Installing speakers – how hard can it be?

As modern cars have got more and more sophisticated you might have expected the audio performance to have kept pace. Sadly this is often far from the truth; vehicle manufacturers are still installing woefully inferior speakers. Why are they doing this? Because they are cheap.

Compare the standard factory speaker on the left with a typical replacement unit on the right. I don’t think you even need to hear it to guess which will sound better!

All is not lost! We are here to swap out those terrible original equipment speakers with much better upgrades. For this article, I am going to talk about the process we go through to ensure the right speaker is installed and optimised for the location.

Speaker down?

It may be that one or more of the original speakers have failed and all you need is a simple replacement. In that respect, even our most basic speaker will suffice. We would probably recommend something like the Audison Prima or JL Audio C1 range of speakers. These are designed to be direct replacements for stock speakers but can offer a surprising performance lift as well. This could be done at a very reasonable cost, probably for as little as £100 and if all you need is to get your system up and running again these would be perfect.

Let’s make it better.

However, most of my customers come to me because they know I care about sound and want to improve their listening experience. Once I know what the car is I like to find out what sort of sound the customer is looking for and how they like to listen to it. Of course, the full upgrade path is speakers, amplifier, processor and subwoofer but the same process applies for any part of the path and we will assume just the speakers need improving at this time.

The type of car will determine the physical size of the speaker; whilst the personal musical tastes and requirements of the customer will help me choose the right type of speaker. All speakers are not equal and I think it is important that I use my experience to offer the best solution.

So after a lengthy discussion, we have decided that the best speaker for our customer is the Hertz MPK165.3. This is a fabulous all-round performer that is equally happy at the low power input of a factory head unit or a higher power amplified system. It will play everything the customer wants well and is capable of being part of a future upgraded system.

Let’s just install them, shall we?

For us it’s not as simple as that, we want to make sure we get the absolute best from these speakers and just fitting them to the door will not do. First of all the original speaker is usually shaped to fit the door panel so that means we need to have some sort of mounting collar. Now we know that there are many custom fitting collars out there but they all share one common failing: they are made of cheap, brittle plastic. We prefer to make our own from high-quality MDF which is a far better acoustic material. Unfortunately, MDF does not like moisture so we always paint ours to seal them where there is any possibility of moisture ingress.

It is also imperative to recreate the moisture seal to the car door to prevent any water travelling past the speaker collar and into the door card. A good bead of silicone is a simple but very effective solution.

What next?

Once we are happy that the new speaker has a watertight mount in place we turn our attention to the physical structure of the door. As you can imagine a thin, metal box is not the best acoustic chamber allowing sound to resonate and reflect creating panel distortion and cancellation. This alone can seriously damage the sound from a speaker so we need to stop it.

Our favourite choice of sound deadening material is Dynamat. Dynamat has been the industry-leading product forever and although more expensive than others is far more efficient and lighter weight making it extremely good value.

Dynamat is applied behind the speaker to capture any sound from the rear of the cone and the door panel is treated to prevent any resonance being transmitted to the door card. As a secondary benefit, there will be less noise from outside as the Dynamat will absorb this too.

Only when all the treatment has been finished is it time to fit the speaker to the collar but not before another bead of silicone is applied behind the speaker to ensure no moisture can sneak past.

Finished? Not quite.

Now we have the speaker secured in a proper manner it would normally be time to replace the door card. However, there is still more we can do to improve the sound performance further. When the door trim goes on there will be a gap between the speaker and the panel which will allow sound to be lost to the inside of the door card. This can result in a slightly ‘hollow’ sound from the speaker.

To ensure maximum performance we can apply foam rings to contain the sound and create an acoustic seal to the door card. This ensures that all the performance of the speaker is directed through the grille.

Finally, the door trim is replaced and checked for any possible resonance and now it looks no different to when it arrived. It can seem a shame to hide all that hard work but the benefits to the speaker performance are there to be heard. It certainly takes longer and costs more to install speakers properly but we think it is well worth it.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the sound in your car please call us on 01625 432707. Or even better pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, we look forward to seeing you.

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