is done because woofers can’t produce higher frequency sounds well and should be prevented from producing treble frequencies. Similarly, tweeters become distorted when attempting to produce bass or lower-frequency sounds.

The use of a 2-way speaker crossover system limits the range of sound each receives, allowing for lower distortion and better sound quality at higher volumes, too.

Note: Coaxial speakers are 2-way speakers as well – they also separate the sound produced into 2 (or more) separate speaker drivers.

How does a 2 way speaker crossover work?

what is a 2 way speaker crossover use example diagram

2-way speakers sound great thanks to the crossovers they use to split the audio signals between the tweeter and the woofer. The end result is good full-range sound.

2-way crossovers use electrical components to filter and split the electrical music signal from an amplifier or stereo and divide it between the tweeter and woofer.

The high-pass crossover blocks distortion-causing bass & midrange the tweeter can’t handle. Likewise, the low-pass filter blocks higher frequencies that a woofer cannot reproduce well and that would cause a poor sound quality if produced by it.

As the speakers play, the divided crossover output results in a complete full-range audio output that’s much better than what a single speaker could produce.

Examples of 2 way crossovers and diagram

What is a 3-way speaker?

What is a 3 way speaker example & crossover diagram

3-way speakers are an extension of 2-way speakers with the addition of a 3rd speaker using a bandpass crossover. The 3rd speaker allows improved midrange and even better sound production, lowered distortion, and clarity by offloading midrange sound to a dedicated midrange speaker.

However, the crossover design (depending on the crossover order, or the steepness of the cutoff) is more complicated for those with a sharper cutoff to block unwanted frequencies.

3-way speakers are less common due to the added cost & complexity but are a good choice for speaker builders and audiophiles who want more advanced performance. They also offer the option to get improved sound by using high-performance midrange speakers that are better suited to it than a woofer with its larger cone.

More great speaker info, articles, & diagrams

There’s lots more to learn! Check out these great articles also on my site:

Got comments or questions?

I welcome comments, questions, or whatever’s on your mind. Feel free to leave a comment below or you can reach out via my Contact page.

Can I Connect Speakers Directly To My TV? Facts About TVs, Amps, & Speaker Wire Use

Can I connect speakers directly to my TV featured image

Yeah, I know how it feels: lots of TVs out there have terrible speaker sound quality. Or maybe you just want to enjoy better volume with your favorite movies or shows.

In this article, I’ll help you find out if you can connect speakers directly to your TV and what your options are. I hope to help you get the right kind of sound you need and enjoy your television experience!

Contents

Can I connect speakers directly to my TV?

Let’s get to the answers to the main question right away.

TV and speaker fast facts
  • No, you cannot connect speakers directly to a TV. TVs do not provide speaker outputs that can drive speakers directly as that requires an amplifier of some sort to power them.
  • Most TVs do, however, provide audio outputs that allow you to connect them to self-powered (computer) speakers, a small external amplifier, or home stereo receiver.
  • The types of speaker system electronics & cables you need depend on your TV’s output jacks. There’s no standard set of TV audio outputs, although most have RCA (stereo) jacks, a 3.5mm jack, or something similar.

So, unfortunately, the bad news is that you can’t hook up speakers directly to a TV (I’ll explain why as we go). However, the good news is you can connect speakers to a TV in other ways – and fairly easily, too!

How TV audio outputs work + the common types

Diagram of TV audio outputs analog and digital

Televisions usually have one or more types of audio outputs: analog (which can be amplified to drive speakers or connect to a home stereo receiver) or digital. Digital signals have to be converted back to analog before they can be used to drive speakers.

The most important thing to know first is that TVs do not offer speaker outputs. Instead, they usually provide analog (and digital, sometimes) low-level outputs to connect to an amplifier, powered speakers, or a home stereo.

Just like with any audio electronics without speaker outputs, the audio signal you can connect to comes directly from the internal electronics from the media you’re enjoying. In this case, the audio is extracted from the TV signal, separated, and copied sent to both the internal speakers (if present) and the audio output jacks.

Analog vs digital TV audio outputs

Analog outputs can be connected to nearly any audio amplifier, powered speakers, or receiver with RCA or similar analog inputs. They’re extremely common.

Digital audio outputs, on the other hand, must be converted to an analog sound signal either using a converter box or some home receivers with the input located on the. Digital coaxial jacks and optical Toslink connectors are very common examples of these types.

