You must have great-sounding music in your vehicle if you spend a lot of time traveling or sitting in traffic. A good set of 3.5 coaxial speakers will go a long way towards delivering that high-fidelity audio experience you’re craving.
The question is, do you want those 3.5-inch speakers to be full-range speakers, or do you want them to be component speakers so you can fully tailor your car audio experience? We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of your speaker system build by presenting our choices for the top full-range 3.5-inch speakers. Check them out in the guide below.
The Best 3.5 Speakers
These two-way 3.5 speakers offer great sound and higher volume levels than many competitors. Pyle was founded in 1960 and started delivering high-quality woofers in the United States. By the 1980s, the Pyle Driver, its first speaker system, was a household name. Its reputation has only grown since.
The main speaker cone of these 3.5 speakers is poly-injected for extra stiffness without extra weight. The frame and cone are colored yellow for style purposes. The four-ohm impedance of these speakers makes their output sound louder than their 60-watt RMS rating. The 20-ounce magnet helps deliver smooth, clear musical performances.
- Frequency response of 100 Hz-20 KHz
- 4 ohm impedance allows for louder-sounding speakers even at lower volumes
- A strong capacitor has been added to ensure the speakers are never short on power
- Brand Pyle
- Model PLG3.2
- Weight 1.79 pounds
60 watts RMS (continuous) output
120 watts peak power output really delivers
High temperature voice coil delivers smooth, rich midrange audio
Requires a separate woofer/subwoofer for extreme low frequency thump
Six-inch mounting depth rules out many locations
Doesn’t ship to all states/countries
Although they are at the extreme low end of the price range, these speakers are made using polyurethane midwoofer cones and extreme temperature voice coils to absorb the punishment of loud audio systems. Boss Audio has a lot of faith in these speakers given their three-year platinum online dealer warranty. The red midwoofers under triangular white tweeters also look great.
Rubber surrounds allow for optimal midrange speaker throw to deliver clean and crisp midrange sound. The high-quality piezoelectric tweeter delivers crisp high notes and resists temperature burnout as well as overloads. Because the tweeters are piezoelectric, they don’t require dedicated crossovers. These are four-ohm impedance speakers with heavy-duty voice coils to resist heat without fatiguing.
Boss Audio is a name that you’ll find on the car stereo sound-off circuit in award-winning audio systems. The company was founded in 1987 by Sam Rabbani, who wanted to develop world-class car audio products that fit everyone’s budget.
- Boss Audio Systems provides a three-year platinum warranty
- Speaker cages and cones resist damage better than most
- Four-ohm impedance for good low end thump
- 140 watts rms power per pair
- Brand Boss Audio Systems
- Model CH3022
- Weight 13.8 ounces
1.5-inch mounting depth allows for a multitude of mounting options
Rubber surrounds stand up to more abuse
Stamped steel basket is extra rigid
Sensitivity of 88 dB can make for “muddy” sounding low volumes
Frequency range of 100 Hz to 18 KHz requires a subwoofer for ultra lows and super tweeter for extra high frequencies
Customers report blowouts before max output is reached
With a mounting depth of only 1.44 inches, there aren’t very many cars or places these JBL GX302 3.5-inch coaxial car speakers can’t be installed. These 3.5-inch car speakers look great and deliver great sound. JBL uses what it calls Plus One technology to effectively make the woofer cone larger than it actually is; it gives a better sound experience in the midbass ranges (about 150-800 Hz) than most other speakers of the same size.
The GX302 speakers have edge-driven balanced tweeters that expand their range in the higher frequencies so you’ll hear more of your music. The company also includes a “tweeter deflector” that helps make up for the poor acoustics of most cars. Their low impedance of 2.3 ohms allows them to draw more current from the amplifier and thus deliver more punch.
JBL was founded in 1946 by James Bullough Lansing. This was several years after he helped create a revolution in cinematic loudspeaker technology. The company evolved and began to make a name for itself in the 70s and 80s, making high-end component speakers for competition-style car stereo systems. Today, the company makes a wide range of component and full-range car stereo speakers for all purposes.
