How To Wire A Computer Power Supply To A Car Amp

How to wire a computer power supply to a car amp featured image

There’s more than one way to power a car amp in your home. Even so, computer power supplies are easy to find and make a great option – if you know how.

In my detailed guide, I’ll show you how to wire a computer power supply to a car amp. I’ve also put together some great diagrams, tips, and more to help you enjoy your music with less hassle and fewer headaches.

Can a computer power supply run a car amp? What to know

Can a computer power supply run a car amp man thinking question

Yes, it’s possible to use a PC computer power supply for powering a car amp. 

There are a few things you’ll need to know though. For example, unless you’ve got a higher-power model supply you won’t be able to drive speakers with the same power you could when installed in a car.

Do you need to hook up the remote wire on your car amp?

Yes, a car amp won’t work without a +12V signal on the remote wire terminal. The amp’s internal power supply is controlled by this wire and acts as a shutoff control. Likewise, you’ll want to either turn the power supply on & off as I’ll show you or use the remote wire as a shut off in order to keep the amp from drawing power when not in use.

Computer power supplies also have a particular control wire you’ll need to connect in order to switch the supply on as I’ll show you.

Computer power supply current (amps) & power limits

Computer power supply 12V current rating examples

Examples of the current output (amps) for a typical 200W supply and a higher-power 700W supply. The current output will limit how much power you can get from a car amp.

Computer power supplies are available in a wide range of power output options, with 1500-200 watts being very common but others as large as 700W or more can be found (although they cost a bit more). This is important to know because the current limit of a power supply will limit how much power your car amp can produce.

That means you need to be aware that for higher-power amps you can’t expect to drive speakers with the full power output it’s rated at. The good news that unlike in cars, speakers used in your home use less power for the same volume because vehicle interiors are poor for sound and require more power for good results.

How to power a car amp with a computer power supply (diagram and details)

How to wire a computer power supply to a car amp diagram

Using an ATX (desktop computer) power supply for a car amp isn’t hard – in fact, you only need a few steps:

  • Power connections: Cut the +12V wires (yellow) and the same number of ground (black) wires. Strip the insulation to leave about 3/8″ to 1/2″ bare wire. Twist them together tightly or use a crimp connector (ring terminal, spade terminal, etc) and connect to the amp’s power & ground terminals, being sure not to leave any stray wire strands sticking out to cause a short-circuit.
  • Supply on control: PC supplies don’t turn on even if the on/off switch on the case is used. PC motherboard uses a control signal to the “supply on” wire pin. To do the same, you’ll need to find, cut, and jumper this control signal wire to a ground wire either directly or with an on/off switch if you like [See diagram]
  • Amp remote wire: There are several great ways to do this and I’ll cover them below.

Once you’ve connected the +12V and ground wiring then ground the “supply on” wire the supply should start up and your car amplifier should power on. There are some cases where you could have a problem, however.

NOTE: If you’re using a high amount of current be sure to use all or nearly all of the yellow +12V wires to connect to the amp. Just like with a car amp installation, you need enough wire conductors to supply higher current without losing voltage from insufficient wiring.

A note about some amps

Larger, very high power car amplifiers can sometimes draw a short current “spike” when they’re first connected to a power source after being disconnected. That’s because they contain large capacitors that, when first connected to power, momentarily draw a huge number of amps.

When this happens it’s possible it could trip the self-protect mode in your power supply. If that happens you can try starting the supply and then wait before turning on the remote wire. You can also leave the supply running when the remote wire is disconnected so the amp’s capacitors don’t discharge when the amp is turned off.

It’s possible you may need a more robust power supply if it happens but it’s not a problem most people should run across.

Remote wire options & examples

How to connect remote wire on car amp used in home diagram

The car amp “remote” terminal uses a low-current +12V input to start its power supply & related circuits. You’ve got a few different options you can use:

  1. Jumper wire:  When connecting the power and ground 12V connections, you can use a small jumper wire from the +12V battery terminal to the remote it so it’s on any time the amp has power. 18AWG or smaller wire is fine (you don’t need a large gauge wire).
  2. Jumper wire + switch: The same as #1 but to control it yourself you can add a simple inline switch on the remote wire. This is helpful if your power supply doesn’t have an on/off switch or you’d rather leave it running.
  3. Home stereo use – RCA converter with remote lead: If you’re connecting the amp to speaker outputs on your home stereo you can use a line level converter with a remote wire output. This will turn the amp on and off automatically with the stereo’s output.

If you’re using a toggle switch on the remote wire you can leave the AC/DC power supply plugged in. When the amp’s remote wire is off (disconnected) the amp will shut off and it won’t drain power.

Using a line level converter with remote wire output

Example of line level converter with remote wire output Axxess AX-ADCT2

An example line-level converter with remote wire output. You’ll need to connect these to 12V power and ground for the internal electronics to work. When the speaker level inputs detect a signal the remote wire output will produce +12V and turn on your amplifier. When the speaker signal is lost it will switch it off automatically.

Connecting a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the amp for audio

Diagram for how to connect audio signal to a car amp used in your home

What’s great is how many options you have for getting an audio signal to your amp’s inputs. In fact, nearly any analog (non-digital) jack can be used from almost any device. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops can be used either by their headphone jack or via Bluetooth.

