Are you trying to decide what speakers to get for your car stereo, and you have no idea what is the deciding factor? Is it watts, ohms, coaxial or component speakers? Will they fit, and must the front speaker be the same as the rear? This article answers all of these questions and more.
Depending on if you have an OEM factory stereo or an aftermarket stereo, you would have to consider the speaker’s power (watts), its efficiency) regardless of ohms, their size, and type (coaxial vs. component speakers), and for what purpose are you matching them (replacing or upgrading).
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This article will detail the differences between an OEM factory stereo and an aftermarket stereo. These factors are critical in trying to match up your speakers with your stereo.
After that, we will look at conditions that would come into play when determining how to match your speakers, and these include:
- speakers size,
- type of speakers,
- why you are matching them,
- the power of both the stereo and speakers,
- and more.
OEM car stereo and aftermarket stereo overview
When deciding to match your speakers to your car stereo, there are a handful of considerations you need to take into account.
One misconception is that you have to match your car stereo’s power to the speakers you have or want to purchase in terms of power (wattage); otherwise, you will not get good quality, loud enough sound, and you could blow or damage your speakers.
This is only true if your power amplifier significantly exceeds the speakers’ power handling capability (for example, when speakers’ power is 45 watts and your stereo is 500 watts).
In this case, the amount of power from your stereo (whether it is an OEM factory stereo or aftermarket stereo) can blow your speakers as you increase the volume and drive your speakers past their power capability limit.
How much power does an OEM factory stereo usually come with?
Typically, most modern standard vehicles have OEM factory stereo with the power of between 5 and 15 watts RMS. Although this amount of power is ubiquitous, it is not enough if you are serious about sound quality in a car.
The only other scenario where the power might be different is to purchase a high-end luxury car that will come with high-end car audio sound systems.
How much power does an aftermarket stereo usually come with?
Aftermarket stereos vary in power, and if you intend to purchase an external car amplifier, then the power could reach into the range of thousands of watts.
Choosing the right amount of power for you is a preference, and it would depend on what you want to achieve with your car audio stereo system. Are you looking for sheer power? Are you looking to have good clear and clean audio?
All these factors come into play when opting for an aftermarket stereo.
Can I use any speakers in my car stereo?
You can not just use any speaker when choosing to match your speakers to your car stereo. Speakers come with specific characteristics, including size, power, type (coaxial or component speakers), etc. All of these factors have to be considered when choosing to match your speakers to your car stereo system.
It is good to understand all of them before searching for the speakers. Firstly, you have to determine whether you need an OEM factory replacement or aftermarket speakers.
With OEM replacement, searching is easy. The only thing you need to know is the type, year, and model of your car and then order a direct replacement of your speakers.
Things are more complicated when it comes to choosing aftermarket speakers. In this case, you have to be specific about the selected speakers’ characteristics, sizes, etc.
Matching speakers for an OEM factory stereo and aftermarket stereo
Choosing speakers that fit your car properly.
Whether you are choosing speakers for your OEM factory stereo or an aftermarket stereo, the principle here is the same for both.
You want to make sure that the speakers you are purchasing first and foremost fit into your vehicle. You may be surprised, but not all speakers are universal in terms of their design when it comes to mounting them into your car.
Sometimes speakers have to be modified, or an enclosure has to be separately manufactured to house the speakers you wish to purchase.
Furthermore, you can get smaller speakers that fit into larger areas because smaller speakers can be mounted to brackets. The choice can be overwhelming, and you may not know how to go about deciding whether you want a speaker that fits into your car with a mount or an enclosure or whether they should just fit into the area that was designed for them.
Luckily in today’s digital world, automotive companies and websites have online guides and systems whereby you choose your car’s make and model (even the model year). These systems help you identify speakers that can fit into your vehicle with or without modifications.
This is an excellent solution and takes the guesswork out of knowing which speakers will be best suited for your car.
Coaxial vs. component speakers size
Below we will go through the differences between coaxial and components speakers when matching your car’s front and rear speakers. However, you have to consider here that coaxial and component speakers may be different in size in some situations, so you would have to check if this is the case when trying to fit these different types of speakers into your car.
What is your end goal in choosing car speakers?
Before you decide which speakers to choose, you should determine your speaker or speakers’ primary goal. The same goes for both OEM factory stereos and aftermarket stereos.
Are you trying to build a great quality car stereo sound system?
This pertains to individuals who have an OEM factory stereo and are looking to upgrade their car audio system. Perhaps your standard speaker that came ready equipped with your car has blown, or maybe you would just like to upgrade your car stereo system because you want better and louder audio quality from your system?
Either way, you need to consider a couple of things when wanting to upgrade and match your speakers to your car stereo system.
How do I match my stereo with the speakers in my car? (aftermarket)
When choosing an amplifier and speakers, most people think about buying speakers and amplifiers with hundreds or thousands of watts to get a loud sounding car audio system.
And this is not exactly the right way of thinking. The only thing you have to consider and make sure you do correctly is to ensure that your amplifier’s power does not exceed your speaker’s power handling capability.
This means if your aftermarket amplifier is, for example, 300 watts, then your speakers should not be much different from 300 watts. (Actually, the better way is to choosing an amplifier to match the speakers, not vice versa.)
The next thing you have to consider is the speakers’ efficiency. Most people don’t know about this concept and tend to overlook it. Speaker efficiency will be the driving factor that gives you loud good quality sound.
Car speaker efficiency and power handling
Every car speaker is different. Some speakers are not very efficient, which means they can not produce a lot of sound with the wattage received. This is irrespective of ohms (any number of ohms). A highly efficient speaker would need only a few watts to produce a significant audio volume.
