Component Vs Coaxial Speakers: Differences, Pros/Cons, And Which Is Best

Getting better car or home speakers can make a huge difference in the music you enjoy. Everybody has certain wants, needs, and of course, a budget.

On that subject, it’s helpful to understand component vs coaxial speaker differences why they matter before you go shopping. Not just the differences, but also:

  • Pros and cons of coaxial and component speakers
  • What type of sound coaxial and component speakers put out
  • Which one is best for you, and if there’s really a “better” choice
  • Installation difficulty

I’ll also help you better understand which is a better choice for you. Let’s get started!

What is the difference between coaxial and component speakers?

Component vs coaxial speaker comparison

What are coaxial speakers?

What are coaxial speakers diagram & parts labeled

Coaxial car speakers are basically a 2-way speaker system built together: the tweeter, woofer, and a simple crossover are assembled into one piece. They’re designed to replace older & lower-quality speakers by fitting in the same hole for easy installation. They provide better sound than a single cone speaker and allow more price options along with easier installation choices.

Coaxial speakers are a 2-way speaker design with a tweeter, woofer, and a simple crossover built into a single speaker assembly. Most provide a woofer cone with a separate tweeter for good full-range sound quality and frequency coverage, unlike basic single-cone speakers.

You can think of coaxial speakers as a compromise between single cone speakers (the cheapest type of speaker, with poor sound quality) and a more advanced component speaker system. They’re very popular as they offer good sound quality but don’t cost as much as more expensive speaker options like component speakers.

Coaxial speakers have some great advantages:

  • Easy sound upgrade: they’re a drop-in replacement for older factory-installed & bad sounding single cone speakers.
  • There’s a wide range of performance & price options for buyers: different levels of tweeter quality, crossover design, cone materials, higher power ratings, and so on.
  • They give somewhat similar performance to separate 2-way component car speakers – but without the need for a separate speaker crossover you have to install, too.
  • They’re easy to find and very popular – in fact, they’re the most popular car speaker upgrade and it’s really easy to find them when shopping.
  • Affordability: good coaxial car speakers can be found for around $25 and up. Very good quality coaxials are only about $50-$65 or so.
  • Coaxial speakers can immediately fix the poor frequency response many people have with their older speakers.

Coaxial vs standard/single cone speakers

Standard vs coaxial speakers comparison image with frequency response graphs

Coaxial speakers provide much better sound than standard low-end single cone speakers – even those with a whizzer cone added to supposedly improve the sound. Coaxial speakers are a type of 2-way design where the job of producing sound is split between them for best results. This way a full range of sound can be produced.

The thing is that plain ‘ole car speakers like you’ll find in many vehicles and home stereo systems are terrible! They’re well-known for bad sound and have been one of the single biggest complaints of my car stereo installation customers for years.

But why? As you can see in my picture above, they’re bad sounding because only have a single speaker (woofer/midrange) isn’t good enough. There’s a big range of sound they can’t produce well – if at all.

The truth is that single cone speakers simply can’t produce great sounding music like coaxial models do. Coaxial speakers make up the difference by using a tweeter to take care of the upped end of the musical sound range, filling in what other speakers can’t produce.

2-way vs 3-way coaxial speakers

2-way vs 3-way coaxial speaker examples image

3-way coaxial speakers are simply an extension of 2-way models with an additional small speaker (usually another tweeter or type of mid range) added for extra sound performance. 

It’s important to understand that just because they might look better doesn’t mean they sound better than a very good 2-way model. Some definitely do have improved sound production, however.

For example, some 3-way full range speakers add a tiny piezo type tweeter than can exceed the upper-frequency limit of standard tweeters, allowing for enhanced sound. Really good models offer not just a higher range of sound frequencies but a nearly flat sound response which is ideal.

The main thing to take away is that a quality and well-designed 2-way speaker can give great sound and most of the time is your best value for the dollar. Don’t spend the time, effort, and money chasing after 3-way speakers due to thinking they’re better just because of the added speaker.

