Tweeters are a critical part of a great sounding car stereo system. But which ones should most people buy? And what do you need to know before spending money? There are a lot of questions to find answers to along the way.
In this post I’ll share 5 of the best car tweeters for your money. I’ll also provide a helpful buying guide and information so you’ll be better prepared before spending money.
Car tweeter basics
Construction & power ratings
The parts of a common car tweeter. Notice how small the voice coil is and how thin the wire that makes up the coil is. It’s one reason why you can’t expect the average tweeter to handle higher power ratings.
As they’re small in size, tweeters typical also have small voice coils, too. A tweeter’s voice coil is a coil of conductive wire wrapped a paper or other material that’s round and is suspended inside a magnet. When an audio signal from an amplifier (like a car stereo or car amp) drives it the tweeter’s dome moves back and forth, producing sound.
Unlike woofers with a large voice coil winding and more mass to help dissipate heat, tweeters have a harder time handling high power.
A tweeter’s voice coil winding is also made of smaller wire – it can’t handle the same amount of power delivery that larger speakers can. Size really does matter, in this case.
This combination of factors, for the average tweeters sold today, means that you should expect car tweeters to handle smaller amounts of power than larger speakers. This is true even for speakers at $100 and above!
What power rating is ok?
Power ratings of about 25W to 50W RMS are realistic and what you should expect to find most often. Don’t be fooled by low-cost tweeters being sold as having a huge power rating like “100W” or “200W.” It’s misleading and very often is false advertising.
To avoid these kinds of problems, I recommend going with a good brand with specifications you can trust.
Honestly, tweeters rated at 25W to 50W are good and unless you’re really driving them hard, even at high volumes, for most people they’ll do great.
For higher-volume applications (especially for open-air vehicles like a Jeep or boats) you’re likely better off with “super” tweeters which can handle more power and are even more efficient.
Common tweeter dome types
Silk dome tweeters are some of the most common types available today. They’re found in both low and high quality brands. A great example of a good pair is the Polk Audio DB1001 pair. Silk is a lightweight and inexpensive dome material but can provide good performance when done well.
There are so many different kinds of tweeters sold today that it can be very confusing! To make matters worse, some brands (especially lower cost ones) don’t clearly describe the dome material they use to produce sound.
Additionally, you may be lead to believe that one type of material is always better than the next – when in fact it’s not quite that simple.
What makes a good car tweeter?
It’s not just the power rating or dome material that makes a good, well-performing tweeter. It’s a combination of things.
Here are a few factors that, when done correctly, add up to tweeters that will help you really enjoy the music you love the most:
- Good power rating
- Stiff, yet lightweight and sonically well-performing dome material
- Good frequency response and good sound production range
- Ferrofluid cooling (if available)
- Good mounting options
There are more factors we could discuss like off-axis response, but that’s a bit outside the scope of this post and not a real issue for most people.
Tweeter dome materials compared
Here’s a simple comparison table I’ve put together to help you be better prepared when shopping. It’s important to explain that there are always exceptions to the rule, but for probably 95%+ of tweeters it holds true – certain tweeter dome materials correspond to certain quality & sound performance levels.
I’ve installed, tested, tinkered with, and owned many different types of tweeters so I speak from experience.
|Tweeter Type||Recommended?||Description & Performance Notes|
|Piezo||No||Very efficient but most often found in low-quality tweeters. Poor sound quality. Loud but harsh sound.|
|Mylar or PEI dome (plastic)||No||Lower quality and found in coaxial speaker’s tweeters also. Low-cost but low performance also. Not recommended.|
|Silk dome||Yes||Generally good performance with low/medium cost. Sound quality greatly depends on the brand & design. In some cases, excellent frequency response in low-cost tweeters. Known for “smooth” sound (not too bright in treble). Generally speaking, good tweeters.|
|Titanium, ceramic, aluminum, and metal-coated domes||Yes||Known for crisp, clear sound if done properly. Greatly depends on the tweeter’s frequency response. Generally speaking, good tweeters. Some are excellent.|
|Compression horn or super tweeter||No (for average users)||Less common and more difficult to use. High efficiency, good & loud sound, higher power, but larger magnet is difficult to install. Crossover points are also harder to work with. Not applicable to average systems.|
Tweeter installation basics
Crossovers & sound range
Tweeters are sold both as a separate set or, as shown above, as part of a set of component speakers. In either case, passive crossovers (speaker crossovers) are used to prevent low-frequency sounds like bass from reaching them. This prevents terrible distortion from sounds they can’t produce as well as preventing damage to them.
Tweeters are a bit different from full-range models in that they require a passive crossover in order to work properly and prevent damage. Because their speaker domes are so small (1″ or .75″ diameters are fairly common) they can’t handle the cone movement caused by low-frequency sounds. For woofers that’s not an issue, but tweeters are more delicate in that regards.
