Your car’s entertainment system makes long commutes a lot more bearable, as listening to your favorite tracks or podcasts can make the drive duration feel a lot shorter. Therefore, it’s frustrating when your car speakers aren’t powerful enough to drown out road noise. Many people choose to upgrade their car speakers for this reason, but how many watts should you aim for?
Your car speakers should be between 50-75 watts RMS depending on the size of the car and the capacity of your car’s amplifier or receiver. Higher wattage speakers may be overwhelming for your sound architecture and may also damage your hearing in worst-case scenarios.
The rest of the article will cover all you need to know about choosing the correct wattage for your car speakers. We’ll also cover other essential details to consider when selecting your car speakers.
Choosing the Right Wattage for Your Car Speakers
To choose the perfect wattage for your car speakers, you need first to understand the variables in your speaker’s spec sheet. They include the following:
Peak wattage refers to the maximum amount of power you can expect from your speaker. It’s a measure of how loud your speaker can get when you push it to the maximum limit. However, this rating is rarely constant. It’s only the absolute highest volume your speakers can attain. If you constantly play sounds through the speaker at that level, it won’t survive long.
Root Mean Square (RMS) wattage is a unit of measurement that shows how much power the speaker can handle without getting damaged. It’s the number you should pay attention to when thinking about the ideal wattage for your speakers.
You can typically find a speaker’s RMS wattage in the user manual or on the label. Where none of those are available, you can multiply Peak Wattage by 0.707 (rounded up) to get your RMS wattage.
What happens when you can’t find any wattage-related indications in the speaker package? In that case, you can calculate the wattage by multiplying the volt value by the ampere value. So, a 20 volt and 10-ampere unit equals 200 watts RMS.
Car Speaker RMS Wattage Recommendation
With the terminologies out of the way, it’s time to get into the numbers to watch for.
If you drive a compact car or a hatchback, you should choose speakers with a top RMS rating of around 50 watts. For SUVs, you should scale up to speakers with 75 Watts RMS for each channel. You can add an extra 5-10 watts to those numbers just to be sure.
Some people looking for more power in their sounds may go with speakers featuring a top RMS rating of 100 watts per channel.
However, even if you drive a full-ton truck, such speakers may feel a little too much, even at moderate volumes. Of course, you can reduce the volume even further, but what’s the point of buying overpowered speakers if you have to go down to volume levels 1-3 to listen?
Apart from the fact that such high-powered units will put your eardrums at risk (and draw stares from other drivers), they can also damage your car’s built-in amplifier if you don’t install an amp that can handle their sheer power.
Will More Watts Equate to Better Sound for Car Speakers?
More watts often equate to better sound for car speakers. However, wattage is not the only deciding factor if you’re looking for higher volumes. You also need to pay attention to your speaker’s sensitivity and efficiency.
Going for double the wattage on your existing car speakers also won’t get you twice the sound output. You’ll only end up increasing your sound output by 3 decibels (3dB).
So, if you had 15W speakers in your car and replaced them with 30W options, you may notice a slight increase in volume, but you won’t get double the output. Confused? Don’t be.
Decibel (dB) is a unit to measure sound intensity by comparing it to a level on a logarithmic scale. Therefore, you can’t just add two numbers. So, a 50 dB speaker won’t give you double the volume on your old 25 dB speaker. The latter will be multiple times louder.
So, how much RMS wattage should you aim for to increase your speaker’s sound level?
You should aim for ten times the wattage of your existing speaker to double the loudness. So, if you have a 15W speaker and want to double the loudness, you should choose a 150w unit. If you only want a 50% increase, a 75W speaker will work just fine.
However, as mentioned above, your speaker’s wattage isn’t the only factor to consider when you’re looking to increase the quality of your car speakers.
Other Factors To Consider When Choosing New Car Speakers
One of the first things to consider when choosing your car speakers is the speaker type. You have to select between full-range and component speakers. Choosing the right one can do more for your car sound than simply upping wattage numbers.
Component speakers generally offer the best sound quality due to their design. They have separate woofers and tweeters, which results in better overall sound production.
Higher-frequency sounds come through the tweeters, while lower-frequency sounds come through the woofer. Due to the design of component speakers, they are typically more costly than comparable full-range speakers.
On the other hand, full-range speakers have all the components packed into a single system, they are easier to install, but they don’t allow as much customization as you’d get with component speakers.
You should go with component speakers if you’re simply looking to swap out the factory units in your car.
Speaker Frequency Range
The frequency range on a set of speakers plays an essential role in the quality of the sounds you’re likely to get from it.
The wider the speaker’s frequency range, the better the sound quality you’ll get. You don’t need speakers that deliver the whole 10 to 20,000 Hz range.
The human voice frequency range spans between 125 Hz and 4 kHz. Instruments often top out at 6 kHz. So, car speakers closer to both ends of that small spectrum will sound better than those far off.
