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Rob Hephner

Professional Auto Sound Expert

Best Car Stereo Speakers & Car Audio Speakers

Featured On:

  • Car Sound Performance
Every car audio systems needs speakers if you want to hear the music, but the type can drastically change the overall sound. If you just want to replace a bad speaker any drop in replacement will work and their quality does not really differ by that much. To make a real difference you will want to use amplification and step up to components separates and they truly add a distinctive “voice’ to your sound.

Picking component separates are sort of like picking a fine wine. While there are standards of excellence, there still is personal choice and an acquired understanding of how the music should be presented. In the audio industry we call the difference in sound from original “color.” In other words, if the sound is warmer or brighter than the original sound we call that coloration - it is key to the difference in the type of components that you buy and will make the overall voice of your system. No single purchase will make more difference in how things sound than component speakers, so if it is possible to listen to them before you buy, you should. If you can’t listen to the speakers it is OK, you just need to define the type of music you want and you can go from there. If you want music to sound the exact way it was recorded that is how I rate speakers.

In my top five, I rated the speakers based first upon their overall lack of coloration and then based upon how accurate they would behave through the range of volume listening levels from low to high, it is a term called linearity.

For the best car stereo speakers, concentrate on the amplification for a distinctive sounds. With new car audio speakers, your favorite tunes will sound so much better and your coolness factor will soar.

Best Component Speakers by Rob Hephner

The Best You Can Get

  • Focal - Utopia Components

    Rob says: The best sound you can possibly buy? Well, you better bring your bank, because Focal Utopia Component speakers are not cheap in any sense of the word. In my and several others’ book these speakers are the best of the best. Focal already has a reputation in the high-end audio market and they held nothing back when they built these speakers and the crossover that comes with them.

    The Crossblock crossover itself looks like a work of art, it almost looks like a home amplifier and it allows for over 4000 filtering options, all depending upon where you place the speakers in the car and how they will be used.

    The technology and materials used to build the speakers also speak to the high-end heritage of Focal. Beryllium is used for the tweeters, not titanium like you’ll see everywhere else. Why? Because beryllium is seven times more rigid than titanium and just as light, almost a perfect material and of course, worth every penny.

    Focal uses foam laminated between two thin sheets of glass fabric for the mid-woofers in this series of components and they call it the W sandwich cone. It decreases weight and increases stability, only the best when you are paying almost the price of a used car for this my top pick.

    • Allows for over 4000 filtering options
    • Beryllium tweeters
  • Boston Acoustics SPZ Components

    Rob says: Boston Acoustics makes some of the best speakers on earth and their reputation for delivering clean, crisp sound it showcased in their SPZ components. Concentration of excellent design and high-end materials make the SPZ components my number two pick.

    The real design difference that makes the SPZ series a top pick is the superior mid-woofer design that boasts long-strand carbon-fiber woofer material and nearly one inch of peak-to-peak excursion. The more a mid-woofer can move, the more sound it can make and better you overall music will sound.

    On top of the innovative mid-woofer design is a 360° rotation asymmetrical anodized alloy tweeter that allows the owner to optimize the soundstage from a factory speaker location. Boston has spent a considerable amount of time making it so that you can get separate quality performance from factory positions and their work has certainly paid off in a quality product.

    • Superior mid-woofer design
    • 360° rotation asymmetrical anodized alloy tweeter
  • Polk Signature Reference Components

    Rob says: One look at the Polk Signature Reference Components and you will know this is a quality product and yes, the beauty goes further than skin deep. You’ll notice a trend of rather large crossovers (Those boxes with the speakers) in all of my top five picks and that is due to the fact that to properly direct and control sound to speakers you need to use quality components. To handle the amount of power that you will want to use to make these speakers sound right companies like Polk use larger electrical parts to minimize power loss and maximize output.

    Polk uses exotic materials in their mid-woofers and tweeters just like every other company in my top five and their approach uses aerated polypropylene cones with nitrile butyl rubber surrounds to give the proper amount of rigidity yet with full flexibility. The result is a smooth sound that works well for all types of music from classical to rap.

    For the crisp sparkle you expect from tweeters Polk uses 22mm ring radiator tweeters that are usually found in home speakers. Because they use quality components and designs in their crossovers, Polk gets a smooth sound from these tweeters but don’t lose the impact needed to work in the mobile environment.

    • Larger electrical parts minimizes power loss and maximizes output
    • 22mm ring radiator tweeters that are usually found in home speakers
  • Rockford Fosgate Power Speakers

    Rob says: Rockford Fosgate built their name on power and they not only know how to create massive amounts of it, but how to channel that power into a truly transcending musical experience. The Power Series of speakers from Rockford Fosgate combine innovative materials and are hand built to ensure quality.

    Rockford uses parabolic aluminum cones in their midwoofers to create a ridged yet light cone which delivers hard hitting midbass all while not adding any color to the music that was not intended. The cone is attached with a foam surround to a die-cast concealed ring for mounting. All of this is held in place by a proprietary cast aluminum basket. The structure of the midwoofer combined with the other material used allows Rockford to deliver an excellent sounding product that is durable as well.

