Tag: car speakers

What are Crossovers?

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Believe it or not, there is a lot more that can go into a sound system than a headunit, speakers, subwoofer and amplifier. One such piece is a crossover. A crossover’s basic function is to take a single signal and split it up into multiple signals of specific frequency bands, low range, mid-range and high range frequencies. In a car audio system, the crossover then sends those frequency bands to the correct speaker (low frequencies to your subwoofer, mid-range to your speakers and high range to your tweeters).

Speakers Crossover Network

Without a crossover your system would waste a significant amount of energy trying to play frequencies it isn’t designed for, your subwoofer will be trying to play notes intended for your tweeters and vice-versa. This results in poor overall sound quality and can also be potentially hazardous to your system. Because of this, nearly every sound system will have some kind of crossover built-in.

Now, as with all other aspects of your car’s sound system, your system can get by with its existing crossover, but if you want your system to truly reach its potential you’re going to need to add an aftermarket crossover.

Active vs Passive: What’s the difference?

There are 2 types of crossovers you can have in your system, an active crossover or a passive crossover. Passive crossovers don’t need a direct power source to filter signals while active crossovers need power and ground connections. The type of crossover you want really comes down to one thing, how much control do you want over your listending experience?

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Passive Crossover:

Passive crossovers are unpowered and use capacitors and inductor coils to separate the sound frequencies for your system. A good example of a passive crossover is the crossovers that come with a component speaker system. Passive crossovers are wired in-line between the speakers in your system and the amplifier (or source). The passive crossovers that come with your component system come tuned and ready to be installed. One drawback of these crossovers is that because they are located after the amplifier, they waste power filtering a signal that has already been amplified.

Another form of a passive crossover is the in-line crossover. An in-line crossover can come in a few different forms. One can essentially look like a AA battery with an RCA connection on either side and connects to your amplifier’s RCA inputs. Other in-line crossovers will protect your speakers from unwanted frequencies when used after the amplifier by separating the frequencies before they reach the driver.

The biggest tradeoff with a passive crossover is ease of installation while sacrificing some flexibility in your system with the loss of sound customization.

Active Crossover:
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Unlike passive crossovers, an active crossover requires a direct power source. Active crossovers are installed between your receiver and amplifier. As a result of this, active crossovers filter your frequencies before they reach your amplifier which means there is no wasted energy filtering amplified signals. Active crossovers also usually feature a variety of adjustments, including gain controls, low pass and high pass filters while select active crossovers feature built-in equalizers to give you the ultimate control over your system.

The only real disadvantage to an active crossover is the installation. Since an active crossover has to have a power, ground and turn-on connection it has the potential to complicate your install more than a passive crossover. However, if you’re interested in making your system really sing, an active crossover is a must-add piece.

Crossovers at Sonic Electronix

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Car Audio 101: Car Speakers

After upgrading to an aftermarket car stereo, your next move is to upgrade your factory speakers. Factory speakers are made from cheap, flimsy materials and are not designed for quality sound reproduction. Because of their low quality construction, factory speakers don’t tend to last very long. Factory speakers also do not always have a tweeter. Without a tweeter, your factory speakers will struggle to reproduce the highs in your music which results in mediocre (at best) sound quality. Aftermarket speakers on the other hand are built from much higher quality materials and feature a much more efficient design. These allow aftermarket speakers to offer greater power handling capabilities, overall sound quality as well as a greatly improved lifespan over your old factory speakers.

To go along with their better overall design and construction, aftermarket speakers also include a tweeter. Aftermarket speakers are most commonly available in either component or coaxial design. A coaxial speaker has the tweeter built into the frame of the speaker whereas with a component speaker the tweeter is a separate unit. Component speakers also include an external crossover network. Because component speakers have the tweeter as a separate unit, you can install the tweeter in a separate location from the speaker which allows for better overall sound quality.

Before you buy a set of aftermarket speakers, it is important to look in your car to see what kind of setup your car is configured for. Different cars come with different sound systems, different speakers types and even different speaker sizes.

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Car Audio 101

Welcome to Car Audio 101 with Sonic Electronix! This series will cover everything you need to know about car audio, from the absolute basics for beginners to the more technical aspects of car audio. From your basic aspects of a car stereo, your amplifiers, speakers, headunits and subwoofers, to digging deep into things like tuning frequencies and battery isolators. Follow our Car Audio 101 videos and you’ll be an expert in no time!


