At first glance, it may seem like there’ no real reason for 6×9″ speakers to have their unusual shape. But as you’ll learn, there are some good reasons for them. Not only that, but they have some advantages you might find interesting!
But why do 6×9 speakers look different? Are they a good choice for your car stereo system? How do 6x9s compare to other speakers?
Read on and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Why do 6×9 speakers look different?
Why 6×9 speakers?
6×9″ car speakers were originally used to make good use of limited space in vehicles from the factory. This was mainly the deck near the rear window in older vehicles (sometimes called a parcel shelf). In many vehicles – everything from muscle cars to luxury vehicles – there wasn’t much space to fit speakers.
In fact, in a fair amount of cars back in the day, there weren’t any front speakers at all! It wasn’t until further into the 1970s and afterward that adding a decent stereo and better factory speakers became common with vehicle manufacturers.
Back in those days, the car audio speaker sizes we have now weren’t standard so speaker options that would fit were limited.
Their shape offers more sound in a narrower space
As early as the 1960s some cars and other vehicles used 6×9″ car speakers to offer a better sound by using an oval shape. This allowed taking advantage of the longer width (side to side) rather than the shorter back to front panel measurements.
This allows fitting an overall larger speaker cone which wouldn’t be possible otherwise by using a round speaker. Similarly, 4×10 speakers do the same thing but in even more limited rear deck space.
How big are 6×9 speakers?
Example measurements for a typical 6×9″ speaker. The overall measurements vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and can be slightly different for both the outside measurements and the cutout size too.
6×9 inch speakers aren’t standardized in their measurements which means that different brands and models vary a little bit from each other. However, in general, they’re roughly 6.5″ x 9 5/16″ (164mm x 235mm) in size.
The cutout size, in which the speaker basket will fit for top or bottom mounting, is about 5 5/16″ x 9 5/16″ (143mm x 235mm).
One thing that’s important to know is that the depth can be very different. In most cases, 6×9″ speakers with large magnets have a depth of slightly over 3 inches while lower-power and budget models are closer to 2.5″ or 2.75″ or so.
Why 6×9 speakers? 6x9s vs round speakers
If you compare the area of an ellipse (oval) from a 6×9″ speaker to a similarly sized round speaker, you’ll see that the 6×9 speaker offers much more cone area. (Note: This is a simple comparison – speaker cone area is more complicated to figure out so I’ve used a more basic example).
You might not have realized it, but when it comes to speakers at least, size does matter! It matters a LOT, in fact.
That’s because the larger the surface area of a speaker cone, the more air it can move when in motion. This means for you more volume and especially more bass sound.
What is the difference between 6×8 and 6×9 speakers?
6×8 inch speakers are extremely similar to 6×9 speakers and are made for replacing special factory vehicle speakers. They’re just slightly smaller than their counterparts.
6×8 inch speakers are identical to and very close in size to 6×9 inch speakers. They’re simply slightly smaller and look nearly the same.
They’re designed to replace some factory-installed original manufacturer speakers where 6×9″ models won’t fit without modification. They offer a way to get a better-sounding replacement but without the need to modify the car’s speaker openings or use a special adapter.
In fact, in some cases, a 6×9″ speaker can’t fit in the place of a factory 6×8″ speaker due to extremely limited space or not enough clearance for a 6×9″ speaker cone to move freely without touching.
Are 6×9 speakers good for bass?
6×9″ speakers offer a big advantage over standard round speakers: despite taking up about the same front to back space as say 6″ or 6.5″ speakers, their width is much bigger, giving them a much larger cone for moving air.
This means 6×9″ speakers can produce more bass compared to others.
Yes, they’re better (in many cases – it depends on the speakers being compared) than other speakers for bass. They’re not a substitute, however, for subwoofers and shouldn’t be used for them.
However, in high quality & properly matched speaker enclosures, it’s possible to get great sound with plenty of bass from them. In fact, 6×9″ speakers have a similar cone size to 8″ woofers!
How much bass do I get from 6×9 speakers?
The amount of low-frequency bass sound you can get from 6×9 depends on a lot of things, but you can roughly expect about the same as mid-level 8 inch woofers.
Some of the things that make a big difference are:
- The speaker box size – many 6×9″ speaker boxes are too small to produce good bass, so they often work best in trunks or larger boxes.
- The speaker quality & power rating: speakers with stiffer cones and a higher power rating are better for power-hungry bass.
- The speaker’s frequency response: You’ll need to pick 6x9s that work well for lower bass. Optionally, you can find 6×9 woofers that are designed just for bass or are part of a 2-way speaker set.