    To properly protect and separate the sound from the midwoofer and the tweeter Rockford uses a 24dB per octave crossover network that is contained in attractive aluminum housing. The tweeter is an inverted titanium dome tweeter.

    I put these speakers in my number four position because they combine rugged looks and performance from the durability standpoint, with good musical performance because the proper mix of good design and materials.

    • Hand built, innovative materials
    • Parabolic aluminum cones in the midwoofers
    • 24dB per octave crossover network
  • JL Audio Evolution ZR Series

    Rob says: JL Audio made its name in the subwoofer category. They are well known for providing a quality product at a competitive price. With a strong network of independent dealers they are a little harder to find, but well worth the search. If you want clean concise sound with a strong heritage of winning in car audio competitions JL Audio is where you should look.

    I think the biggest advantage that JL’s midwoofers have comes from their “Elevated Frame” cooling system which was used first on their revolutionary W7 woofers. This design allows air to flow across the top-plate and onto the voice coil windings of the midwoofer. Keeping a midwoofer cool is important because it allows the speaker to work the same and sound the same in all sorts of stressed situation. Therefore the sound is the same quality regardless if it is being played quietly or loudly.

    JL couples their innovative midwoofer design with a conventional one-inch aluminum dome tweeter with a twist. They use soft rubber as a surround and also have Nomex as a voice coil former, which helps to “voice” the tweeter with the midwoofer. In other words, the sound blends to give a solid yet clean sound in the range between the two speakers.

    Because of the overall design and technology and clean design this series rounds out my top five.

    • “Elevated Frame” cooling system
    • Nomex voice coil former

You will be happy with any of these

  • Infinity Kappa Perfect Series

    Rob says: Infinity is actually the premier line of products from JBL and as such is positioned properly. I personally sold this line of speakers in the 80’s and 90’s and can tell you they that they and now they are by far the best buy when it comes to reasonably priced speakers.

    Infinity uses an anodized aluminum midwoofer that not only looks good but sound good as well. The efficient design make for a solid and quick midwoofer that delivers good sound with very little coloration. The midwoofer has a very clean crisp sound and works well with most contemporary and popular music.

    The tweeter for this set is also an anodized aluminum and is a one-inch in size with a rubber surround. It is a tweeter that can be found on much more expensive models, so you know it will deliver clean and crisp sound.

    The design and price point coupled with how good these speakers sound put them on the top of my best buy list.

    • Anodized aluminum midwoofers and tweeters
    • Clean and crisp sound
    • Great design
  • Pioneer Premier PRS Series

    Rob says: Pioneer learned a lot of lesson from its days in competitive car audio and one of them was how to make good sounding component speakers. This coupled with the manufacturing prowess of this mega-corporation allows them to deliver a high-end sounding product at a low price.

    You’ll find that the midwoofer actually incorporates a microfiber based surround that is connected to a multi-layer cone that keeps weight low and provides rigidity. This allows for a good, quick response and solid, loud performance.

    The tweeter is a little larger than what you might find in other component sets, but still is small enough for multiple mounting options.

    A strong heritage and good economical pricing puts this series in my number two best buy position.

    • High-end sounding product at a low price
    • Tweeter is small enough for multiple mounting options
  • JBL GTi Series

    Rob says: You’ll find a huge similarity between the JBL GTi series and the above-described Infinity speakers. So much so that the only thing really worth mentioning about the JBL speakers is that due to their crossover design and slight midwoofer and tweeter difference they have a different sound. I classify the Infinity system as a little smoother and the JBL one as a little more raw. Depending upon your listening choices and style it is worth listening to both and making a decision. If you can’t and you are looking for raw, loud, and good performance the JBL GTi series should be your choice.

    For the performance difference I put the JBL speakers third in my Best of the Rest choices.

    • Raw, loud, and good performance
    • Crossover design
  • Sony XS-D Series

    Rob says: Sony is well known the world around in the electronics world, and they have a pretty decent following in the car audio realm as well. The build a good product for a good price and are readily available almost anywhere you live, this accessibility combined with good build quality puts them fourth on my list.

    The midwoofer for the XS-D series is a vacuum formed polypropylene cone, which was a process pioneered years ago and applied to midwoofers and woofers alike. The process results in a rigid and light cone but has a tendency to color the sound slightly. This is sometimes an acquired taste but certainly good sound. If fact some people who have grown up listening to this type of design actually prefer the sound versus a more esoteric “non-color” more expensive sound.

    Sony uses a soft dome tweeter that has been an industry standard for several decades, so it is both a good sound and easy to listen to by nature.

    • Vacuum formed polypropylene cone in the midwoofers and woofers
    • Soft dome tweeter
  • Kenwood KFC Series

    Rob says: As the price points come down so do the materials, and the KFC series from Kenwood shows that you can use non-exotic materials and still get good sound.

    The midwoofer for this set uses a stamped steel basket, which reduces cost, but the cone is titanium coated to add rigidity and is suspended using a rubber surround.

    Kenwood uses a smaller tweeter than the rest in my list, but the overall sound is good and thus puts the KFC series fifth on my list.

    • Midwoofer cone is titanium coated to add rigidity
    • Good sound from non-exotic materials

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