Like many other things, it comes down to the quality and the design details. I recommend shopping primarily for a good quality 2-way coaxial speaker set.

What are component speakers?

What are component speakers diagram

Component speakers are a speaker system in which separately mounted speakers and a more advanced crossover are designed to provide advanced sound quality. They’re the next level above coaxial speakers and offer better performance than coaxials can provide.

Components speakers, which are made up of a separately mounted woofer, tweeter, and crossover, are a more advanced speaker system that provides better sound quality than coaxial speakers.

One reason for this is that component speakers often use better dome tweeter and woofer materials along with a more advanced (and better) speaker crossover. They may also include features such as a tweeter volume reduction option, tweeter fusing to protect against overload, and additional wiring configurations.

Some are even designed to allow assembling them together so they resemble coaxial speakers for easier installation.

Unlike coaxial speakers, component speakers offer:

  • Better frequency response and sound accuracy overall – even entry-level component speaker sets can have really great sound quality!
  • Tweeters with a more rigid and high-performance design: silk, aluminum, ceramic, or other special dome materials are common.
  • More power handling – often 75 watts RMS, 100 watts RMS, or more.
  • -12dB per octave crossover slopes (or greater) versus the standard -6dB/octave crossover used on coaxial tweeters.
  • Better crossover component quality.
  • Better speaker connector terminals and installation accessories.
  • The ability to mount the tweeters at a line-of-sight listening angle and height for better stereo imaging during music playback.

That being said, it’s important to understand that the installation process is harder than for coaxial speakers and can require custom fabrication for the tweeter mounts. Also, you’ll need to mount the crossovers as well, ideally away from moisture, and relatively close to where the speakers are mounted.

They’re also a bit more costly, too, as many component speaker sets cost around 1.5x to several times more than coaxials of the same size.

I’ve been a longtime user of component speakers and love them. Hands down, I can confidently say that a good (not even the most expensive model!) set of them can sound fantastic when used properly and powered by an amplifier.

Coaxial vs component speaker crossover differences

Component vs coaxial speaker crossovers diagram

Shown here is a diagram comparing coaxial vs component speaker crossovers. Coaxial speakers normally use a simple high-pass crossover only for the tweeter to block bass and none for the woofer. The result is overall good sound, but with room for improvement. Component speakers, however, use a more advanced crossover design that filters unwanted sound frequencies from reaching the woofer or tweeter. The result is less distortion, more accurate sound, and a better listening experience.

As I mentioned before, component speakers use more advanced crossovers than coaxials. They use 2 stages of filtering vs the single stage used with coaxials. This means more effective filtering of bass and midrange sound from the tweeter and more high-range sound is blocked from the woofer.

Most coaxials use a single cheap capacitor connected to the tweeter mounted and nothing for the woofer. Instead, they use a lower-cost design that relies on the fact that most woofers “roll off” (gradually stop producing) higher frequencies naturally.

Although it gets the job done and it works, there’s still room for improvement and the sound quality is compromised.

Component speaker crossovers use a better design

Component speakers, by comparison, use an external crossover with a designed for the specific speakers used and are made using better quality capacitors and inductors. They’re much more effective at preventing unwanted sound frequencies from reaching the speakers that aren’t suited for them.

The end result is much better clarity & lower distortion, allowing you to better hear the music as it was intended to be heard.

Even better, some component speaker crossovers include a tweeter volume control option. This is helpful if the tweeter seems too harsh sounding to you. Some also include tweeter overload circuit protection to avoid burning them out during high power delivery.

Wiring component speakers and coaxial speakers

Component vs coaxial speaker wiring diagram

Both types of speakers are fairly easy to wire – aside from the additional wire & labor needed for mounting component speakers properly.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the wiring connections needed:

  • Coaxial speakers: wired from the head unit or amplifier positive wire and negative wire to the same terminals on the speaker, same as factory-installed speakers. (Note that when replacing some factory-installed “premium” speaker systems, you may need to run new speaker wire to bypass the troublesome original wiring).
  • Components: 
  • Connected from the head unit or amplifier’s speaker outputs to the INPUTS of the speaker crossover.
  • Connect the tweeter output of the crossover to the tweeter’s positive and negative terminals.
  • Connect the woofer output from the crossover to the woofer’s positive and negative terminals.

example of component speakers installed in car door

Shown here is a typical component speaker installation: the woofer, tweeter, and crossover are mounted inside a car door. This is a pretty common installation and gives excellent sound, although it takes more time & money to complete.

