Car Speaker Technical Properties
Looking for car speakers, like many other speaker types you will confront some basic technical properties. In the following, we will express the most widely used ones for you.
Frequency is the number of oscillation per unit time as a definition. The sound is formed of waves that oscillate in changing frequencies. To measure the sound frequency, a second is used as a time interval. The number of oscillations in a second is called Hertz (Hz) as a unit.
Humans can hear sounds that have frequencies between 20 Hz to 20.000 Hz. Below 20 Hz, there are sounds called infrasounds. Although we may not be able to hear that sounds, some animals such as elephants, moles, and rats may be able to hear as low as 5 Hz sounds. Above 20.000 Hz, there are ultrasounds which our ears are not able to hear again. However, cats (up to 40k Hz) dogs (up to 60k Hz), dolphins (up to 160k Hz), and many other animals will be able to regard their hearing capacity.
The frequency range of each individual person changes. You may simply try your hearing range from the video below. Get a small headphone, put it on, and play the video. Do not forget to adjust the volume of your device before starting this experiment. Also do not worry that if you can hear all the way through 20 to 20.000 Hz. I was able to hear between 20 – 16.000 Hz and a doctor friend of mine said this is perfectly OK, nothing to worry about 😊 (Some resources states that hearing up to 12.000 Hz is normal)
Do not mistake the frequency with the volume, or technically the sound intensity (dB). Sound intensity is a measurement that indicates how loud the sound is. The frequency of a sound can be low and volume (or sound intensity) might be up, there is no correlation. So let us explain what does the low frequency and high frequency indicates.
Low-Frequency Sounds are sounds you will hear from a drum or tuba will have a low frequency. We call these types of sounds as bass often. Typically bass sound has between 20-400 Hz range.
High-Frequency Sounds are generated by the violin may be called as high-frequency sounds. They are also called highs. Generally, we consider 4.000 – 20.000 Hz as highs.
Between 400 – 4.000 Hz is generally called as Mid-Range Sounds. Human speaking generally falls into this category.
Speaker Frequency Response Range
Speakers have different frequency response range depending on their design, material, purpose, number of ways, and many other things. Before getting further deep into this, let us briefly explain what is frequency response range?
It is an indication of the speaker's capability to reproduce the sounds. In other words, a speaker can not reproduce sounds that do not fall into its response range. It will not make any sound and stay silent as if there is no signal taken.
Why does the frequency response range should bother you? Well, for high-frequency sounds, almost all of the speakers no matter what their sizes, can generate up and more than 20.000 Hz. They all may not all clear but you may not be able to get that information from looking to frequency response range of them.
What you can learn from this property is how low they can hit. The best speaker of 3.5" size category may hit barely 80 Hz while many of the 6x9" sized speakers can hit below 30 Hz. Between 30 Hz to 80 Hz, there are many rich bass sounds is missed which will decrease your bass performance of the sound system by far.
However, this does not simply mean that if the size gets bigger, the frequency range will increase. No, wrong! Premium speaker companies do not make speakers cover all the frequency range possible. The intent to make speakers as clear as possible. They leave the reproduction of low sounds to subwoofers, which are bigger speakers that are operating between generally on 20 to 200 Hz range. Adding decent crossover and amplifier to your system, you may get a really decent sound system, which we will explain in detail at the "How Should I Set Up My Car Audio System" section.
In summary; the speaker frequency response range indicates the soundwaves that can be produced by that speaker. What you need to care about is the low frequency of speakers, since most of them easily can over-perform the human ear at high frequencies.
If you do not have a subwoofer on your sound system and do not plan to install in one; you should better get speakers that can hit as low as 35 Hz at least. The lower, the better for this case. Otherwise, your sound system will omit some of the bass sounds and this will decrease the bass performance.
Ways is one of the most fundamental properties of speakers. If you already started to look for speakers, you must see "2-Way", "3-Way", "4-Way", or even "5-Way" speakers. If a speaker is better if it has more ways? Let's find out.
What is Way?
Speakers are formed of drivers that reproduce the sounds. The way is indicating the number of drivers located in a speaker. Drivers can be located in the same body which is called coaxial or maybe different bodies which are known as components. We will investigate their difference in the following parts of this guide.
Each speaker is sold in pairs. So a 2-way speaker set will have 4 drivers at total in 2 speakers.
The modern market offers speakers with 2,3, 4 or more ways. At 2-Way Speakers, there are "Woofers" and "Tweeters".
Woofers are the biggest driver in speakers. They move slower and reproduces the low-frequency sounds, such as bass sounds. Tweeters on the other hand are small drivers that move very fast and reproduces high-frequency sounds.
3-Way Speakers have "Mid-Range" drivers. The addition of this additional driver makes enable the other two drivers to work on a narrower frequency range and makes speakers able to output more clear sound.
4-Way Speakers have another additional driver called "Super-Tweeter". This driver is designed for reproducing very high frequencies, which comforts tweeter to work in an even narrower range and increase the sound clarity by further.
Increasing the number of ways means dividing the frequency response range of speakers more. So each driver of that particular speaker will try to reproduce less soundwave and increase the clarity.
Do More Ways Always Better?
No, not necessarily. An increasing number of ways requires a higher quality of crossover. Crossovers are the equipment, which takes sound signals from your head unit and distributes among the drivers of speakers. When the number of ways increases, the overlaps, and cancellation of the speakers must be well adjusted to avoid the muddy sound.
How Can I Compare Speakers with Different Number of Ways
If you are going to compare speakers from the same brand, the increasing number of ways will indicate a clearer sound output.
Comparing speakers from different brands and trying to make a judgment according to their number of ways will not give a correct idea for you all the time.
Some speaker brands such as Pioneer are good at making 4 or more ways speakers at an affordable price. They sound really good and fill the value speaker category in our lists most of the time.
Some speaker brands focus on 2-way speakers and obtain perfect results. Focal, Hertz, and other premium car speaker brands produce only 2-way speakers and have the best clarity. Of course as a disadvantage, often they can not hit low-frequency sounds and requires a subwoofer addition to the sound system.
In short words; the increasing number of ways is an indication of better sound quality within the same brand. Making a comparison between different speaker brands is not applicable.
As a last tip, do not purchase speakers from unknown brands just because they have more ways.