Unfortunately these days, most vehicles come factory equipped with low-quality speakers that tend to be nothing more than glorified paperweights.
The good news is that upgrading factory car speakers can be done very quickly and, in many cases, for a fraction of what it would cost if you were to buy brand new factory replacement speakers, but is it worth upgrading factory car speakers? Let’s find out.
Replacing car speakers improves the sound quality, but only if you use high-quality speakers. Factory speakers tend to be mediocre, often producing muffled or distorted sounds. The downside of replacing speakers is the cost and the fact that, in many cases, you also need to install a subwoofer and amplifier to hear a significant difference in sound quality.
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Tip: Another reason for replacing factory speakers is when they have been damaged. It may be possible to repair the damage in some cases, but when voice coils are burned, or speakers are blown, the only way may be to replace them.
Replacing damaged speakers with the factory OES models can be expensive, so it is crucial to weigh the cost of the replacement against the cost of repairing the damage or replacing them with the aftermarket models (link to Amazon).
In the article below, I will look at some of the most important things to consider when deciding whether upgrading factory car speakers is worth the investment.
Do aftermarket car speakers make a real difference?
Replacing factory speakers with high-quality aftermarket speakers is one of the best ways of upgrading a car’s audio system.
Many people ask why aftermarket car speakers are better than factory speakers, or what is wrong with factory speakers if they are that bad? They play some music, after all. Yes, they play, but…
Not many people upgrade audio systems in a brand new car and, instead, listen to the factory system without realizing how pure quality it has to offer. It is even worse in used vehicles, with speakers in many cases older than ten years that have been designed in the last century.
Nobody uses a cellphone or TV that was designed decades ago, so why use old car speakers? With modern technology that is developing in astonishing speed, currently installed car speakers will be obsolete in a few years.
Just think about it. Car manufacturers install mediocre audio systems just to sell the car and to be able to sell it, the vehicle has to be affordable. Mainly from the costing perspective, a sound system is one of the last things on their list to improve.
In most cases, the customer is “happy” because he or she is listening to music, but these sounds are often not even close to real music quality.
You can find some car models that offer “premium” audio systems, but unless your car is relatively new, these systems are also far behind quality aftermarket speakers.
I saw a few models with installed premium sound systems that were around ten years old. They had the same standard factory speakers, and the only difference was in the power of the amplifier.
Unless your car is a new model with a real premium sound system, there will always be a reason to replace factory speakers. Even if you were happy with the music at the beginning, speakers wear out, and their paper suspension is getting weaker, so the quality of the sounds they produce will worsen.
There are several reasons for upgrading the car audio system, and when aftermarket speakers are wisely chosen, they will make a massive difference in the car audio system’s sound quality.
Aftermarket car speakers have been designed to produce a more precise and more dynamic sound. From most of the aftermarket speakers, you will also hear a lower and stronger bass.
Below are a few main differences between aftermarket and factory speakers:
Aftermarket speakers not only sound better but also have a better design
Only a few car manufacturers pay attention to audio quality in their cars, and all of them are top luxury cars produced in perfection to the last detail. These cars can be compared to the sound stages where every speaker has its unique and clearly defined place, a direction toward the listener’s ears, or transferred frequency.
Best aftermarket audio systems are being developed in advanced laboratories, where top sound engineers continuously experiment with creating sound better and better.
These speakers have sophisticated designs, and often feature multiple drivers for exceptional sound reproduction. Top-quality woofers, mid-ranges, tweeters, and often super tweeters are built to reproduce specific sounds perfectly.
Woofers, for example, are focused on lows while tweeters concentrate on the highest frequencies.
Aftermarket speakers also contain more advanced and often active crossovers compared to those found in factory speakers. Perfect and precise frequency allocation to the specific driver is critical for speakers to operate efficiently and deliver great sound.
Aftermarket speakers offer better sound imaging
Factory car audio systems, including speakers, are designed to work with limited power from the factory stereo. Such a way of programming has to compromise the quality of the sound details or the bass amount, to allow the entire system to work with a lack of power.
That is why the music sounds muddy, and to solve it, factory speakers should be replaced with aftermarket component systems.
Component systems create stage effects in the car, and if you never heard them in action, just imagine woofers at the door bottoms make an ideal low base, and tweeters facing your ears and create a perfect surround effect.
This imaging of the high tones is what factory speakers are missing.
When you install component speakers, you can steer high tones from tweeters, and regardless of their position, you will have a better sound stage, and frequency separation.
With the components system, your car can have better sound imaging. And if you value music quality, tweeters will add to it another dimension.
