Tag: Component 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 Component Speakers?

Component Speaker Sets Includes 2 Speakers, 2 Tweeters and 2 Crossovers

A component speakers has separate woofers, tweeters, and external crossovers which allow for many different installation configurations. Component systems can have anywhere from 2 to 4 speakers, each connected via the external crossover network. This crossover sends the correct frequency to each speaker, so the low sub frequencies are not trying to be played by the high frequency tweeter. Because each speaker is separate, they can be placed anywhere the installer desires, however it is recommended that they remain within 8 inches of each other. It is not uncommon to find the midrange woofer in the lower half of the door while the tweeter is in the upper half or the A-Pillar by the windshield.

Infinity Reference 6030cs

2-Way Component Speakers – Infinity Reference 6030cs

The advantages of component speakers are usually better sound quality because an installer can place the speakers appropriately for your vehicle. There is added cost for component speakers over the standard coaxial and the installation is more difficult for do-it-yourselfers.  Time alignment can be an issue if the speakers are too far apart, all the frequencies should reach your ear at the same time for ideal sound. Tweeters are directional, meaning they need to be pointed at the listener’s ear, while the midbass driver is not directional. This means more realistic sound for the listener if positioned correctly.

Component speaker systems will be labeled as 2-Way, 3-Way or even 4-Way, the most common being 2-Way. The number associates how many speakers come in the set, so a 3-Way set will come with 3 speakers, a midbass speaker, midrange speaker, and tweeter.  A 2-way will come with a midrange speaker and a tweeter and is the most common setup with an included subwoofer to fill in the low frequencies. Component speakers are a great choice for the standard listener as well as the audiophile.

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