Regardless of how incredible the rest of your car’s sound system is, the speakers are the final step between your stereo equipment and your ears.
Factory speakers are notoriously weak, so just about anything you pop in should elevate your sound, but choosing the very best 5.25 speakers will have the most drastic impact on what you’re hearing.
Even without any other significant upgrades, going from stock 5.25’s to a custom installation will be a noticeable improvement to your sound quality. Once you start adding in other upgrades, you’re off to the races.
The enclosed-nature of a vehicle makes it a unique challenge to craft the perfect soundscape, and here five sets of speakers that are up to the task.
|Infinity Kappa 50.11CS||View On Amazon →|
|Polk Audio DB522||View On Amazon →|
|Rockford Fosgate R1525X2 Prime||View On Amazon →|
|MTX Audio THUNDER51||View On Amazon →|
|JBL GTO529 Premium||View On Amazon →|
1. Infinity Kappa 50.11CS
A massive upgrade over stock audio, this component set from Infinity’s Kappa series sounds fantastic on their own, and even better when paired with a subwoofer.
Don’t be intimidated by the extra task of connecting a few wires to the crossover and mounting the tweeter, it’s well worth the time and you’ll enjoy the benefits every single time you turn the ignition and press play.
This is a component set of speakers, which give you a more complete soundscape than you’ll get from a simple coax set. It’s a little more work to install, and very well worth it. If that’s not what you’re looking for, something else on this list will be a good fit for you instead.
In this set, you’ll get two woofers, two tweeters, and a fantastic little crossover to ensure they’re playing nicely together. As a plus, if you’ve got a six and a half inch opening in your vehicle, this kit also comes with adaptors so you can still mount these smaller drivers inside the larger space.
While you’ll have a greater range of frequencies than with stock audio or a basic coaxial set, these component speakers from Infinity really come to life when paired up with a subwoofer to handle the lows. Having said that, if you don’t want to go through the process of adding a sub and are just looking for a more basic upgrade, these still fit the bill and can definitely stand on their own, too.
The tweeters in this kit are notable in their own right, they give you a great reproduction of the higher frequencies. Since they can be positioned independently of the woofer, you’ll probably hear some layers to your favorite songs that you haven’t experienced before if you aren’t used to higher quality audio.
Grilles are included to protect the speakers from accidentally being damaged. If you’ve ever had a careless friend toss their bag next to your speakers or wave their arms around recklessly (or if you’ve got kids in the car), you know the anxious feeling that comes from having quality audio equipment around people who aren’t always being careful.
2. Polk Audio DB522
If you’re looking for a pair of speakers that are extra durable and can handle dirt, rain, and direct sunlight, these will fit the bill without breaking the bank.
On the other hand, if you’re just using them for a car or a truck, those features might not really matter to you.
We’re very impressed by this pair of coax speakers from Polk because they offer quite a punch for the price. If you were to make no other changes except popping these in to replace some stock speakers, you would definitely hear a difference (But you’ll still want to strongly consider adding an amplifier to get louder volume and better sound out of them.)
These speakers are marine certified which means you can use them in boats, motorcycles, and other installations where they may come into contact with moisture or water, but we aren’t giving them extra points for versatility because it’s only relevant if you plan on using them in one of those applications. These speakers are made with Polypropylene and are UV resistant which, once again, only really matters if they’ll be exposed to the elements.
The simple drop-in installation process makes them fairly easy to install without any help, but if you haven’t done this before, you should definitely watch some videos first just to get the hang of it.
3. Rockford Fosgate R1525X2 Prime
These coaxial speakers by Rockford Fosgate aren’t going to set the world on fire, but if you’re looking for value and you want to hear a big step-up from stock, they’re hard to beat.
They’re rated at 40w RMS so it doesn’t take a huge amp to power them, and you can get some decent sound out of them by just using deck power if you want a very simple upgrade to your car’s audio.
For all intents and purposes, this is a bargain set of speakers. If you come in without super high expectations, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. Here’s the thing: Some people are looking to rock the block, but other people are just looking for something a little better than stock, or even something to replace a broken or blown stock speaker. For cases like that, these speakers are just about perfect.