Efficiency we measure as a function of wattage and distance, which is expressed in decibels (dB). Speakers will have this defined in print (either on the speaker or in the manual), and an example would be that this speaker is 88 dB efficient.
Manufacturers measure efficiency because they take a microphone and place it one meter away from a speaker, driving the speaker with 1 watt of power. The microphone then measures a certain sound level. The result of this is the speaker’s efficiency, but what this number actually tell us?
Low speaker efficiency will measure somewhere below 90 dB (this is not very loud), whereas speakers with high efficiency will measure 90 dB and above.
Hence you do not have to match your speaker’s wattage with your aftermarket power amplifier. You just have to make sure that your amplifier does not exceed it.
Are you replacing a blown speaker?
If you are replacing a blown speaker, then chances are you do not intend to upgrade your stereo system. Another scenario would be that you have already upgraded your stereo system and have to replace an aftermarket speaker.
Aftermarket blown speaker replacement
In a situation where you are replacing an aftermarket speaker, you most probably have an aftermarket stereo and therefore should and would have considered pairing and purchasing the right powered amplifier with your speakers. In his case, you should know exactly what type of speaker you need to purchase.
If you did not match your aftermarket power amplifier to your speakers correctly (in terms of wattage and efficiency), this is probably one reason your speakers could be blown.
OEM factory stereo blown speaker replacement
For a scenario involving replacing a blown speaker for an OEM factory stereo, there are also several factors that you have to take into consideration first.
How do I match my stereo with the speakers in my car? (OEM)
This is the same concept as choosing a speaker when you want to upgrade your OEM stereo to an aftermarket stereo, and in both cases, you have to consider the speaker’s efficiency.
As we said, this is considered the sensitivity rating, and high sensitivity with regards to a car speaker is considered somewhere in the 90db and above range. That means that high sensitivity speakers can perform better with less amount of received power.
This is important because a standard OEM car factory stereo (radio) does not have much power. Hence, higher efficiency speakers will sound better than low-efficiency speakers when you are using a factory radio.
Furthermore, you would also want to check the power handling capability (watts) of the speakers you wish to purchase. For an OEM car stereo, you do not require speakers that can handle a lot of power, and in fact, you want to consider speakers that can work with not much power at all.
What if the speakers I’m looking at have a power range instead of a fixed value?
If the speakers you are looking at have a range, then all you have to do is make sure that the values are high.
Can front and rear car speakers be the same?
When choosing all car speakers, it is best to have identical speakers for your car’s front and rear.
However, in some cases, your front speakers may be of a different type to that of your back speakers (coaxial and component speakers), and in this case, your speakers won’t match.
You should try as much as possible to match the front and rear speakers in terms of having at least the same manufacturer and series and trying to match them in terms of efficiency, power, and frequency response.
For example, if you choose front speakers JBL Stadium GTO960C, you should place the same ones for the rear door. If they do not fit the back door, you can choose rear speakers in different sizes, but still from the same series, like GTO939 or GTO620.
By doing this, you will have leveled sound quality without an additional equalizing either front or back side.
These types of speakers come for both OEM stereos and aftermarket stereos. They are sometimes referred to as two-way or three-way speakers. This speaker configuration has the tweeter built into the woofer and is relatively easy to replace.
This speaker configuration has the tweeter separate from the woofer. You can quickly identify component speakers by locating small tweeters above your dashboard that will be protected by a grill. These types of speakers also come with OEM factory stereo and aftermarket stereos.
What about subwoofers
Suppose your OEM stereo allows for a subwoofer. That means it has a dedicated channel with a crossover. Then the principle is the same for matching the rear and front speakers. In the case of the subwoofer, although it is recommended to have one from the same series as the speakers, we have more flexibility in terms of manufacturer or model.
A subwoofer will not have the same frequency response or power as your front and rear speakers (it is designed specifically for low frequencies); however, it should still match the amplifier.
How many watts should my speakers have?
The amount of power would depend on your preference and listening habits. As we now know, a speaker with a high-efficiency rating of 90 dB or more will be loud even when used with a stereo driving out 50 to 100 watts.
On average, 200 watts both for your stereo and speakers would be more than enough for any individual (considering a standard OEM factory stereo comes with 5 to 15 watts). Remember, though, that the efficiency rating should be 90 dB or more for better quality sound, especially if you drive a convertible.
If you are listing to light music but just want better overall sound quality, then 50 watts for each channel is more than adequate for your listening needs.
Remember that your car stereo or external amplifier’s power should not exceed your speakers significantly; otherwise, your speakers will more than likely blow.
If you want the best sound, you should always go for more watts, but you should never do this at the expense of audio quality.
We conclude that to match your speakers to your car stereo, we have to consider multiple factors. Firstly, are you matching your speakers to an OEM factory stereo or an aftermarket stereo with an external amplifier?
Then are you replacing a blown speaker, or do you wish to upgrade your car stereo system? In that case, you would have to consider additional factors.
This will give you a clue in determining what type of speakers you need. However, you should still only ever consider a speaker’s efficiency rating when matching it to your amplifiers or stereos power for instances where you are always looking to increase sound quality.
The other central aspect to note when matching your car stereo to your speakers is that the stereo or amplifier should never exceed the speakers’ power because this will more than likely cause them to blow.
You will also have to consider other factors such as the speakers’ size, matching the front and rear speakers in terms of coaxial and component speakers, considering a subwoofer, and how many watts you would like. These are all the aspects you would need to consider when trying to match your car speakers with your stereo.