Your car is one of the best places to listen to music, but many car manufacturers still use inexpensive and low-quality speakers that don't deliver excellent sound. Since home theater speakers are designed to last a long time and produce great sound, there must be some way you can use them in your car instead, right?
You can use home theater speakers in your car. However, just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean you should. Home theater speakers aren't designed to be used in a car, and installing them can cause unnecessary complications resulting in even worse sound than you had to begin with.
In the rest of this article, we'll discuss a few topics related to this question, including the differences between car speakers and home theater speakers, why home theater speakers aren't ideal for use as a car's sound system as well as how to get better sound in your car.
The Differences Between Home Theater Speakers and Car Speakers
While car speakers and home theater speakers do the same job, for the most part, they still differ greatly from each other. Some of the most significant differences are in the impedance and design of the speakers.
The single biggest difference between the speakers in your car and those used in a home theater system is the impedance. Impedance is the measure of resistance the speaker will produce against the current supplied by the amplifier.
The easiest way to explain this is by using a river as an example. The water represents the current, and the rocks in the river represent the resistance measured in Ohms. The more rocks you pile up in a river or, the higher the resistance, the less water or electrical current will pass through. Higher resistance is equal to less moving current.
Car speakers usually have 4 ohms of impedance, whereas home theater speakers have an impedance rating of 8 ohms. A car generally produces between 12 and 14 volts, while your home's power outlet delivers 110 volts. Thus the speakers in your car will need less resistance to get the amount of power they need.
Car speakers and home theater speakers are exposed to very different environments, so manufacturers have designed them with those environmental factors in mind.
The speakers inside your car are subjected to far more extreme environments than the speakers inside your home. The inside of your car goes through extreme temperature changes, from freezing to boiling, high humidity, and sun exposure. In contrast, the inside of your home is most likely a less harsh environment and climate-controlled.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Home Theater Speakers in Your Car
As we've already established, your car and home environments differ quite a lot from each other. Another difference between listening to music in your car and your home is the music's volume in these respective places.
We tend to listen to music at much higher volumes in our cars than we do at home. This may be because we're trying to compensate for the wheels' sound against the road, blasting and singing along to our favorite song. This could also be because we're listening to music at high volumes, leading our neighbors to get angry and perhaps a police visit because of a noise complaint.
Car speakers are designed to handle these kinds of volumes, and if you were to replace them with home theater speakers, it wouldn't be very long before they blow and stop working, meaning you'll have wasted all that time and money for nothing.
Environmental Testing Considerations
Because cars from all manufacturers are sold worldwide, a lot of accommodations need to ensure that the cars will work efficiently anywhere. This includes the car's speaker system.
Every country has a different climate, which means that the cars driven there need to withstand multiple environmental conditions, such as extreme heat or cold and high and low humidity.
Car speakers go through various detailed procedures in factories with extensive testing methods, whether the car's speakers can function in these climates.
Ultraviolet Exposure Considerations
The speakers in your car are essentially outdoors for most of their lifetime, and unless you have a roof to park your car under 24 hours a day, seven days a week, your car's speakers will get some amount of UV exposure.
Exposure to the sun will cause UV degradation, which is a process in which synthetic polymers like propylene and synthetic rubbers that don't have UV stabilities slowly degenerate. They may discolor, develop a chalky surface, crack or, in some cases, disintegrate completely.
The more sun exposure your car's speakers get, the more damage it will get. Eventually, the cone's weight and the suspension's stiffness will change, which will result in unpredictable performance and perhaps complete failure.
Car's speakers are designed to withstand this kind of ultraviolet exposure, and while they may not last forever, they certainly will last a lot longer than home theater speakers.
While environmental factors are some of the more extreme factors that a car speaker system will have to withstand, there are also forces that the car itself imposes on the speakers that they will have to be able to withstand.
Home theater speakers are only built to withstand the vibrations that the speaker system itself creates, but other factors will influence the vibrations a speaker will experience in a car. Bumps in the road can create high G-forces that could multiply the vehicle structure's weight several times. An out-of-balance wheel can also lead to vibrations that move throughout the entire vehicle.
The speakers made for use in automotive vehicles, mounting, and installation hardware are all designed to withstand these vibrations at low and high frequencies. Industrial vibrations tables are used to test whether these speakers' design and materials are suitable for their application.
How to Get Better Sound From Your Car’s Sound System
So you may have concluded that using home theater speakers may not be the best solution to your car audio problems, but you still want to do something to improve the quality of sound in your car. Luckily there are a few things you can do to remedy this issue.
Replace Your Car Speakers
Manufacturers don't always put the highest priority on installing speakers into their cars that have studio-quality sound, which may leave you hungering for a speaker system that will do your favorite songs justice.
Thankfully, replacing your car speakers is easy enough to have some electrical know-how and good quality aftermarket speakers, like this JBL GTO629 Premium Speaker Set.
Here's a video that'll show you how to replace car speakers:
Select Higher Quality Music Files
When your music is stored in the device you use to stream your music, it goes through some compression to make them smaller. This leads to a lower quality sound. However, most music streaming services will let you change the quality in which you stream your music, and this can be easily done in the settings of your streaming service's app.
Use a Sound-Dampening Material
Sound-dampening materials, like this Noico Car Sound Deadening Mat, reduce the vibrations created by your music playing and the noise from the road. They are easy to install, relatively inexpensive, and do a pretty good job making your system sound better. You can attach them to your car's doors, roof, or lay them under the foot mats that are already in your car.
Deadening mats have come a long way since the 00s decade. Dyna Mat used to be supreme here but it was way too expensive for what it was (and still is quite frankly) and installers hated installing it. They are much easier to install now.
I never put home theater speakers in a car before, but I do have a quick bone-headed story I want to share with you.
Many years ago, I once took a powered subwoofer meant for computer surround sound and put it in my car. It required me to run an audio cable from the back of my Alpine head unit, a power inverter from the lighter socket, and a cable adapter to the hatchback where the sub was laid. It worked. I had reasonably cheap bass that worked pretty well for the car I had. It immediately made my sound system that much better.
However, this was still a dumb setup. I eventually blew the subwoofer and had to get rid of it, including disconnecting all the cables and the power inverter. I wasn't about to rig another one in there. Using home theater speakers would provide a similar result, even if they weren't powered. Under powered speakers sound like crap sound like crap anyway.
So, from a technical standpoint, you can use home theater speakers in your car, since they essentially function in the same way. However, each of them (home vs car) is designed for their specific purpose and will work best when used as such. Heed my call, and save yourself some time (and potentially money).