Note: While it’s not required, I highly recommend using an amplifier with component speakers for the best results and maximum sound quality. (More about that further below)

Which is better, coaxial or component speakers?

Coaxial or component speakers image

The best way for me to answer this question depends on what the definition of “better” means to you. After all, you’re the best judge of what you like, right?

The simplest answer is that component speakers are the best in terms of sound quality, power handling, tweeter & woofer technology options, and installation creativity.

However, that’s not what everyone needs – not everyone cares about super-crisp sound, more power handling, or better speaker crossovers. Perhaps the best thing for me to do is to simplify it with a short comparison below.

There are several differences between coaxial speakers and component speakers you should know:

  • Coaxial speakers fit the entire 2-way speaker system into a single speaker assembly. Most component speaker systems (aside from a few rare designs) are separate and everything has to be mounted individually.
  • Coaxial speakers, in order to keep costs down and fit into a small space, have some compromises. A basic -6dB/octave crossover for the tweeter and many use a lower-cost tweeter material. Component speakers, however, have better crossovers (-12dB/octave minimum, usually) and better tweeter materials like silk, aluminum, or others.
  • Coaxial speakers tend to have lower power ratings while component speakers tend to have higher power rating limits. Coaxials tend to range around say 35W-65W RMS or so while components typically are available in 65W-100W RMS or higher options.
  • Coaxial speakers are simple to install while component speakers are harder and take more time & effort.
  • Component speakers, because of their design, offer better sound quality and clarity than coaxial speakers. Coaxials are good, but many are average (however, still much better than standard single-cone speakers).

It’s a lot easier to find coaxial speakers when shopping than it is to find component speakers. Coaxial speakers, as I mentioned earlier, are a lot more popular and because of it, many stores have them in stock.

Even your local department store, auto parts store, and “mom and pop” electronics stores probably has some in the car audio section.

Coaxial speakers are great for budget sound!

As far as price is concerned, prices for component speakers start at about the same price as a very good pair of coaxial speakers. You’ll pay less for coaxial speakers and have more options to choose from depending on what you can afford.

For example, I installed quite a few average quality coaxial speakers in cars, trucks, and even boats over the years. They’re good enough for many people yet still within reach of what they could afford when you add in the cost of installation.

Most of the time you can expect to pay somewhere around $45 for good coaxials and about $75-$100 for a good component set.

Should I get component or coaxial speakers?

Here’s a comparison to help you decide if you’re unsure.

You should get coaxial speakers if:

  • You don’t have a lot to spend or just need something that’s good enough to sound ok – not “high end” sound
  • You want an easy way to replace your old speakers
  • You’re not planning to amplify your speakers and will use a standard stereo
  • You don’t want to do the extra work or running extra wire needed for component speakers
  • You don’t have the time, tools, or money to spare on a custom installation

You should get component speakers if:

  • Sound quality is your what you’re mainly after
  • Want to use speakers with more advanced materials (especially for the tweeters)
  • You prefer speaker crossovers with a steeper cutoff and/or tweeter volume reduction option
  • Will be doing a custom home, car stereo, or marine speaker installation with higher-end electronics
  • You want improved stereo imaging for music playback and critical listening with high-fidelity recordings
  • You would like to drive your speakers with an amplifier for extra power and clarity

The good news is that there are some component speaker systems that can be used a lot like component speakers, making them easier to install. You’ll save a lot of work & hassle in the process.

As I noted above, component speakers should be driven with an amplifier for the best results. You simply won’t get great sound from them using a low-power stereo unit.

