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How Many Speakers are Needed in Car?

The number of speakers in a car audio system depends on the sound quality you want to achieve.

Keep in mind that the size of your car will also play a role in how many speakers you need. For example, if you have a large vehicle, you may want to consider adding additional speakers to fill up the space. So, how many speakers are needed in the car? Let’s find out.

For a regular car, sufficient is a 9.1 sound system have nine regular speakers and a subwoofer. More advanced is the 11.2, with eleven speakers and two subwoofers making better surround and stage effects.

As an Amazon Associate, ImproveCarAudio will receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links in this article.

Tip: If you are looking for basic sound, two speakers should be sufficient, but as a minimum, for a good audio experience, you should have four high quality coaxial or system speakers.

You can find an excellent selection of car speakers on Amazon.

In the article below, I will explain how to determine the number of speakers needed in the car and how this number affects the sound quality.

Do car speakers come in pairs?

When you buy car speakers, one of the questions that would usually cross your mind is whether they always come in pairs.

how many car speaker do i need

Before we get to that, it might be better first to discuss more about car speakers.

In the past, it was common to see car manufacturers with audio systems that only consist of a few speakers, with the majority of cars had installed with only two or four speakers. But now, we often see factory car speakers that come with at least nine speakers even before you replace your car’s sound system with an entirely new one.

So, if there are at least nine speakers in most modern cars, does that mean that car speakers usually come in pairs?

Technically, yes. However, you can still go more in-depth and say that they don’t always come in pairs because they are not the same as your usual car speakers.

To make the answer simpler to understand, we shall say that car speakers do indeed come in pairs and in the vast majority are sold in pairs. That’s why you often see car speakers that are even in terms of their numbers.

However, because the sound systems in most cars are now more advanced than they have ever been compared in the past, there are now additional centre speakers that can be bought individually. These are not sold in pairs because they function differently than the typical car speakers, which work in the left and right channels.

The purpose of the centre speaker will be discussed later on, but the point is that, when you buy standard car speakers, they will always come in pairs because of how two speakers are needed in a stereo system.

That means both left and right speakers are playing sounds that are transmitting at different channels. A stereo setup will give us a more natural feeling whenever we listen to music because of how we often hear sounds from both the left and the right sides. Stereo is the natural way for humans to listen to sounds.

You might have noticed this when you are listening to music using earphones. The sound coming from the left earphone is different from the one coming from the right one. The reason for that is that both earphones are playing sounds that are transmitted on different audio channels so that, when combined, the sound will feel a lot more natural for your ears because the left and the right ears naturally perceive sounds differently.

What is the difference between the front and rear speakers?

When you are setting up your car’s sound system, there is no shortage of the type of speakers you can choose from depending on how you want your music to sound while you are on the road.

After all, when you are on a long road trip, you would always want to have the best audio experience possible, especially when you consider the fact that you’d like your music’s sound to have a “surround” effect that fills the entire car from all sides.

In that regard, most car owners tend to have different speakers that occupy the front and the rear of the car’s interior.

But what difference does it make for you to have front and rear speakers? Do they make any difference at all?

There is a big difference between the front and rear speakers, especially when you consider the type of sounds coming from the different speakers located in various places in the vehicle.

For one, front speakers are usually the speakers that most owners tend to invest a considerable chunk of their budget. The reason for that is that the front speakers dictate the sound stage.

That means that the placement of the instruments and the vocals all depend on the front speakers. Moreover, when you are listening to music, most of the sound will come from in front of you, and that is why you must make sure that you choose front speakers with the best possible quality. 

Most people focus their budget more on the front speakers than on the rear speakers.

So, if most of the sound emanates from the front speakers, what is the purpose of rear speakers? Do they even make a difference when it comes to the overall quality of your music?

While the front speakers are much more critical when it comes to giving you that immersed feeling when listening to music while driving, the rear speakers still have an important function in your car’s sound system.

Most of the time, rear speakers provide that “rear fill” in the sense that they fill up the space of the car’s cabin to offer you a better sense of space when it comes to your music.

And for the people watching movies from the rear seat, having rear speakers gives them that “surround sound” effect that immerses them in the movie’s sound environment.

When you are buying front and rear speakers, it is always better to use speakers from the same manufacturer to ensure that the quality and compatibility are top-tier and prevent huge differences in timbre between the front and the rear speakers.

Or, if possible, you can even use the same speakers in the front and the rear of your car’s cabin so that the quality of the sound isn’t all that affected regardless of where the sound is coming from.

So, there really is a big difference between the front and the rear speakers in terms of their purpose, but there won’t be many differences when it comes to sound quality.

It’s just that the front speakers dictate the sound stage of the music, just like how a live band in front of you dictates the music setting. Meanwhile, the rear speakers are fillers in the sense that they will fill in sound in the free space at the back portion of your car, similar to how the sounds coming from a live band usually bounces off from the rear walls to fill in the entire concert venue.

difference between front and rear car speakers

Does my car need a center dash speaker?