Car Stereos

When you’re ready to start upgrading your car audio system, one of your first steps should be upgrading your factory stereo. Upgrading your car stereo can drastically improve the sound quality of your system while also adding a ton of new features (better EQ, extra outputs, Bluetooth etc.). Your stereo is responsible for sending signals to your speakers (or amplifier if you have one), and a low quality stereo is going to send a bad signal to your speakers, resulting in poor sound quality.

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Car Speakers

After upgrading your factory stereo to an aftermarket unit, your next step is typically upgrading your factory speakers. For starters, factory speakers are made from very cheap, flimsy material and usually don’t come with tweeters. Aftermarket speakers are made from significantly higher quality materials and also come with tweeters (either mounted to the speaker or as a separate unit). A set of aftermarket speakers will handle more power, last a lot longer and sound better than your cheap factory speakers.

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Car Subwoofers

Adding a subwoofer to your car can completely transform your sound system. Depending on your listening preferences, you can add a lot of bass or something a little more subtle. Without a subwoofer integrated with your system, you will actually be missing out a big chunk of the sound frequencies recorded into your music. Your basic car audio setup without a subwoofer simply isn’t able to reach those low notes in your music. Adding a subwoofer to your system isn’t as simple as buying a subwoofer and plugging it in, subwoofers also require an enclosure (usually either ported or sealed) and an amplifier.

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Car Amplifiers

What does an amplifier do? Well, it basically takes the signal from your car stereo and amplifies it to a much greater signal before it gets to your speakers. An amplifier will bring out the full potential in your speakers. If you’re looking to add a subwoofer you’ll have to add an amplifier because your stereo doesn’t have enough juice to power one. You’ll also need an amplifier installation kit to get your amplifier up and running.

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E46 BMW M3 Component Speaker System Installation

Have you ever listened to your BMW M3 and thought you needed a sound upgrade? Of course you have! This installation guide is for that exact purpose. It covers the installation process for a front door component speaker system upgrade on your BMW E46 M3 Coupe (2000-2006). This particular installation was for an Alpine Type-R Component System in a 2004 BMW M3 which already had an aftermarket headunit, amplifier and subwoofer installed. It is important to note when you look for speakers for your M3, be sure to find speakers with a relatively shallow mounting depth because the available space is extremely limited. Below is everything you need to perform this upgrade yourself!
Alpine SPR-60C

Products Used

Tools Used

The installation process for this BMW required your typical car audio installation tools like wire crimpers/cutters, pry tools and wire connectors as well as some more specialty tools such as an air grinder to create new speaker brackets and mounts.

Want to install an aftermarket system into your BMW E46 M3? Here’s what you’ll need:

The 4th generation E4 BMW M3 has a non-standard dash opening that can accommodate a full size, double DIN stereo or a smaller single DIN stereo with the proper dash kit. It has speaker locations in the front door panels for tweeters and midrange speakers as well as speaker locations in the rear and rear deck.

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Understanding Tweeter Design and Construction

Understanding Tweeters

Dome Style TweeterThere are many considerations when upgrading the audio system in a car, and one of the most overlooked aspects is the tweeter. The way a tweeter is shaped and the material with which it is constructed plays a large role in how the music will sound. The tweeter is the part of the speaker that reproduces the high-frequency sounds in music, namely the guitars, vocals and horns. Tweeters also help to give audio more body, so the sounds are not trapped near floor level, where they can be difficult to hear and enjoy.

Several factors are considered in the choice of a tweeter for any particular speaker, namely cost and the quality of sound that is produced. The challenge lies in keeping the tweeter lightweight without compromising its ability to hold up under high-volume conditions. A tweeter also needs to have good damping, which means it quits vibrating quickly when the music stops playing. To achieve these goals, tweeters can have varying shapes and be made from different materials, the details of which are explained below.

Shapes of Tweeters

  • A tweeter’s shape determines the efficiency of high-frequency response. A variety of shapes are used to obtain the best results when compared to cost.Dome Style Tweeter
  • The cone type tweeter is the cheapest to manufacture and is the design found most often in car audio systems. Most standard tweeters of this type are “whizzers”, which are tweeters that are placed inside the woofers to maximize high-frequency response. The drawbacks of this type include an inefficiency to properly distribute sound, and poor overall audio quality.
  • The semi-dome type tweeter, also known as a balanced-type, is a cone-shaped tweeter with a dome built inside of it. Both parts are about the same size and are found in lower-end speakers. The materials used for this type of tweeter are softer and provide a lower profile, which limits damage through improper mounting or poor handling. This tweeter type is found mostly in coaxial speakers, although it is also seen rarely in component speakers as well.
  • A dome tweeter offers the best dispersion of high-frequency sound and a wider range with which to work when setting the system up. The details of the speaker will include the dome’s size. Larger dome tweeters require higher levels of power to operate properly and deliver the best results.

