In the competitive world of car audio, most enthusiasts immediately envision walls of high-powered amplifiers and boxes of ridiculously oversized subwoofers that require a small town power substation to run. And while these aspects of car audio – especially in soundoff competition circles – definitely bring the “cool factor” to the circuit, there’s another element that is often overlooked, but is just as important when considering sound quality: Component speakers.
Perhaps one of the most often-asked questions we hear is, “What are component car speakers?” – and in this article we’re going to tell you all about them.
A component car speaker is a car audio speaker essentially matched for optimal sound quality. Offered by all high-end auto sound manufacturers, component speakers typically include a pair of tweeters (for high frequencies) and mid-bass drivers (to reproduce midrange frequencies) that are matched with a crossover that limits the frequency range each speaker can accurately reproduce, a tactic aimed at limiting harmful distortion and other unpleasant elements.
Now, while separate tweeters and mid-woofers may mean a bit more work during the installation phase, years of enjoyment will be experienced thanks to the advantages component speakers bring. Much like subwoofers are specifically designed to handle ultra-low, wall-shaking bass frequencies, the parts of a component speaker system have been engineered to deliver what tweeters and mid-bass drivers do best: Deliver clean, ear-splitting highs and rich mid-tones, respectively.
What are the Parts of Component Speakers?
As we hinted at above, component speakers are comprised of tweeters, (mid) woofers and crossovers, and if you are shopping for a set in order to complete an installation, it’s important to know what each of these do.
These are the parts of a loudspeaker that deliver the “high” frequencies – the vocals you hear in music, the percussion from cymbals and everything else that’s not related to lower bass-related tones. Since these higher frequencies are more directional than those produced by mid-woofers and subwoofers, it is important to mount them as close to ear level as possible; that said, the tweeters should still be in close proximity to the woofers so that the different frequencies don’t reach the ear at different times.
Midrange and Midbass Drivers
Component “woofers” (we put this word in quotations because normally they’re related to low bass frequencies delivered by subwoofers) are usually mounted in a vehicle’s factory locations, most likely in the doors. With freedom to operate from any physical interference by the tweeters, the more resonant low frequencies produced by these drivers will create a solid foundation for the detailed highs.
Think of a crossover as the traffic cop of car audio – information coming from a system’s “head unit” (radio) or amplifier is analyzed by an external crossover to ensure frequencies above a fixed point go to the tweeters while those below go to woofers. These little boxes can be tucked away anywhere there is space in the doors or dashboard.
How Component Speakers Work
We’ve been touching on this all throughout the aforementioned information in this article, but to really get into the nitty gritty of it all, component speakers separate the drivers in a speaker system and introduce a crossover so each can do their job more efficiently. On the flip side of this coin are normal coaxial speakers, which – whether factory-installed or aftermarket in nature – combine the woofer and tweeter into one speaker; while it’s a convenient method to squeeze good sound from a single speaker cutout, the design of the woofer and tweeter are both compromised in this arrangement.
Component speakers, sold as a set of multiple units, are installed at different locations throughout a vehicle, each producing its own range of sounds to provide a concert-esque quality to your music. There are many who, in fact, consider the mighty subwoofer part of a component speaker package, as these subs normally sit in an enclosure of their own (typically in the rear of a vehicle), powered by a standalone power amplifier (or multiple amps).
If you’re looking for throbbing, thumping low end that can be heard – and often felt – by passers-by in the street as you cruise the neighborhood, a subwoofer (and a lot of power behind it) is a must.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Component Speakers
The three big advantages of component speakers encompass:
- Better Crossover – Better separate the frequencies > cleaner sound.
- Better Sound Stage/Imaging – By elevating tweeters to the dash, A-pillars or sail panels of your vehicle, the stage is being raised, so to speak, so that music appears to be coming right in front of you rather than behind you or by your knees. Ability to adjust your imaging.
The major disadvantages of component speakers include:
- Slightly more involved installation efforts
- You have to find somewhere to mount the crossover
- If factory speakers don’t have tweeters, you have to drill a hole somewhere in the vehicle’s door to put them in
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Component Speakers Without an Amp?
In a word, yes – component car speakers can be powered without an outboard (external) power amplifier, and this would be achieved by hooking them directly up to the speaker-level outputs of a car radio/receiver/head unit. In this scenario, the power from the built-in amplifier of a receiver would be providing the juice to the tweeters and mid-woofers, though power ratings from car stereo receivers are notoriously low.
To really hear, feel and experience your music on the road, an external amplifier is always recommended (and for sub-bass, big power amps putting out a lot of current is mandatory when driving subwoofers).
What are the Best Component Speakers for Bass?
First, it must be understood that a mid-bass (or 6.5-inch) speaker was never designed to produce deep, thumping bass – that isn’t its function. The kind of low, droning, thumping bass you hear and feel coming from cars and trucks a block away is produced solely by subwoofers – and preferably many of them. To the contrary, midrange or mid-bass speakers deliver the mid-tones in music and bass, which they have been engineered to do…and do well.
The goal with mid-bass speakers is to make sure they’re playing cleanly with little to no distortion, and this is accomplished by pushing a moderate amount of volume to them or installing what are known as “bass blockers,” essentially fancy crossovers that filter out the lower bass that may be going to these drivers.
Additionally, seriously low bass requires a great deal of amplification to move those woofers, especially if you’re after competition-level audio; the truth of the matter is a 6.5-inch speaker just doesn’t boast the displacement in order to play a load of bass at an appreciable output level. The best thing you can do to maximize bass from door speakers is to ensure they are well-sealed in the vehicle’s door itself, with no holes in close proximity.
What Companies Make the Best Component Speakers?
Many diehard car audio enthusiasts will say the best car speakers are made by JL Audio, a brand that has a stellar reputation for the most heart-stopping subwoofers in the entire hobby. Aside from JL, the following manufacturers deserve your consideration when shopping for component car speakers that put out great bass:
- Rockford Fosgate
- Hertz Audio
- Polk Audio
- Image Dynamics
- Dayton Audio.