Just be aware that not all headphone or audio out jacks are created the same –  some work well and have good sound & volume while others can have low volume and “meh” sound quality. However, the good news that generally speaking they’ll work well and I’ve used this approach several times with no complaints.

Connecting your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth

You also use an affordably-priced Bluetooth receiver for around $25 from places like Amazon. They offer a direct line output jack or RCA jacks to go into a home receiver and a car amp just as easily.

Be sure to get a decent brand as the generic/no-name brand models tend to have sound quality problems and can produce odd noises between music tracks playing on your phone, for example.

What if I have a laptop with no headphone jack?

Example of a USB to headphone audio adapter

You can use a cheap USB to stereo 3.5mm adapter to get a headphone sized jack to connect an audio signal to your amp. They’re really affordable (under $10 in some cases!) and are a good option if your laptop’s headphone jack is broken or none is available.

If you’re like many people and want to enjoy music, movies, or more from your laptop there’s a problem if you don’t have a line-out or headphone jack – or if it’s just not working. A great option is to use a USB audio adapter as it’ll provide a 3.5mm jack you can connect to your amp’s RCA inputs.

I’ve found some for under $10 available with both the older USB-A and the new USB-C connection as well.

How to connect a car amp to a home stereo

How to connect a car amp to a home stereo diagram

You can also connect your car amp to your home stereo if you like. There are 3 ways to do it:

  1. Home stereo with no RCA output jacks + car amp with speaker level inputs: It’s fairly common for home stereo amps and receivers not to have RCA jacks available to connect to. If your amp has built-in speaker level inputs these can be connected to either an unused pair of speaker terminals or alongside speaker terminals in use.
  2. Home stereo with no RCA output jacks + car amp with no speaker inputs: You’ll have no choice but to use a line level converter in this case. These are car stereo adapters that you connect to speaker wiring or speaker terminals. This will drop the signal down to a level compatible with the amp’s RCA inputs.
  3. Home stereo with full range RCA output jacks + car amp: This is the easiest way but not all home stereos have full-range RCA output jacks. Some only have subwoofer RCA output jacks which are bass-only outputs. Full-range RCA output jacks can be connected directly to the car amp’s RCA inputs.

Image showing examples of line level RCA converters

Line level connectors will let you connect a car amp with no speaker inputs to any home stereo. You can connect these to unused speaker terminals on the receiver or amp as well as in parallel with home speakers already in use.

Dealing with ground loop hum (noise)

Example of an RCA ground loop isolator

You can use a ground loop isolator to break the ground conductor in RCA cables but still carry the audio signal. Since the ground connection can carry the noisy signal that gets amplified this often eliminates ground loop noise.

One thing you might not count on running into is noise. Ground loop noise, which appears as a very annoying 60Hz “hum”, is somewhat common for home stereo equipment. Unfortunately, despite car amps being designed to eliminate it, it can still happen.

One thing you can do is to try using a small gauge wire and connect it between the grounds or metal casing of the car amp, the RCA cables, and the power supply. If the noise disappears you can connect the wire to those points as a solution.

Alternatively, a ground loop isolator can often get rid of it. Connected inline with the RCA cables, they work by physically disconnecting the RCA cable’s ground connection while still sending the audio signal. They’re not expensive, but it’s a good idea to shop carefully as the “el-cheapo” units don’t always carry the entire audio range well and can cause a loss of sound quality you can notice.

Additional reading and helpful guides

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How To Connect & Power A Car Amp In Your Home + Diagrams

How to power a car amp in your home featured image

It might seem puzzling at first, but it’s actually not that hard to connect and power a car amp in your home.

In this detailed guide I’ll show you how along with detailed diagrams anyone can understand.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Car amp power supplies: what voltage & current ratings you need
  • How to wire a computer power supply to an amp
  • How to connect a car amp to a home stereo, smartphone or tablet, or Bluetooth
  • Additional tips to make it easier & offer more options

First facts: Can I use a car amplifier in my house?

Can I use a car amplifier in my house man thinking image

Yes, it’s possible to use a car amplifier in your house. You can also connect a car amp to any home stereo, your smartphone, and more as an audio source.

There is a catch, though. Because car amps use a different power source than home stereos the biggest problem is getting them the power they need. Not only that, but they use a remote-on wire to turn the amp on & off to avoid draining a car battery – meaning that needs to be dealt with too.

Here’s a list of what we’ll need to cover:

  • Signal inputs: Not all home stereos have RCA line-level jacks, so if you’d like to connect an amp to your home stereo it may require a workaround I’ll show you. You can also connect a car amp to nearly any smartphone or external Bluetooth receiver.
  • Power source: Unlike home stereos powered by an alternating current (AC) electrical outlet, car amps work from a +12V direct current (DC) supply. You’ll need a +12V AC-DC power supply with enough current to run the amp. Not just any AC/DC 12V adapter will do – I’ll cover this below.
  • Turning the amp on/off (remote wire): Home stereos or other audio devices don’t have a remote wire output to switch your amp on and off. However, there are some easy ways to deal with this, too.

You also need to know that:

  • Unless you have all the parts already, you may need to spend a little bit of money to get what you need & get it working. The good news is that most of it is affordable and you can even make use of some power supplies like a computer DC supply you may left over.
  • Retail stores are pretty bad about not having the parts you may need, so you might want to plan ahead and order parts online. You can find many affordably priced parts on Amazon, eBay, and from electronic part suppliers.