Coaxial style component speaker set example

An example of a component speaker set (in this case by speaker company MB Quart) that can be put together to work like a coaxial speaker for easier installation and using less space.

Do I need an amp for component or coaxial speakers?

Image of a car amplifiers installed with component and coaxial speakers

It would be a bit misleading to say you “need” an amp for your speakers. The better thing for me to say is that there are some great advantages you’ll get by using an amplifier to drive component or coaxial speakers.

Here’s a list of reasons why amplifying your speakers is a good idea:

  • Lower distortion & cleaner sound
  • The ability to block power-robbing & distorting low-end bass by using a crossover
  • Lots of power available for much more volume
  • A lot more flexibility for system set up

For example, most car stereo units, despite the misleading advertising they have, output only about 15-18 watts RMS per channel at the most.

And that’s not clean, great-sounding power, either. They’ll start to distort badly and sound poorly when pushed to their maximum output.

You’ll be fine for every day listening to your speakers at a moderate to moderately high volume with a good car stereo head unit. However, using an amp can take your audio system to the next level.

How does an amp make speakers sound?

Using an amplifier (even a decent one, not a high-end unit) can make a big difference in how your car audio system sounds. Amplifiers will provide several sound options you can’t get from a head unit – even the expensive ones!

Here’s a list of what an amplifier can offer:

  • Built-in high pass crossovers to block distorting and power-robbing low end bass your speakers can’t handle
  • Higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio, giving better clarity than a head unit can provide
  • Much better listening volume & power left over, without the high distortion you get when you crank up a head unit
  • More installation options and bass boost

I’ve been powering my component speakers with amplifiers for years and it’s like a night and day difference in sound quality! It’s a bit more work, but well worth it and I’ve had readers report exactly the same too.

I recommend using a decent quality amplifier with 50 watts RMS per channel or higher for best results.

More great speaker and sound articles

Don’t leave just yet – check out my other excellent articles!

Your comments are welcome!

  1. For someone that didn’t know anything about car sound systems, this is exactly what I needed to know. You’ve just saved me a lot of time and money. I don’t usually leave comments but you’ve earned mines. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    • Hi there & good morning! Thanks for taking time to leave your comment & the feedback. I appreciate it because I sincerely try hard to do a good job.

      Have a good day. :)

      Reply
  2. Hello Marty,

    maybe you can help me with a question.
    I want to buy new speakers to replace the stock sytem on my car.
    I am between coaxial and component.
    These are the two models i like, JBL GTO629 and JBL GTO609C.
    My question is regarding the low frequencies, the componets (GTO609C) are in 67Hz – 21kHz frequency response, and coaxials (GTO629) are in 53Hz – 21kHz.
    Why if the components manage better the low frequencies the coaxials have more “range” in low frequencies?
    I want the better bass quality punch that a 6.5 speaker can give me.
    Thank you a lot

    Reply
    • Hi Rodrigo. The truth is that even though a speaker’s frequency response range mentions lists a lower frequency, in the real world that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily produce a great level of bass (dB) in that range. It just means they supposedly can, but specs on paper vs real-world performance are two very different things. It also makes a really big difference how good the audio source is, as if that’s poor, then the speakers don’t matter very much.

      Personally, I prefer to buy & install a nice component speaker set with good midbass/woofer drivers as opposed to coaxial speakers. However, I think the JBL coaxials would be ok in this case as they’re above-average in design. In my opinion, you should pick whichever of the JBLs works best for you and your vehicle. (Note: You’ll get better sound, however, if you can install component tweeters facing your ears and higher up near the dash, so that’s worth considering).

      I’m not sure what head unit you have, but it’s worth considering getting one with a built-in EQ if you really want to be able to get the most out of them. Kenwood (and a few other brands, sometimes) have some affordable models with a nice 13-band EQ that can provide a fair amount of adjustment without spending a lot of money. Aside from that, it’s also very important to do a good job during installation so there’s not a lot of air leakage around them as that kills bass response.

      I hope that helps! :)

      Reply
      • Thank you a lot for your response Marty.