What is the frequency range of 6×9 speakers?
Shown here are some graphs showing the frequency response for common 6×9″ speakers you’ll find anywhere. Just like any other type of speaker (6.5″, 4″, and so on) the frequency range depends on the speaker’s design & level of performance.
The frequency range of most full-range 6×9 inch speakers is just like any other size: somewhere between 60hz to 20KHz or so depending on the performance of the speaker.
For example, a 1-way speaker has a more limited range and is a poor performer overall. They’re weak in the upper range with higher-pitched sound response dropping off badly somewhere before 16KHz. That means they have lousy higher-frequency sound production and don’t sound very “crisp.”
High-quality 2-way and 3-way 6x9s add one or more tweeters to cover the additional high-frequency range that the woofer can’t produce. These can produce sound in the range of somewhere around 60Hz to 20Khz and even higher.
While 1-way speakers may have an extra cone called a “whizzer” cone attached for better high-frequency sound, they don’t really add much and these types of speakers have disappointing sound quality.
What about the bass range?
6x9s are just like any other car speaker in that they aren’t subwoofers and most can’t produce very deep bass like a subwoofer can. However, 6x9s, as I mentioned earlier, are some of the best speakers for bass for full-range music.
Some can perform to below 60hz and still produce good bass levels. This is especially true for 6×9″ component speaker sets which separate the tweeter and woofer cones with 2-way crossovers for great sound performance.
Do 6.5 speakers sound better than 6×9?
There’s not a “one size fits all” answer to this question because there are many factors that affect car speaker sound. To make a long story short, the best answer is that it depends.
- A high quality 2-way 6.5 in. speaker will sound better than most 1-way or lower quality 6×9 in. speakers.
- A high quality, 2 or 3-way 6×9 in. speaker that’s well designed will outperform an identical 6.5 in. speaker.
- If the installation quality or sound system isn’t done right, even a great quality 6×9 in. speaker can sound worse than a 6.5″ speaker that’s installed & used correctly.
Ultimately, assuming all things are equal (proper installation, the same audio source & power, and the same speaker type) a 6×9 inch speaker will outperform an identical 6.5″ speaker. Don’t forget that as I mentioned earlier they’re the best choice for bass compared to a similar round speaker.
Do I need an amp for my 6×9 speakers?
It would be a bit misleading to say you “need” an amp for 6×9 speakers. The better thing for me to say is that there are some great advantages you’ll get by using an amplifier to drive 6x9s.
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, can provide 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 6×9 speakers sound?
Even a decent budget car amplifier can provide some of the cleanest sound you’ll hear with good car speakers. Since most amplifiers these days have an optional crossover feature built-in, you can block the low-end bass that smaller speaker systems can’t handle.
This will prevent distortion and you can get great volume from your 6x9s while still having really clean & crisp sound.
The sound you’ll get with a good amp and proper installation will be very clear. That’s because an amplifier will have a much higher signal to noise (SNR) ratio compared to an in-dash stereo, meaning the audio will be more clear and accurate.
How big of an amp for car 6×9 speakers do you need?
The good news is that these days it’s pretty easy to get a great deal on an excellent-sounding car amp for 6x9s. While it’s still true that budget brands don’t have the same technology or ultra-high end specs like more expensive brands like Rockford Fosgate or JL Audio, they’re still pretty good if you shop carefully.
When picking a car amp for 6x9s I recommend you use these guidelines:
- 50 watts RMS or more power per channel. 65W or 75W or more is even better if you get the option. (Don’t go by the peak power rating listed on an amplifier – it’s very misleading)
- A good signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio of around 90dB or higher. This is an electrical spec for the level of the internal noise signal to the music signal. The higher, the better, with 100dB being excellent. (90dB is still good for most people)
- High-pass crossovers for blocking lower-end, distorting, and power-robbing bass below 60Hz. I recommend an adjustable crossover, but that’s not important.
- For factory systems, you’ll save money by buying an amplifier with speaker level (high-level) inputs built-in. You can use RCA line-level adapters if you like also, of course.
How hard you can push coaxial 6×9 speakers with an amp?
Coaxial 6x9s should be treated like other speakers. The amount of power they can take from an amp will be limited by:
- The RMS power rating of the speaker
- Whether or not you’re driving them with heavy low-end bass in the music
- Clipping from the amplifier (hitting the output limit of the amplifier, driving it to clipping)
Ultimately, you’ll get close to, but not all the way, to the RMS power rating for the speakers assuming it’s accurately stated by the manufacturer.