Choosing a power supply for car amp use

Example of how to estimate car amp current used

You can estimate how much electrical current (amperage, “amps”) your amp will draw based on its maximum power given in watts RMS. However, the truth is that’s only if you need a lot of power. For casual listening you can get by with a lot less.

Basically, there are 2 ways to go about choosing a power supply for a car amp:

  1. Getting a “good enough” power supply if you’re not driving the amp hard (fine for casual listening)
  2. Estimating the amp’s current draw based on its power rating (useful for when you want serious amp power)

Of these, #1 makes it a lot simpler. You may be able to use a DC supply you’ve already got handy or a leftover computer power supply (sometimes called an ATX power supply).

What voltage does a car amp need?

Car amps normally work off of a range of voltages, not just 12 volts, although that’s used as a general reference. In fact, as a vehicle’s engine runs the alternator charges the battery and the voltage can range from near 12V to about 14.4V. 

For home use, choose a power supply with a DC output from 12V to 13.8V, with 12V being perfectly fine to use. When shopping most of the higher-current supplies you’ll see are 12V anyhow.

At around 11V or so car amps and other car stereo equipment may shut off so it’s important to have enough voltage available.

What size power supply do I need?

Car amp DC power supply examples

Powering a car amp in home requires a power supply with a decent amp rating. Standard wall adapters won’t work as they’re very weak (0.5 to 1A, usually). You can find bigger power supplies like a 5 amp model for under $15 if you shop smart. Desktop computer ATX power supplies are cheap, easy to find, and range in power ratings up to 500W or even more.

Quick tip: Computer power supplies can offer 15 amps or even more current output making them a great solution. They’re available in a variety of power ratings such as 150W to 500W or more.  A good ATX power supply will have enough power output for the average person.

Option #1: Getting a “good enough” power supply for casual listening

When not driving an amp & speakers hard, I recommend at least a 2.5A supply for small amps (under 50W/channel). For 4 channels, I’d get a 5A or bigger. If you’d like to have more power, consider getting 15A or above.

You can find a 5A supply for under $15-$20 if you shop around. 10A and 15A supplies are fairly popular so they’re usually under $30-$35 dollars or so. When it comes to much bigger supplies that will let you drive a subwoofer with heavy bass things tend to get expensive. Very high current power supplies are around $100 and above for 30 amps or more.

However, one of the best options is to use a desktop computer power supply (“ATX” power supply) as they’re easy to find and have pretty good power output.

Option #2: Estimating amp current needed for higher power use

If you’re planning to use a car amp to drive speakers hard you’ll need a lot of amperage which you can estimate pretty closely We also need to take into account wasted power to come up with a final number. (All amps waste some power as heat and draw some additional current for that reason)

  • Class D car amplifiers are more efficient and therefore waste less power (and draw less current) than standard class A/B amps.
  • If you’re not sure what class your amp is, it’s probably class A/B. Class D amps normally say so on the amp itself, the box, or sales info. Class A/B types have been so popular for years that it’s a pretty safe assumption.

You can estimate amp current based on the maximum RMS power of the amp. Don’t use “peak” or “maximum” watt power ratings as these are misleading. We need to use the continuous power (RMS) the amp really delivers.

As class D car amps are around 85% efficient and A/B amps are around 65% or so efficient we can use that to estimate the total current an amp would need.

Class D amp example:

Estimate amps used by a 50W RMS x 4 amp:

  1. 4 x 50W = 200W total. (200W/12V) = 16.7A.
  2. Take into account power waste: 16.7A/.85 = 19.6A
Class A/B amp example:

Estimate current used by a 150W RMS x 2 amp:

  1. 2 x 150W = 300W total. (300W/12V) = 25A.
  2. Take into account power waste: 25A/.65 = 38.4A

As you see, to run a car amp at full power you’ll need a pretty big power supply! However, most people don’t so it’s usually a lot less hassle (and less money) to use one of the other supplies I showed examples of.

How to wire a computer power supply to a car amp

How to wire a computer power supply to a car amp diagram

Using an ATX (desktop computer) power supply for a car amp isn’t hard usually. It’s a matter of a few steps:

  • Power connections: Cut several ground wires (black) and +12V wires (yellow) and strip them for about 3/8″ to 1/2″ bare wire. Twist them together tightly or use a crimp connector (ring terminal, spade terminal, etc) and connect to the amp’s power & ground terminals.
  • Supply on control: PC supplies don’t automatically come on even if the side switch is on. Normally a mother board uses a control signal to the “supply on” wire pin. As shown in the diagram above, you’ll need to jumper the wire by cutting it, stripping it, and either connecting to a ground wire permanently or you can use a toggle switch.
  • Amp remote on: As there are several good options for this, I’ll cover this in more detail below. 

Once you’ve connect the supply on wire to a ground wire the power supply should start and your car amp should work. Note that in some cases, it is possible to have a problem.

Huge, high-power car amplifiers can sometimes have a short current “spike” they draw when first connected to power. In some cases, this can trip the self-protect mode in power supplies. If that happens you can try starting the supply first and then give the remote wire power after a moment.

It’s possible you may need a more robust power supply if that happens as well. This shouldn’t be an issue most of the time, though.

