Cleaning Up Your Car's Interior

3 Critical Terms To Know When Upgrading Your Factory Speakers

If you're planning on upgrading your car's audio, you'll probably want to start with your speakers. Speaker upgrades can provide great value for what you pay, and it's often possible to replace a car's factory speakers without upgrading any other equipment. Taking this approach allows you to upgrade your stereo one step at a time, replacing other components as your time or budget allows.

Of course, choosing the best speakers can be challenging if you're entering the world of car audio for the first time. You'll probably encounter a variety of unfamiliar terms, and learning what these mean can help you select speakers that work for you. Below you'll find three essential terms you'll need to know when browsing speaker options for your car.

1. Impedance

If you've ever taken an introductory electronics course, you might be familiar with the concept of "resistance." In simple terms, resistance restricts the current flow through a circuit, but impedance is more complicated. Impedance adds an extra component to resistance that changes with frequency, an important concept when dealing with speakers.

However, you don't need to be an audio engineer to understand how impedance affects your car's audio. Instead, just remember that you should match components whenever possible. Once you know your factory amplifier's impedance (usually 2, 4, or 8 ohms), you should choose aftermarket speakers matching that value.

2. Head Units, Radios, and Amplifiers

These are three related terms sometimes used interchangeably, although they don't mean quite the same thing. When dealing with car audio, you need an audio source and a power source. Your audio source can be your radio, a Bluetooth connection to a phone, or something else to provide data. On the other hand, the power source (the amplifier) boosts this single to drive the speakers.

In most cars, the head unit is the audio source, and it provides the electronics necessary to convert your audio data into a signal for the speakers. Your factory system may include a separate amplifier, or the head unit itself may supply power. In either case, you'll want to know the power output (given in watts RMS), so you can match appropriate speakers to your factory hardware.

3. Speaker Configuration

Car speakers typically come in two configurations: coaxial and components. Coaxial speakers have a smaller tweeter integrated into the center of the more prominent midbass speaker, creating a single, relatively compact unit. On the other hand, components use a separate tweeter that you can place elsewhere in the cabin.

While components typically produce better sound quality, you'll want to match your car's current configuration if you're performing a straightforward speaker upgrade. Sticking with your factory configuration will simplify installation since you can usually use the original mounting points. When taking this approach, be sure to also match the size of your factory speakers. For more information about car audio systems, contact an automotive service.