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Selecting the right speaker.

Many people have asked me what is the best speaker. And honestly I can not answer this direct question. Why not? Well that's simple, personal taste and listening habits determine what speakers you like and the power you plan to push them with determines which speakers you would be best using.

Then I get the much better questions, some of which I have examples of here:

Ok, then how do I choose the right speaker for me?
  1. Go to the stores and listen to speakers to see what you think of their overall sound. Keep in mind also to use the same source power when listening and listen at a low or medium volume level. This will give you a good example of a speaker by speaker comparison. There may still be some differences due to how the shops have them mounted but without other elaborate outside measures, it's as close as you're going to get and should give you a good idea of what to expect in tonal sound.
  2. Something to always pay attention to is the impedance of the speakers. Normal car speakers will be 4-ohm speakers. You might also find 2 or 6 ohm versions. This is important when matching power to speakers. Normally 4-ohms are the expected standard in car audio. But 2-ohms might get more power out of a speaker at the cost of clarity and added noise and stress on the amp, 6-ohm speakers might run together in odd numbers more easily (like three speakers on one amp output showing 2-ohms to the amp).
  3. Now you have to decide are you going to amp it or run it off the radio and is that radio factory or aftermarket? Answering these questions helps point you tward the right radio. Why? Well, if you plan to amp it, then the sky is the limit. But if you plan to run it off the radio then you're better off sticking to the lower-end, lower power hungry speakers as head units do not have high-power output (yet). There are a few acceptions but even they aren't close to what external amplification can provide. The average aftermarket head unit puts out from 17-22W RMS so sticking with speakers that are rated for no more than 35W RMS is going to result in the best control in the speaker with the power you have. Sticking on something higher end which can take 55W RMS for example will leave the head unit struggling to control the speaker and you will have worse sound at higher volume levels and possibly even a lower overall volume limit. Factory head units are random and range from as low as 2W RMS to a nice 20W and sometimes more. Best to check if you are unsure.
  4. Now, you have an idea of what to look for but what size and style? That is also up to preference. I have built winning competition vehicles with all coaxial speakers so don't think they aren't up to the task of high quality sound. You have a bit more flexibility with compoent speakers but that's also a default move to external amplification so if you didn't have that in mind; don't consider them. I much prefer round speakers to any ovals. So I sometimes use 6.5" speakers in place of 6x9's and 5.25" speakers in place of 5x7's (and sometimes 4x6's even), etc. They have less cone flex and a more even cone movement resulting in cleaner possible sound.
I'm going to run it off the head unit: What are key things to look for?
  1. Lower power handling to match the ability of your head unit. Look up it's RMS power output and get speakers somewhere around that range (not lower obviously but not too much higher either). 35W RMS handling capability is normally the most speaker I will run off the average head unit.
  2. Running a sub?:
  3. Not running a sub?:
I'm going to run speakers off an amp: What are key things to look for?
  1. This makes a much more capable system but is also very critical in system design. Most important is to have one or the other in mind. If you want to use a specific speaker (most likely) then you know it's RMS power capability. If you want to use a specific amp (less common but still possible) then you know what type of power the speakers you need to get have to be able to handle.
  2. EXAMPLE: My speakers are rated for 55W RMS and are 4-ohm speakers; How much power should I give them?
I want to run four speakers off a two channel amp. Can I do this?
  1. Sure, there is a catch though. You will lose balance or fader control and it also depends on the impedance rating of the speakers.
  2. To figure out of the amp can take it, see how stable each channel is (2-ohm stable for example). This is not bridged mode so when it has a point saying something like 4-ohms stable bridged, that's not what it's referring to. Many of the amps are at least 2-ohms stable in individual channel mode.
  3. Figure out the impedance of the speakers and what impedance the amp will see. Two 4-ohm speakers wired in parallel to one channel will show the amp 2-ohms. Two 2-ohm speakers wired in series will show it 4-ohms. Now make sure that that amps power rating won't overdrive the speakers (each speaker will get half of the power). (The actual calculations for series are simply adding the individual ohms together (2 + 2 = 4), and for parallel you add the inverse value to get the inverse result (1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2)).
  4. A good example would be to use an amp that puts out 80Wx2 @ 2-ohms (probably normally 40Wx2 @ 4-ohms) to push four total speakers which can take at least 40W RMS each and are 4-ohm coils.
How do I bridge an amp and can I do that with mine?