Remote wire options for turning the car amp on

How to connect remote wire on car amp used in home diagram

A car amp’s remote-on input uses a low-current +12V signal that starts its internal power circuitry. There are several good ways to do this:

  1. Jumper the remote on terminal:  When wiring the power and ground 12V connections, you can use a small jumper wire from the +12V terminal to the remote terminal so it’s on any time the amp has power. 18AWG or smaller wire is fine.
  2. Jumper wire + switch: Basically the same, but you can also use a simple inline switch on the remote wire to turn it on/off yourself.
  3. Home stereo use – RCA converter with remote lead: If you’re connecting an amp to speaker outputs you can use a line level converter with a built-in remote wire output. They’ll automatically turn the amp on or off with an input signal present.

If you’re using a toggle switch on the remote wire you can leave the AC/DC power supply plugged in. When the amp’s remote wire is off (disconnected) the amp will shut off and won’t drain power.

RCA adapters with remote wire output

Example of line level converter with remote wire output Axxess AX-ADCT2

Example of a line-level converter with a remote wire output feature. When the speaker level inputs have a signal and it creates a +12V remote on signal. When no signal is detected, the remote wire will go to zero volts and turn the amplifier off. Unlike a regular converter, these need +12V and ground connections to work.

How to connect a home stereo, smartphone, or other audio sources to an amp

What’s great is how many options you have for getting an audio signal to your amp’s inputs. In fact, nearly any analog (non-digital) jack can be used from almost any device. I’ll cover some of the main ones here:

  • Smartphones, tablets, and laptops can be used either by their headphone jack or via Bluetooth (see below)
  • Any home stereo receiver or amp can be used – even vintage ones!

How to connect a smartphone or other device to a car amp (diagram & options)

Diagram for how to connect audio signal to a car amp used in your home

Be aware that headphone jacks can be a good or bad audio source depending on your particular device. Even though they’re usually not quite as good as RCA outputs/AUX output jacks, I’ve had pretty good experiences doing using this with brand name smartphones or tablets.

In fact, I use this method to test a car amp at home.

You also use an affordably-priced Bluetooth receiver for around $25 from places like Amazon. They offer a direct line output jack or RCA jacks for this very reason.

Be sure to get a decent brand as the generic/no-name brand models tend to have sound quality problems and can produce odd noises between music tracks playing on your phone, for example.

How to connect a car amp to a home stereo (diagram & options)

How to connect a car amp to a home stereo diagram

The way you connect your car amp depends on both your home stereo and your car amp’s features. You’ll end up with one of 3 situations:

  1. Home stereo with no RCA output jacks + car amp with speaker level inputs: It’s actually fairly common for home stereos and home theater receivers to have no full-range RCA audio-out jacks. In this case, if your car amp has speaker level inputs built-in these can be connected to an unused pair of speaker terminals or alongside speaker terminals in use. The amp’s speaker level inputs will scale down the speaker signal to a much lower signal the amp needs.
  2. Home stereo with no RCA output jacks + car amp with RCA jacks only: In this case, you’ll have no choice but to use a line level converter used for car audio. Just like in #1 above, these are connected just like speakers to speaker terminals alone or alongside connected speakers.
  3. Home stereo with full range RCA output jacks + car amp: This is the easiest way by far. Unforunatley, not that many home stereos have full-range RCA output jacks. Some only have subwoofer RCA output jacks which are bass-only outputs. Full-range RCA output jacks can be connected directly to the car amp’s RCA inputs, but subwoofer RCA jacks won’t work for full-range music since they only pass bass.

What is a line level (RCA) converter and how do they work?

Image showing examples of line level RCA converters

Shown here are two good examples of speaker level converters: a 2 channel model and a 4 channel model. Both take a higher voltage speaker level signal and reduce it greatly to a low voltage suitable for the amp’s input section.

Line level converters (also called RCA speaker level adapters) are small adapters that reduce the higher-voltage signals from speaker outputs to a much lower voltage (“line level”) used by a car amp’s RCA jack inputs. They can be connected directly to a ratio, amp, or at a speaker and provide RCA jack connections.

They’re really useful because they make it possible to connect an amplifier to a signal source that you otherwise can’t.

What to do if you have ground loop noise (humming)

Example of an RCA ground loop isolator

A ground loop isolator you can use to “break” (isolate, disconnect) an amp’s RCA ground connections from that of an audio source to eliminate the electrical path that causes ground loop noise.

Sadly, noise can be a BIG headache when it comes to car amps despite them being designed to prevent it. The same is true that home stereos, too: anything that carries a signal and has a ground connection can create a “ground loop” that gets picked up by the amp and then turned into a very annoying noise you easily hear.

What causes ground loop noise?

Ground loop noise happens when there’s a slightly different potential (a slight difference in voltage) between the ground connections in an amp, stereo, and other components. Despite everything you try, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to eliminate.

In that case, you can try a simple RCA cable ground loop isolator which often solves it. Note that you shouldn’t try to get the cheapest you find because they can negatively affect sound quality.

You can find a good one for $10-$25 or above depending on the brand and features.

Related helpful articles

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Just reach out via my Contact page or leave a comment/question below. Thanks for reading!

How To Connect A Car Amp To A Home Stereo (With Diagrams)

How to connect a car amp to home stereo featured image

Using a car amp…at home? It’s not such a crazy idea after all! While it’s true that it’s not super easy, it’s really not all that hard and you can do it.

In this article, I’ll explain how to connect a car amp to a home stereo with clear diagrams anyone can understand. I’ll also show you all the little things you need to know before you try so you avoid disappointment & headaches.