Tweeter Materials

The materials used in the construction of tweeters can include aluminum, silk, titanium and beryllium. The majority of materials fall into three basic categories.

  • Synthetic films are light in weight and tolerant to humidity, which is a must in a car interior. They require minimal power to operate and are often found in low-cost audio system speakers. Unfortunately, tweeters made from films have limited damping capabilities and do not produce high-quality sound output.
  • Silk is a textile material used in tweeter construction. It offers the advantage of a more refined, lifelike sound result and is often used in home audio systems. High-power silk tweeters are reinforced with other synthetics to provide superior damping results, allowing for high volume, accuracy and smoothness.
  • Tweeters built with blended metals output loud and crisp high-frequency sound. Aluminum is most commonly used for this purpose, as it will produce highs that can be distinguished from bass and noise from the road. Another approach is titanium, which is extremely lightweight and produces very accurate highs without the roughness that can occur with aluminum tweeters. It is expected that manufacturers will expand into more exotic combinations of metals and ceramics as time goes on.

Making the Right Choice

When it comes down to making a choice between silk and metal, the type of car and driving style makes a difference. For example, if the car is driven mostly with the windows open allowing in a lot of road noise, metal tweeters are the better choice. A quiet auto interior calls for silk tweeters to produce the most natural-sounding audio.

Separates and Coaxials

Tweeters can be separate from the speaker‘s woofer or completely integrated. This can be a crucial difference when placing speakers inside of a car, as the higher the tweeter’s position, the more efficiently it can disperse the sound. It is important to note that a cheap tweeter is not going to provide quality sound output regardless of where it is placed.

Some types of speakers, such as three-way and four-way models, have multiple tweeters, which further separates sonic sound frequencies. In the case of a three-way speaker, there can be a driver for the mid-range, which gives the music a warmer quality, or a supertweeter, which offers superior response in the high-frequency range.

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What Are Coaxial Speakers?

Coaxial Speakers Make for a Great Upgrade Over OEM Speakers

Coaxial speakers are speakers comprised of a midrange woofer and a tweeter which is either built-in or suspended over the midrange woofer. The majority of stock OEM car speakers are coaxial in design because of low cost and easy installation. With a coaxial setup, all you need is two speakers to get a wide range of sound with minimal hassle. These speakers provide adequate sound because the woofer and tweeter are mounted on the same axis so all sounds come from a central point known as the point source. Coaxial speakers come in many different sizes that will fit most vehicles with almost no modification, some are even direct replacements.

Kicker KS 650

2-Way Coaxial Speakers – Kicker KS650

Most coaxial speakers will say “2-Way or 3-Way on the package. When it says 2-way, it means it is a standard speaker with a midrange woofer and one tweeter. If it says 3-way, it is a midrange woofer with two tweeters. If you see 4-way, it will be a midrange woofer with 3 tweeters, etc. The idea behind it is that by adding more tweeters, the speaker will hit a broader range of frequencies. A higher quality 2 or 3-way system will hit most of the 20-20,000 Hz frequencies that the human ear can pick up.

Some vehicles may not even come with coaxial speakers and instead have just midbass woofers. Replacing that midbass speaker with a coaxial set will drastically improve the sound quality of your music. The added tweeter produces high notes for a rich, full sound. Installing new coaxial speakers is simple on most vehicles, sound quality will improve, and it is a cheap alternative to replacing your OEM radio.

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Facts about Blown Speakers

Blown Speakers

What are blown speakers? Blown speakers are those that have been damaged by an excessive amount of sound being pushed through thecar speakers. How do you know that your speakers are blown? Identifying that your speakers are blown tends to be fairly easy.  If a speaker is blown, or partially blown, it will create a static-like or fuzzy sound. If you have a speaker that is completely blown, it will not have any sound but distortion. If a speaker is partially blown, it will only distort at loud levels.

One way a speaker is blown is due to less than perfect component sets. For example, low-end speakers are made with paper cones and with too much power can blow the speaker. In some instances, if too much power is sent through the speaker, the woofer can change its shape creating inferior sound reproduction. As for high-quality speakers, many of them blow because they have reached their power limits. Strong bass and high-treble are also contributing factors to blown speakers if played loudly.

There are a few different types of blown speakers:

- Completely blown speaker: A completely blown speaker means that the cone has separated from the coil. If this happens, you will notice that there is no sound, or buzz-like sounds coming from the speaker at higher levels.

