If you’re serious about your in-car audio, you’re going to want the best car speakers. But with the number of speakers available, the choice can be overwhelming. And when you finally figure out what kind of speakers you want, you need to figure out where to get them.
Few things are worse than kicking down a couple of grand for a new stereo system, only to have it sound lousy because your speakers are cheap. The first step is finding speakers from a reputable source. And with the countless car audio brands, we know it can be hard to separate the good brands from the bad ones. We’re here to help you find the best car speaker brands on the market so you can shop with confidence.
The Best Car Speaker Brands on The Market Today
Lucky for you, we did all the work for you. There are plenty of solid brands putting out great speakers. We looked at some of the biggest names in the industry and tried to find some of the smaller up-and-coming brands to help you find the best car speaker brands on the market.
Founded in 1973, Rockford Fosgate was first conceived by Jim Fosgate in an Arizona garage. After discovering that the human ear had different audio properties than music, making lower frequencies sound different at low volumes than the actual music, Fosgate developed a solution in the form of the company’s patented Punch EQ. This adds bass and treble boosts that result in sound reproduction designed specifically for your ears.
Built on this foundation, Rockford Fosgate is known for its quality sound at a decent price. The company develops speakers for a wide range of motor vehicles, from automobiles and motorcycles to boats and ATVs.
The speakers provide crystal clear sound and a solid punch which is ideal if you want your music to sound clean and precise, even at high volume. And you can get all this at a decent price, with individual speakers usually running somewhere between $50 to $100. This gives the brand an excellent blend of quality and price.
Best for: Upgrading a stock audio system for clear and clean sound
KICKER was founded in 1973 by Steve Irby, who started out hand-building speaker systems in his one-car garage in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Since developing the first full frequency-range speaker designed specifically for automobiles, KICKER has continually refined its speakers and mobile audio systems.
While they make a wide array of speakers, KICKER is known best for its subwoofers. The company builds both high-end subs for music purists and economy subs for people who want to upgrade their car’s sound on a budget.
The CompR series is the most popular in the lineup, thanks to its deep bass and reasonable price. It’s a terrific option for burgeoning bassheads looking to build their first quality systems.
Another notable addition to the lineup is the S15L7 subwoofer. Easily recognizable by its unique square shape, the bass coming from this sub is hair-raising. The square shape provides more surface area (more bass) and makes it easy to fit multiple subs into a system.
Best for: Bass enthusiasts who want a wide range of pricing options
Named for founder James Bullough Lansing, JBL has a long history in sound. Founded in Los Angeles in 1927, JBL originally built speakers for home radios. Since then, JBL speakers have provided the sound at the historic Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, powered the Grateful Dead’s live performances, and won scientific and technical awards from the Motion Picture Academy.
Nowadays, JBL makes everything from Bluetooth earbuds and speakers to full-fledged theater speaker systems. While their audio speakers are just one of their many offerings, JBL’s speakers are known to provide excellent sound quality. The speakers produce excellent balance and pitch, with good, solid thumping bass. These characteristics are consistent across all styles of music.
This company has been perfecting its approach to audio for almost a century, and it shows. Their speakers can be on the higher side of the price range, but the quality and durability make them well worth the additional cost.
Best for: Music enthusiasts with an eclectic taste
This multinational corporation was founded in Tokyo, Japan by Nozomu Matsumoto in 1938. Starting out as a radio and speaker repair shop, the company has since become a pioneer (appropriately enough) in a wide field of electronics.
The company played a role in developing the first CD player for cars, the first detachable face car stereo (if you’re old enough to remember those), and the first plasma display TV.
In the automotive world, the company’s speakers are designed to provide an immersive musical experience. The speakers’ drivers are aligned in such a way that the patterns of the tweeter and midrange speaker reach the ear at the same time. This results in sound coherence, a more melodious sound quality that you’ll hear with other speakers. When combined with a variety of other features, the speakers deliver a clear and precise listening experience.
Best for: Listeners who want a pure, clear listening experience
Established as the Kasuga Radio Co. Ltd. in Japan in 1949, JVCKenwood (commonly known as Kenwood) entered the mobile audio market in the United States in 1983.
The company is known for the wide variety of options for upgrading your car’s audio. The polypropylene cones give high-energy bass and the dome tweeters produce subtle highs with no distortion. Its proprietary eXcelon speaker technology offers sound quality that adjusts for different sound ranges. This provides an excellent listening experience across a wide audio spectrum.
