Often, the traditional car component stereo system does not fit well in the predetermined openings. In certain situations, it is helpful to invert parts, and reverting to upside-down speakers does not change sound pressure wave output. Depending on the angle, car speakers mounted upside down will affect audio volume more than inverting speakers.
In general, you can mount car speakers upside down without mechanical or sound concerns because a wavelength, or frequency, doesn’t travel directionally; sound wavelength travels. However, there are few reasons to do so other than aesthetics and fit.
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Speakers can certainly be flipped, but the overarching purpose is typically personal preference, not to obtain ideal listening conditions.
Read on for additional reasons why you should or should not invert your sound system, whether or not inverted and regular components can be mixed, and learn about all of the possibilities that directional speakers bring to light.
Pros and Cons of Mounting Car Speakers Upside Down
Mechanically, you can mount your car speakers upside down, but there is no special musical benefit. In-home stereo systems, down-firing subwoofers will allow the floor to shake at high volumes, enhancing the viewing experience.
Or, Photosounder is a software application that turns music into images and can flip them upside down and play it back. To listen to music upside down, in this 30-second video, the author used Photosounder to accomplish this, not by inverting speakers.
But there are very few burning reasons to invert car speakers otherwise. The sound is affected by your car’s measurements, the speaker specifications, and other indicators, not the speakers’ direction.
Often when installing an aftermarket car stereo system, you don’t get to factor in your personal preferences. By following the user manual closely, the system will work correctly.
In deciding to invert your audio system or not, you can exercise your choice in some instances. The reasons to mount your car speakers upside down are:
- Due to space or enclosure fitting issues.
- To gain room in the encasement for better component cooling. By running a cooler, you may improve the longevity of the component.
- Because the cutout is the wrong size but will fit if inverted.
- You prefer the upside down aesthetic; the magnet can be more visually appealing, and you like the flashier look.
- Glue is not strong enough to hold a component, but inverting it allows a lighter load.
Despite the shortlist, it’s sensible to remember not to fix something that isn’t broken. Here are the cons:
- Do not invert if the subwoofer is heavier than your box unless the container is anchored down safely. This may allow you to design a better enclosure with recommended airspace to allow for optimal sound and prevent overheating.
- Also, if wider access to the cone is preferable, don’t invert. The motor gets in the way, and part of the cone is blocked, losing the slightest amount of output unless you build an enclosure that allows for the difference.
- There is no proven difference in the subwoofer Sound Pressure Level (SPL) measurement, an objective reading taken with an SPL meter to measure volume in decibels. Amazon.com carries a huge array, including the best selling Decibel Meter/Sound Pressure Level Reader (SPL) / 30-130dBA Range at a reasonable price.
Will Sound Quality Get Better?
Placing your subwoofer upside down will not make it louder. Moreover, unless an original space issue existed and is fixed, there is no improvement for typical music enthusiasts in sound quality.
If you decide to invert both of your speakers and reverse polarity to both of the components, as sometimes suggested, there is no discernible difference. It is a common misconception described to correct cancellations; however, there is no indication it will change anything.
Luckily, the speakers will not be damaged if you try it, but the best practice is to wire speakers correctly.
Audio University explains positive versus negative polarity and demonstrates the possible audio wave scenarios in this 6-minute video. Sound issues come up with multiple arrays that are wired differently. Learn how to test unlabeled speaker polarity and receive an excellent education on speaker wiring and inverted polarity.
Can You Mix Inverted Subwoofers With Regular Subwoofers?
Depending on how the subwoofer is wired, you can mix subwoofers that are mounted regularly with inverted. The wiring tells the cone to move first; therefore, reverse the wires, and everything will work well.
For a technical explanation with three reasons not to invert a subwoofer, view this 8-minute video for the daily driver car stereo enthusiast:
Speaker Sound Wavelength
A conventional component car stereo system produces audible sound with a moving electromagnetic voice coil, which vibrates the paper or plastic cone releasing music into the air. A tweeter emits a high-frequency treble with shorter wavelengths that don’t spread out as quickly as bass.
Therefore, car speaker component installation manuals recommend installing tweeters in line with your ear to receive the most pristine treble sound and avoid competing with slower bass waves. But mounting upside down would make no difference.
Bass waves have more time to spread out over a bigger area as they travel, even if installed upside down.
The more electrical current, or power, fed into the subwoofer, the more sound energy can emit and the further the sound waves travel. Also, speakers that are upside down or right side up do not matter.
For the coaxial speaker, the tweeter and mid-range speakers are stacked and encased together. If you are an audiophile, you will possibly notice less clarity because the tweeter is not in line with the ear, but otherwise, there is no sound differential if turned upside down.
Directional speakers use different wave producing devices, like ultrasound, to create soundwaves that spread less than conventional speakers.
American inventor Woody Norris used ultrasound to create a HyperSonic Sound (HSS) system. Acoustic sound waves are thrown in the air by converting too high, inaudible pitched ultrasonic sound to a frequency that can be heard.
In this 1-minute video, Holosonics.com demonstrates how directional speakers allow an individual to hear the audio from a narrow space, like a laser beam of light. Ultrasound is the type of acoustic source used in the video, although other types exist.
In the future, small directional speakers will be installed in cars to provide high-fidelity sound. Preferred music can be listened to individually, without disturbing the other occupants. The military has been using them for years in the navy for underwater navigation systems (sonar); the possibilities are endless. Additional uses are:
- Advertisements begin playing as individuals walk by to trigger them at grocery stores, malls, movie theaters, and museums.
- Hospitals, medical offices, or pharmacies can beam audio to patients for privacy and prevent disturbing others.
- Police or military communication on jets or helicopters to drown out background noise.
- Speakerphone usage that does not disturb people close by.
- Portable directional speakers for the hearing impaired.
Car speakers are omnidirectional; therefore, inverting them will not change the sound quality but may interfere with your perception of sound, but there is no appreciable difference. Wavelengths bend and refract; therefore, the critical factor is the distance from the speakers to your ears.
Car speakers are still functional if inverted, and there is no negative effect on sound quality. Furthermore, unless you are an audiophile, there is no noticeable sound differentiation depending on the speakers and distance.