Car speakers - how many is too many?

_HighVoltage_

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I'm sure everyone has noticed that new cars seem to have a ridiculous number of speakers. 15, 18, 19, 21...isn't that a bit ridiculous?

Does anyone have any personal experiences and can vouch for the improved sound from having more speakers?

My Volvo originally had 8 speakers. When I bought it, only 4 were working. It sounded okay, but it could've been better. Three months ago, I installed 2 more speakers - great improvement! Sound was excellent.

Last week, I installed 2 more - bringing the total number back to 8. I couldn't tell any real difference though.

So I have become skeptical of the whole "more is better" when it comes to speakers. I'm especially skeptical of the things they do on "Pimp My Ride" and etc. - your eardrums will probably blow out, before you can reach the maximum potential of all the speakers.

What do you think?
 

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It depends on the speakers. I think a lot of those 15,18, etc systems in luxury cars are accounting for each driver, not each set. So one tweeter, midrange and woofer count as 3. When counted like that 15 is a 5 channel system, which isn't that unreasonable.

15 full range speakers though? That would be stupid.
 

public

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I have two pretty lousy speakers in the front doors. Replacing them and installing two more in the back would probably make sense. Filling the car with heavy audio equipment would not.
 

the Interceptor

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A large number of speakers makes a lot of sense. Since you sit very close to the speakers by default in a car, using more smaller ones instead of less lager ones will give you a more homogeneous sound field for all passengers with the same volume capabilities as the aforementioned system. I just saw a drawing of the Burmester (German high end audio manufacturer) speaker system in the Porsche Panamera. The sheer amount of speakers will give all passengers a great listening experience while the single drivers are pretty small and thus non-intrusive.



The types of speakers differ though. The subwoofer aside, you mainly get 2 (midwoofer & tweeter) or 3-way-systems (woofer, midrange, tweeter) as main systems and full range drivers as center (in the middle of the dashboard) and rearfills. I count 14 single drivers in the Panamera.

EDIT: looked it up, it's actually 16 single drivers.
 
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flydiscovery

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Remember when cars only had speakers in the front? If you wanted to hear the radio in the back seat (say if you happened to be a small child) the driver was deafened.

While the Interceptor certainly has a valid point there also has to be a plateau effect there. More is better up until a point and then you're just showing off. Although if more speakers means fewer drivers with fucking earphones in then I'm all for it. Driving with earphones is a big pet peeve of mine!
 

_HighVoltage_

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Fair enough, but it seems to me that 4 tweeters and 4 full-range speakers are more than enough. (Possibly a sub-woofer, but personally I don't like those)

So what is it that makes the biggest difference in sound - a good bass, or good tweeters? I know it depends on the music, but putting tweeters in my car was possibly the greatest upgrade I've done to the system.
 

narf

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So what is it that makes the biggest difference in sound - a good bass, or good tweeters?
If you want volume then making tweeters go loud is easy. Getting loud bass without rattling/etc isn't. Therefore I'd say good bass contributes more to good, loud sound.
 

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While the Interceptor certainly has a valid point there also has to be a plateau effect there. More is better up until a point and then you're just showing off.
That depends on the acoustical properties of the specific car interior. Some vehicles can get away with 4-8 drivers, some really do need a lot more to get good soundstage imaging for all the occupants (if that's what you're after).

Fair enough, but it seems to me that 4 tweeters and 4 full-range speakers are more than enough. (Possibly a sub-woofer, but personally I don't like those)
Subs don't have to be large and hugely intrusive things. They make some very impressive aftermarket ones that are smaller than an attache case, for example, and my XJR has a dedicated long-excursion subwoofer (uses the trunk as a ported enclosure) that is about the same size as a traditional 6x9.
 

CrzRsn

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I think anything that adds past the stock number of speakers is too much. Especially when they start making these awful enclosures. Car/audio companies think out all the details on their systems so what ever number is fine. Like Audi and their insane system with the speakers that slide up out of the dash.

 

Spectre

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Car/audio companies think out all the details on their systems so what ever number is fine.
While the system you've pictured is quite excessive (and built to do nothing but create lots of noise), you are incorrect on a lot of factory audio systems. Sometimes, even on modern cars, the sound system is an afterthought and easily bettered. GM cars, for example, are notorious for this, as is Toyota.
 

prizrak

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It depends on the speakers. I think a lot of those 15,18, etc systems in luxury cars are accounting for each driver, not each set. So one tweeter, midrange and woofer count as 3. When counted like that 15 is a 5 channel system, which isn't that unreasonable.

15 full range speakers though? That would be stupid.
You are right, my car technically has 10 speakers.
Each door has a tweeter and a mid range speaker, then there is a middle front and a subwoofer out back.

For the most part you won't see much improvement going beyond 10. All you need is twitter, midrange and sub. You rarely would see any difference with 2 subs vs 1 and the center front/rear speakers are highly debatable if not being used for surround sound.
 

the Interceptor

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In conjunction with my earlier post, I might add that just filling a car randomly with speakers makes little sense. And tonally, a good tweeter-midwoofer-combo at the front combined with a subwoofer will give you everything you need.