The internal speakers in your TV use an inexpensive audio amplifier chip that supplies enough power to drive with decent, but not great, power & volume.

Common TV analog outputs are:

  • RCA stereo jacks: left & right stereo signal outputs
  • 3.5mm (1/8″) headphone sized stereo jack: left, right, and ground signal connections

Do I need an amp to connect speakers to my TV?

Diagram showing how amplifier works to boost TV audio output for speakers

Shown: A basic diagram showing why you need an amplifier to drive speakers with TV sound and how they work.

Yes, you’ll need an amplifier to connect speakers to your TV, either separately or built into powered speakers like computer speakers. A home theater receiver or stereo amplifier with auxiliary audio inputs can also be used.

However, if you don’t already have an amplifier and only have basic needs (like enough power to drive small speakers with ok sound) you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

Note: Computer PC speakers are really easy to use and very affordable, making them a hassle-free way to connect speakers to your TV. You can get anything from a high-fidelity speaker set complete with subwoofer to a basic budget stereo speaker pair depending on your budget.

If you already have a home stereo receiver you can fairly easily take advantage of that. I’ll cover all of these options below.

How to connect speakers to a TV: diagram with examples

How to connect speakers to a TV diagram showing examples

You’ve got several basic options when it comes to connecting speakers to your TV, most of which do require spending a little bit of money. However, some ways such as using self-powered PC speakers, are a snap to do in only minutes.

As you can see from my diagram above, there are 4 main ways to get sound by using external TV speakers. These are:

  1. Using a computer (self-powered) speaker set. This may need a 3.5mm to RCA adapter cable.
  2. Using a mini amplifier for powering small bookshelf style or other home stereo speakers.
  3. Connecting the TV sound to a home receiver for using your existing speakers.
  4. Digital output use: With a digital to analog converter, it’s possible to connect to any stereo receiver, powered speakers, or auxiliary input you like.

1. Using computer speakers

Image showing example of computer speakers

Shown: An example of self-powered computer speakers with 3.5mm audio connection and USB power connector.

Computer speakers are the easiest way to add speakers to your TV. Nearly all come with an audio amplifier built into them and either use an AC-DC adaper or a 5V USB power connection. If your TV doesn’t have a USB power port (most don’t) you can simply use a USB phone adapter.

These speaker types can give great sound quality if you shop carefully and are very affordable, too. A decent pair start close to $15 and above, while there are cheaper products out there. However, the cheaper models tend to have a very “thin” sound: poor treble, poor bass, and overall a very bland sound response.

More advanced speaker sets include a self-powered subwoofer for even better bass response. Since PC speakers use small speaker cones many times they can’t produce much bass without one.

How to connect computer speakers to a TV without a headphone jack

Image of male RCA to female 3.5mm headphone adapter

Most PC speaker sets use a standard 1/8″ (3.5mm) stereo headphone connector, so for TVs without a 3.5mm jack you may need an RCA to 3.5mm adapter cable.

They’re usually about $3 or less and available at many online retailers and sometimes your local retail audio/video store, too.

2. Using a small amplifier and separate speakers

Exanole of external amplifier and speakers for TV sound

Example of a miniature amplifier and bookshelf speakers you can use with a TV for great sound.

You might think that you’ll need to spend a ton of money to power a higher-quality pair of “real” speakers like some great 4 1/2″ or 6 1/2″ just like a regular (and much more expensive) home stereo receiver. It’s not the case at all!

If you shop carefully, it’s possible to use a very basic – and affordable – mini amp and external speakers on a budget. For average TV, movie, and music channel listening you’ll only need 5W or more per channel amp power.

Amplifiers of this kind start in price around $20 with 15W per channel and a great-sounding pair of bookshelf speakers can be found for about $26 and up. Like many things, it depends on your needs and your budget.

As shown in the diagram, you’ll need to connect the amplifier to the TV’s audio outputs using RCA cable or in some cases, and 3.5mm adapter also. Most mini amps come with an AC-DC wall power supply you’ll plug in.

Next, you’ll connect the amp to the speaker terminals using speaker wire and you’re ready.

3. Using a home stereo receiver

Home stereo receiver digital and analog inputs example image

Already have a home theater sound system or home stereo receiver? Great news: in nearly all cases they offer at least one auxiliary (“AUX”) input RCA input pair to make it easy to connect your TV for excellent sound.

You’ll just need to connect RCA cables to one of the receiver’s auxiliary inputs. These are sometimes market for TV, cable, and/or DVD or Blu-Ray inputs selected from the main sound control.