Additionally, Kenwood speakers are also known for their durability. The long lifespan is due in part to the mica-injected polypropylene cones in the subwoofers. This bolsters the subs’ strength, which not only provides strong lows but also significantly reduces the chance of a blowout.
The pricing is in the middle of the road as far as speakers go, and the excellent durability makes them well worth the cost.
Best for: People who want speakers that will last for years without damage or blowouts
Founded in 1975 by James Birch and Lucio Proni (the first letters of their first names form the company name), JL Audio was originally focused on home speaker systems. Since then, the company has expanded into powersports, marine audio, and, of course, automotive audio.
The brand was one of the first to develop the enclosed speaker systems in the audio market with the PowerWedge box. Developed in the early ’80s, it was an early look at the deep bass that subwoofer and sub boxes were capable of.
Nowadays, JL Audio is known for the outstanding quality of its speakers and is a leading brand in the automotive audio industry. They are in the top range for overall sound systems due to their clear sound and durability. JL Audio speakers can vary in price from $100 to $500, but the quality matches the cost.
Best for: A wide range of applications, from casual listening to audio competitions
Key Features to Look For in The Best Car Speaker Brands
When it comes to car audio, you need to consider power. Your car’s stock power source puts out about 5 amps to your stock audio system. That may not be enough for any aftermarket upgrades, especially if you install subwoofers. To supply enough power to run stronger speakers, you’re going to want to beef up the output with an amplifier.
An amplifier increases your sound quality. It gives a clean power source that can work your speaker without strain. This provides cleaner sound at every level of volume with stock speakers. Upgraded speakers often require this additional power to run. Subwoofers are larger and require a lot more power than stock receivers can provide. So if you’re looking to add some boom, you’ll need an amp.
Use the RMS power ratings to choose the right speaker and amp setup. When you’re shopping for speakers, make sure the amp’s top RMS output per channel is no higher than each speaker’s top RMS rating. If you’re shopping for an amp, get speakers with top RMS ratings that are at least equal to each amp channel’s to RMS, if not higher.
Since each channel of an amplifier is intended to power one speaker, get an amp with enough channels to power every speaker you want to connect it to. For example, if you’re setting up a system with two speakers and one subwoofer, get an amp with three channels. You can also get an amp with four channels to run that system. You can run two drivers to the speakers and bridge two drivers to the sub. This will give you the option to expand your sound system in the future.
The size of the subwoofer will depend on what your priority is. Subwoofers are larger speakers that are designed to provide deeper bass than stock speakers. They come in a wide range of sizes, from 6 to 18 inches in increments of 2 inches. As cone depth and size increase, so does the depth of the bass.
If you’re looking for a clear, accurate sound with a bit of thump, 6- to 8-inch subs are a great choice. If you want that clear sound but want more boom, 10- and 12-inch subs will add a bigger, deeper sound without sacrificing sound quality and precision. This size is ideal for most casual listeners and will add depth to a wide range of music genres.
If your focus is to add a ton of bass, for the kind of boom that you can feel as well as hear, 15- and 18-inch subs are the way to go. A good 15 -inch subwoofer will let you feel the bass in your bones and announce your arrival anywhere you go. It should provide enough boom for all but the most enthusiastic bass heads.
If you’re looking to compete in audio competitions, 18-inch subs are the way to go. They take up a lot of space, so don’t expect to carry much of anything else in your ride. But the bass they provide is shockingly loud and deep. These bad boys are only ideal for people who care only about how loud and deep the bass hits. For clearer sound across the spectrum, a smaller sub is ideal.
Keep in mind that subs tend to take up space. The larger they get, the less room you’ll have in your vehicle for anything else. If space in your ride is limited, look at a smaller sub or one that’s designed to fit in an out-of-the-way space like under your seats. This also comes into play if you’re planning on installing multiple subwoofers. While most subs are round, some brands make square or triangular subs, which are easier to configure in smaller spaces.
If you’re shopping for aftermarket speakers, it’s safe to assume that sound quality is important to you. Luckily, it’s important to most of the brands out there too. The best speaker brands are geared towards providing you the cleanest, clearest sound. And they provide this clarity of sound over a wide range of genres and volumes.
Brands will take different approaches to provide the clearest and precise sound. For example, Harman Kardon uses a technology that automatically fixes compressed music, like satellite radio and streaming music. The tech, called Clari-Fi, will analyze the compressed content and upgrade it to produce a sound with higher quality.
Pioneer offers speakers that are designed to send highs and mids to your ears simultaneously, which produces a more melodious sound, while Kenwood has developed technology that automatically adjusts to optimize sound quality for different ranges. This provides a well-rounded listening experience.