Aftermarket speakers are made from materials of a better quality
As mentioned earlier, most cars have to be affordable, which means they will not be made from high-quality materials. This approach is no different when it comes to car audio.
Cheap materials that standard speakers are made of, like paper, wear out quickly and cannot handle extreme temperatures or humidity inside the car.
Aftermarket speakers can work much longer than typical factory speakers, thanks to the durable and better quality materials.
The woofers in the aftermarket speakers are made of lightweight but stiff materials. The best woofer cones are made from synthetic films such as polypropylene or fiberglass and often are coated with aluminum or titanium. These materials can stand up well to cold, heat, and humidity extremes and create higher quality bass.
Tweeters designed to perform soft sounds are made from soft and textile materials, like nylon or silk. These for sharper and brighter highs are made from harder materials like aluminum, ceramics, graphite, or titanium.
No less important is the speaker’s surround. It has to be flexible to allow free and not limited movement of the speaker cone, and on the other hand, it has to be strong and durable, as not to get damaged too quickly. Depending on the speaker’s design, the surrounding can be made from foam or butyl rubber in the hi-end speakers.
Aftermarket speakers have better power handling
Factory car speakers are not designated to work with powerful amplifiers or to handle lots of power, which is the main reason they cannot produce high-quality sounds, especially when listening to music at a high volume.
Another reason that factory speakers are unable to work in powerful audio systems is the low quality of the materials they are made of.
On the other hand, aftermarket speakers have much better ability to handle more power and, therefore, reproduce brighter sounds with deeper bass. Their robust design reduces the risk of clipping or sound distortions even when they receive a large amount of electricity.
When you are a fan of loud music, aftermarket speakers will allow you to enjoy loud and crystal clear sounds at a high volume without worrying about damaging the speakers.
How much does it cost to upgrade car speakers?
Many audio technicians say it’s the number-one upgrade you can make to improve your car’s overall quality, and they are right. Adding new speakers to your vehicle can dramatically improve the sound quality and does not have to cost a fortune.
Once you know the speaker’s size and type of the system you will install, the next step is to start searching for the best ones to fit your criteria. And at this point sky is the limit because there are hundreds of models, brands, power levels, and of course prices.
A replacement for factory speakers can cost anywhere from $100 to over a thousand dollars if you decide to aim for the top-shelf speakers with audiophile music quality.
The price range does not always depend on the speakers’ size, but rather on the technology and quality of used materials.
You can find a small 5.25″ that will cost multiply of larger 6″x9″. It all depends on personal preferences and what you want to achieve. Another important factor is the power that speakers can handle, and we are talking here about continuous RMS power, not anything else.
The speakers’ power can be misleading when searching for the right speakers, especially if they have to be connected to the external amplifier, so be careful when looking at the “powerful” speakers that have hundreds of Watts and are being sold on sale for barely $149.99.
Power handling is a common marketing trick, and sellers use firstly peak volume, which usually is twice or higher than RMS. Secondly, they often put power as a summary of both speakers.
So, for example, when you see “fantastic” 600W speakers with a low price, search for a catch because, in reality, it can happen, these are two pieces of 300W each peak power, and not more than 100W RMS.
So, it is actually nothing exciting, but as you see, marketing works.
Another factor that affects the price is the design of the speakers. In general, you will find coaxial speakers are cheaper than component systems.
- The coaxial speakers are the speakers that have tweeters built on top of the woofer.
- Component speakers are these with separate tweeters and woofers, that are connected to the external crossovers.
Good components systems like JBL, or Kicker you can buy for less than $200, but pair of those with ultra-light titanium cones will cost close to a thousand dollars. So if you want to install hi-end component systems in front and rear doors in the car, you should have a budget of around $2000, and these are just speakers. On top, you have to add the cost of the amplifier, proper wires, installation, sound deadening, etc.
While such a high amount can be extreme, in the majority of cases, you will spend a couple of hundreds of dollars. To all these, you will need to add an installation cost between $40 and $100.
Stock speakers that are installed in the majority of cars have poor quality and the sounds they produce are on the far end from real music quality. If you are not happy with the music experience, or the sounds are muffled, it is time to upgrade the car audio system.
If you want to upgrade the car audio system, the factory speakers should be the first elements to replace. To get the best results from your upgrade, consider installing high-quality component speakers with separate woofers and tweeters.
You can get excellent replacement speakers for less than $200, and they will move your in-car entertainment to a different level.
Aftermarket speakers are designed with high-quality materials and there are thousands of speakers in various types or sizes to choose from.