Coax and Component Car Audio Speakers
You’ll come across a number of different types of speakers when you start to plan your car audio system, and we’re going to be covering two groups of them. The two broad categories we’re comparing are coaxial speakers and component speakers.
You could grab any highly-rated set of speakers and slap them all in place and call it a day, but a little bit of planning and forethought can go a long way. Here’s what you need to know about coax and component speakers, and when to choose either type.
What are Coax Speakers?
Coaxial loudspeakers typically have 2 or 3 drivers all built into one speaker. These are comprised of a woofer with a tweeter mounted right on top of it. In some cases, there’s also a mid-range driver as well. This is a popular layout for car audio due to limited space in most vehicles, whereas with a home-audio setup in a living room, that’s less of a concern.
In addition, the compact form factor of coax speakers requires less modifications of the vehicle, if any, in order to be installed. Often, you can remove your stock speakers and pop these right in place without having to make any permanent modifications.
Having all those frequencies coming out of the same location means you lose some of the richness and depth of the sound, so that’s a trade-off that you’ll have to consider. Having said that, the woofer being slightly obscured by the tweeter isn’t much of an issue in and of itself.
What are Component Speakers?
Component speakers also have a woofer and a tweeter, except the drivers are separate and are meant to be positioned away from each other, rather than having the tweeter attached directly in front of the woofer. This physical separation gives a depth to the sound that coaxial speakers are incapable of achieving.
You’ll want to position the woofers lower down to create a richer soundscape, for example in the doors of the vehicle. Tweeters, on the other hand, will sound best when they’re positioned higher up in your vehicle and closer to your ears. Hearing your favorite songs on a quality sound system is like hearing them for the first time all over again.
Pro-tip: To find the perfect spot for your tweeters, it’s often recommended to use a piece of double-sided tape and to test out a few different locations to find the one that sounds best in your vehicle, and to your ears, before mounting them permanently.
You’ll also need a crossover, which takes in the various frequencies from your stereo and directs them to the appropriate driver. This ensures that each of your individual speakers is handling the sound frequencies that they are best suited to reproduce. In other words, the different types of speakers in your system will be working together to fire on all cylinders.
What are the Similarities Between Component and Coax Speakers?
Aftermarket coaxial and component speakers both offer an upgrade over the stock speakers in most vehicles. Neither are particularly difficult to install, although there’s a few extra steps with component speakers.
What are the Differences?
If we take quality out of the equation (since that can vary greatly based on budget, manufacturer, and other factors), the major difference is simply the location of the drivers, which has a profound impact on the overall sound design of your vehicle’s audio system. Also, component speakers will need a crossover to help route the correct frequencies to the optimal drivers. With coaxial speakers, there’s already a passive crossover built-in.
When you have the full range of sounds coming out of one set of stereo speakers, the audio can sound crowded. The highs and lows will be less distinct from one another. With component speakers that are separated and placed correctly in your vehicle, your system can weave a much more intricate basket of sound. The highs and lows are both able to fill their own space.
Which ones are better: Coax vs. Component Speakers?
There isn’t really a single answer to this question that can cover the spectrum of all speakers. Some coax speakers are going to blow some component speakers out of the water, and vice-versa.
It comes down to the quality of the set you’re looking at. As a rule of thumb, it’s easier to make cheap coaxial speakers than it is to make cheap component ones, so if you’re shopping around at the entry-level, you’ll probably get more bang for your buck with coax.
Here’s what it comes down to: If you don’t mind a little more installation work, and aren’t on a shoestring budget, then you’re a prime candidate for component speakers. Adding an amp to power them can give you an easier upgrade path down the road, too. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a fast and easy upgrade, coax speakers could be the way to go instead.
Setting Expectations for Component Speakers
- Expect to spend a bit more money for quality component speakers versus coaxial
- Expect to have to work a bit more to get them installed
- Expect them to deliver better, more nuanced sound in your vehicle