Partial, or minor speaker blows occur when the midrange or tweeters are damaged. This can be detected if you hear sound, but it is heavily distorted. Since both of these components produce vocal sounds, the blow can be detected immediately if it is not being used for high-bass audio.

To test if your speaker is actually blown, use a multimeter and set it to read the impedance. If a speaker is blown, it will read infinite impedance. The best way to keep your speakers from blowing is to keep the volume at a moderate volume.

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How to Install Car Speakers

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Upgrading your car speakers is the best and most affordable way to improve your sound system.  In order to avoid returns and overly complex installations, it is important that you pick a set of speakers that will fit in your vehicle. We have compiled an online database to help you select the proper set of car speakers. Follow the step-by-step instructions on our Speaker Fit Guide to find out what size of speakers will fit in your vehicle. Once you figure out the size of car speakers that you will need, you are ready to install your car speakers.

When it comes time to install your car speakers, you will almost certainly need electrical tape, a wire cutter and a crimping tool. Depending on your vehicle, you may need a power drill if you have to re-drill holes. Depending on the type of the screws in the door panel, you will need one or more of the following: screwdrivers (Phillips and flat head), Allen wrenches, and a socket wrench set. Some doors do not even use screws so you can just pop out the panels using a Door Panel Remover. For crank windows, you will need a window clip removal tool.

  • Installing the door speakers

First remove the window handle with the window handle removal tool. Undo the clip by sliding the tool underneath the handle. Unscrew any screws on the panel. Be sure not to miss hidden screws, such as screws lying inside of the door handle. The rear view side mirrors may also have screws that need to be unscrewed. You will probably need to remove a panel to reach these screws. Remove the plastic plug pieces on the sides and bottom of the door and slide the door panel off.

Now remove the grill and factory speaker by unscrewing any screws. Take the speaker harness and plug it into your aftermarket car speaker. The harness will plug right in, no cutting is required. Be sure to connect them so that the polarity is correct. Now plug the other end of the speaker harness to the factory OEM system. If you are unable to find an aftermarket wire harness for your vehicle, you can solder or crimp the wires together. Check the wiring to make sure the polarity is correct and the connections are secure, then screw in the speakers in the mounting location and put the grill back onto the vehicle. Screw and plug in all of the pieces you removed and you are all set.

  • Installing rear speakers

To install rear speakers, you usually need to remove the rear seat. After doing so, you will need to remove the weather stripping in order to take off the rear panel. Use the panel removal tool to pry off the panel. There are usually two clips to pop off. Continue to remove the entire rear deck and side pieces using the door panel removal tool. You must also remove the plastic plug pieces. Now you are ready to pry the rear panel up and out of the vehicle. By removing the rear panel, it allows you to access the rear speakers. Unscrew the screws around the speaker hole, and plug the speaker harness into your aftermarket car speaker. Now plug the other end of the speaker harness right into the factory speaker wiring of your vehicle. No cutting is required!

  •  Installing dash speakers

The first step is usually unscrewing the grill or popping off the plastic plug pieces that hold the grill in place. Go slowly to avoid scratching the surrounding surface. If the grill is secured with plastic pieces from within the dash, you will have to remove the entire dash panel.

Now that you have access to the car speakers, remove them so that you can plug the speaker harness into your aftermarket speaker. Be sure to connect them so that the polarity is correct. Now plug the other end of speaker harness to the factory OEM system. If you are unable to find an aftermarket wire harness for your vehicle, you can solder or crimp the wires together. After you check the wiring to make sure the polarity is correct and the connections are secure, screw the speakers into the mounting location and put the grill back onto the vehicle. Screw and plug in all of the pieces you removed and you now have in-dash speakers.

Now you know how to install car speakers. Installing car speakers is a great start to building a beautiful sound system.

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The Car Speaker Buying Guide

New Speakers Can Transform Your Car's Sound

Buying the right set of speakers for your car is a critical step of building your dream sound system. However, buying a set of speakers is not nearly as simple as finding a speaker design you like and plugging it in. For starters, the speaker mount locations in your car limit your choices to speakers that will physically fit. You will also need to know whether you want a coaxial speaker set or a component set with tweeters and crossovers. We like to make car audio easier to understand here at Sonic Electronix so we wrote this speaker buying guide to help you with everything you need to know before buying a pair of speaker. This way you pick the right speakers the first time.

What Size Speakers Do You Need?