First things first: Can a car amplifier be used at home?

Can a car amp be used at home man thinking

The good news is that YES, one way or another, you can definitely connect a car amp to a home stereo.

However, since car amps use a different power source the single biggest challenge is getting enough power to them. They also use a remote-on wire to turn the amp on & off so it doesn’t draw power and kill your battery when installed in a car.

Fortunately, these (and other) problems are fairly easy to deal with. Here’s a list of what you’ll run into when using a car amp at home:

  • Signal inputs: Not all home stereos have RCA line-level jacks, so this may require a workaround to connect to your amp’s audio inputs. Some amps make this pretty easy, however. (This isn’t much of a problem as you’ll see from my diagrams below)
  • Power source: Unlike home stereos that are powered from alternating current (AC), car amps work from a +12V direct current (DC) supply. You’ll need a +12V AC-DC power supply with enough current to run the amp. Not just any AC/DC 12V adapter will do as you’ll see later.
  • Turning the amp on/off: This is actually really easy! You can simply disconnect your DC power supply and let the amp shut off or use a simple switch to turn the amp on and off. I’ll show you how to wire the car amp so it can turn on.

The bad news is that unless you have the parts you need already, you’ll probably have to spend a little bit of money to get it working well.  The good news is that most of what you need can be found and bought new or used but you may need to order some online.

Sadly, retail stores are usually poorly stocked when it comes to power supplies that you can use for a car amp indoors. You’ll have much better luck online at places like Amazon or electronic parts suppliers.

How to use car amp with a home stereo + diagram

How to connect a car amp to a home stereo diagram

The way you’ll connect your car amp depends on both your home stereo and your car amp’s features as I mentioned earlier. You’ll end up with one of 3 situations:

  1. Home stereo with no RCA output jacks + car amp with speaker level inputs: It’s actually fairly common for home stereos and home theater receivers to have no full-range RCA jacks you can connect to the amp. In this case, if you’ve got a car amp with speaker level inputs these can be connected to either an unused pair of speaker terminals or alongside speaker terminals in use. The amp’s speaker level inputs will scale down the speaker inputs to a low signal it can use.
  2. Home stereo with no RCA output jacks + car amp with RCA jack inputs only: In this case, you’ll have no choice but to use a line level converter commonly used for car audio. Just like in #1 above, these are connected just like speakers to unused speaker terminals or alongside an existing speaker set. This will drop the signal down to a very low level that’s used by the amp’s RCA inputs. Note: I strongly recommend getting a decent quality model converter with adjustable outputs for best results.
  3. Home stereo with full range RCA output jacks + car amp: This is the easiest way by far, but not all home stereos have full-range RCA output jacks. Some only have subwoofer RCA output jacks which are bass-only outputs. Full-range RCA output jacks can be connected directly to the car amp’s RCA inputs.

How to connect the remote-on wire on a car amp

How to connect remote wire on car amp used in home diagram

In all cases, you’ll also need to wire the amp with power and a remote-on wire so it can turn on. You can do this one of several ways:

  • Jumper the remote on terminal:  When wiring the power and ground 12V connections, you can use a small jumper wire from the +12V terminal to the remote terminal so it’s on any time the amp has power.
  • Just a jumper wire + switch: Basically the same, but you can also duplicate how a car stereo’s remote on wire works by using a simple inline switch on the remote wire to turn it on/off yourself.

If you’re using a switch you can leave the AC/DC power supply plugged in if you like. When the amp’s remote wire loses its +12V signal, the amp will switch off internally and draw zero power.

Example of line level converter with remote wire output Axxess AX-ADCT2

QUICK TIP: To make things even easier, you can use a line level converter with a built-in remote wire output feature which will automatically turn the amp on or off with the speaker input signal.

Note that these do need a power and ground connection.

What is a line level/RCA converter and how do they work?

Image showing examples of line level RCA converters

Shown here are two quality examples of line level/RCA speaker level converters: a 2 channel RCA output model and a 4 channel RCA output model.

Line level converters (also called RCA speaker level adapters) are small electronic devices that connect to speaker outputs from an amp or receiver and scale down the higher-voltage signal to a low level (“line level”). The outputs are RCA jacks which can then be connected to an amplifier or subwoofer with RCA jacks.

They’re extremely handy in the car stereo world because they make it possible to connect a stereo without RCA outputs to any amplifier or powered subwoofer. We can also use them for home stereos, too.

How much do line level converters cost?

While you can get the el-cheapo ones for under $10, I don’t recommend those. Expect to spend around $15-25 or so for a good one. No need to spend too much these days as there are lots of good values out there.

What voltage & size DC power supply do I need for a car amp?

Example of how to estimate car amp current used

You can get a rough estimate of the maximum amount of electrical current you’ll need for a car amp using its maximum RMS power as shown here. However, if you’re not using an amp to its full capability you can get buy with a smaller (and less expensive) power supply.

What voltage does a car amp need?

Car amplifiers, when installed in a vehicle, work off of a voltage range as the engine runs. Although we say cars & trucks use a 12V supply, in reality, a car amp is designed to work from somewhere around 11V to 14.4V or so as the alternator in your vehicle raises or lowers it’s output while charging the battery.

Therefore you can use a power supply with a DC output similar to this, but I recommend 12V to 13.8V. Most power supplies you can buy are one of these.

What size power supply do I need?