If you really want to drive them hard, you’ll want to (1) use an amplifier capable of more power per channel than the speakers to avoid clipping, and (2) use a high-pass crossover to block low-end bass.
You’ll need to pick good quality speakers with voice coils suited to more power handling if you want to drive them hard without them burning out.
What is a good 6×9 crossover frequency?
The high-pass crossovers in an amp are usually a preset crossover frequency, a 2-3 selectable switch positions, or an adjustable dial. I recommend using a high-pass frequency of around 56Hz to 60Hz or so with 6x9s for most full range car speakers.
This will block the lower end bass they can’t handle and that should be sent to subwoofers, while still allowing the lower-end range of vocal and drums in music to be heard. Of course, if you’re still getting distortion from your speakers it’s a good idea to try increasing the frequency (100Hz or a bit higher are good).
What is a component 6×9 speaker set?
A 6×9 component speaker set uses separate tweeters and woofer along with a speaker crossover for great sound quality. The speaker crossover filters out midrange & bass sound before it can reach the tweeter. Likewise, the woofer receivers only midrange & bass sound frequencies. The result is very low distortion and very clear & enjoyable musical production.
Component speakers use separate tweeters and woofers, along with a speaker crossover, to provide a higher level of sound quality along with lower distortion and improved musical accuracy. They’re similar to 2-way coaxial 6×9 speakers, but without the compromises required in manufacturing those.
Tweeters distort when subjected to midrange or bass sound. Likewise, woofers perform very poorly when driven with higher-frequency sounds. By blocking these from reaching the speakers they’re not suited for, the speaker crossover splits up the incoming musical signal.
The result is some of the best sound possible. There are a few advantages but also some disadvantages when compared to coaxial 6x9s.
Component vs coaxial 6×9 speakers
Here’s a basic comparison chart to help compare the two.
ItemCoaxialComponentCostCheap to medium priceMedium to high priceSound qualityDecent to goodVery good to excellentInstallationEasy/mediumModerate to hardBuying selectionVery goodFairFeatures availableLowGood (depends on the set)
There are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to choosing coaxial vs component 6×9 speakers:
- It’s much easier to find coaxial speakers in retail stores than component sets. Also, there’s a very wide range of prices so coaxial speakers are great for people on a budget.
- Component speakers can take some work to install while coaxial speakers are usually pretty easy.
- Coaxial speakers have tweeters that are most often a cheap material like Mylar or PEI. They’re ok, but not very good when compared to those included with a component set.
Most coaxials use a single capacitor to the tweeter mounted on top and use none at all for the woofer. Instead, they use a lower-cost design that relies on the fact that most woofers “roll off” (stop producing) higher frequencies naturally. Despite that, some treble will always get through and affect the sound quality a little bit.
Component speakers, on the other hand, have an external crossover with more advanced circuitry that blocks unwanted frequencies to both the tweeter and the woofer. The end result is better speaker performance and sound, higher volume without distortion, and more clarity.
Not only that, but some component speaker crossovers include a built-in setting to reduce the tweeter volume if it’s too bright (too harsh sounding) to you. Some also may include built-in fusing to prevent you from accidentally blowing the tweeters at high volume.
Which is better, coaxial or component 6×9 speakers?
In my opinion, the best way to answer this question depends on what really matters to you and what you need to enjoy your music. After all, you’re the best judge of what you like, right?
The short answer is that component speakers are better in terms of functionality, power handling, dome tweeter and woofer material options, and of course, they sound better.
However, that’s not what everyone needs – not everyone cares about super-crisp sound, more power handling, or better speaker crossovers.
Should I get component or coaxial 6×9 speakers?
Here’s a comparison to help you if you’re having a hard time deciding.
You should get coaxial 6×9 speakers if:
- You have a tight budget or just need something that’s fairly good and you’re not super-picky
- ou want an easy sound upgrade over your existing speakers
- You’re not using an advanced sound system with amplifiers powering the speakers
- You don’t want to do the extra work or customization needed for installing component speakers
- You don’t have the time, tools, or money to spare on a custom installation
You should get component 6×9 speakers if:
- Sound quality is your most important goal
- 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
Ultimately, it’s up to you. Additionally, there are some component speaker systems available 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.
Don’t leave just yet! I’ve got more excellent articles to share lots of helpful info about speakers, speaker wire, and more!
- Here’s a great article about what coaxial speakers are and how they work.
- Here’s my highly popular guide for how to hook up an amp to front and rear speakers.
- Find out how speakers work with clear info and great pictures and diagrams.
- Want to understand crossovers better? Find out how crossovers work in this helpful guide.
- Here’s an excellent guide to explain what tweeters are and what they do.