- Peak power output of 150 watts
- Rubber midrange surround for crisp lows
- Balanced dome tweeter gives excellent high frequency response
- Polypropylene cone delivers long life and resiliency
- Brand JBL
- Model GX302
- Weight 2.55 pounds
Mount anywhere with the 1.44-inch mounting depth
High-end frequency response of 21 KHz means extra clear high notes
3-ohm impedance punches the lows it can produce
90 Hz low end cutoff means a sub will be needed
89 db sensitivity loses some low volumes in the mud
No mounting hardware in the bo
These Pioneer 3.5-inch speakers come with a one-year parts and labor warranty. These 3.5 inch speakers measure only 1.6 inches overall from the high point of the grill curvature to the bottom of the magnet, allowing you to fit them in the tightest spots. The composite carbon-graphite-blended IMPP woofer cones deliver consistent sound quality throughout their response range and are less sensitive to heat and cold.
These 2-way speakers are designed especially for many Ford, VW, and GM vehicles, so they are direct replacements for the stock speakers. The one-inch Poly-Ether-Imide (PEI) dome tweeter delivers clear, crisp highs, although some buyers report being unsatisfied with their output.
Pioneer was founded in 1938 in the garage of Nozomu Matsumoto when he started making high fidelity speakers. Since then, it has grown to become a leader in loudspeaker technology. Today, Pioneer speakers are known for delivering great sound at low prices.
- Slim design 1.6-inch mounting depth
- The one-inch dome tweeter gives excellent high frequency response
- PEI woofer cone delivers long life and resiliency
- Brand Pioneer
- Model TS-A878
- Weight 4.84 pounds
Glass-Imide voice coil resists heat
Woofer cone composition gives extra strength and rigidity
Four-ohm impedance punches the lows it can produce
60 Hz low end cutoff means a sub will be needed
88 dB sensitivity loses some low volumes
Some buyers consider the tweeters MIA
MBQuart is another car speaker brand that has been part of sound-off competitions for a number of years. The company originally started out making high-end, high-priced speakers in 1962 in Obrigheim, (then West) Germany and has since started making high-quality, high-performance car audio speakers in several price ranges.
A number of the company’s advanced technologies are used in the construction of these speakers, which gives them excellent sound quality and extra resistance to the tough environment of your car. These MB Quart 2-way speakers deliver good bang for your buck. They have aluminum dome tweeters for optimal high frequency response and music that sounds natural. These tweeters use what the company calls WIDESHERE technology to create a larger “sweet spot” inside your car; this allows everyone to enjoy the highs they create equally.
- A rubber midwoofer surround for crisp lows
- The balanced dome tweeter gives excellent high frequency response
- A polypropylene midwoofer cone delivers long life and resiliency
- Brand MBQuart
- Model FKB108
- Weight 2 pounds
The pure copper voice coil creates a strong magnetic field with a smaller magnet
The high-end frequency response of 20 KHz means extra clear high notes
70 watts peak power output
The 80 Hz low end cutoff means a sub will be needed
An 88 dB sensitivity loses some low volumes
They only have a 35-watt RMS power output
Best 3.5 Speakers Buying Guide & FAQ
Speaker size is only the first piece of information you need when buying car stereo speakers. Sure, you know what size speakers you need, but there are a number of other things to consider before shelling out your hard-earned money. We’re going to do our part in making your decision a little easier. We have spoken with industry experts to put together a comprehensive list of the information you’ll need to make your 3.5 speaker purchase and installation go smoothly.
Why Do You Need 3.5 Speakers?
Not all speakers are created equal. Some speakers are designed for specific locations and specific types of car audio systems. For example, most 3.5 speakers are designed to fit in the dashboard, although they can also be installed in the upper door panels. This is because the high frequencies these speakers are designed to reproduce are highly directional, and if they’re not facing you when you’re sitting in the car, they’ll sound muddy and off.