Car amp DC power supply examples

You’ll need a power supply with a decent amperage (A) rating. Regular wall adapters won’t work as they’re very weak (0.5 to 1 amps or so). You can find 5A supplies for under $15 depending on where you shop. Desktop computer “ATX” power supplies are affordable and available in power ranges up to 500W or more. They’re easy to find but need a certain wiring connection in order to turn on.

In order to figure out how big of a DC power supply you need, you might want to calculate roughly the amount of current your amp will draw at full power. Once we know that, we can take into account wasted power that all amps use up and come up with a fairly accurate number.

Just so you know, class D car amplifiers are more efficient and therefore waste less power (and draw less current) than standard class A/B amps.

If you’re not sure what class your amp is, if it’s a class D amp it’s usually stated on the box or the amp itself. Class A/B amps often don’t state it anywhere. (Many new amps are class D so I wanted to take that into account)

Estimating amp current

You can estimate amp current based on the maximum RMS power of the amp. Don’t use “peak” or “maximum” watts as these don’t reflect the actual continuous power a car amp puts out.

As class D car amps are around 85% efficient and A/B amps are around 65% or so efficient we can use that to estimate the total current an amp would need.

Class D amp example:

Estimating the current used by a 50W RMS x 4 amp, all 4 channels used:

  1. 4 x 50W = 200W total. (200W/12V) = 16.7A.
  2. Take into account power waste: 16.7A/.85 = 19.6A
Class A/B amp example:

Estimating the current used by a 150W RMS x 2 amp, both channels used:

  1. 2 x 150W = 300W total. (300W/12V) = 25A.
  2. Take into account power waste: 25A/.65 = 38.4A

As you can see, to run a car amp at full power you’ll need a pretty big power supply! However, the good news is that it’s only if you really want to drive the amp at full capacity. For lower-power, casual listening, we can get by with a smaller (and thankfully, cheaper) power supply.

Realistic power ratings you’ll need

For just listening to music with decent volume, I recommend at least a 2.5A supply for small amps (under 50W/channel). For 4 channels or higher power ones, I’d get a 5 amp or bigger. If you’d like to have more power, consider getting 15A or above.

You can find a 5A supply for under $15-$20 if you shop carefully. 10A and 15A supplies are fairly popular so they’re usually really affordable, too. However, when it comes to much bigger supplies that will let you drive a subwoofer with heavy bass, for example, those can be expensive: $100 and above.

Connecting 2 RCA stereo outputs to a 4 channel amp

Diagram showing a 2 channel car stereo connected to a 4 channel amp

What if you’ve got a 4 channel amp? No problem! You’ll still use the same methods shown earlier but you’ll need to jumper either the speaker level inputs or the RCA inputs using “Y” connections to get a signal to the rear channels too.

Most car amps with front & rear speaker level inputs can be wired to 2 speaker input pairs as shown in the diagram here. When using RCA connections, you can pick up a pair of inexpensive female-to-male Y adapters to split the signal from 2 into 4 connections. (Don’t spend too much on Y adapters as you can use a decent pair of cheap ones just fine)

QUICK TIP: Some car amps have a 2/4 channel input switch built in for this purpose. In that case, setting it to the “2ch” position will supply a signal to all 4 channels. For some amps this only applies to the RCA inputs so be sure to check your owner’s manual.

Can I use 8 ohm speakers with a car amp?

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 car amp, it can only receive up to 1/2 the power output and has a lower maximum volume than a 4 ohm speaker would.

Using 8 ohm home speakers in place of 4 ohm ones with your car amp won’t hurt anything. There’s a catch, however. They’ll only develop 1/2 the power of a 4 ohm speaker meaning lower maximum volume is possible.

For example, if you were to use some home stereo 8 ohm speakers instead of 4 ohm speakers, you’d notice the volume would be a bit 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; also 8 ohm speakers allow only 1/2 the same amount of electrical current to flow vs 4 ohms.

Car amplifiers & car head units don’t have a high voltage supply like home stereos and home amplifiers do. That means they’re designed to use lower impedance (lower resistance) speakers to develop the same amount of power by letting more current flow.

As long as you’re aware of this it’s ok, because they’ll still sound and play fine – you just can’t get the same power and as much volume when you crank it up vs using 4 ohm speakers.

I have a hum (ground loop noise) from the amp. What can I do?

Example of an RCA ground loop isolator

Example of a ground loop isolator you can use to break the ground conductor connection in RCA cables to eliminate ground loop noise.

Unfortunately, noise is a problem with car amps despite them being designed to prevent it. It’s also true that home stereos and amps are known to sometimes create “ground loops” between different electronic components via the RCA cables.

Ground loop noise happens when there’s a slightly different potential (electrical voltage point) between the grounds of an amp, stereo, and other components. Despite everything you try, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to eliminate.

In that case, you can use a ground loop isolator to connect inline in the RCA cables. This usually does the trick. Note that you shouldn’t try to get the cheapest you find because they can negatively affect sound quality.

You can find a good one for $10-$25 or above depending on the brand and features. The good news is that they’re super easy to use: just connect them to the RCA cables and you’re done!

More great articles you’ll love

There’s lots more great stuff to see! Here are some excellent articles that have helped many others, too:

Let me know what you think!

Have questions or comments? Just let me know below! You can also contact me directly here.

How To Hook Up A Car Subwoofer To A Home Stereo (With Diagrams!)