        I have installed an old Kenwood stereo (maybe 2010’s) but i don’t remember the model right now, i know is KDC. I think it deliver 50w x4.
        In my car i have place for 6,5” at the rear, and 5,25 at front with stock tweeters in the dash.
        I am not shure if these jbl components are good midbass/woofer drivers.
        How the configuration shoud be done?
        I should install the components on the rear or at the front? And 4 components, or 2 components and 2 axials?
        Sorry to bother you with so many questions.
        Thank you a lot again for helping us. Keep spreading your knowledge!! :)

        Reply
        • Hi Rodrigo. Except for a few special models, when a head unit lists “50W x 4” it’s usually actuall closer to 15-18W x 4 RMS (useable) power. Unfortunately, manufacturers are still listing the “peak” power which is misleading.

          Anyway, JBL is a good brand. However, you can also get some great speakers from Polk. I would install the components in the front because they’re the most important for sound & sound quality. I would use 1 component set (front) and 1 pair of coaxials for the rear. Unless you have a reason to, generally it’s not worth the extra time & effort installing components in the rear also.

          Later on, if you want to really get excellent sound you can install a 4 channel amp to drive the speakers for great clarity & volume than the Kenwood can provide.

          Thank you for the nice words in your comment – I appreciate it! :)

          Reply
  3. Hi Marty. Great info. I have a 2012 Ford Focus that has factory component in the front and coaxial in the back, and my question is: can I install new coaxials in the front also and just “get rid” of the separate twitters? I will be doing the install myself so I’m going for the easy route by avoiding a crossover and so on that comes with a aftermarket component speaker system.

    Reply
    • Good morning, Matt. Yes, you can definitely do that (forgo using the factory tweeters). Just be aware that they are likely wired to the other speakers somewhere in the vehicle’s wiring harness and need to be disconnected.

      If I’m not mistaken yours are in the doors, right? That shouldn’t be too hard to get to and disconnect the tweeters there when replacing the speakers. If yours has a factory amp, they may be wired from the amp as in many cases factory amps have internal crossovers that drive speakers separately. In either case, yes shouldn’t really be a problem.

      You could always add them back or install better tweeters later if you want to, anyhow. :)

      Reply
  4. Hi Marty,

    I own a baleno of 2020 model, i am confused about installing the new speaker for better quality of sound without a subwoofer. Can u pls suggest should I go for 2 or 3way coaxial speaker or component speaker.

    Reply
    • Hi Jagadish. There’s a section in the article above which can help you decide called “Should I get component or coaxial speakers?”

      Also, here are some additional notes:
      – If you choose coaxial speakers, 2-way coaxials are fine. 3-way coaxial speakers are usually either a gimmick for sales or not really much better than standard 2-way ones, so don’t spend extra money for 3-way ones.
      – If you think you’d prefer component speakers, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. However, get a set with good tweeters such as silk dome, metal (aluminum, titanium, alloys etc), or something similar. Avoid plastic-dome tweeters like Mylar. They’re not as good sounding as the better tweeters, and there’s not a big difference price vs silk dome tweeters, for example.

      If a company does not specify the type of dome tweeter material, that usually means it’s not good quality.

      Personally, I go for sound quality, and I use component speakers powered by a decent amplifier. Even a budget amp with budget (but good quality) component speakers can sound fantastic.

      I hope this helps some. :)

      Reply
  5. Hello marty
    Thank you for ur time explaining in detail
    I decided to go for component speakers
    Would u suggest me best music set up for my new creta base model (Suv) India

    As of my assumptions
    Head unit – blaupunkt key largo 970
    Bcoz of 10 inch screen with Android (28000 inr)
    Speakers – infinity / please suggest
    Amp – is it required? If so please suggest
    Sub woofer please suggest

    Please suggest if anything else requires

    My friends suggested door damping and wooden rings for speakers for clear sound (hope u understand wat I mean ?)

    Budget 50000 Indian ruppes ( can extend 5 to 10k)
    If required

    I want hi definition sound n good bass

    Please please help ?