The closer a set of speakers using those higher frequencies is to your ears, the better. That’s why 3.5 speakers are important. The places in or around the dash that they’re designed to fit are usually already jam-packed, making it nearly impossible to put something like a four-inch or five-inch speaker there. Putting them in the top or front of the dash also helps direct those high notes to your ears and enhance your listening experience.
- 3.5 speakers complete your high-end car audio system installation.
- 3.5 speakers fill the gap between the subwoofer and larger speakers that are designed to produce music in the midrange frequencies.
- 3.5 speakers are designed to work with the amplifier power output levels of most original equipment car stereos of up to 100 watts nominal.
Types of 3.5 Speakers
There are typically three types of 3.5-inch car stereo loudspeaker systems. They are two-way/coaxial, three way, and component speakers. Coaxial and three-way speakers are found in the majority of stock stereo systems, while component speakers are normally reserved for high-end installations.
Coaxial speakers have two speakers, and one is bigger than the other. That’s why they’re also often referred to as two-way speakers. The larger midrange speaker (with a diameter slightly smaller than the installed diameter of the speaker of 3.5 inches) is designed to produce musical frequencies from about 100Hz to 1KHz.
The smaller, inner speaker is called the tweeter or super tweeter. This speaker is designed to produce the rest of the audio spectrum—up to 20-25 KHz, depending on the design. This tweeter is normally mounted over the center of the larger speaker. The tweeter can be moved around, and it can even be slightly angled in its housing to make it as close of a straight shot from the speaker to your ear as possible.
Three-way speakers have three speakers instead of two. Three-way 3.5 speakers will usually more faithfully produce the sound of your speaker. This is because the largest speaker will produce lower frequencies than that of a coaxial speaker. Some get almost to the bottom of the range, bottoming out around 30 Hz or so.
They’ll cut off around 400 or 500 Hz, and the middle or midrange speaker will take over before handing off to the tweeter at around 5 KHz or so. The tweeter will then reproduce the rest of your music, with higher-quality speakers actually being able to reproduce frequencies out of your hearing range or above 20 KHz.
Component speakers are usually found in high-end custom car stereo installations. Component speakers can be subwoofers, woofers, midrange speakers, tweeters, and/or super tweeters.
Subwoofers and woofers are usually at least five inches and are designed to produce the lowest of low notes. Midrange speakers come in a multitude of sizes and are designed to produce the notes that the human voice is able to produce. Tweeters produce notes between approximately 1.5 KHz and 20 KHz, while super tweeters produce only the highest frequencies our ears can hear, which is about 15 KHz-25 KHz, depending on their design.
What to Look for When Buying 3.5 speakers
We mentioned earlier that there are several design considerations and key features that you need to keep in mind when shopping for 3.5 speakers. Front and rear mounting depth is important because if you get it wrong, they probably won’t fit where they’re supposed to go.
You also want to buy a set of speakers with sound you’re going to like, so specifications like sensitivity and frequency response/range are important. You also don’t want to get 3.5 speakers that can’t handle the power output of your stereo, so power handling capability is important.
- Mounting Depth
Mounting depth will determine where you can mount your 3.5-inch car stereo speakers. If you intend to mount them in your dash, you need to make sure that they don’t need a mounting depth of more than about 2.5 inches or they will probably interfere with heater or defroster vents and possibly the controls for these.
If they’re going into a door, too much of a mounting depth and they’ll probably interfere with the operation of your window, door latch, or both. Speakers that are domed out too much won’t allow you to use most stock speaker grilles, no matter where they’re mounted. Also, if they stick out from the door too much, they can interfere with the window crank.
Sensitivity is a measure of how capable a speaker is of producing low volume audio and while still being audible. It is measured by sending a series of frequencies through the speaker and measuring the output at a distance of one meter from the center of the speaker.
The higher the speaker’s sensitivity, the better overall it will sound and the better it will reproduce those ultra soft notes (think “A little lower now….a little lower now”) and then come back with something super loud without distorting. Speakers in the midranges of quality will have sensitivity ratings below 95 dB(/m). Good quality speakers will approach 98 dB.