The better factory sound systems however are thoroughly 3d-simulated and designed by people who know what they are doing, therefore their systems do much more than just randomly spray some sound into the cabin. That however requires more drivers, because the sound designers need the sound to come from certain directions. Also, the ever-growing amount of integration into the car's electronic systems as well as compact switching amplifiers (a special type of audio amplifier which is very compact, lightweight and develops next to no heat) make it easier to put more speakers into the cars, which in turn makes the job of the sound designers easier.

Therefore, factory car audio is developing towards using more drivers for a perfect sound field. Integration is constantly becoming easier, and the drivers themselves are getting smaller.
 
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NecroJoe

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Do manufacturers ever try to give each seat an even stereo split? In a normal car, the driver will hear one half of stereo music as louder, while the passenger will hear the other half louder. If you are a luxury-ish car and want to make the back seats as inviting as the front, that's left and right for 4 seats...that's 8 "speakers" right there. Give each one a seperate tweeter, and that's 16.

Sound is similar to ambient lighting. If the room only has one light source, to be able to read anything thing on the other side of the room, that one lamp would have to be super bright to reach the othe side of the room and blinding to anyone sitting close to it. You also would have harsh shadows and reflections. Now, instead of having one bright torchier floor lamp, put in a table lamp on the side tables on each side to the sofa, a task lamp at the desk, a floor lamp in the corner, and two sconces flanking a mirror above the sofa and one on each side of the big window on a dimmer, and you have a welcoming "hug" of light that casts appropriate lighting in key locations for every inhabitant of the room, but also provides a baseline of even light without being too bright in any one location.
 

argatoga

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My Volvo originally had 8 speakers. When I bought it, only 4 were working. It sounded okay, but it could've been better. Three months ago, I installed 2 more speakers - great improvement! Sound was excellent.

Last week, I installed 2 more - bringing the total number back to 8. I couldn't tell any real difference though.
A lot of that I bet is due to the new after market speakers. I went ahead and replaced all my dying speakers in my XJ and it made a huge difference even with the stock amp. Car manufactures like to cheap out on audio.
 

_HighVoltage_

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Spectre is right about Toyota. I was a passenger in a Prius the other day (don't ask) and the speakers sounded horrible - like from a tin can.
 

gaasc

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As much as needed to achieve a 7.1-like experience
 

prizrak

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As much as needed to achieve a 7.1-like experience
Two points:
1) a 7.1 experience would consist of 7 speakers and 1 subwoofer
2) surround sound only makes sense if watching a movie/playing a game where directional sound is important. If you are talking about listening to music you want to have the system set up so that sound is even for all occupants of the vehicle.
 

2Billion

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Spectre is right about Toyota. I was a passenger in a Prius the other day (don't ask) and the speakers sounded horrible - like from a tin can.
But those are environmentally friendly speakers! They're all biodegradable and shit. Perfect for listening to Al Gore lectures or maybe whale songs.

Maybe I'm not as picky as most, but the only factory stereo in recent years I've found thoroughly objectionable is in the Korean GMs, which, like every other detail on the Korean GMs, seemed like a worn out system from the 80s.
 

the Interceptor

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Sound is similar to ambient lighting. If the room only has one light source, to be able to read anything thing on the other side of the room, that one lamp would have to be super bright to reach the othe side of the room and blinding to anyone sitting close to it. You also would have harsh shadows and reflections. Now, instead of having one bright torchier floor lamp, put in a table lamp on the side tables on each side to the sofa, a task lamp at the desk, a floor lamp in the corner, and two sconces flanking a mirror above the sofa and one on each side of the big window on a dimmer, and you have a welcoming "hug" of light that casts appropriate lighting in key locations for every inhabitant of the room, but also provides a baseline of even light without being too bright in any one location.
That is exactly right, very good analogy.
 

Timbits93

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How bout for some odd layouts in a factory system?

Lets take our family's 1st Generation Sienna for example. Its an 8 Speaker JBL Audio system. It consists of 2 Midrange/Tweeters, 2 additional tweeters [but slightly smaller] all up in the A Pillar and what i think is 4 woofers [2 front and 2 rear]. The sound up front sounds pretty good but in the back, its just lacking due to the tweeters/midrange only located in the A-Pillars. Overall it lacks a deep low-end due to the lack of a dedicated subwoofer.

All comes to the types of drivers used and the location of those drivers, number of speakers to me would probably depend on the size of the cabin. 7-12 should be enough in a coupe/sedan while 9 or more in vehicles with larger cabins.

While the system you've pictured is quite excessive (and built to do nothing but create lots of noise), you are incorrect on a lot of factory audio systems. Sometimes, even on modern cars, the sound system is an afterthought and easily bettered. GM cars, for example, are notorious for this, as is Toyota.
Though i have to say that the JBL system in Toyotas [if avaliable/optioned] sound quite decent compared to the inferior factory stock system as they sound like tin cans
 
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