If you have a car that’s not in great shape and you’re thinking of replacing it at some point, you probably don’t want to spend too much on your sound system, so these speakers by Rockford Fosgate are perfect for filling in the gap.
Whatever your reason is for seeking out a budget set of speakers, these ones have no frills, and are priced accordingly. They are coax speakers, so the tweeter is mounted right in the middle of the woofer. They’ve got a decent grille that will protect them from physical damage, but they aren’t waterproof or anything like that, so they’re great for cars and trucks but not so much for boats or other types of recreational vehicles.
4. MTX Audio THUNDER51
MTX Audio has put together a more-than-capable set of component speakers that are at-home when paired up in a higher-end set with a subwoofer and high-powered amplifiers, but that can also step up and be the star of the show in a simpler setup.
Versatile, amazing sound, and they can help peel back new layers to your audio that you haven’t even heard before. These are impressive speakers.
Here’s a more premium-minded set of component speakers, along with a customizable crossover so you can decide exactly how much of the high-end gets through to the tweeters, which can be good for people who don’t like those in-your-face highs that can cause fatigue after a while.
These speakers handle the lows pretty well, they’re not going to replace a subwoofer but if you’re thinking of putting together a car audio system and not using a sub, you’d be happy with these as an alternative. You won’t get the same deep bass as you would from a sub, but if you’re not a basshead and you don’t want to sacrifice trunk space, and you don’t want to spend more than you have to (In other words, if you’re not putting in a subwoofer, for whatever reason), then these speakers are a perfect option.
The THUNDER51’s can handle plenty of power, but a lot of people use them without an additional amplifier, just running off of deck power, which makes the upgrade very, very easy. You won’t get the same quality as you would if you connect these to an amplifier, nor the same volume, but some people don’t mind that.
5. JBL GTO529 Premium
This line from JBL is filled with excellent speakers at very reasonable prices.
They’re a clear step above entry-level in every way, and they bring a lot to the table whether you’re looking for a quick and easy upgrade, or something more complete.
Here’s a killer set of coaxial speakers if you’re looking to keep things a little more simple, not spend too much, but you still want something that’ll be considerably better than what you’ve got right now.
These aren’t the absolute best speakers in the world of car audio, but for the price, it’s hard to imagine anything better. We have recommended these to people who want an upgrade, but don’t quite want to go all-in on a complete car audio setup quite yet. It’s a good way to dip your toes in the water, get some amazing sound regardless, and it’s something you can build upon down the road.
You can get this line of speakers in a number of different sizes, and they even have component versions available, so you can find a matching set to replace all of the different sizes of speakers that your vehicle might have, keep the same sound profile, and choose what fits your needs.
The design of the voice coils in these speakers helps them to better dissipate the heat that’s inevitable with audio equipment, which helps your gear last longer. Also, the way that the voice coils handle power helps with the higher frequency ranges.
If your highs are very in-your-face, it can start to be fatiguing over time with some speakers, but these ones mix everything together very nicely so the highs are there, but they aren’t overpowering or uncomfortable.
Coaxial vs Component Speakers for Cars
You’ll notice that some of the above recommendations are coaxial, and some of them are component. If you still aren’t sure which ones you should go with, here’s a quick overview of the differences and similarities.
Sometimes, coaxial speakers are referred to as full range, because they’re like an “all-in-one” option, where you’ll find a tweeter mounted right on top of a woofer, and in some cases they’ll even have a third driver attached.
Component speakers, on the other hand, allow you to position the various drivers (tweeter, mids, woofer) independently of one another. This creates a better overall sound, as the various frequencies are more distinct from one another as they’re meant to be. Find out more details in our Coaxial vs Component Speakers comparison article.
Installing Yourself vs. Hiring Someone
If you aren’t very comfortable with basic tools and the basics of electrical current and safety, then dealing with high voltage electrical systems and audio equipment in your expensive vehicle is probably not the best way to learn. In that case, you should think about a professional installation if you’re doing anything beyond popping in some new speakers.
If you’re comfortable with tools, willing to take the time to read the instructions very carefully along with doing some independent research of your own, and you’re comfortable popping the hood and wiring into your battery to add an amplifier, then you can definitely go the DIY route of installing your new car stereo equipment.