- Frequency Response
A speaker’s frequency response or frequency range is the range of sound frequencies it can reproduce without distorting. All speakers will try and reproduce any frequency your stereo throws at them, but there is not a single speaker that can reproduce the complete audible spectrum without distorting. Let your speakers distort too much and they’ll fry.
Car audio systems that are designed for sound-off competitions will be created with five types of speakers to divide the spectrum: subwoofers for that ultra-low booming bass that rattles your fillings and shakes your tummy, woofers to produce the next band of frequencies (these will jiggle your tummy a little, but you’ll actually feel these in your bladder as well as hearing them), a set of midranges for the vocals, tweeters for that extra-high pitched singer’s voice, and super tweeters for the really high frequencies that can shatter glass—some of which are actually outside our ability to hear.
- Power Handling
Power handling is just that: How much power can the speakers handle without blowing up. This speaker feature is usually given as two numbers, RMS and peak.
RMS stands for Root Mean Square, and it’s nothing more than the output level the stereo or amplifier delivers most of the time. Peak power is the loudest it hits. A good analogy for RMS and peak is the difference between your TV show and the commercials. Ever notice how TV and radio ads are louder than the regular program?
Tips for Buying and Using 3.5 Speakers
You need to do your homework before you spend your hard-earned money on a set of 3.5 speakers. Don’t just head over to some commercial site and buy a set of speakers because they look cool, or because the page says they can produce XX hundreds of watts. Make sure they’ll fit all of your needs first, or you may end up wasting your money. Start with size and then move logically through the rest of your requirements before arriving at a final buying decision.
- Are you looking for crashing, booming bass? Find a set of speakers whose frequency response is as close to 20 Hz as possible.
- Do you mostly listen to the news or talk radio or like your music played at lower volumes? You’ll want a set of 3.5 speakers with as high sensitivity level as possible so you hear everything you’re intended to hear.
- Again, mounting depth should be a prime consideration. Put one that’s too deep in a door panel and you’ll probably break the window. AC or electrical problems can be caused if speakers in the dash are too deep. You may also need to install the original factory grilles on them.
Best 3.5 Speakers FAQ:
Technical specifications alone often aren’t enough to make the right 3.5 speakers buying decision. People on the lookout for high quality 3.5 inch car stereo speakers often have questions about their speakers. Here are the questions that stereo installers most often receive during or after the 3.5 car speakers buying process.
Q: What is a speaker’s frequency response?
The human ear can hear sounds between 20 Hz and about 22 KHz. A speaker’s frequency response is the range of frequencies that it can produce without damage.
Q: The 3.5 speakers I currently have in my car sound crackly or rattly when the volume is at about 50 percent. Why?
This is called “clipping.” The speakers are struggling to produce something, either sound frequencies outside their capabilities or volume levels outside their capabilities. With the volume set at less than 50 percent, that most likely means frequency clipping. On the other hand, the speakers could also be blown.
Q: I like music that makes my teeth rattle and my stomach gurgle. Will these speakers give me that type of sound quality?
Unfortunately, no. To get the type of ultra-low end bass that you feel more than hear you’re going to need a good quality subwoofer. It’s extremely hard and expensive to design a speaker that will deliver booming low end bass as well as screaming highs. That’s why speaker manufacturers sell so many subwoofers.
Q: Can I use the same amplifier to power my 3.5-inch full range speakers as I use for my subwoofer?
You can if you have a way to deliver only the frequencies that each speaker set can safely reproduce to those speakers. You may have to adjust the band pass as well as the gain on your amplifier in order to not damage your speakers and amplifier.
Our Top Pick
We chose the Pyle PLG3.2 as our top pick because it delivers quality and has the least number of compromises. The frequency range reproduces all but the lowest of low notes. 120 watts of peak power handling capability makes them a great choice for stock 3.5 speaker replacement. The two main drawbacks of these speakers are their low-end cutoff of 100 Hz, which cuts off 80 Hz of your music; and their tall tweeters, which don’t accommodate most OEM speaker grilles.