Both coaxial and component speakers are widely used in cars, trucks, and SUVs, as well as in boats, RVs, motorcycles, and other kinds of installations, but many people don’t know the difference, or which is which.
Simply put, a coaxial speaker has all of the speaker drivers on a single frame – the tweeter and woofer are mounted on the same speaker unit, and in alignment with each other (on the same axis) for better sound.
A component speaker system, on the other hand, is one where the different speakers – tweeters, woofers, and sometimes midrange or other drivers – are each on their own separate speaker frame, each as its own speaker unit which is mounted separately.
So that’s the short story, but let’s look at this in a little more detail!
- What is a Coaxial Speaker?
- What is a Component Speaker?
- Component Speakers vs Coaxial Speakers – what’s the difference?
- Coaxial Speakers vs Component Speakers – which is better?
- What are Coaxial Speakers?
A coaxial speaker is a kind of speaker configuration widely used in all kinds of vehicles – cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, SUVs, RVs, off-road vehicles, and more – that has all of its drivers on a single speaker frame.
This makes a coaxial speaker a single unit, which is mounted in a single place – often in the door or on the back deck beneath the rear window. Keep in mind, though, that since we are talking about stereo systems here, there are in fact two coaxial speakers, one for the right channel and another for the left.
The woofer – the largest speaker driver, which plays lower notes – is usually about the size of the speaker’s frame, and stretches from edge to edge.
The tweeter – the smallest driver, which plays the highest notes – is much smaller than the woofer or the overall speaker frame, and is mounted in front of the woofer, positioned so that the center of the tweeter is aligned with the center of the woofer.
Coaxial speakers can also have additional drivers – that is, more than just the tweeter and woofer. Some coax speakers can also have a midrange, a super-tweeter, and more. If there are more than two speaker drivers, then the small ones – midrange, tweeter, super-tweeter – are all mounted together, again in front of and in alignment with the bigger woofer.
The most common types of coaxial speakers, though, are two-way (woofer and tweeter), and there are also quite a few three-ways coaxial speakers (woofer, midrange, and tweeter or, sometimes, woofer, tweeter, and super-tweeter.
What Are Component Speakers?
Component speakers also use different drivers – a woofer for low and midrange music, a tweeter for high notes and instruments, and possibly others, like a subwoofer for really strong deep bass, a midrange for middle frequencies, and a super-tweeter for very high notes.
The difference between component and coaxial speakers is that in the case of component speaker systems each of these speaker drivers is a separate unit on a separate frame, and is mounted in the vehicle in a separate location.
Typically the woofers and subwoofers might be mounted on the rear deck, though woofers are also often mounted indoors. Midrange drivers might also be mounted indoors or in a lot of other places since they are fairly small. Tweeters are often mounted at the top of a car or truck’s door, on the dash, or even on the headliner or pillars, since you want the tweeter to be facing you for the best sound.
So if you have a two-way component system, you will have two separate speakers for the left side – tweeter and woofer – and two separate speakers for the right side – tweeter and woofer.
What we would call a three-way component speaker system would also have a midrange, or perhaps a subwoofer or a super-tweeter, and there would be three separate speakers for each side of the vehicle.
And of course, we can infer what is meant by four-way, five-way, or higher – really, some of the big custom speaker installations get a little crazy, with speakers everywhere you look!
What’s the Difference Between Coaxial Speakers and Component Speakers?
Well, the main difference is, of course, the physical configuration, which we’ve just discussed.
There are other differences as well, which it is good to consider if you are planning on buying and installing new speakers in your vehicle.
Since you will have fewer individual speaker units to work with, wiring and installing coaxial speakers is almost always quite a bit easier.
Coaxial speakers also usually need a simpler, and smaller, amplifier, and often work just great with just the factory-installed stereo in the dash, without the need to add an extra amp.
Component speakers, on the other hand, are more work to install, and you will need to run wire to each one of them. They also are often a little power-hungry, and a good quality separate amplifier is quite often used to get the most out of them.
Component speakers are known to offer better sound than coaxial speakers, and this is largely due to the fact that the positions of the tweeter, woofer, and other drivers are more optimal for each of their respective frequency ranges – but a well-designed coaxial speaker system can also sound really amazing
Coaxial vs Component Speakers – Which is Better?
So, as you can already see, each of these types of systems has advantages and disadvantages, and the question of which is better for you will depend on your needs and priorities.
Advantages of Coaxial Speakers
- Coax speakers are easier to install, and can often be done by even a slightly handy person with little or no experience with such work.
- Coaxials are also generally a bit less expensive – and sometimes a lot less! – and when you also factor in how well they usually work with the built-in car stereo and the fact that you probably won’t need to buy a separate amplifier, the difference can be even greater.
- Coaxial speakers sound really great. Yeah, component speakers are the more common choice for ardent audiophiles, but coax systems are so well designed and so well made that they too have amazing sound, and pretty much always offer an enormous and wonderful upgrade from factory-installed speakers.
Advantages of Component Speakers
- Component speakers allow flexibility and optimization of placement when you’re installing. High-frequency notes are much more directional than lows, and a tweeter sounds best if it is closer to your ears and pointing at you, while woofers sound best low indoors, in kick panels, or on back decks, especially if there is a large area behind them.
- Component speakers are often better quality. Though this is not always true, and there are definitely some really premium coaxial speakers out there, we can find that component woofers, tweeters, and other drivers are engineered and built a bit better.
- Component speakers, as a result, tend to sound markedly better than coaxial speakers. Again, coax systems are so well designed that they too sound great, but the optimal position of component speaker placement and the quality of their drivers all make a difference, and when you add in a high-quality separate amplifier – which you probably should – the difference can be pretty dramatic.
So if you want really great sound quality, but budget and ease of installation are big factors, it might be best to consider coaxial speakers. And though this isn’t meant to be any kind of a buyer’s guide to the best coaxial speakers, here are a few of our favorite choices here at Speakergy:
The Best 6.5 Inch Coaxial Speakers (all sold in pairs)
The Best 6×9 Inch Coaxial Speakers (all sold in pairs)
And if you want the best sound quality, and either you are comfortable with a more difficult and lengthy installation process (though, to be fair, it isn’t that tough), or if you might just have them professionally installed, component speakers are the way to go. And again, we’ll offer a few of our top suggestions here:
The Best Component Speakers (all sold as complete sets)
Also please feel free to check out some of our related articles, which will provide even more information and can point the way to other great choices in coaxial and component speaker systems.