An audiophile’s armory of sound is never complete. Be it at home, at work, school, or even behind the wheel. Our focus today is on the latter as we explore some of the most acclaimed names in automotive audio.
From traditional sonic heavyweights to up-and-coming noisy upstarts, the following article will highlight some of the best car speaker brands around, as well as notable models and their features.
So, let’s buckle up and get started.
Kenwood has been in the electronics space since just after World War 2, and there is a good reason why it has been a household name ever since: solid, reliable products.
The same is true for car speakers, which reflect the brand’s commitment to elite functionality and durability. There’s a good chance your parents or even grandparents were pumping tunes via Kenwoods, so there’s little reason why you shouldn’t at least consider them.
The Japanese brand’s biggest strength is arguably the wide range of products on offer, from the entry-level S Series to the premium X Series and everything in between. This means there is a set of speakers for all quality, size, and budget considerations, as well as a choice selection of accompanying head units, amplifiers, and subwoofers.
One standout model from the HQR Series is the iconic KFC-HQ718, which has seen sales of over 1.2 million units globally. The 7x10-inch speakers pack a 93-decibel punch from an RMS input of 80 watts, all supported by ferrite tweeter and subwoofer magnets.
If you’re after even more bass, you can check out the KFC-HQR3000 subwoofer, which boasts a skull-rumbling frequency range of 32Hz- 300Hz.
“Ooh la la”, or some variation of it, is the immediate response of anyone familiar with this French audio gem. Since 1979, Focal has been pushing the boundaries of possibility in the audio game, with innovations such as the double voice coil that proved size doesn’t always matter when it comes to volume.
The brand has come a long way since Jacques Mahul’s sleepless nights in his family workshop, and it has grown to serve sound lovers in numerous ways.
The company first dipped its toes into the car audio market in the early 90s and would soon claim global recognition, thanks to victory in the International Auto Sound Challenge Association (IASCA) championships in 2001.
Fast-forward to today and Focal has a generous range of speaker systems for different customer needs. Naturally, Mahul’s penchant for detail and build quality still shines in all Focal car speakers.
A stellar example is the RCX-100, an entry-level two-way system with a plucky 60-watt RMS peak and an 80-20000 Hz frequency range. You also get a respectable 88 decibels of crisp sound from these nifty 4-inch coaxials, as well as a durable polypropylene woofer cone.
Premium offerings include the Focal ISUB BMW 4, a tailor-made woofer for select BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce vehicles. This 8-inch monster boasts a neodymium magnet, a poly glass cone, and an impressive 35-200 Hz range. Additionally, installation is simply a matter of swapping out your original speakers for the ISUBs.
American audio giant Kicker has been making sound systems for homes, boats, and cars since 1973, and with a half-century under its belt, there’s no sign of slowing down.
Unlike Focal and higher-end Kenwood products, Kicker car speakers are more oriented to affordability. While this is no knock on their overall performance, customers with severe audiophilia may shy away from some of the slight compromises. After all, affordability requires cost-cutting in certain aspects.
That said, you won’t go wrong if you’re after an upgrade on your car’s stock audio package. Kicker boasts an impressive collection of speakers to choose from.
Take the CSC65 from the CS series, an option touted among the best coaxials in the sub-$100 range thanks to their crisp fidelity and premium-esque build quality. With 300 watts of power and a range of 40-20000 Hz, you will bask in the magnificence of the mid-range. Unfortunately, the bass could be punchier, which might be a problem for fans of genres like hip-hop or funk.
Another giant from the immediate aftermath of WW2, JBL, has been in business since its inception in 1946 in Los Angeles. Founder James Bullough Lansing (JBL) was already a titan in the audio industry thanks to his innovations in cinematic audio but not even he could have imagined what JBL would go on to become.
Now under Harmon International, which is in turn under Samsung, JBL is king in commercial and home consumer markets- from Bluetooth speakers to full-stage entertainment systems.
Naturally, the brand has also left its mark on car audio systems, with a selection to whet any sound lover’s appetite.
One great example is the JBL Club 64CSQ, a high-grade 6.5-inch component setup that is guaranteed to rock your world. With a sensitivity of 93 decibels backed by 285 watts, these bad boys glide effortlessly between sonic ranges. The amazing PlusOneTM subwoofer expands the lows, while silk-domed tweeters clarify the mids and highs like a few other options under $300.
The CS762 coaxials are another highlight. At under $50, these are incredible budget options that pack crystal clear sounds that some more expensive options can only dream of. If you don’t mind the rather low 135-watt peak power, the CS762s are a great buy.
Another European sonic champion. Hertz was founded as a subsidiary of Italian audio manufacturer Elettromedia in 1998 and has since retained immense respect from audiophiles all over the globe. If premium, authentic sound is what you are looking for, Hertz has you covered.
Although the brand offers a tidy selection of budget speakers, most of its products are north of $200.
The Hertz MLK 165.3 Legend component system is a best-in-class contender among all car speaker systems.
Despite hovering around the $1000 mark, there is a real case for bang for your buck here. From aluminum alloy speaker baskets to specially engineered rubber surrounds for peerless damping, your audio will come to life with zero distortion. You also get 300 watts of power and a 40-25000 Hz range that will make going back to other systems unthinkable.