How to hook up a car subwoofer to a home stereo featured image

Thinking about putting that extra car sub to good use? Maybe you’re wondering if it’s possible to hook up a car subwoofer to a home stereo or amplifier at all.

The good news is that yes, in many cases you can use a car sub with a home stereo. However, it’s not as easy as just wiring them up any old way.

I’ll tell you what you need to know and provide some helpful diagrams. Let’s get started.

Can I hook up a car subwoofer to my home stereo?

Can I hook a car subwoofer to a home stereo? Man thinking image

The quick answer is that it depends. There are several basic things you need to understand first before you try. These are important, too…so don’t be careless or you could damage your home receiver or amplifier.

You can hook up a car subwoofer to a home stereo directly if:

  • You have a subwoofer or more than one subwoofer that can be wired for at least 8 ohms total. This can be two 4 ohm subwoofers or a 4 ohm dual voice coil (DVC) subwoofer.  [See diagrams below for how] 
  • Your home stereo or amp can handle 4 ohm speakers (most can’t so let’s ignore this).
  • Using workarounds: this includes using a small 4-ohm capable amp between the receiver and sub or an inline resistor to bring up the speaker load. (Don’t worry – I’ll share these in detail below)

Even if you have the right car subwoofer(s) your amp needs to have enough power available to drive the subwoofer box. The good news is that for casual listening you don’t need a ton of power like you do for cars and truck use.

The single biggest obstacle is that most home stereos, home theater receivers, and home amplifiers can’t handle the 4 ohm speaker load of many car subwoofers. It’s 2x lower than the 8 Ohm minimum most require. (Some car subwoofers are even 2 ohms, in fact).

Why can’t I use a 4 or 2 ohm car subwoofer with a home stereo?

Diagram showing how to match speaker ohms to a home stereo

You’ll need to be sure to avoid connecting a speaker impedance (Ohms, speaker load) that’s too low to a home stereo amp or receiver. Doing so causes it to try to produce more electrical current than it’s designed for. This causes overheating and potentially permanent damage to your electronics.

Just like car amplifiers & car stereos, home stereos have a minimum speaker load, stated in Ohms, that they’re designed to handle. 

Never try connecting 2 or 4 ohm car subwoofers or speakers to a home stereo – they’re likely to overheat very quickly and suffer possible damage.

Why is matching speaker impedance important?

Matching the speaker load to your home stereo just means matching it up with the best Ohm load that will deliver the power & volume it’s designed to produce. As you can see in my diagram above, if the speaker is over the rated Ohm spec, it will work safely but at the expense of delivering a lot less power and volume than you’d like.

Using the correct Ohm load means you’ll get the rated power – and as you might guess – the maximum volume possible. 

However, using less than the rated Ohm speaker load (whether 1 or more speakers, the total Ohm load the stereo sees) is dangerous and won’t work. Don’t do it!

Tip: In cases where the subwoofer is less than 8 ohms total and/or the receiver or amp doesn’t have enough power don’t give up! There are some work-arounds that can you can use as we’ll see.

Do I need a speaker crossover for a car subwoofer?

Example of a passive subwoofer low pass crossover

Example of an 8-Ohm compatible low-pass speaker crossover for blocking all sounds above a low bass frequency (cutoff frequency). These are used to get “clean” sounding bass from a subwoofer when there’s no crossover already provided.

By the way, there’s another important part you’re likely to need and may not have thought about: using a speaker crossover for clear bass with a car subwoofer. Car subwoofers are normally used with a car amp with a low-pass crossover built in already.

That’s often not the case for home stereos, although some do have a subwoofer RCA output jack for use with an amplifier or powered subwoofer.

Diagram showing a passive subwoofer speaker crossover

The point is that unless you want to hear vocals and other sounds from the car subwoofer, you’ll need to hook up a subwoofer speaker crossover between the stereo & the sub. For clear bass, you’ll need a crossover to block higher-frequency sounds subs can’t play well.

If you’re lucky enough to own a receiver or home amp with a low-pass crossover built in you can use that instead.

How to wire a car subwoofer to a home stereo

How to connect a car subwoofer to home stereo diagram

As you can see from my diagram above, I’ve come up with 4 ways to connect a car stereo to your home stereo receiver or amp – but it greatly depends on the specifics. For example, using a 4 ohm car sub is relatively simple, while using a 2 ohm or another type can be more complicated.

Here are the  4 ways you can do this:

  1. Two 4 ohm car subwoofers: This is one of the simplest setups possible. Just connect the subs in series for a total of 8 ohms and connect them to one of the stereo receiver speaker outputs. However, be aware that if there’s no speaker crossover in place or built-in, you’ll get vocals and sounds in the subs that won’t sound good, so a crossover may be needed. (see above)
  2. Single DVC 4 ohm subwoofer: Likewise, a single dual voice coil (DVC) subwoofer with 4 ohm windings can be wired in series to meet the 8 ohm requirement. Just like above, a low-pass (subwoofer) crossover may be needed.
  3. Single 4 ohm subwoofer or receivers without enough power – using a mini amp: You can use an affordable miniature amp to drive a 4 ohm car sub directly, avoiding the needed to lose power like you would in option #4. You can use a mini amp that can drive a 4 ohm or even 2 ohm car sub directly. Some also have a built-in crossover for great sound making them a great choice.
  4. Single 4 ohm subwoofer using a series power resistor: This is the simplest and most affordable option. Using a power resistor (a resistor that’s designed to handle higher power levels) just wire it in series with the sub to get the 8 ohms needed. Power resistors can be found for around $5 more or less. I recommend a 25 watt or higher rating, depending on your stereo’s power output.

