Car speakers are deeply specialized; it starts with proper waterproofing, and ends with these loudspeakers, the most expensive in the world.
All audio finishes at loudspeakers, be it your sound bar or the tiny things in your AirPods or phone. Oddly, while I can explain the engineering in huge and fancy loudspeakers alike, phone ones mystify me. How do they play so loud and full range? Amazing. Anyway, the whole daft thing about speakers is the theory. It is 100% impossible. A speaker’s moving parts needs to weigh as little as possible. Nil is best. They also need to be incredibly rigid and never flex. The stronger the better, difficult with nil mass. Then, it needs to take limitless power and move perfectly evenly across all frequencies. As this is a challenge, we tend to split the frequencies between at least two drivers. These expensive products are mostly about 3-way speakers as a result.
The reason I adore car audio so much is this need to make your own enclosures to house the speakers. It’s going to be the car’s stock locations with some extra sound deadening, or it will be full-on lovely A-pillar installs. That, or door builds. The skill needed can be high, although you can get ready-made door builds from Germany. The main thing is, that the HiFi urge for purity and beauty of sound is very much alive and well and serving those happily able to afford it. There were at least three more brands with systems up to $5,000 that could have joined these.
Oh and Morel did a limited edition set of speakers in 3-way that were $7,000 and came in a case made for keeping firearms in. Without further ado, here are the world’s most expensive car speakers.
Helix C 63C
A very fancy set from German company Helix, with two silken domes as part of a 3-way system. Very rare in car audio, I know of no others. ATC recording studio monitors use domes for midband, which is also rare. The main cones boast a special fiber. Oddly enough, the stuff they make ‘real’ (not plastic) hairy string out of – sisal. This is married to an elastomer to get the shape, with fabulously low weight with rigidity. The system is primarily intended to be used actively – one driver per amplifier channel with DSP control.
That said, the highly sophisticated passive crossovers allow the use of dual woofers for extra power in the low midrange. This too, is unique as far as I am aware. Helix use very high quality components in those passives and C 63C has a large 190W power handling. The big deal with these is a lack of what’s called power compression. It just means they sound alive and dynamic and exactly as posh as if you spent well over a thousand bucks.
- Comprises: 166mm sisal membrane cone, 90mm silk dome midband, 50mm silk dome tweeter
- Power Handling/Impedance: 190W RMS/4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 91dB @ 2.83V (1W)/1m
- Frequency Range: 47Hz to 25kHz
STEG Master Stroke SS1/SS3/SS6
RRP: $4,200. £4,999.
The chassis of this three way set are not merely made of cast aluminum. Each one is CNC carved from a solid billet. That’s hardcore. STEG boast of being handcrafted in Italy since 1983. They make some absolutely extreme stuff. It ranges from hugely expensive SPL (just for loudness) amps and brutal subwoofers, to these most rarefied exotic HiFi delicacies. The silk domes are huge at 2.7in. These are usually only an inch wide, so that size is luxurious.
The four inch mid and main driver are made of resin loaded glass fiber. This is the one-down from Kevlar or carbon. It is super rigid as glass is not keen on being compressed, so it has huge rigidity. Supplied without any passive crossovers, they are fully made for active installs. Seriously rare and very desirable, STEG don’t offer international warranty, so you need to know what you are doing. Mind you, if you are spending this much, it probably means you do, or your installer does.
- Comprises: 6.5in Resin-loaded glass fiber woofer & 4in midrange, plus 2.7in SS1 treated silk dome tweeter
- Power Handling/Impedance: 200W RMS/4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 87dB @ 2.83V (1W)/1m
- Frequency Range: 35Hz to 22kHz
JL Audio C7 3-Way
The best that JL Audio make. These were the subject of huge research and development and lots of high tech work with JL’s proprietary analysis systems. Another three-way set that is all about active use. JL advise you which amps and DSP devices of theirs are best to use them with. The neodymium-magnet tweeter is corundum ceramic coated. This is about adding a microscopic yet utterly rigid layer to the hard dome.
It removes any rippling under the huge power and high frequencies it moves at. The tweeter’s suspension is treated silk and especially for car use, it helps make the off-axis sound better. In home audio, the speakers are always pointed right at you. In the car, they may not be ‘on axis’ so the sound you get needs to be widely dispersed.