On some models, they’re located on the front of the receiver and may be called “AUX” inputs. If your TV doesn’t have analog (RCA or 3.5mm) outputs, the digital inputs can be used. Those are nearly always optical (TOSLINK) or coaxial (RCA style) connectors.

4. Connecting speakers to a TV with digital audio outputs

Digital audio optical and coaxial output examplesExamples of digital audio output connectors some TVs use.

What if your television only has digital audio outputs? While it is a little bit more complicated, the good news is that you’ll be fine. To use digital audio connections, you’ll need: (1) A stereo receiver with digital audio inputs OR (2) a digital to analog (RCA) converter.

Digital to analog audio converter box example labeled

A digital to analog converter is a small box with a wall power input (adapter is supplied) and input & output jacks on both ends. It allows connecting a device with only digital audio out to any standard receiver or amplifier.

Using a digital to analog converter allows you to connect a TV without analog outputs (RCA jacks or a 3.5mm audio jack) to any equipment, making them super handy. Most sell for $15-$25 or so, depending on the brand and seller.

More helpful info about speakers, speaker wire, and diagrams

Here are more great articles I’ve written to help you get your speakers working or learn the basics:

Got questions, suggestions, or comments?

Feel free to reach out if you’ve got a suggestion or leave a comment below. If I didn’t cover your TV & speaker situation, I’d love to hear how I can improve my article. Thanks!

How To Wire A Dual Voice Coil Speaker + Subwoofer Wiring Diagrams

How to wire a dual voice coil speaker featured image

Dual voice speakers (which are usually subwoofers) can be confusing, that’s for sure. To make matters worse, if you don’t know how to properly choose or wire a dual voice coil speaker you can get less sound & power than you expect!

To help you figure it all out, I’ve put together this friendly how-to guide with detailed diagrams, answers to several common questions, and more. You can download & print the subwoofer wiring diagrams if you like.

Want to know how to wire your dual voice coil subwoofer or match the right kind to your amplifier? Read on to find out more.

Contents

What is a dual voice coil speaker?

What is a dual voice coil speaker exploded view diagram labeled

Dual voice coil speakers are extremely similar to single voice coil models except for having a 2nd voice coil winding, wire, and wire terminals. They both use a small gauge wire tightly wound on a speaker “bobbin” (tube) that rests inside a magnet attached to the cone. They produce sound when a musical signal is supplied.

Dual voice coil (DVC) speakers, which are most often subwoofers, are almost the same as standard single voice coil speakers. The difference lies in their design & how they’re used.

What is the difference in dual voice coil and single voice coil subwoofers?

Standard speakers or subwoofers have the following parts:

  • A metal basket in which the speaker parts are housed and a magnet is attached to
  • Large permanent magnet
  • Speaker cone surround
  • Speaker cone surround & dust cap
  • Voice coil bobbin (tube where the coil is made)
  • A “spider” which is a stiff but flexible material that suspends the voice coil assembly
  • Voice coil: tightly wound small gauge wire of a large length (this is suspended inside a gap in the magnet)
  • Voice coil wire leads & connection terminals

Single voice coil subwoofers have only one speaker voice coil winding while dual voice coil models have a 2nd voice coil of the same Ohm rating (impedance) added in the bobbin.

A 2nd pair of wire leads and speaker wire terminals are added, too.

Do dual voice coil speakers have performance differences?

There aren’t any direct performance differences between a single and dual voice coil model of the same design. However, there are definitely some really nice advantages I’ll explain later.

In most cases, dual voice coil subwoofers are slightly more expensive than the same model with single voice coil design – but not by very much. Power handling ratings are usually very similar (always double-check to be sure) but might be a bit different.

If you’re into speaker box design, it’s helpful to know that dual voice coil speakers often have slightly different Thiele/Small parameters. Thiele/Small parameters are just the highly detailed technical characteristics of a speaker that help know how it behaves in certain speaker boxes or audio crossover designs.

Single vs dual voice coil subs: which is better?

Single vs dual voice coil subwoofer comparison article section image

There isn’t a “best” choice when it comes to single or dual voice coil speakers & subwoofers.

When it comes to choosing one or the other, the answer is “it depends.” Whether or not you should use single or DVC subwoofers depends on a combination of things:

  • The minimum speaker load (Ohms) rating of your amplifier
  • Whether your amp is stereo only or bridgeable
  • How many speakers/subwoofers you’ll be using

Most, but not all, higher power car amplifiers are bridgeable while home stereo amplifiers in many cases aren’t. As a reminder, never assume your amplifier is bridgeable – always check!

