If you keep your car long enough, especially under the South Florida sun, you are going to need new car stereo speakers. Some cars are more susceptible to requiring early replacement more than others. Although, ear nowadays, throughout the 80s and 90s, many vehicles had dash speakers that did not fare very well under the intense Florida sun. In comparison to other vehicles of the era, many GM products ranging from the Buick Regal to the Chevy Silverado need their dash speakers replaced more often than others. In the majority of cases not because of abuse or burnout, but they got stiff and broke due to sun exposure. One thing that goes unnoticed is how good those vehicles sounded! In my opinion, many GM vehicles on the 90s sounded much better than most of what is the market today. It was not only GM, many Ford products that used 6X8s on the doors and rear deck as well as some Nissans Maxima’s and 300ZX with the amplified system challenge many aftermarket head units and speaker combos being sold at Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Best Buy, and other discount retailers. Does nay know why? In my opinion, a lot has to do with multi-way speakers. Starting with the 3-way system on many BMW’s and all the way to the Mercedes 500s, many of these three-way systems sounded thin and dull!
An American car speaker manufacturer named Jensen introduced the tri-axial or 3 ways speakers in the late 70s, and since then people have lost their mind over multi-way speakers. Back in those days, it made sense because it extended the frequency range of the average car stereo of the late 70s and early 80s from about 12K Hertz to about 18-20! However, many audio enthusiasts were quick to point out that it lacked bottom end or bass! As a result, they started to put them in boxes. This concept was so successful that by the late 80s, you could walk the isles of your local flea market and find Jensen speaker clones with 4, 5, and even 6-ways! At the end of the day, it is all garbage! If you focus your purchase on quality versus quantity, you end up with a much better sounding car stereo than you anticipated!
I have been fortunate enough to have been able to walk the isles of CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) and seat down for demos on some of the most expensive and best-sounding audiophile speakers in the world. After all of that, I have to agree with most experts and say that you rarely need more than a 2-way speaker or system. And in many cases full-range single or dual cone speaker will yield better range and performance “from an audiophile point of view” then what is known as component speakers.
Full-Range Speakers – Consisting of a single cone, and in some cases, a small horn-like, cone at the center called a whistle cone are speakers with a single-coil able to reproduce a frequency range very close to the of the human ear. In other words, 20 Hz to 20K Hz. These type of speakers are regarded by many audiophiles as the most natural-sounding when mounted in free air (infinite baffle) or a transmission line (a type of speaker enclosure consisting of a long tunnel equivalent to the wavelength of the resonating frequency or FS of the speakers). Full-Range speakers also come in the planner or electrostatic variety. Although not really a cone speaker, they are also capable of a flat response over a wide range of frequency.
Coaxial Speakers – These are speakers with multiple drivers mounted within the same frame. Most of the times on top of the main cone or woofer, but you will also find them with the high-frequency driver mounted from the rear of the pole piece as well as inside the main coil (this type is called concentric ). Although the term “coaxial” refers to a 2-way speaker (a woofer and a tweeter) in street slang many refer to 3-way or (tri-axial) speaker by the same name. The objective of the coaxial or tri-axial speaker is to improve the upper-frequency range of the driver, more often than not above 20K Hz. The issue many true audiophiles and audio purist is that because of the dual coils these types of speakers suffer from time alignment issues and phase decoupling. That is why when possible concentric is a better choice, even though they normally cost a little more. If budget permitting something else, you should consider models with external passive crossovers. This gives you the feasibility of by-amping your mid-range and tweeter.
Component Speakers – As the name denotes component speakers are speaker systems with individual drivers for the mid and the high frequency in the case of a two way. In the case of a three-way system, you also get a midbass woofer. More often than not, these systems come with external passive crossovers leaving you wide open to the implementation of a multi-channel amp setup. Component speakers are attractive to a lot of customer seeking a high-end car stereo system because they allow the most flexibility when it comes to the mounting location. That is important in order to achieve the best staging, you may have to get creative with speaker placement and in some cases, completely avoid the factory location. Having a discrete connection and mounting capability to your high-frequency, your mid-range and your mid-bass drives also allow for the integration of active crossover with time aligning features.
Whether you are just looking for car stereo replacement speakers or upgrading the factory speakers that came with your car, choosing what is best for the application is more important than cost and even reviews. Trust me, I have been around the aftermarket car audio industry and I will tell that in many cases reviews are paid for and many cases I disagree with what car audio magazine articles have to say. After all you have to keep in mind that many of these websites and publication sole purpose is to sale ads. And don’t you find it convenient that the top reviews always go to the brand that has the most ads! Come by or stop by your favorite Miami car stereo store and talk about what your objective and budget is and have an experience car stereo installer give you some pointers. You will often find many of these guys have speaker brands other than Pioneer, Kenwood, or JL Audio in their personal cars. Not because they can’t afford other but simply because after listening to so many cars and so many installations they like how one sound over the other!