A real difference for automotive audio and why home speaker drivers are not used in cars. The mid and low range driver are designed to have a long travel and yet remain linear in output. A familiar refrain only sung by makers of the very best. That means no peaks in output on the performance graph. The midband uses a powerful Y35 Strontium-Ferrite magnet. This is called a rare earth magnet and predates Neodymium. The midband driver has a Neo magnet. All about serious grip and control for accuracy and thus better fidelity. I have heard these first hand and they are quick and sweet.
- Comprises: C7-650cw 165mm woofer & C7-350cm 90mm mid (mineral-filled polypropylene), plus C7-100ct 25mm coated aluminum dome tweeter
- Power Handling/Impedance: 175W RMS/4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 90dB @ 2.83V (1W)/1m
- Frequency Range: 50Hz to 30kHz
Focal P60 Ltd. Ed. 911
Focal sell some really good value for money home and car speakers, but they also produce some of the most expensive car speakers in the world. They all benefit from filtering-down of the technology they have been working on for years. Their high end offerings also go to levels you may not believe. Their Grande Utopia III Evo home speakers are $200,000 and weigh 584lbs /265Kg each. I have heard them, and it was a memorable experience. The P60 Ltd.Ed. are made to fit perfectly in Porsche 911 992s, by what’s called plug and play. They come fitted with the correct plugs to just disconnect the OEM set and plug this 3-way set right in. That makes it reversible upon car sale, which is cool.
Focal have limited this edition of wooden cased speakers to 911. Each case has an engraved aluminum plate within, bearing the kit number. Each speaker driver is serial number marked, too. The Butyl-suspended W-composite sandwich cones are Focal’s top high tech driver engineering and are used for the mids and midbass. The tweeter technology is the same as used on their $200,000 speaker, an inverted hard dome of Beryllium. At 42mm in diameter, or 1⅝in, it’s pretty large. Even cooler than the sphere in Galaxy Quest, they sound incredible, reaching way into the super-tweeter zone at 40kHz. I own a pair from when they were £700 each and came boxed with an individual test certificate. This set is stunning and absurdly easy to fit.
- Comprises: 8in neodymium magnet woofers and 4in midranges, both with W-cones & 42mm inverted dome Beryllium tweeters.
- Power Handling/Impedance: 200W RMS/3.1 Ohms (low – for best draw from OEM amplifier)
- Sensitivity: 93.5dB @ 2.83V (1W)/1m
- Frequency Range: 35Hz to 40kHz
Morel Supremo 602
Morel do a home speaker called the Fat Lady. As in ‘It isn’t final, until the fat lady sings…’ meaning it is the last word in loudspeakers, which is why it’s included in our list of the most expensive car speakers. A mass of bulbous carbon fiber swelling enclosures with Morel’s finest carbon fiber coned speakers in the front. The company is from Israel and is very high tech. They love to use carbon in their cones and the engineering of the voice coils that drive their car speakers are unlike any others.
Morel use insanely expensive super-wide voice coils that are described as ‘underhung’. (If you refer to ‘underhung voice coils’ in conversation, you are a speaker nerd.) The magnets have to be large to house them, even if made of neodymium. The midbass drivers in the flagship 2-way Supremo 602 set have three inch voice coils. Compare that dimension with the loudest SPL woofers in the world, and it’s often the same! Instead of it being 8-layer edge wound multi-kilowatt lunacy, it is about grip that is relentless. It means that Morel speakers are breath taking at the really fast stuff. Glass smashing and the beat of a hard tipped wooden stick on a BIG drum. It gets you in your soul. They like power and total accuracy with a resulting fidelity that makes the first timer marvel. They work brilliantly on the supplied MXR Supremo passive crossovers, too.
- Comprises: 6½in/165mm MW6 Carbon fiber/Rohacell sandwich midbass, & 67mm Acuflex™ hand coated silk dome Supremo Piccolo tweeter
- Power Handling/Impedance: 140W RMS/4ohms
- Sensitivity: 93dB @ 2.83V (1W)/1m
- Frequency Range: 40Hz to 25kHz
That concludes our list of the most expensive car speakers in the world. For more information on car speakers, be sure to check out the following guides.