Likewise, attempting to play musical notes (especially bass) causing terrible distortion. Hence the need for using speaker crossovers with them.
The great news is that most include speaker crossovers so you won’t have to worry about that.
Typically, tweeters produce sound in the range of somewhere around 3 KHz (Kilohertz) and above. It varies from model to model.
This means they’re pretty good at preventing bass from reaching the tweeters. Definitely much better than a simple “1st order” crossover!
How to hook up tweeters
Here’s a simple diagram showing some of the most basic systems where tweeters are used and their connections.
There are a few special notes to be aware of:
- For factory systems with existing tweeters, often the crossover is on the tweeter itself. In that case use the crossover included with the set you purchased
- For factory systems with the crossover built into a factory amplifier, you won’t need your crossover included in the box
- Tweeters shouldn’t be connected in series with other speakers. Tweeters must be connected in parallel with other speakers
Be sure to use a full-range signal source like the main speaker wires or an amplifier output with full-range or high-pass output.
When adding tweeters alongside existing speakers you can often strip a portion of insulation from the existing wire to the speakers and tap off of them for tweeters. Be sure to use a solder or crimp connector for a reliable, solid connection that will last. Always insulate wiring with a high-quality electrical tape if not using crimp connectors.
Car tweeter shopping: expectations vs reality
Budget models like this pair of Lanzar TCS silk dome tweeters often are sold under several brand names with a different logo or slightly different cosmetic design. This is known as “rebadging.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’ve got to be careful when comparing to other brands & models. Specifications for low-cost products are often vague, outdated, or even change during production! I recommend buying brand name car tweeters instead for that reason. Plus you can get better technology and build quality for only a little bit more money.
Car tweeters, like other mobile sound products, are especially subject to being “rebadged” and sold under many brand names. It’s important to understand this for a number of reasons.
Brand name products like Kicker, MB Quart, Alpine, and more have original tweeter designs in most cases and use unique technology for better performance than their budget competitors.
The great news is generally speaking many brand names actually don’t cost much more money at all! In fact some are only $15-$25 more and up, depending on the model.
Cheaper brands that you’ve never heard of aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just that they’re not quite at the quality level of the big names. Additionally, often their specifications aren’t fully listed or have been known to change during production.
The main reason for this is most in the lower price range are simply re-branded and are sourced from Chinese manufacturers who are notorious for inconsistent products and quality issues.
That’s not necessarily a reason not to buy cheaper tweeters, but always be on guard and be very careful when buying.
★ 5 of the best affordable car tweeters ★
Our top picks for the money
|Polk DB1001||Check on Amazon|
|CT Sounds Meso||Check on Amazon|
|Kicker 43CST204 Titanium Dome||Check on Amazon|
|Kicker KST2504 KST250||Check on Amazon|
|Alpine SPR-10TW||Check on Amazon|
Tweeter reviews and details
1. Polk Audio DB1001 1″ silk/polymer tweeters – Excellent sound, great quality, and marine certified for less than $65
I’ve installed a variety of Polk Audio speakers in customer vehicles over the years and I’ve always been pleased with the results. The DB1001 model tweeters are no different.
At first glance they look like your average cookie-cutter tweeters…but don’t let their modest appearance fool you. They’re above-average performers that hide some cool features you won’t find in the el-cheapo models.
For starters, the magnet is actually not the standard ceramic magnet but the more dense & lighter weight neodymium type. There’s liquid cooling also inside to help dissipate heat and keep your jams going without failing early.
Included are flexible and very handy installation accessories: surface and flush mount adapters. You’ll also get well-made and good-sounding 12dB/octave high-pass crossovers with durable wire for a great installation.
Power handling is a little bit above average at 60W, which is pretty good for its price range.
Sensitivity is one of the best with a 92dB/1W rating. That means you’ll use less power to drive them – and you’ll use up to half the power of lower efficiency tweeters at normal listening levels!
They’re a great match even if you don’t have an amp – they’ll work well with a decent head unit too.
Get a great looking installation in your ride! The DB1001 tweeters look right at home in both economy and high-end vehicles. Keep it classy and great sounding on a budget. In my opinion the design is nice and modern while not being tacky unlike some some competitors.
The mounting hardware is pretty good in my opinion, with stainless steel hardware and both flush and surface-mount swivel cups. Standard -12dB/octave crossovers are included, and while they’re pretty standard, they’re well-made and don’t fall apart like cheaper ones.
What’s unusual is that they’re a great choice for boats, too! They’re marine rated for use in outdoor vehicles and boats of all types. This means if you’re a Jeep owner they’re a great choice for durable, lasting sound with the top off.
And of course the most important part – how’s the sound? Sound is excellent, with a “smooth” response without harsh treble during music playback.