As already mentioned, most car speakers come in pairs. Nowadays, you often see car sound systems that have odd-numbered speakers because of the presence of a center dash speaker.

So, in that regard, is it important for you to have a center dash speaker? Is there a need for you to have one?

Well, if we are talking about necessity here, technically, you don’t need a center dash speaker as a requirement for you to have a great sound system for your car. You will still have an enjoyable musical experience without having a center dash speaker in your vehicle.

This is mostly true if you have a stereo system that doesn’t particularly rely on different channels to play different sounds with different frequencies.

However, if you are talking about a multi-channel system that will allow you to have a more immersive sound system, especially when it comes to movies, then a center dash speaker is simply a must-have for you.

A Dash speaker will be needed, especially when you play songs and movies with sounds that come with their frequencies and will be played on different channels depending on their “surrounding” effects.

When you are talking about sound, whether you are only playing music or if your passengers are watching movies in the car, it is important to remember that sound waves have a direction.

The direction of the sound usually depends on the frequency. High-frequency sounds are generally the ones you can pinpoint in terms of the direction they are coming from.

Try close the eyes, and you can imagine where the sound is coming from as if you were listening to a live band playing in front of you. Most of the time, musical instruments such as guitars, trumpets, and violins come from a sound system’s left and right channels.

However, the human voice is somewhere in the middle portion when it comes to its frequency. That is why, if you want to isolate the singer’s voice whenever you are listening to music in your car, you need to have that center dash speaker. Because the center speaker is placed right in front of you, it will help give you that mental image of where the singer is.

So, in that sense, you will be placed in a position where you can easily feel more immersed in your music. While low-frequency sounds such as bass do not come from any particular direction, the higher frequency ones will give you a better musical experience, especially if you use a multi-channel system.

You can imagine the guitars and the other instruments coming from all sorts of directions, and you can focus on the lyrical and vocal that are located right in the center of the stage. 

In short, the center dash speaker will give you a sense of direction as to where the singer’s voice is coming from.

do i need center dash speaker

Otherwise, if you are not using a multi-channel but stereo system, the sounds will be coming from the left and right channels, regardless of their frequency.

In the stereo system, the sound quality might not change. Still, the musical experience and the way you imagine yourself listening to the music will undoubtedly be a lot different without that center dash speaker.

Meanwhile, if your passengers are watching movies in the car, having a center speaker gives them a more immersed feeling that they will have a surrounding effect that will allow them to tell from which directions sounds are coming.

Most of the time, the dialogues in movies are played from the center speaker while all other sounds come from either left or right direction.

Because of this, if you want to add a surround effect to your music and movies, a center dash speaker is a must-have.

But if you rely on a stereo system, only two channels (the left and the right) are necessary, and you probably don’t need a center dash speaker for your car’s sound system.

Should I use one or two subwoofers in the car?

When you look at most car sound systems, speakers are not the only important components to have. You also need something that provides a massive chunk of the bass and what gives the music depth and the extra power.

That’s where a subwoofer comes in to carry the bass and give life to your entire sound system.

To find out more about car subwoofers, and how to pick the best one for your car, check this article that I wrote about choosing car subwoofers.

While it is without a doubt undeniable that a subwoofer is required, some people might wonder if you need one or two subwoofers for your car. I am often being asked this question because most car sound systems rely on at least nine speakers.

So, if you are using many different speakers, should you follow the rule and add more subwoofers? Well, to answer that question, it is best to talk more about how bass and subwoofers work when compared to regular speakers.

If you know your basic science, you would understand that sound travels on different frequencies depending on the type of sound that is played. That means that our ears perceive sounds differently depending on their frequencies, but the difference tends to be so small when you listen to different sounds outdoors.

When you are outdoors, you can quickly pinpoint the direction from which the sound came from regardless of the frequency. So, irrespective of how low the frequency might be, you will still be able to pinpoint the sound’s direction without much trouble.

But that changes when you are indoors, and especially in a small closed car.

In a car, sources that generate sounds at low frequencies tend to broadcast the sound from all directions because it will be difficult for you to pinpoint the direction from which the sound comes from. However, high-frequency sounds can still be easily be pinpointed in terms of direction.

That is why we have different speakers found in the left, right, front, and rear areas of the car so that we can tell from which location the sound comes from.

But, because the bass is a low-frequency sound, it tends to have an omnidirectional effect that will allow it to move in a spherical direction when in a car. So, you can’t really tell where the bass is coming from if you are listening to music inside your car.

Because the bass coming from your music travels spherically and tends to bounce all-around your car, you only need one subwoofer that is powerful enough to play the bass on its own.

But since bass moves in all directions, you don’t need an extra subwoofer to tell you where the sound is coming from because the second subwoofer will still only allow the bass to move spherically inside the cabin of your car.

The only reason some car owners tend to have more than one subwoofer is to add more power to the sound of their music, especially when they have more than nine speakers in their advanced sound systems.

But if your one subwoofer is powerful enough to match the sound of 11 or fewer speakers, you don’t really need that extra subwoofer at all.