If, like me, you’re looking for ways to save money on your home theater system, you might have wondered whether you can use your good quality car speakers in your home theater system.
So, can you use car speakers for home theater?
Actually, you can use car speakers, but beware that they run on lower impedance than home theater speakers. This basically means that if you want to run car speakers in your home theater system, you’ll need a receiver that’s capable of driving the speakers.
Unless you’re very knowledgeable on how speakers work, you might not know what impedance means. In this article I discuss what’s meant by impedance, whether car speakers are the same as home speakers, and why you might benefit from using car speakers in your home theater system.
What Is Meant By Impedance?
As I mentioned above, car speakers run on lower impedance than home speakers – car speakers are typically 4 ohms, whereas home speakers usually run at 8 ohms. So what is meant by a speaker’s impedance rating?
Simply put, the impedance rating is the level of resistance a speaker gives to the voltage and current run through it. The impedance rating of a speaker is essentially the lowest frequency it’ll drop to in reaction to the current passed through it.
Car speakers run at a lower impedance than home speakers, but all this really means is that you need to connect them to a receiver that’s capable of giving out the right power levels. Providing you have enough knowledge on the subject, and know what to look for, this really shouldn’t be too much of a problem for you to solve.
Some receivers have an impedance switch on the back that allows you to switch between 4 ohms and either 6 or 8 ohms. If you’re looking to use car speakers in your home theater setup, it’s worth getting a receiver that allows you to do this. Also, check out my top recommendations for home theater receivers.
Standard home speakers are typically 6 or 8 ohms, so you’ll need a device that allows you to alter the ohm rating.
Why Use Car Speakers In A Home Theater?
Using car speakers in a home theater system definitely isn’t the norm, but it is possible if you have the right equipment. Perhaps you have a set of car speakers that cost a lot of money, but for whatever reason you no longer need them in your car.
Car speakers are typically designed for small spaces. After all, you don’t need much to produce a good sound in a car, but this also means they have the potential to fall flat in larger home theater setups. Bear in mind the size of your room if you plan on using car speakers in your home theater.
A good example of a situation in which you might want to use car speakers in your home theater setup is as ceiling speakers. This can be a great way to improve the immersive sound experience, and is ideal because car speakers are designed to be tucked away. As mentioned, you will need the right equipment to run them though.
Are Car Speakers And Home Speakers The Same?
Before looking into this subject, I had never really considered if cars use the same kind of speakers that you would use in the home. I assumed that they would essentially use speakers that are custom designed for the environment.
While this is true, what it really boils down to is that speakers are speakers. There’s only so much you can do to truly change the way a speaker functions, and what it’s actually used for. For this reason, aside from some minor differences, car speakers are the same as home speakers.
The biggest difference, as I’ve mentioned, is the impedance rating of the two kinds of speaker. A car speaker is designed for low voltage, high amperage systems, and this makes a 4 ohm rating much more efficient considering the technology available.
A home speaker, however, is designed to work on the opposite statistics. Home power is high voltage, low amperage, and so 6 or 8 ohms are much better suited to the equipment at hand. This means that the two types of speaker are essentially interchangeable, but you need to make sure the system you build is designed to handle the impedance.
Car speakers are also usually sold as just the speaker, without any housing or other equipment. This is because they will then be fitted into doors, parcel shelves, or dashboards, and so don’t need the same kind of aesthetic treatment. The same is true for car subwoofers, which are not usually included in the speaker systems.
Home speakers, on the other hand, are designed with housing and may come with stands or wall mounts. They’re designed to be on display to some degree, and the housing not only improves the look, it provides some level of protection to the speaker too. This is true of home subwoofers too, which will typically be more powerful because there is more space available.
While it’s not necessarily a difference in technology, another big difference is the environment the speakers are designed for. For example, car speakers are designed specifically for cars, and so are smaller and less powerful, whereas home speakers are able to be bigger and service a variety of room sizes.
What this basically boils down to is that both types of speaker are the same, but will be more effective in different environments. If you have a small room, and are happy to invest in technology to support them, then car speakers will be fine. However, if you want to build a home theater system for a larger room, or have more options for equipment, stick with standard home speakers.
Matching Your Speakers And Amps
As I’ve mentioned, the most important thing when choosing your speaker system is to get the right amp to support them. Normal A/V receivers will have an amp fitted, and it’s usually designed to support 6 or 8 ohm impedance ratings. Some receivers may have an impedance switch on the back, but for a guarantee on this you’ll need a dedicated amp.
Matching your speakers and amp for a home theater setup is crucial. After all, you don’t want to build a new setup only for it to blow the first time you use it. To get the right match, it’s important to know your amp output in watts, and how this is affected by its impedance setting.
Each amp will have a “power rating,” which indicates how much power it can handle, and how much power it’ll put into the speakers. Many amps will have both continuous power and dynamic power settings, and these refer to the normal level of power output, and how much the amp can handle in short bursts when pushed above its normal limit.
Thankfully, many manufacturers supply this information on their products, which makes your job much easier. The trick is to make sure the continuous power level is enough to make the speakers work, but not too much that it blows the speakers.
If you’re using car speakers, you’ll need an amp that runs at 4 ohms, and delivers the right level of power to your speakers. Hooking up too many speakers at a lower impedance rating can put a lot of strain on the amp, causing it to blow. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure you get an amp that’s designed to run at 4 ohms.
Can car speakers be used in surround sound setups?
Realistically, you could use car speakers as part of a surround sounds setup, for example as ceiling speakers, but you’ll get much better sound quality from dedicated 5.1 channel speakers.
Can home speakers be used in car?
Realistically, the opposite is also true of using home speakers in a car. It is entirely possible, but it’ll require you to build a new system in your vehicle. Most importantly, you’ll want to install a new amp in the car that’s designed to work with the different power levels needed for home speakers. However, if you’re able to do this, then using home speakers in your car will give you much more dynamic sound quality.
Do you need a subwoofer with car speakers?
Many factory fitted car speakers will have very low bass levels, and more expensive car speakers will require a subwoofer to be installed separately in the car. So, this means that if you were to use them in your home theater system, you’d also want to get a good subwoofer to provide rich bass.
While I found that it’s entirely possible to use car speakers in your home theater setup, there’s very little reason to do so. Home speakers are better designed to deal with rooms, whereas car speakers perform better in smaller environments. However, if your home theater is small, and you have a spare set of car speakers, by all means use them in your setup.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.