What are Subs and Speakers?
Subs and speakers are the ultimate end game of your car stereo. Speakers and subs transfer the electrical energy from your amplifier and then reproduce that energy into high and low pressure waves by a moving diaphragm called the cone. The high and low pressure waves are then intercepted by your ear drum and are ultimately perceived by the human ear to be sound. Speakers can make or break the final quality of the sound of your car stereo as well as the acoustics of your vehicle and the location of the speaker to the listening position. Real Time Analyzation, or RTA tuning, and time correction can make a dramatic difference in the final sound quality of your speaker system and should be taken into consideration when updating the speakers in your car stereo.
Subs and speakers come in different sizes, power ratings and shapes to accommodate different installation applications and sometimes specific octave ranges. The speaker cone is also know as a driver. Speaker sizes are usually referred to as driver sizes. As an example, a 6.5″ driver is a round speaker versus a 6×9″ driver is an oval speaker.
Tweeters: Tweeters are the smallest driver sizes found in your car stereo and they generally reproduce the highs and the high-mids of the audible frequency range. They are generally found as 1″ drivers and sometimes 2″ drivers. Factory systems like to use 2″ – 3″ paper type tweeters in the dash of vehicles. In this case it might be necessary to fabricate mounting plates for your new tweeters to fit in the factory location of your vehicle.
The frequency range of a tweeter will generally cover the cymbals in a drum kit, the crispness of smaller horns and the after touch of your string instruments. Upgrading your factory tweeters with a pair of aftermarket tweeters, like a silk dome, can have dramatic improvements in the sound quality of your vehicle.
Woofers: Also known as door speakers, are not to be confused with subwoofers, and generally cover the midrange frequencies of the sound spectrum. These speakers tend to vary in size from 4″ drivers to the most common 6.5″ drivers. Smaller door speakers are generally limited to the mid and mid-high frequencies while larger 6.5″ door speakers will reproduce frequencies accurately down to the low-mid part of the sound spectrum.
The frequency range of the common door speaker will brighten up an electric guitar, punch the slap of the snare drum, warm up the acoustics of steel toms, bring out the drama of a violin and make you feel the brashness of a saxophone. The mid frequency range is also where you will find the vocals in your music and upgrading your door speakers from a factory speaker system is always beneficial to the sound quality of your vehicle and your music.
Subwoofers: Also know as subs, are specific only to the lowest frequencies of the sound spectrum, and are the largest drivers in any car stereo. They are generally found in sizes ranging from 8″ – 12″ diameters. Subs move massive amounts of air creating large pressure waves. These large pressure waves give that bottom end punch you expect from your kick drum, the undeniable funk of a bass guitar and the earthshaking bump of a house beat.
The frequency range of a subwoofer generally covers the first 2 octaves of the sound spectrum, also known as the lows. Subwoofers require their own mounting structure called a sub box. Sub boxes are built to create negative pressure on the sub to help move their large diameter cones back and forth for accurate reproduction of low end frequencies. Custom sub boxes are built to meet certain cubic air space specifications of subwoofers and are sometimes custom built to fit under seats or other hidden areas to maximize the use of space in the vehicle. JL Audio’s Stealthbox line of sub boxes are custom designed to fit may vehicles while minimizing the footprint needed to be installed in your car. Alpine and Kicker also have some great vehicle specific options for custom sub boxes.
Crossovers: Crossovers are in-line devices that separate the frequencies between your car stereo speaker drivers. Crossovers allow all the frequencies to pass down one speaker line from the amplifier or directly from the head unit, then the crossover distributes certain groups of frequencies to dedicated drivers within the component speaker system. Crossovers protect drivers like the tweeter from receiving powerful low end frequencies that would ultimately lead to the instant death of a tweeter. Crossovers can filter out and keep unwanted frequencies from mudding up your subwoofer’s performance and damaging more delicate drivers.
Crossovers are typically found on component speaker systems and are sometimes just simple resistors and capacitors that are physically attached to many factory speakers. Many head units will have crossovers built into them as well as most amplifiers. Most aftermarket component speakers will have a separate crossover.
Coaxial speakers: A coaxial speaker will generally be one speaker that has 2 or more drivers built into it. These generally come in 2-way and 3-way systems. The amount of different size drivers on a speaker determines how many “way’s” it is. A 3-way coaxial speaker is made of 3 drivers like a 6 x 9″ woofer, a 2″ mid range and 1″ tweeter. Coaxial speakers are generally made to reproduce the entire audible frequency range except for the lows in one self contained unit. Some coaxial speakers will dip into the low frequency range but are too small to give the thump of a larger driver like a subwoofer.