    Reply
    • Hello Vinay. Well the problem with me suggesting specific items like speakers, amps, etc. for people outside the USA is that a lot of the models common here are not available there, or so it has seemed many times. So I will need to make general suggestions instead.

      Speakers: 2-way coaxial or component, with silk or metal dome tweeters if possible (not Mylar or other plastic dome tweeters, they don’t sound nearly as good/worse performance). If you can mount the tweeters higher and/or facing you, you will get better sound & stereo imaging. (Much better than tweeter low in the bottom of doors)

      Amp: Not required, but is ideal. Several reasons why: (1) a head unit doesn’t offer much power until it distorts, (2) better sound quality/clarity, (3) an amp provides a high-pass crossover (in many modern amps) you can use to block low bass to small speakers, resulting in higher volume/power/lower distortion on them.

      Subwoofer: A single 10″ subwoofer can work very well in an SUV, but if you need more bass, 12″ is better. So, a decent subwoofer (does not have to be expensive) in a sealed enclosure of the recommended internal volume is almost always giving good results. Then you can either use a subwoofer amp or or bridge 2 amp channels for the sub, and use the subwoofer set to ~70Hz low pass.

      (Note: some head units have a dedicated subwoofer output RCA/RCAs which allow control up front, so you can use that if available also instead of the amp’s low-pass filter).

      Reply
      • Dear marty

        Thank you so much for reply ?

        Noted on above points
        Il find out same with my car dealer for installation
        And il keep you posted once installation completed

        Thanks mate
        Love from India ??

        Reply
  6. Hello Marty,
    I have a 2020 Ford Ranger. I plan to upgrade the factory speakers. I can fit a pair of 2-way components upfront. The back doors can accommodate 2 coaxials. Interestingly, 2 way components might be able to fit in the back instead. The tweeters would be placed at ear level that can be aimed at the back passengers or the front passengers. With components in front and back, I wonder how the sound stage is affected? I typically don’t have passengers in the back. My primary concern is having great sound up front. Any insight you have is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Good morning, John. Actually yes, I have some thoughts on this:

      – When you have full-range speakers in the rear, the sound stage up front will be affected by it being interfered with/pulled towards the back, because you’re hearing basically the same audio signals. That means the front sound stage is very “muddied up” and not clear defined or placed towards the front like you would want. Voice, instruments, and so on will not be located in the front sound stage but will be “all over the place” because of it.

      (This is a big reason that real or simulated surround sound decoders for car audio or home use processing to produce a limited range of sound from the rear. Dolby Pro Logic II is an example of this, as when I used it, the rear channels were a low-pass filtered midrange portion of the music with a bit of delay added to compliment the front).

      – Most people have their fader towards the front anyway, so it’s worth considering if you really want to use components in the rear. A set of very good coaxials would be fine, or even midrange speakers too. I used either in custom installations, but if I used component sets I reduced the treble level to the rear or used a low-pass filter on them when using an amp to help the front sound stage.

      – I would start with getting the front sound pretty good before worrying about the rear. Especially if you’re able to use tweeters in the front, ideally mounted near head level and pointing towards you.

      – I’m not sure what head unit you have, but some these days have additional sound controls and even time delay that would allow you to do a lot of this stuff from up front without the hundreds of dollars it used to take. Kenwood’s KMM series of single DIN FM/AM/Bluetooth/USB units are an example, and have quite a few sound processing functions built-in. I got a nice one under $100. Also has a 13-band EQ & very good sound.

      Basically, I think you’ll probably end up fading the rear speakers toward the front, so I wouldn’t put a lot of time, effort, or money into the rear ones for that reason. Something good or even “ok” should be fine.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Marty, thank you for taking time to provide a detailed response. What you’re saying makes a lot of sense. Given that I want better sound with the Ford factory Sync 3 radio, I plan to focus on upgrading the front component speakers first. I will see how the system sounds before upgrading the rears with coaxial if needed. A 4 channel amp and a small powered sub may be next. I will make sure to use your shopping links for future purchases. Happy Holidays!

        Reply

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