What is the best speaker placement for your car? While there may seem to be a number of options, there are in reality only a few legitimate choices for optimizing your hearing experience.
Whether it’s a podcast, an audiobook, or simply blasting your favorite music, placing speakers appropriately will go a long way towards producing high-fidelity surround sound – provided of course the sound system components are solid.
Parts of a Car Stereo System
At the simplest level, the car audio system has three main components/packages:
- The stereo unit, where you would plug in your CDs, memory cards, and similar devices. The stereo unit then produces the signals to launch the process of creating the sound.
- The car amp, which will amplify the sound and convey it to the speakers, and
- The speakers themselves, which will refine the quality, and modulate the loudness of the sound for your listening pleasure.
- Other features people may invest in include equalizers and/or sound dampening systems.
The quality of the speakers can make a huge difference to the listener, which is why many aficionados may opt for a higher-priced sound system than what comes factory built.
The other consideration is the best speaker placement in a car. Car speakers may economize space by having some features crammed together – e.g. a sub-woofer and a tweeter within the same speaker – but you can also separate out the latter for more defined bass sounds. But the proper placement can make a big difference.
Typical, and Best, Locations for Car Speakers
As with the choice of the music system overall, there are two types of choices for the placement of the speakers – the factory locations the car will typically have, and possible custom locations for the speakers to best approximate the sort of audio experience that you can enjoy at home.
Factory locations for speakers usually are decided on last, based on convenience, by auto manufacturers. The main areas chosen would be the doors, the dashboard, or the rear deck (behind the passenger seat of a sedan, for example). For many users not concerned with an elaborate custom installation, they may be happy enough in accepting the location chosen by the manufacturer, maybe adding an upgrade to the quality of the system and leaving it at that.
An Optimal Location for Custom Installed Speakers – the Kick Panels
One of the favorite custom-built locations for car speakers is the kick panels – which are the areas under the dashboard on the far right and left of the car in front. While it may seem a bit strange to have the speakers below your knee level, such a placement will enhance the audio experience due to the balance – the driver and front-seat passenger will feel like they are hearing sound at the same “level”.
In contrast, take car speakers in the door. As you are driving, the left speaker is right next to you while the right speaker is way over on the other side. As a result, when you are listening to stereophonic sounds, the audio will sound imbalanced since the sound from the right speaker will arrive with a distinct lag compared to the left speaker. The same holds for speakers in the dashboard itself. There is actually a name for this – side-biased listening.
Being roughly equidistant from the two sets of speakers will provide the same sort of experience as hearing a stage performance from the middle of the floor sitting area. You can almost pinpoint where every sound is coming from.
There is a second benefit to using the kick panels as the speaker locations. A car speaker system, especially one custom designed, can then have the woofer/midrange and the tweeter located very close to one another. This way, as the notes shift from the mid- to the high ranges, they will continue to come from the same location and direction.
The contrast would be, for example, to have the midrange speakers be in the door and the tweeter in the dash. Now, if the same singer shifts from midrange by hitting a high note, you will have the impression that the voice actually jumped from (say) a faraway location to a nearby location, or vice versa depending on where you are seated. This is clearly not optimal.
Incidentally, if the low position of the speakers continues to bother you, check out where the car door speakers are typically factory installed. You guessed it – they are placed low on the side door panels. Only the dashboard and rear board speaker(s) are in elevated positions.
Extra Care Must be Taken with Kick Panel Installations
One point of caution – the kick panel (as the name suggests) is right where your foot is. If you or your front seat passenger get fidgety, look out. You could do serious damage to an expensive sound system.
Another Set of Considerations for Multi-Part Speaker Systems
If you are willing to fork out the dough for an expensive custom installation, there is the possibility that you do not have multiple components jammed into one speaker. So, if the midrange, tweeter and sub-woofers are split out, then some additional considerations creep in.
To start with, the tweeter should be placed as close to the ears as possible. Secondly, sub-woofers in a sedan are often placed in the trunk whereas they are pushed to the back of a truck bed. Given limited space, it may be difficult to accomplish perfect fidelity, with road noise also playing a role. But these general principles should be kept in mind.
The Final Verdict
As we discussed above, many people will consider getting a custom-built sound system, with receivers, amps and equalizers added to enhance the listening experience.
Along with all such improvements, investing some thoughts, research and (yes) cash in not only choosing the right speakers and then placing them at an appropriate location can make a huge difference on those long drives or while you sit stalled in traffic after a tiring day at work.