Component speakers: Component speakers will generally come with a crossover setup. They me be sold by the driver size or be boxed as a set like a pair of 6.5″ woofers with separate 1″ tweeters. Component speakers are generally better sounding than their coaxial partners, are generally able to handle more power and allow the opportunity to mount the tweeter in a higher position in the vehicle that will provide the tweeter’s weaker high end frequencies an obstacle free path to the listening position.
Some component speaker systems are convertible systems, allowing the tweeter to be mounted to the woofer. Replacing your current car stereo coaxial speakers with a pair of convertible components is an audible step up in improvement from a standard coaxial design.
Adding a Subwoofer and/or Replacing your Speakers?
Did your car stereo’s speakers finally bite the dust? Do you want to level up on your car stereo game? Do you just require an upgrade in sound quality or do you just want some low end funk in your trunk? Whatever your reason may be Jackson Tint and Sound can help you pick out the right door speakers and subwoofers and provide you with simply the best professional installation within your budget from top manufacturers like JL Audio and Kicker.
Trim Rings: Some vehicles may require speaker trim rings to adapt aftermarket speakers to specific factory mounting locations. Some speaker trim rings may also provide a rise off of the door to accommodate deeper speakers by allowing more space for clearance of obstacles in the car door like the mechanics of the automatic windows or even the window itself. Some cars allow us to plasma cut a larger hole in the door to accommodate larger woofers for better low-mid response from your door speaker.
Sub Boxes: Custom built sub boxes can fit beneath the rear seat of your pickup, can fit into the wheel well in the back of an SUV and can even fit behind the headrest of a Corvette. JL Audio’s line of sub boxes, particularly their Stealthbox series, has many solutions for custom built pre-loaded sub boxes.
Simple and more affordable sub boxes are just floor models that can be added anywhere you like in your vehicle. Some sub boxes are pre-built with amplifiers built in, also known as active subs. These boxes are usually pre-loaded with a least 1 subwoofer and can be mounted almost anywhere in your vehicle. Some subwoofer boxes are pre-loaded with subs but have no amplifier. In this case a location for the amplifier to be mounted would be necessary. We also work with some great contractors and distributors that custom build subwoofer and door speaker boxes to be loaded with your favorite sub or two, or three, or……….yeah……. we can do that.
RMS vs. MAX power: The RMS rating of any speaker driver is the continuous power rating that the speaker is designed to withstand at a maximum volume rating. The RMS rating is the only number to go by when pairing your speakers with an amplifier. As an example a speaker with a 100Watt, or 100W for short, RMS rating and a 300W Max rating is ultimately a 100W speaker. The Max rating is the temporary spikes in voltage that the speaker can handle. A 100W RMS / 300W Max speaker is going to outperform a 100W RMS / 250W Max speaker at higher volumes, but may not be the more detailed reference speaker.
Ohms: The Ohm rating, or resistance rating, of a speaker is an essential part of a well balanced car stereo system. Many Bose and JBL factory speaker systems have 2ohm drivers. Most aftermarket speakers are 4ohm drivers. Replacing these types of factory speakers may require a wiring bypass of the factory amplifier.
Driver resistance ratings are essential when pairing drivers with amplifiers. An amplifier that is 750W @ 2ohms might only generally be 500W @ 4ohms. When purchasing a subwoofer driver the correct pairing of a subwoofer’s RMS wattage and Ohm ratings with an amplifier’s output power rating is absolutely essential.
Frequency Response: Frequencies are measured in Hertz or Hz for short. The frequency response of speaker drivers will generally fall between 20Hz and 22kHz. At 20Hz the sound spectrum begins. Every time you double your frequency you move up one octave in scale. 20Hz to 40Hz covers the first Octave, 40Hz to 80Hz covers the next octave and so on. Subwoofer drivers are generally tuned to crossover at 80Hz. This can depend on the subwoofer type and the type of music you listen to.
Door speakers can range in frequency response generally starting around 30Hz in the low end. A door speaker that starts around 30Hz is going to be your everyday door speaker that won’t bump the low end like a sub but will reproduce audible clear low end nonetheless. Door speakers that start higher in the sound spectrum at a frequency around 65Hz or higher are built and designed to work with subwoofers. These types of door speakers are missing at least the 1st octave and a half of music. These types of speakers are not recommended for replacement of your factory speakers without the pairing of a subwoofer in your car stereo system. Because these speakers are designed to be used with subs their mid-low and mid-range response is generally exceptionally warmer and cleaner as the speaker will have less distortion in these frequency ranges by eliminating the need to reproduce the low-end frequencies. Low-end reproduction is the subwoofers job.
