One thing we’re always asked about car speakers is, how can some come in at 40 quid or so and others run into thousands? Well, generally speaking, the answer is pretty simple. Aside from the research involved from the company with its name printed on the cone, it’s mostly down to the materials used and the production costs.

You see, different speakers are specifically engineered for different markets. Most entry-level speakers for example, are factory-produced, using good quality but relatively easy to acquire materials. Other high-end kit might be handmade, for example, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, from components that cost
an absolute fortune.

Contra to popular belief though, the highest of high-end speakers are usually led by the passion of the manufacturer rather than the business side. Many of the finest speakers out there barely make any profit at all – it’s more a case of pushing the boundaries of research for the next generation. That and supplying some serious gear for even the most discerning audiophiles of course.

All that said, it’s still hard to see exactly where your money is going, so we went along to see the UK’s biggest manufacturer, VIBE Audio, to ask how the differences between their various models affects the price.

These guys sell in excess of 8,000 speakers every single day (and that’s without subs, amplifiers or their flagship enclosures), so they know a thing or two about what it takes to engineer different units for different price points and different kind of listeners. They also happen to have about the biggest range on the planet, which perfectly demonstrates how an entry-level speaker can develop right through the categories into a piece of sonic engineering that’s simply unbelievable. We got them to break out every one of their 6.5-inch component kits and tell us all about ’em…

Car Speaker Tech Guide

How do car speakers work?

The first thing to understand about speakers is how all the parts go together to reproduce sound. At the heart of a speaker is the voice coil (a winding of metal around a cylindrical former), which is placed in front of a permanent magnet (motor). The permanent magnet is fixed firmly into position whereas the voice coil is free to move up and down. As AC (alternating current) electricity passes through the voice coil, it becomes magnetically polarised and is in turn attracted to and repelled from the permanent magnet, moving back and forth creating vibrations. Attached to the voice coil is a cone that amplifies these vibrations, which your ears and brain interpret as sound.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

PULSE, FROM £24.99

Model Pictured: PULSE6C-V4
Power Handling: 80Watts RMS, 240Watts Peak

Key Features:IMPP Cones
Silk Dome Tweeters (Component) PEI Tweeters (Coaxial)
Separate Crossover

Other Pulse Models:
5.25 and 6.5-inch 2-way coaxials, 6×9-inch 3-way coaxial

When it comes to the most basic speaker setups, most people will simply run them directly off their headunit, so that’s why these entry-level Pulse items are designed specifically for high-efficiency. Put it like this, there’s no point in having ridiculous power handling if you’re not using an external amplifier and that’s the premise these entry-level speakers take advantage of. Although they’ll still eat up a healthy 80Watts RMS.

They also feature a rigid injection moulded polypropylene (IMPP) cone for low, smooth bass and great vocal response and (with the component version here) a separate crossover to separate the high and low frequencies. What’s pretty surprising is these components also have proper silk dome tweeters for smooth high-frequency reproduction.

FC says: Cheap speakers that don’t sound cheap at all.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

BLACKAIR, FROM £59.99

Model Pictured: BLACKAIR6C-V1
Power Handling: 115Watts RMS, 345Watts Peak

Key Features:Fibreglass Cones
Silk Dome Tweeters (Component and coaxial) Separate Crossover
PU Surrounds

Other BlackAir Models:
5.25-inch and 6.5-inch 2-way components, 1.5-inch component tweeter, 4, 5.25 and 6.5-inch 2-way coaxials, 6×9-inch 3-way coaxial

Okay, now we’re really getting into the specialist audiophile pleasers. And this range, BlackAir, is designed as an upgrade in every sense of the word, especially when it comes to power handling. The range even includes an extra 1.5-inch, 60Watt RMS (180Watts Peak) tweeter should you wish to add that to your system separately. That’s some serious grunt for a tweeter right?