  1. Bridging an amp means running one pair of outputs by using two pair of outputs from the amp. For example, using a 2-channel amp to run just one output. Doing this gets a mono signal (what you want for subs anyhow) and often alot more power from the amp. The catch is to make sure you are still in the stable range for the amp. Most 2-channel amps are only bridgable with a 4-ohm load. They may be 2-ohm stable normally but in bridged mode, the majority of them are not. So you have to again make sure the setup of the subs is such that you're going to show the amp a 4-ohm load (or what ever it is rated for) or higher.
  2. To bridge the amp, you often use one channel polarity from each channel pair. For example the right + and left - might be what you use for a bridged output.
  3. How is this different from running a mono amp for the subs instead?
What is DVC or QVC mean on the sub?
  1. This means Dual or Quad Voice Coil. Simply put, there are multiple inputs to the sub. You do need to use them all too as running one part of a multi-part coil can be damaging. To figure out how to wire them you simply treat each one as it's own speaker. So one 4-ohm DVC sub, when you think about it, is essentially treated as two 4-ohm speakers. So it can only be wired alone as 8-ohms or 2-ohms. Something important to consider when designing your setup. Two 4-ohm DVC subs wired together off a single output can be wired up as 16, 4, or 1-ohm. This is because each branch of the speaker wire's path must be equal (in resistance) so you can wire the coils of one sub up in series or parallel, then the final outputs of the sub together in series or parallel; leaving only those possible choices. (16-ohms = everything in series, 4-ohms = coils in series, subs in parallel (or visa-versa), 1-ohm = everything in parallel). See the tools on this page for more help with this.
I have X Watts RMS setup for my fill speakers, how much sub capability do I need to balance it out? (or visa-versa)
  1. Again, this is personal preference. However, normally it takes at LEAST 2x more power for the sub as each of the fill speakers have to operate properly and balance out the rest of the system. Some people go as far a 4x-8x which is also fine and will make the sub stronger. This is espically useful in noisier vehicles where bass gets lost far more easily. Now if you put too much sub in there, you will drowned out the fill setup. This is common when people add far too large of a sub to a stock system and all it does is go boom. Very unclean and, in my opinion, a waste of money and ugly sound (but then again I'm all about SQ).
  2. Plus if you're trying to impress your friends, doing so with a clean clear system will be alot more impressive than just a blaring loud and crappy sounding one. System balance is key. You don't want too little of sub power for your system but you can also easily go the other way.
Is there truth to cotton balls or this stuff called polyfill working with speakers?
  1. Yes, what it does is remove the rear wave (actually slow it down so impact isn't directly on phase) so that you hear what you're supposed to (the front wave). Speakers, like subs, aren't really ment to be listened to in the open air which actually is how alot of cars really have them mounted. Stuffing polyfill behind them can help tremendously. The best result however is to create a small sealed enclosure to house them. Suprisingly, some speakers need just as much box volume as smaller subs to operate effectively also. However, speakers are made in such a way that running them outside of an actual box doesn't hurt them per-say; since that's how they are mounted in probably 95% of the vehicles around. In that case, a good handful of polyfill behind them can sharpen and cleanup the sound quite a bit.
I just got my new system installed and from outside the vehicle it sounds like rattling change in a can? What can I do?
  1. This is the most commonly overlooked item people do to their vehicle. Cause often it's too loud to hear it inside so they don't notice it and don't realize how much that is impacting their overall sound. Anyhow the solution is really easy.
  2. The vehicle's metal chassis will resonate at different frequencies. I make CDs with a ton of different frequency notes (for 10 seconds a piece for example) espically in the sub frequencies (20Hz - 200Hz), so that I can go through and find all of the rattles and remedy this.
  3. Dynamat and other such materials were made partially to help this as well as quiet down the ambiant noise level. But other cheap materials can stop the rattles just as good like Expansion foam, rubberized undercoating, foam weather stripping, calk or silicone, etc. Anything you can put between and/or on the metal panels to stop the resonation will help. I often use a combination of all of it. This is also a long process but your system will be a whole lot cleaner and impressive if you stop the rattles. Common places include the roof panel, trunk lids and supports, licence plates and doors but any metal item can cause it. Make a CD and track em down. You will be suprised how more impressive the system sounds.
  4. I have beaten quite a few show cars simply because they didn't have their vehicle correctly isolated against resonance. Everything else could be perfect but that one thing can really kill their score and destroy overall sound preceptions. It seems like a simple thing but it's Ohhh-so important.
What does it mean to hear like an audiophile? Why are people's hearing different?

All Content Copywright 2003-2006 Christopher Stiefel. All Rights Reserved.
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