- Good power handling ability (60W RMS)
- Great efficiency with 92dB/1W
- 4KHz – 23KHz frequency response
- The same Polk Audio quality I’ve come to trust
- Great buyer feedback
- Excellent, smooth sound
- Good crossover design
- Electronic tweeter protection circuit in crossovers
- Marine rated
- Good mounting hardware
- Nice, clear owner’s manual
- Nice, professional appearance
- Good pricing
- Silver trim may not work well for some interiors
- No tweeter attenuation settings built-in
- No metal dome version available
- 4KHz cutoff isn’t suitable for all systems
If you’re looking for great sound that won’t break the bank, I definitely recommend them. Don’t hesitate to head over and check out the great buyer reviews.
2. CT Sounds Meso 1″ aluminum body silk dome tweeters – Great sound, expensive looks, budget priced!
If you’re on a budget you might be thinking you’ll end up with cheesy, low-end tweeters. However, the good news is that if your sound & power requirements are modest, the CT Sounds Meso series is a great choice.
Why not spend less but still get great sound and looks that stand out, too? CT Sounds is a relatively new brand but has offered some of the best woofers and component speakers around – without the high price tag.
The cool design really stands out – CNC machined aluminum with a matte finish and laser cut logo. You won’t see that everyday, at least not in this price range (under $50).
Featuring a silk dome, neodymium magnet, and ferrofluid cooling, they provide a smooth response from 1.5KHz – 21KHz. Because of this they’re also a great choice for replacing factory premium sound system tweeters.
The efficiency and power handling could be better (25W RMS, 90dB), but for most tweeters you’ll need to spend more if that’s what you need.
Included crossovers are small and easy to install, with -12dB/octave filtering at 3.5KHz.
Sadly, there’s no swivel mount available as the tweeters housing are solid metal rather than plastic. One complaint I have is that they’re flush mount only. More mounting options would be great.
- Great looks – machined aluminum & laser-cut logo
- Good value
- Ferrofluid cooling
- Great frequency range (1.5-21KHz)
- Good speaker crossovers/frequency (3.5KHz)
- Included wiring is good quality & long; easy to connect
- Great buyer feedback
- No tweeter reduction setting on crossovers
- 90dB efficiency is lower than some others
- Flush mount only
- Lower power rating (25W RMS)
- Included instructions are adequate, could be better
They’re an overall great value and I’m impressed with the sound and looks despite their lower power rating. For average systems that want above-average sound, they’re a great option.
Don’t just take my word for it – checkout the fantastic feedback now.
3. Kicker 43CST204 3/4″ Titanium Dome CS series – Metal dome sound and Kicker quality…with a value price
What list would be complete without a great option for those who love the fantastic detailed sound of metal domes?
Kicker’s 43CST204 series feature 50W RMS of power handling and a nice 92dB effciency rating. They’re well made and the installation instructions are clear & well-done.
The .75″ titanium dome provides excellent frequency response and crisp, detailed music reproduction from 4.5KHz to 21KHz. Sensitivity is a very nice 92dB/1W, meaning they’re also a good choice if you don’t have an amp installed yet.
With the Kicker tweeters you’ll get everything you need for a great installation. Included are mounting adapters, screws, crimp terminals, crossovers, and slide connectors for the tweeters as well.
The mounting depth is a shallow 9/16″. Included are -6dB/octave crossovers and hardware for flush, angle, and surface mounting. However, there aren’t any addtional brackets included, so you’ll may want to either fabricate some or pick up brackets too.
For your convenience they’ve also included crimp connectors which is a great touch and helpful for some installation situations.
It’s hard to get good quality titanium dome tweeters on a budget so I recommend you check them out.
- High-performance titanium dome
- 3 mounting options
- 92dB sensitivity
- Nice design & appearance
- Kicker quality (well-made)
- Clear instructions & diagrams
- Good wire length and easy connections
- Includes crimp connectors
- Good frequency range (4.5KHz-21KHz)
- Good price ($50 and less)
- Crossovers are -6dB, not -12dB like others
- No mesh metal grill over tweeter domes
- No additional brackets included
I’m a bit picky so I’m not personally happy about the -6dB slope of the crossovers, but in practical use it’s not a real issue. It’s just not a great match for fancier, more demanding system. Also, there’s no metal mesh grill over the tweeter domes themselves.
However, they’re excellent tweeters with great sound and provide good value with better quality than many others.
If you’re up for higher-end sound without the higher price, head over to read the great reviews and check the sale price at Amazon.
4. Kicker KST2504 silk dome 1″ – Great efficiency, excellent sound, high quality, and famous Kicker performance
Looking for higher power handling and excellent sound, with above-average performance? What about spending less than $100 for some of the best? Then the Kicker’s KST2504 1″ tweeters can deliver that and more.
Why get cheaper, harsh-sounding tweeters that can’t handle the same power and will surely let you down later? These silk dome tweeters feature 75W of power handling ability and a whopping 94dB of efficiency at 1W.