Sound Dampening: Dynomat and Hushmat are manufacturers of square adhesive backed sound dampening materials that mold and stick to the inside of your door or anywhere else where sound dampening is required. We sell the Hushmat brand. They both do the exact same thing.
Generally the only thing between your door panel and your door is a thin sheet of mylar, not all car doors but most car doors. Adding Hushmat between your door panel and the car door dramatically decreases road noise and can turn your door into a speaker cabinet for your woofers. Hushmat greatly improves the frequency reproduction in the midrange and low-midrange of your woofers. We always recommend the installation of Hushmat when doing a door speaker replacement where applicable.
So Many Choices, Where Do I Begin?
Spacing: Can you fit a component set of speakers in your car or do you need to find a coaxial set of speakers? Do you need a custom fit subwoofer box and if so what mounting locations and box options are available? Is there enough space in your car door to accommodate a larger size door speaker and is there enough clearance behind the speaker that it wont interfere with the inner workings of your car door? Is there enough space to accommodate the connections of the crossover? Jackson Tint and Sound can help you narrow down what speakers and subwoofers are your best options and what obstacles might be found throughout the installation process. We have decades of A/V installation and car stereo experience to help you select the right door speakers and subs.
Budget: With coaxial speakers from Kicker starting under a hundred dollars to the high end audiophile quality of JL Audio’s component drivers, the cost of installation is the same per driver location. Even if you are one of the do-it-your-self type, the effort required is still the same. Spending an extra $20 to $50 for a pair of coaxial speakers or $50 to $100 extra for a pair of component speakers could very well last longer, will usually sound better and will generally keep you satisfied with your car stereo purchase for years to come. Subwoofers are no different and a subwoofer that reproduces frequencies 2 – 4Hz lower than a sub that is $100 cheaper is a serious difference in low end performance.
Wether you are just replacing one door speaker, just adding a subwoofer or whatever your level of interest is in improving the sound quality of your vehicle, Jackson Tint and Sound has door speakers and subwoofer options you need around your budget from brands like JL Audio, Alpine, Kicker and more.
Power and Wattage: More power does not equate to better performance. If 2 subwoofer drivers are boasting a 1000W RMS rating per driver and are pre-loaded in a sub box and selling for a price that seems to good to be true, it probably is. These subs are know for being extremely affordable and being able to handle high power ratings. Not only do most of these cheaper subs come up short by at least 5Hz – 10Hz in the low-end in comparison to higher priced subs, they over compensate for their lack in low-end reproduction performance with excessive power. Watts aren’t cheap, and a sub that does 22Hz @ 500Watts will out perform any sub dropping off at 30Hz @ 1000watts. It’s all about the amount of energy that low-end frequencies produce. A 1000watt amplifier is going to cost you twice the money of a 500watt amplifier, spending an extra $200 – $300 on a high quality sub can easily save you $300 – $500 on an amplifier.
Functions and Capabilities: Why are you replacing or adding speakers and what kind of functionality do want from them? Will your speakers or subwoofers be exposed to water, dust or salt? Marine Grade subs and marine grade speakers for these applications one might find in a boat, convertible or an ATV are specially designed to be water resistant and host corrosive resistant components and added protection from salt water, dust and debris.
Your speakers are the end game of your car stereo. They can simply play your favorite song and get you down the road or your speakers can simply rock and sound phenomenal doing it.
Speakers are the last devices in your car stereo that reproduce your media. Essentially no matter what speakers, amplifiers or subwoofers you have in your car these devices only sound as good as the signal they get from your head unit. Pairing a full set of JL Audio speakers and subwoofers for instance with a Pioneer head unit is a waste of your JL Audio speaker systems potential. With that said, your subwoofer and speaker drivers will only sound as good as your media type. Compressed audio from an MP3 streaming over BT will never sound as good as a 16bit 48kHz audio file, like what you would find on a CD, or a 32bit 96kHz high quality audiophile format, like what you would generally find on a Blu-Ray disc or now FLAC. Now you can put everything onto a USB thumb drive as a media option.
Whatever functionality you need from your car stereo subwoofer and speaker system and whatever your level of interest is in improving the sound quality of your vehicle, Jackson Tint and Sound has speaker and subwoofer system options you need around your budget from brands like JL Audio, Alpine, Kicker and more.