Unless you drive, for example, Bentley with Naim audio system, sooner or later, you will have to replace factory car speakers to improve sound quality. But can we replace car speakers without an amplifier?
Replacing the factory speakers with new ones is the most important and easiest way to significantly improve the car audio system without installing an additional amplifier. The majority of today’s head units can create high-quality sound signals and then transfer them to the factory speakers.
Unfortunately, the car audio system can be as strong as its weakest link, and when it comes to the music quality in the car, factory speakers are the weakest link by far.
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The article below will show you how to replace factory car speakers and improve sound quality without installing an amplifier.
How to choose the right size of the speakers?
Before ordering replacement speakers, we need to check which speakers will fit our car. The number of factory speakers and their locations depends on the car model and version. The most common places are the dash, front and rear doors, and the rear deck.
The location of the speakers often determines their size. Dash speakers are usually 4″ or 5.25″, door and rear deck can have all sizes, from small round 5.25″ to elliptical 6″ x9″. In some cars that have more room in the doors, we can find large 8″, but these are rare.
The most common difference between the front and rear door speakers is their size. Front door speakers are often larger coaxial or system speakers, while these installed in the rear door are smaller round or ellipse, but in majority cars are coaxial.
Sometimes cars have installed speaker 2-way speaker systems, which means there are two separate speakers per channel, a woofer, and a small high-frequency tweeter. Tweeters we can find most often in the A-pillars or the triangle mirror covers.
When you want to install speakers that are bigger than the factory-installed, you need to add adaptor rings to fit the new sizes. However, make sure to keep their original height. Otherwise, you may be struggling with placing door panels back to their place. Another important thing is the depth of the new speakers and magnet size.
Most of the aftermarket speakers have magnets bigger than factory speakers, so remember to check if the system you want to purchase will fit your car.
If you do not know which size will be right for your car, the best way is to remove the speakers and buy new ones with the same dimensions.
Regardless of the size, remember that aftermarket speakers with factory head unit will play much better than factory speakers with an aftermarket stereo. The first and crucial step to improving sound quality in your car is to replace the speakers.
How to replace factory car speakers?
Replacing factory speakers in car doors is relatively easy and means we have to remove speaker grills and few screws.
In some cars, that have speakers hidden behind plastic door panels, this step is more complicated because we have to carefully remove the interior door panel without damaging plastic mounting clips and any wires inside the door.
After removing door panels, we have unlimited access to the speakers and wires. Best aftermarket car speakers are often component systems, but if our car is not equipped with such speakers, we will have to install external crossovers inside the door.
Adding crossovers is not complicated. However, they have to be bolted down to the metal door panels ensuring their stable position. When positioned, we plug factory speaker wires to the crossovers’ input terminals, and both output terminals we connect with separate woofer and tweeters.
Also, we have to install tweeters if the car does not have factory locations. Tweeters we can place in the upper part of the door panels, and depending on the mounting type of the tweeters, we have to either drill small holes to bolt tweeter’s cover down to the door or to make a bigger hole in the plastic door panel when we have flush mount tweeters.
Regarding tweeters and crossover position in the door, we have to ensure they do not block anything inside of the door, like door handles or windows going freely up and down.
What do I need to replace speakers in the car?
In factory car audio installations, especially in newer cars, we often find car speaker wires with tubes connectors, that have a different shape depending on the car.
We will need special adaptors to connect new speakers, so we do not have to damage the original installation.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, the critical dimension of the speakers is their depth. When we are replacing factory car speakers with new ones that are designed for our car, we can be sure they will fit, however when using for other types that are higher, we may need to use separated spacer rings. Spacer rings should be dedicated to our car type, especially when we install speakers behind a door panel.
When replacing the factory speakers with new ones, it’s important to remember about sound deadening the door. Soundproofing the door is often forgotten, but without proper sound insulation, we will not hear what the new speakers can do.
Sound deadening car doors, together with replacing the factory speakers, are easy and can be done at home within a few hours. The key is the right selection of the speakers and all accessories for proper installation. The best are self-adhesive butyl panels that can be cut and formed to match the shape of the door.
If you are wondering if replacing factory car speakers will make a difference even without an amplifier, the answer is yes. The sound quality improvement will compensate time spent on the replacement, and the final result will be even better when you add one more step and sound deaden a door at the same time.
How to match car speakers to the head unit?
When it comes to the speakers’ technical specifications, one of the critical, if not the most crucial parameter for the speakers that are powered by the head unit, is their sensitivity.
Sensitivity tells us how loud sound be at the distance of 1 meter from the speaker when powered with 1W. Majority car speakers have sensitivity around 88 dB to 90dB, but in our case, when we replace factory speakers without an amplifier, the higher the sensitivity is, the better.
The difference between, for example, 88 dB and 91dB, means the speaker with 91 dB sensitivity will be twice as loud as the 88 dB from the same received power. It is because we measure sound pressure in the logarithmic scale, and every 3 dB increase makes the sound twice as loud with the same power.
Should we pay attention to speakers’ power rating?
Power rating (or power handling) does not determine speakers’ efficiency or quality. It does tell us, however, how much power speakers can receive to play properly.
The power of the speakers should match the power of the amplifier in the head unit. Speakers that can either too strong or too weak are at the risk of being damaged.
What is a better speaker, coaxial, or component?
Due to the construction of speakers, they can be divided into two main groups, coaxial and component.
Most people are probably used to have coaxial speakers because they are more popular, especially in factory installations. Still, component systems can be a great option if you want to install top-class equipment in your car.
Coaxial speakers are a woofer and tweeter mounted in one housing. There are also models with more than one tweeter or a midrange speaker.
Component systems are a great choice if you value sound quality. If they are combined with a good car soundproofing, you can get significant sound improvement even without an additional amplifier.
These speakers are individually dedicated to different sound ranges and can be mounted anywhere in the car. Their independent locations have a very positive effect on filling the whole cabin with the music.
Generally speaking, when comparing sound quality from component speakers at the same price level as coaxial speakers, component systems sound better. That does not mean coaxial speakers are bad.
We can find coaxial models that can play fantastic sound quality. Easier installation of coaxial speakers makes them a great option as a direct replacement of factory speakers.
Listening to your favorite music should be an enjoyable experience in the car. It is one of the best ways to relax while driving, but to start enjoying the quality of the music, you need high-quality speakers.
Especially in cases when we want to use the power of the car radio and not install additional elements of car audio, the speakers should be of the highest quality, thus having high sensitivity, ideally over 92 dB.
A more critical element than an additional amplifier is the thorough soundproofing of the door, which will make the speakers start to play dynamic and better fill the cabin space with music. The most significant improvement is noticeable in the mid-bass.
As for choosing the type of system, everything depends on how much you want to modify the car door by drilling the mounting holes for tweeters.
If additional holes in the car interior are not a problem, we should aim for component system speakers. This way, we will have a better overall music experience and still without an amplifier.