That’s excellent for this size range. That means even if you are don’t have an amp you can expect great volume at lower power.
Kicker’s KST2504 tweeters include more installation hardware than I normally see. It’s a nice touch and a big advantage for custom installations. Every little bit helps!
Like other models in this quality level, they feature neodymium magnets for better performance with less mass & size, along with only 9/16″ of top mounting depth. They’re quite small but pack a lot of performance in a small package.
The included hardware opens more installation possibilities, whether it’s flush, surface, or angle-mounting.
The -12dB/octave crossovers are small so they’ll fit into even tighter installations. They’re simple but well-made, and the include wiring is solid and features good construction. I’m pretty pleased with those, although the lack of tweeter level settings is a feature I think definitely is needed with these.
Sound is excellent, with great musical reproduction and no ringing or overly accentuated frequencies like budget models. Highs sound crisp and really bring out the music you love. What I enjoyed the most about them was their pleasing sound and how little equalization I needed to get them to sound just right for my taste.
I’m sure you’ll love them, too. They’re good-looking, and are all-around great performers that sound excellent.
- Good power handling (75W)
- Great sound and clarity
- More installation hardware
- Good instructions
- Style compliments most interiors / systems
- Good frequency range: 3.5KHz – 21KHz
- Higher sensitivity (94dB) than most
- Top-mount depth is only 9/16″
- Connecting wire is sturdy & reliable
- No tweeter level feature on crossovers
- No swivel feature for mounting cups
- Logo isn’t removable from grills
When you’re ready for smooth sound that wastes less power but can deliver more at higher power, the KST2504 set is a wise choice.
Find out why they’re so great. Head over now to read more about them at Amazon.
5. Alpine SPR-10TW 1″ silk ring dome tweeters – Excellent power handling, next-level sound, and superb design
Alpine, an industry leader in the car audio world for several decades, has done it again. When you’re looking for the best sound in your ride, it’s time to explore more advanced designs and a company with the resources to bring new technology to the world of mobile sound.
The SPR-10TW tweeters do exactly that!
Featuring a unique silk dome but with an advanced ring design, these use an “EQ Ring” to improve the tweeter’s off-axis response. What does that mean to you? It means even if they’re not pointed directly at you, unlike lower-tier models you’ll still get excellent sound without a big drop in volume.
Featuring a copper-clad aluminum voice coil, copper shorting cap (to reduce distortion and other sound-affecting factors), a high-grade neodymium magnet, and an aluminum bobbin for the voice coil, they can handle an amazing 150W RMS of power!
What’s really cool in my opinion is that sliding back their covers reveals handy tweeter adjustments: 0, -2, -4, and -6dB of tweeter attenuation for a big advantage in matching speaker levels when building your system.
And the sound? Excellent. A 1″ silk ring design produces a sound that’s best described as smooth and really accurate, even at higher power levels, which is unusual for smaller tweeters. For those of you who have more advanced criteria, you’ll be happy to know that the built-in resonance absorber keeps coloration and ringing to a minimum.
In my opinion, they’re amazing tweeters and well very well-built. Having the logo right in the center of the grill was a little bit of a turn off for me. However, after reading the owner’s manual I found out I could just remove it – it’s entirely optional.
By the way, the frequency response of these is superior also, with 1KHz-29KHz ability. Wow!
- Excellent power handling (150W RMS)
- Superior frequency response (1KHz – 29KHz)
- Crossovers are smaller than most
- Crossover is well-built and components are higher quality than competitors
- Nice, professional appearance
- Ring design provides far better off-axis (non-direct) volume than most
- Great sound reproduction
- Better quality wiring
- Great construction and quality throughout
- Tweeter settings built-in
- Very good tweeter attenuation settings: 0,-2, -4, and -6dB
- EQ Ring and resonance absorber reduce sound coloration
- Nice slide cover on crossovers
- Logo is removable is not desired
- Flush, top, and bottom-mount hardware included – includes wire ties also!
- Cutout templates included
- Owner’s manual has excellent illustrations for installation/assembly
- Sensitivity at 1W is lower than others (88dB)
- Lower sensitivity means not a good match for low-power source (Ex: car stereo w/out amp)
- More expensive than other with metal domes
- 1 year warranty only
- Installation hardware works well, but not as simple as others
When you’re ready for taking your sound to the next level, these are definitely an excellent choice.
Hunting down the best price can be a bit of a pain. However I’ve found much better pricing for the SPR-10TW set over at Amazon.
Thinking about installing and amplifier and subwoofer in your ride? Check out my great guide on how to install an amp and subwoofer.
You can also drive your new speakers with fantastic sound. Check out my buyer’s guide with some of the best 4-channel amplifiers around.
Got questions or comments? Feel free to post a comment here or reach out to me!