Should You Upgrade Your Car Speakers?

Seriously?  Have you seen your factory speakers?  If you have then you already know why you should upgrade them and don’t need to read any further.  If you haven’t, and I’m guessing this is the case for most people, then you may be shocked when you find out just how unimpressive they really are.  Now there are exceptions.  Fender, Dynaudio, Bang and Olufsen, Sony and a few others have stepped up their game in recent years but there are many more years where name brand companies have seriously let us consumers down and it is also becoming more common for car manufacturers to leave some speaker locations empty in base model cars.  That’s right.  Imagine your new Honda Accord with six speaker locations but only four speakers.  This is a real thing and it’s not just Honda.  


The reality is that many OEM systems use “full range” speakers which is a creative way of describing a single driver that’s been given the responsibility of reproducing the entire audio spectrum.  The advantage of this type of speaker is simple.  They’re cheap.  But you’d never guess that if you were to call the dealership and ask how much it would cost to replace one.  They are also usually built with inferior materials like thin paper cones and foam surrounds.  That's right - paper.  The car manufacturers think paper is an acceptable material to be used in the door of your car.  As for the foam, well foam is good in the right applications like in your living room or office but not in your car.  Foam just doesn’t hold up after it has cooked in the back window of your sedan for a few years.

                                         Typical OEM car speakers

                                         Typical OEM car speakers

It is also a common misconception that replacing speakers is an expensive thing to do.  Well, let’s do a little comparison.  A quick Google search revealed that the factory replacement speaker for the driver side front door of a 2010 Kia Soul sells for $102 from a Kia parts website.  That’s just one “full range” speaker with paper cone and foam surround and it still has to be installed.  Did I mention the factory speakers in this vehicle are riveted in?  I guess screws would have been too slow during production.  So, new OEM front speakers are $204, you have to drill out rivets to remove them and then rivet the new ones back in - assuming you have the tools for that - or find a new way to mount them.  You could also take your Kia to dealer and pay them to replace your speakers which means adding at least an hours worth of labor plus parts.  Assuming a labor rate of $100 an hour and maybe $10 in materials, you’re now looking at $314 and in the end you still have the same dull lifeless sound.


Now, let’s go at this from another angle.  Digital Designs is one of our favorite companies to work with and they have a new E Class line of speakers which are great OEM replacement or upgrade options.  They are available in several different sizes, have molded poly cones, rubber surrounds and 20mm tweeters.  The EX6.5 which happens to fit the Kia Soul has an MSRP of only $79 a pair.  That’s for two of them!  An hour of our shop time at $75 an hour, $4 for materials and you have a grand total of $158 which mean not only can you replace all four speakers for the same price as just two OEM speakers but you will also achieve a dramatic improvement in sound quality all while still using the factory radio.  

So, what does all this mean?  Well, if you want the stereo in your car to sound better, then replacing the speakers can be a simple way to make a noticeable improvement.  If you think the speakers in your car may be damaged or worn out, you don’t have to break the bank to replace them and it would certainly be advantageous to purchase aftermarket speakers rather than going to the dealership.