Speaker sensitivity measures how a speaker will perform with the power from the amplifier.
Ideally, you should match high-sensitivity speakers with low-powered amplifiers. You should keep in mind that most factory-installed amplifiers qualify as low-powered. So, low-sensitivity options are the best speakers to go with for the highest quality sound (if you don’t intend to change the amplifiers).
On the other hand, if you have a high-powered system or if you’ve installed an aftermarket amplifier (or intend to get one), you need to choose speakers with lower sensitivity ratings.
General Power Handling
If you’re considering purchasing an aftermarket speaker for your car, you need to pay attention to the power handling.
As we’ve covered above, it shows you how much power the speaker can handle (and ultimately how much sound it can deliver). If your car audio system already features a powerful amplifier, you need to ensure you choose speakers capable of handling the output.
Remember to look beyond the Peak RMS and focus on the Maximum RMS. Powerful speakers rated 10-80 Watts Maximum RMS will work well for high-powered audio systems, while those with 2-50 Watts Maximum RMS are best for lower-powered audio systems.
Coaxial or Three-Way
Coaxial speakers are standard two-way speaker systems featuring a woofer and tweeter.
On the other hand, three-way speakers feature a tweeter, an additional mid-range component, and a woofer. Three-way speakers are better if you want the highest possible frequency range. They can produce clearer lows and highs, giving you a fuller and more accurate representation of the sound.
Quality of Build Materials
The build materials on your speakers have a substantial impact on the type of sound you should expect. They also determine how long your system is likely to last. Your tweeters, surrounds, and woofer should feature certain materials for the best possible sounds.
The best tweeters feature polyurethane, silk, and textile blends to produce a warm sound. If your tweeters feature more rigid materials such as ceramics, graphite, or metal, you can expect to hear pop sounds with slightly harsher tones.
For your speaker surrounds, the casing around the woofer has to be capable of withstanding heat and humidity.
Rubber is typically the best material here. Some manufacturers use cloth or foam, making the units less expensive, but they usually don’t last as long as their rubberized counterparts.
The best woofers typically have polypropylene material known for more accurate bass sounds. Budget units may feature other materials such as woven fabrics.
The whole essence of installing new speakers is to enhance your driving experience. Driving long hours in a costly vehicle with crappy speakers is less than ideal. Still, you don’t want to fit the car with speakers totally out of sync with the rest of your car’s audio system. Therefore, it’s best to always go with speakers that match your vehicle as closely as possible.
Before you purchase any set of speakers for your car, spend some time gathering as much information as possible about your existing system before comparing it to any newer unit you may be considering.
Talk to a qualified aftermarket car speaker dealer if you’re unsure how to choose new speakers compatible with your sound setup but still represent an upgrade. With information such as your car model, make, and year of manufacture, you should receive some helpful advice on the speaker configurations you may want to pick.
As mentioned above, car speakers feature different components. The choice of parts and the system’s overall power determine the cost of the unit.
Therefore, it’s best to have a budget in mind as you consider changing your speakers. Simple replacement speakers are affordable, but high-performance and high-tech units can cost thousands.
When setting your budget, it’s best to decide what matters more to you.
Focusing on the overall sound performance is better than paying attention to the features you won’t need (such as peak power handling, wireless connectivity, and more). You should also avoid paying too much attention to the speaker size or brand names.
What Are the Best Brands of Car Speakers?
The best brands of car speakers you can choose from today include:
- Polk Audio
- Boss Audio Systems
- JL Audio
- Rockford Fosgate
However, you can also find good value from lesser-known brands like:
- Cerwin Vega
Remember, it’s best to look beyond the brand names and go for the features you need at your preferred budget wherever you find them.
Can I Change Car Speakers at Home?
You can change car speakers at home if you have the proper hardware for the job. You’ll also need to know how to match up speaker wiring after disconnecting the old speakers. If your preferred speakers don’t fit in the existing speaker holes on your car, you may also need tools for cutting metal.
If you own a newer model vehicle, it’s best to avoid DIY speaker changes unless you have experience or someone knowledgeable enough to help you. It’s easy to damage critical components that may control functions such as the electric door and window controls.
What’s the Average Price of Car Speakers?
The average price of car speakers is $250. The highest-end options can cost more than $1000, but you can find lower-end options under $100. Still, remember that price isn’t always a good determinant of speaker quality.
Going for high-wattage speakers sounds like a good idea when you want to upgrade from your car’s built-in speakers. However, you need to pay close attention to the numbers. Peak wattage isn’t the right measure of power to look at because most speakers break when you play sound at peak wattage for prolonged periods.
You should also keep in mind that doubling the wattage of your existing car speakers doesn’t equate to double the sound. If you want to double the sound delivered from your car speakers, you should choose new speakers with ten times the wattage.