Car Speaker Sizes
3-1/2″ Speakers
4″ Speakers
4×10″ Speakers
4×6″ Speakers
5×7″ Speakers
5.25″ Speakers
6″ Speakers
6×8″ Speakers
6×9″ Speakers
6.5″ Speakers
6.75″ Speakers

First and foremost you will need to find out what kind of speakers fit in your vehicle. Knowing what size speakers your car requires is the most important step in buying your speakers, because if you buy speakers that are too big or too small, they won’t fit and you’ll either have to return them for a set the right size or get very creative with your installation. Another critical specification to be aware of is the mounting depth of the speakers versus the depth you have in your vehicle. Some vehicles have incredibly limited door space and require shallow mount speakers.

It should be relatively easy to find the speaker size your car can use in your vehicle manual. Another great place to start is on our Car Speakers page here you’ll be able to find out what size speakers fit in your vehicle.

What Kind of Sound Do You Want?

Pioneer TS-M650PRO

Knowing what you want to get out of your sound is another major step towards buying the correct set of speakers. Gearing your sound towards your taste of music will ensure you get the most enjoyment possible out of your system. Are you looking for natural sound reproduction, or more of an enhanced sound with accented bass and highs? The type of vehicle you own is also another detail to be aware of. Are you going to install these speakers into a vehicle with a lot of outside noise, such as a convertible or motorcycle? Or maybe you’re looking to install a sound system into a more conventional vehicle like a sedan or SUV. These types of questions help you decide what type of speaker and tweeter material you should look for. We’ll explain what types of materials make what kind of sounds a little further down in the article under the “Cones” section.

Full-Range Car Speakers vs. Component Systems
Our full-range car speakers are available in many shapes and sizes. Most have a woofer and tweeter molded into the speaker. Some also have midrange drivers. In contrast, component systems feature separate woofers and tweeters. This allows you to mount the tweeters in an optimal location for generating a more realistic sound. They also have midranges and external crossovers, which send separate frequencies to the woofer and the tweeter for a more efficient and cleaner reproduction.

How Are You Powering Your Speakers?

Speakers require power and they receive power via the speaker leads that they’re connected to. This power is provided by some type of amplifier, whether it be a head unit or an actual external amplifier. Head units (or stereos) have limited power they can supply to speakers. Standard factory head units usually provide a very low amount of wattage to each speaker, around 5-10W RMS per speaker. Aftermarket head units not only gives you about twice the power, but they also open up a lot more options for your sound system. An aftermarket head unit will improve the dynamic range of the sound system, and provide you with superior sound processing components. An aftermarket head unit paired with an external amplifier will truly maximize the potential of your speakers. You’ll get a larger sound stage, deeper bass, punchier mids and crisper highs due to the more effective power transfer from source to speakers.

What Else Should You Know?

Sensitivity Rating
The sensitivity rating is a very important aspect to consider when gauging a speaker’s quality. An efficiency or sensitivity rating tells you how effectively a speaker converts power into sound. The higher the sensitivity rating, the more efficient the speaker, and the louder it will play given a set amount of input power. An efficient car speaker helps you maximize your available power.

Cone Material
Cone and Surround Material Are Important Pieces of Your Speakers

There are three main components of a speaker that decide what kind of sound it produces: the cone, the surround, and the tweeter composition. The cone can be assembled using three different materials – paper, plastic, and woven fiber. These materials can go by many different names, but it all boils down to those components. Paper cones provide you with the most natural sound reproduction, and are more associated with Sound Quality (SQ) installs than with SPL installs since paper cones less durable and rigid than other cones. This can open the door for potential distortion if you aren’t careful when tuning your system. Plastic cones such a polypropylene are the most commonly used in car speakers because of their overall good balance between natural sound reproduction and durability. Finally, woven fiber cones are typically found on higher-end speakers. They can be composed of glass, Kevlar, and other components. These typically can display the best blend of quality sound reproduction, intense detail capturing, accurate imaging and optimal rigidity.

Tweeter Material
NVX XSPTW

Tweeter material can change the way vocals are heard. Aluminum tweeters are very helpful for vehicles that have a lot of road noise, like convertibles or motorcycles. This is because they are built with a “brighter” sounding material that can be a bit louder than a neutral silk dome tweeter or other soft domes. The tweeter material is also important to consider when you go back to “What type of sound do you want?” Metallic tweeters tend to sound louder, while soft textile dome tweeters tend to sound more neutral and smooth.

Buying Speakers at SonicElectronix

Remember we’re always here to help make sure you get the right setup for your vehicle. If you still have questions – give us a call at 1-877-289-7664. We’re glad to help make sure that you get everything you need to make sure your buying experience is easy and seamless.

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