As for the rest? Well, both components and coaxials come with higher-quality silk
dome tweeters for a start. Then all the mids have been upgraded with fibreglass cones
for exceptional clarity of bass and mid-range capability. These also offer far tighter response and, just because they’re lighter than IMPP cones, better transient response too.

BlackAir speakers also benefit from rather special PU (Polyurethene) surrounds for fast, precise damping. You’ll definitely be needing a good quality amplifier to make the most of these.

FC says: Probably the best bang for your buck that you’ll get anywhere.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

SLICK, FROM £39.99

Model Pictured: SLICK6C-V3
Power Handling: 90Watts RMS, 270Watts Peak

Key Features:
IMPP Cones
Silk Dome Tweeters (Component) PEI Tweeters (Coaxial)
Separate CrossoverRubber Surrounds

Other Slick Models:
4 and 5.25-inch 2-way components, 4, 5.25 and 6.5-inch 2-way coaxials, 5×7-inch 2-way coaxial, 6×9-inch 2-way coaxial, 6×9-inch 3-way coaxial
The Slick range comprises of higher power speakers for even greater sound reproduction, with a whole load of different sizing options chucked in to boot.

Ease of fitment has been a big consideration in the design phase with these. The whole range features ‘Euro-fit’ baskets and super-shallow mounting depths for simple installation.

Again, just like in plenty of good quality home hi-fi speakers, silk is used in the component tweeters to achieve a balanced, lifelike tone in the music. Along with the PEI (polythermide) tweeters in the coaxial versions they offer extended high-frequency response for added depth and sound quality. Learning some of the lessons of the previous (higher-end) ranges, you’ll also find a hefty rubber surround for increased bass response.

FC says: The epitome of a great all-rounder.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

BLACKAIR BLACK EDITION, FROM £TBC

Model Pictured: BLACKAIR6C-V68
Power Handling: 120Watts RMS, 360Watts Pea

Key Features:
High-grade Fibreglass Cone 28mm Silk Dome Tweeters 2 Way Passive Crossover

Other BlackAir Black Edition Models:
6.5-inch 3-way concentric component kit, 3.5-inch concentric component speaker

They may share at least part of their name, but the BlackAir Black Edition speakers are an entirely different animal to the standard BlackAir kit. Apart from the rather spanky alloy gasket, they share no parts at all. It’s a bit like comparing a Mercedes AMG to an AMG Black, these are all about enhanced performance. In fact, BlackAir Black Edition speakers are almost mechanically identical to the high-end competition-class BlackDeath speakers. The only real variation is the all-new, high-grade fibreglass cone for fast bass and clear vocals. And that makes more difference to the sound quality than you might think.

In basic terms, these are a pure SQ version of the BlackDeath range, offering serious power handling but with pure vocal clarity. They also come with the highest-quality two-way passive crossovers featuring MKT capacitors and all the trimmings. It’s super quality, and then some.

FC Says: Some serious kit for the serious SQ-loving audiophile.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

OPTISOUND, FROM £149.99

Model Pictured: OPTISOUNDGOLF6F-V4
Power Handling: 120Watts RMS, 360Watts Pea

Key Features:
Esoteric Cone
Silk Dome Tweeters
Specific Vehicle Fit

Other Optisound Models:
Full BMW and VAG direct-fit lineup

These are a hard one to place because they’re totally different to anything else VIBE does. Optisound, as the name suggests, is all about optimising the system in modern vehicles and will be a big part of car audio in general going forward. As infotainment systems become more integrated, with many vehicle features being controlled by the headunit (think BMW iDrives and the like), it becomes increasingly complicated to upgrade the audio. Optisound offers direct-fit speakers and subwoofers tailored to your car. Designed to integrate seamlessly with the standard system, they come with specific adaptors (when needed) and even the wiring is a simple plug and play affair.