Speaker brands are constantly tweaking their speakers and adding tech to provide better sound quality than the competition. Take a look at what perks and tech speakers use when shopping around. Know what your priorities are and buy accordingly. Also, consider the number of drivers in a speaker. For instance, 3-way speakers have three drivers, which means the frequencies can be divided more evenly.
When it comes to subwoofer sound quality, bigger isn’t always better. The larger a subwoofer is, the more air it moves. More air means a bigger boom, but generally means a dip in sound quality and accuracy. If you’re looking specifically to enhance your car’s audio, shoot for a subwoofer in the 6- to 10-inch range. People who want to add a lot more bump in their trunks should look hard at the 12- to 15-inch subs. Just be aware that the larger sizes will produce less accurate sound. Fortunately, the bass with these sizes will likely be loud enough to drown out any inconsistencies.
A quality build affects not only the performance of your speaker but also the durability. Better quality builds produce clearer sound and minimize noise. A poorly built speaker cage can loosen over time, which causes an irritating rattle. Also, speakers can blow out, which renders them useless and creates an off-putting cracking or popping sound when they play.
The better brands make sure that their components are fitted well, which minimizes rattle and extends the speakers’ lives over time. In addition, some companies will go to greater lengths to keep their speakers running better and longer. Much of this comes in the form of adding materials to strengthen their speaker cones. For example, Kenwood uses mica-injected polypropylene, a dense, yet sensitive material, for its cones. This not only provides richer sound but also enhances the speaker’s lifespan.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much are car speakers?
Car speakers vary greatly in cost, depending on the type of speaker as well as the quality. If your focus is on upgrading your current speakers, the cost is generally less. You can find good mid-range speakers in the $100 to $200 range. Higher-end speakers will cost closer to $300 to $500.
If you’re looking to ramp up the bass, you’re going to want a subwoofer. In general, the bigger the subwoofer is, the more you’re going to pay for it. You can pay as little as $60 for a 6-inch sub, all the way up into the $1000 range for subwoofers in the 15- to 18-inch size.
Keep in mind that if you want to maximize your sound, you’ll also want to ramp up the power with an amplifier. With a higher power output, amps can put out cleaner sound without having to strain to achieve it. Some speakers (and all subwoofers) require an amp to provide the power to run them. Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 and up for a high-quality external amplifier.
What are the best car speakers for bass?
The best car audio speakers for bass are subwoofers since that’s what they’re designed for.
Subwoofers are able to achieve deeper, louder bass due to their larger cone size. This makes them capable of putting out that deep, loud bass that subs are known for. The bigger the sub, the deeper and louder the bass that it will put out. That said, deeper bass doesn’t always mean better sound. Larger subs move more air, which produces that loud, deep bass that you can feel. However, the more air that moves through the speaker, the less precise the sound tends to be.
So if you’re looking for a clearer, more accurate sound, you may not want to go for the biggest sub you can find.
What are the best car speakers?
The best car speakers vary from person to person. The answer depends mainly on how you prefer to experience your music and how much you’re willing to spend.
If you want to hear the clearest, cleanest sound, replacing your stock speakers with a solid set of component speakers from a highly regarded brand will do the trick. If you want to add some bass, choose the subwoofer and amplifier that will give you enough boom.
Within every brand and speaker type, there is a myriad of options to choose from. Look for the speaker type that will give you the sound you want. Then find the ones that will work with your budget.
Do aftermarket car speakers make a difference?
Aftermarket car stereo speakers absolutely make a difference in how you listen to music in your ride.
With many possible combinations of components, the sky is the limit with how you can upgrade your audio. There are speaker setups that will produce clean, clear sounds. These will let you hear every subtle note in classical music or jazz composition. There are other setups that will kick out enormous amounts of bass. These heighten the sound (and feel) of a hard rock or rap beat and will let the neighbors know every time you leave the house.
Whether you’re looking to rattle your teeth with pounding bass or feel like you’re in a classical concert hall on your commute home from work, a set of aftermarket speakers can enhance your listening experience.
Billy Brown loves automotive adventures. He has tested and reviewed autos for various print and digital outlets for the past decade. His testing methods have included doing donuts in a Volvo XC90 in Barcelona, drifting a Lexus ISF around switchbacks in Northern California, and jumping a Subaru Crosstrek in a mountain bike park in Miami. If you couldn't guess, Billy loves to have fun with vehicles and share his enthusiasm and expertise with others.