Car Audio Speakers: Understanding Power, Volume & Sensitivity

Understanding car audio speaker ratings

Your car audio system requires multiple components, working in harmony, to produce the high-quality sound you enjoy on the road.

The speakers are responsible for translating electrical signals into sound and delivering it to your ears without altering the original sound. They can’t do their job, however, unless they properly suited to work with the rest of the system’s components.

Unless you select the right speakers for your car – or motorcycle, RV, boat or Razr – you won’t get the results you expect.

Comparing Car Speakers RMS vs. Peak Power

Most speakers are rated by the manufacturer based on two factors: RMS and peak power.

RMS, or root mean square, indicates how much continuous power you can subject a speaker to without causing damage. Peak power is the maximum level of power you can put through the speaker in brief bursts without distorting sound or damaging the unit.

As much as overpowering a speaker can harm it, so can not providing enough power. For that reason, many manufacturers also provide nominal power ratings. This indicates the minimum amount of power the unit needs to avoid a problem. In fact, experts agree that underpowering a speaker is more harmful than overpowering them – at least in most cases.

Sensitivity Specifications for Car Audio Speakers

In addition to power ratings, car stereo speakers are rated for their sensitivity.

Sensitivity ratings indicate how effectively the unit converts a specific level of power into volume. In other words, this rating determines the amount of sound, in decibels, that the unit can produce. Some models can convert 50 watts of power into 90 decibels of sound, whereas a lesser quality model requires 100 watts to produce the same level of sound.

This is an effective way to compare the quality of different speakers you may be considering.

Which Speakers Are Right for Your Car Audio System?

If you plan to keep your factory head unit, you can choose speakers that are rated for a lower range of power. However, if you plan to replace your factory stereo, especially if you plan to add an amplifier, you will need speakers capable of handling a higher level of power.

It’s important to note that power ratings do not reflect the quality of the sound a speaker will produce.

You must also decide whether you want to use full-range or component speakers in your vehicle. The materials used to build the speaker are important, as are diameter and depth. If you hope to replace your factory speakers with aftermarket units that fit in the original locations, your choices may be limited.

The best way to ensure that you have the right speakers for your vehicle is to talk to a car audio expert. At Pro Audio Pro 4×4, we are Provo’s experts in car, truck, RV, boat and motorcycle audio systems. We spend the time to learn your goals. We then evaluate your vehicle and, based on your budget, show you the best options for producing the sound you desire.

Contact us today to learn more about which speakers are right for your car audio system.