How Many Watts Is A Factory Car Stereo: The Average Stereo

Do you know how many watts is a factory car stereo? If you are wondering whether your car stereo is enough to suffice your audio requirements, then this brief guide will give you the answers.

The factory installed car stereo will work fine if you are looking for a mild background ambient sound. However, it’s not enough if you are looking out for a powerful experience and do not want to compromise with the quality of audio hitting your ear drums.

Comparing car stereos across the spectrum, it turns out that in general the default car stereo which comes factory fitted in your car might fail to satisfy your audio requirements. 

That’s especially true if you are a hardcore audiophile who wants a near to perfect audio experience (including the time you spend travelling in your car).

How many watts is a factory car stereo?

It is very important that we know the wattage of the car stereo. Most times, the wattage is low, somewhere around 13 to 18 watts.

However, this is an optimistic number.  Most experts opine that standard factory car stereos usually have no more than about 10 watts RMS maximum output power per channel, in spite of what the car dealers advertise.

This misunderstanding is caused by the difference between peak wattage and RMS wattage.

Your 200-watt stereo, for example, probably gets its power from an amp chip rated at 50 watts peak by 4 channels, and its real world RMS rating is probably in the neighborhood of 13-18 watts per channel.

Good power, but it pales in comparison to a strong external amplifier. That’s usually not enough power to overcome road noise without sounding shrill. The watts of your factory installed car stereo will influence the performance of your speaker.

What are watts?

A watt is a unit power. Unless your speakers have power amps built in, they don’t have any. So don’t be confused when you see in the speaker wattage mentioned in a particular speaker’s specifications.

Even non-powered speakers may have wattage ratings (mentioned in the specifications). But that is only to indicate its ability to handle power. If your speaker is rated at 200 watts then it means it can handle 200 watts of power.

Watt is a unit for measuring electrical power and the Watts of an amp-speaker duo is the power that the system can withstand under specific conditions.

Watts specification of a speaker alone does not tell you how loud the speaker can play. You have to know the amplifier’s operating power (in Watts RMS as well as peak wattage) complemented with the speaker’s efficiency (sensitivity), measured in decibels (db).

Generally high sensitivity speakers are the 90db and higher range. Those speakers will perform well in less power. This is important as most times our factory system doesn’t have a lot of power.

So higher efficiency speakers will sound better than lower efficiency speakers when we are using a factory radio.

In the factory installed setting the amps which are installed are mostly of low watt. Thus the speakers are not able to produce optimum results. If we push the amp to perform beyond its capacity, then the speakers will produce a distorted sound.

What to do?

Solution 1: Replace the factory system with a new one-  with higher wattage.

Solution 2: Replace the speakers with newer ones (high sensitive ones, high sensitivity speakers are the 90db and higher range). The high sensitive speakers work well under less power wattage.

Solution 3: You can add additional amps which will complement the inbuilt amps. This again helps with improving the audio without tinkering with the entire factory inbuilt structure.  This requires a lot of effort in terms of cost and time and might turn out altogether ineffective without proper expertise.

In case of adding external amps, you need to make sure that the added wattage is matching the speaker’s capacity. If required replace the inbuilt speakers with newer ones to match the added wattage (power) of the stereo.

Moreover, it is important to note that Watt does not tell you if the amplifier can damage the speaker. Speakers are more often destroyed by distortion than electrical power.

Why is a stereo with more watts better?

More wattage usually denote ‘better Dynamic Headroom’ and ‘lower distortion’. Dynamic headroom means capacity of a system to reproduce loud sounds without distortions. It depends on the RMS wattage as well as peak wattage of the amp-speaker duo.

Loud momentary music passages (such as high lead part of a guitar solo or upper scales of a female vocalist) can reach as high as 200-300 watts (Peak wattage).

If the amplifier doesn’t have that much power in reserve (Dynamic Headroom), then result would be higher distortion (THD to be more specific) and lower quality sound.

Generally speaking, more watts in the stereo means more power it can handle. Thus, in case you are unhappy with the performance of the factory installed vehicle stereo, we’d advice you to go for the modification options as mentioned above (solutions).

Most reasonably priced aftermarket speakers will perform well with about 25 watts RMS or about 50 watts max per channel, but try to make sure that your amp’s output matches what your speakers can handle. The amp’s wattage should match the speaker’s capacity and vice versa for optimum performance


Thus, we see that the default nature of factory installed car stereo is of average quality. And so, broadly speaking, you have two options. Look out for cars which specifically has got custom installed high quality stereo system. Or else the other solution is to replace the pre-installed stereo with a new one.

With a better one. One with more wattage. A higher quality ‘after-market unit’.  After market is the market for replacement parts, accessories, and equipment for the care or enhancement of the original product.

Another way to solve the problem of over-simplified car audio is by adding other accessories to the factory installed version. Adding Components Like external amplifiers, Signal Processors, Speakers and Equalizers.

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