The idea is they fit easily and they don’t need to be run at silly power levels – that would defeat the object. Even so they offer impressive handling and feature a composite Esoteric cone for natural vocal reproduction. The guys currently have options for VAG and BMW fitments, but are also developing a whole host of new applications as we speak.

FC says: It’s easy, and that makes it the future for the modern stuff.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

BLACK DEATH, FROM £199.99

Model Pictured: BLACKDEATH6C-V6
Power Handling: 140Watts RMS, 420Watts Pea

Key Features:
Carbon Cone
28mm Silk Dome Tweeters
2-way Passive Crossover

Other BlackDeath Models:
7.4×10.1-inch 3-way Coaxial/Componet speaker, full range of pro-audio competition speakers, tweeters and woofers

Our tech wizard at VIBE described BlackDeath as “SQ, but with massive balls”. We’re not sure if that’s the technical term or not, but we can see the point. BlackDeath is the meanest audio in the VIBE line-up. We’re talking ultra-high performance here, serious grunt derived from their current range of expert-level competition speakers. In other words, these are the loudest components you’re gonna get, but they also offer exceptional sound quality. Impressive considering they’re essentially SPL-class speakers.

They share most of the same mechanicals as the BlackAir Black Edition jobs too, but are built for a different type of end game – a bloody loud one! All this extra bass response comes form their hand-layered carbon cones and are designed to withstand a serious spanking. These are all down to the “loud and proud” application. Serious boom-boom.

FC says: Serious kit, serious volume

Car Speaker Tech Guide

CVEN (2-WAY), £349.99

Model Pictured: CVEN62C-V4
Power Handling: 120Watts RMS, 240Watts Pea

Key Features:
Composite Cones designed using FEA (Finite Element Analysis)
22mm Wide-band Silk Dome Tweeters
Mundorf Reference Capacitors

Other CVEN models:
The 3-way version (see below)

In SQ terms CVEN speakers are the nuts. End of. Even the instruction manual is a work of art. Here we’re talking the absolute best that can be achieved with regards to realistic reproduction of high-quality sound. These are simply one of these “because we can” products and easily comparable to car and home hi-fi speakers that cost thousands of pounds. Developed by the VIBE Research Team, including the company’s founder, each part of these components is designed to be perfectly matched and balanced. In fact, the wide band tweeter and mid are so well matched they don’t even need a normal frequency correction crossover – all you get is an expert-level capacitor to protect the tweeter from the low frequencies.

They’re also hand-made in a temperature/humidity controlled environment and marked with a unique reference number, so they can track every last detail all the way through production. Basically if you want to know the temperature of the glue on the day they were assembled, they can find out for you. That’s how they can ensure unbelievable quality.

FC says: Hearing is believing. They’re Jaw-dropping. Plain and simple.

Car Speaker Tech Guide

CVEN (3-WAY), £449.99

Model Pictured: CVEN63C-V4
Power Handling: 130Watts RMS, 290Watts Peak

Key Features:
Composite Cones designed using FEA (Finite Element Analysis)
22mm Wide-band Silk Dome Tweeters
3-way Passive Crossover
Mundorf Reference Capacitors

Other CVEN Models:
The 2-way version (above)

If the 2-way is amazing, this 3-way kit is the absolute pinnacle of what can be done.
It’s basically the same setup but with an added component midrange speaker, for adding particular focus to the vocal frequencies. Again the cones are a composite designed using FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to ensure maximum rigidity to weight and deliver outstanding clarity. With these there’s also an ultra-high-end 3-way crossover to split the frequencies. This contains a separate 90Hz high pass filter and the essential capacitors for the tweeters. Like the 2-way version, the tweeters also have magnetic grilles that can be whipped off so they don’t get in the way of the treble. In other words, they’re pretty bonkers.

The thing about the whole CVEN range is the attention to the balance and how all the elements work together. Alone the mids and tweeters are absolutely amazing – but put together they’re exceptional.

FC says: You won’t get better. You just won’t!