Note that while option #4 is the easiest of all, I don’t recommend it because you’ll lose 1/2 or more of the stereo’s power output. That’s because the power is divided between it and the sub. 

Audio power resistor examples

Examples of power resistors you can use for speaker projects including hooking up a sub to a home stereo. These resistors can be found and electronic parts stores and speaker part retailers, or even Amazon or eBay. They’re often priced very affordably (around $5 or so for a pair or pack).

What to do if you can’t get the right Ohms together

Home stereo mini amp example

Example of a small & affordable amplifier that can be used to drive a lower impedance car subwoofer from your home stereo receiver. You can find these with a crossover built-in (as shown here) for under $30.

It’s a bit tricky in some cases – especially when using multiple car subwoofers and/or those like 2 ohm models, for example. A home stereo amp is a great answer to this problem and offers several benefits:

  • Can drive lower impedance subs directly
  • Low cost (often under $30) and very compact size
  • Some include a low pass crossover built in meaning you’ll save a lot of hassle

While I realize you might not want to have to spend money & wait for the stuff to arrive, it’s definitely worth thinking about. Here’s a good example of an inexpensive one I found.

How do you hook up a subwoofer to a receiver without sub output?

Image showing examples of line level RCA converters

Examples of line level converters use you can use to get an RCA low-level signal from a home stereo without subwoofer RCA outputs.

The good news that if you’re planning to use a small amp to power a sub at home but your receiver doesn’t have a subwoofer or other RCA outputs there’s a solution. You can use a line level converter, commonly used for factory-installed car stereos, to create some, then connect to a subwoofer amp.

You’ll want a good quality one with adjustable output level dials to be sure you don’t have problems with the signal level. They’re especially valuable to have as many vintage or older home stereos don’t have subwoofer outputs.

You can connect them just like you would a speaker, either to unused speaker outputs or also connect them alongside speakers already in use.

How many watts do you need for a subwoofer?

Man thinking about how much power for car subwoofer with home stereo

Car subwoofers are very inefficient speakers and are some of the most power-hungry you can find! The good news is that if you’re just looking forward to average listening levels you can get by with less power.

  • For easy listening, low-volume music levels, or sound from movies, you’d want at least 25 watts RMS of power per channel available to drive a subwoofer.
  • For a bit more “punch” that requires extra bass (especially the bass & thuds from DVD or BlueRay video sound) 50W+ would be much better.

If your home receiver is on the weaker side as some budget models are (for example, 15W-20W per channel) you’ll need a small external amp as I mentioned earlier. If you’re planning driving a car subwoofer with high volume and want some serious bass I’d recommend a minimum of 100W RMS and even more if you can afford it.

Bookshelf stereos usually can’t cut it – they’re just not designed to produce much power. However many decent quality home stereo receivers or home theater amps/decoders can do the job ok.

Home stereos vs car amplifiers

On the downside, home stereos don’t produce anywhere near the power of today’s car amps which typically have at least 75W to 100W or more per channel, if not several times that! On the plus side, when using a subwoofer inside your home you don’t have the terrible acoustical losses that you do in a car or truck.

This means when using a car subwoofer inside your home you need less power to hear it well.

Subwoofer sensitivity (efficiency) & volume

Some subwoofers produce more volume for the same amount of power. This is actually a standard specification used to compare speakers and the official name is speaker sensitivity. In other words, the sensitivity of a speaker describes the volume output it produces for a given amount of power, in decibels (dB).

A standard dB reading of 1 watt measured 1 meter (1M) away is used for this measurement in the speaker industry.

When comparing two subwoofers, for example, one might have a sensitivity of 87dB/W while a 2nd one has one of 91dB/W. This means the second produces more sound with less power. Because speakers require a doubling of power to increase another 3dB in volume, that means a more efficient speaker can use 1/2 the power or less than another speaker for the same volume!

That’s something to think about when comparing subs.

Will a sub work without an amp?

can you use a sub without an amplifier question man thinking

This one’s easy to answer, although it’s important to be clear about power & amplifiers. In general terms, no, a sub won’t work ok without an amp.

Hang on a second, though! What does “amp” mean in that case? To be more clear, here’s the long and short of it:

  • A subwoofer, like any other speaker, must be powered by an amplified audio signal with a decent amount of wattage in order to produce sound.
  • To properly drive a subwoofer for it to work well, that’s different; in that case, yes, without question you need an amplifier of sufficient power to drive it well.

That is to say, you can’t hook up a subwoofer to a non-amplified signal output from any stereo or other audio source. You need an amplified speaker output with a fair amount of power in order for it to work ok and sound right.

As I mentioned earlier, for casual listening inside your home you can likely get away with 25 watts for subwoofers with decent efficiency. However, if you want to drive a subwoofer hard and get that real bass “thump”, you’ll need a lot more power: 80-100W or more for a home amplifier.

More great articles about speakers and audio

Don’t miss out – there’s a lot more great reading ahead! Check out some of my other detailed articles:

Got questions or comments? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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!

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

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

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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!

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.

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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!

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.

More great speaker and sound articles

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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.

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.

More great speaker-related articles you’ll love

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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.

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?

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