Dual voice coil subwoofer advantages

Diagram showing examples of dual voice coil subwoofer advantages

It’s true that standard (single voice coil) subwoofers are fine for many systems. But without question, a lot of people are limited by using them, while dual voice coil subwoofers offer some great flexibility & advantages.

1. Maximum amp power output

These days, most car amplifiers have certain power ratings (in Watts) at a specific speaker load Ohm rating. For example, a mono amplifier might have the following power ratings:

  • 350W RMS at 4 ohms speaker load
  • 600W RMS at 2 ohms
  • 1,000W RMS at 1 ohm

Let’s say you’d like to use a single (mono) bass setup and only one subwoofer. Ordinarily, you’d be limited to getting a maximum of 600W from the amp since you’ll usually only find 2 ohms or higher subwoofers available.

While you could add a 2nd 2 ohm subwoofer and wire both in parallel, that would mean having to get a bigger box, spend more money, use more installation space, and so on.

A 2 ohm DVC subwoofer could be used and wired in parallel to allow the amp to put out its full power. Otherwise, you’ll never reach the power capacity you paid for with your amplifier.

That’s especially true today since modern class D amplifiers have ratings like this and some are 1 ohm capable.

2. Amplifier channels and special setups

As I mentioned earlier, not all amplifiers can be bridged. That’s a big problem if you’ve got a single 4 channel amplifier, for example. How can you add a subwoofer and supply it with enough power without having to buy a second amp?

With a dual voice coil subwoofer, you could use one channel for each of the voice coils to drive the subwoofer with enough power. Likewise, for truly powerful systems, it’s possible to one amp per each voice coil for single or multi-subwoofer systems.

3. Multiple subwoofers/amp impedance matching

When you’re wiring several subwoofers to the same amplifier channel or mono bridging two channels, the Ohms load you amp sees depends on the series or parallel wiring combination of the subwoofers.

Dual voice coils subs offer several more options as they let you choose more total Ohm load combinations that can better match your amp’s minimum rating.

4. Ability to use them for home for car stereo systems

Ordinarily, it’s not possible to use 8 ohm subwoofers efficiently for car audio since they can’t produce the same power as a 4 ohm speaker of the same kind. Car subwoofers with 2 or 4 ohm ratings can’t be used with home stereo amplifiers because they’re below the minimum amp spec.

They’ll cause a home amp to overheat, shutdown, and even become damaged permanently.

Dual voice coil speakers have a unique benefit here as you could use a dual 4 ohm subwoofer for both car or home use:

  • Wired in series for 8 ohms for home stereo use
  • Using a single 4 ohm or parallelled to 2 ohms for car stereo amp use

It’s especially nice if you’re able to get a great price on speakers as you’ll be able to use them when otherwise you couldn’t.

How to choose & match a dual voice coil subwoofer to your amp

Choosing the right dual voice coil subwoofer

To get the right dual voice coil subwoofers, you’ll need to note a few things:

  • The minimum speaker load (Ohms rating) of your amplifier at the power level you’re interested in
  • How many subwoofers you’d like to use

The rest is relatively easy! Just use my wiring connection diagrams below and you’ll find the right subwoofer(s) configuration you should use.

You’ll need to check the owner’s manual (or labeled printed) for the amplifier to get the minimum speaker load you can use along with the maximum power rating Ohm load. Then pick the right number of dual voice coil subwoofers that can be wired to match that required by the amp.

If you’re unsure of anything feel free to ask me by commenting below or sending a message.

4 Ohm dual voice coil sub wiring diagram

4 Ohm dual voice coil subwoofer wiring diagram

Click here to download the .PDF version you can view or print

2 Ohm dual voice coil sub wiring diagram

2 Ohm dual voice coil subwoofer wiring diagram

Click here to download the .PDF version you can view or print

8 Ohm dual voice coil sub wiring diagram

8 Ohm dual voice coil subwoofer wiring diagram

Click here to download the .PDF version you can view or print

Additional reading + if you have questions

I’ve got some great (and very detailed) guides to help you with your audio needs:

Got questions or need help?

If you’re still a bit confused on how to wire a dual voice coil speaker or subwoofer, just leave me a comment below with the details. You can also message me directly here. 

I’ll be happy to help!