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Can You Use PA Speakers In A Car?

If you were ever in a crappy garage band, you probably know that you can use car speakers in a pinch to hook up to a PA system. In my experience, though, they’ll usually blow after only a few practices. But can things go the other way? Can you use PA speakers in a car?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” You can replace factory car speakers with PA speakers, especially if you’re looking to create a big, booming sound for your system.

Of course, you have to make sure you have the power to run these speakers and that they’re properly installed to take advantage of their superior sound. But if you want professional sound in your car, PA speakers might be the right way to go.


What are PA speakers?

Can You Use PA Speakers In A Car

PA can stand for “public address” as in the public address system, your principal used to talk to the whole school. And they are almost always hooked up to quality professional audio speakers to be of any use.

So, PA speakers are different from the regular old factory speakers that are in your car. They are normally tougher, more powerful, more durable, and naturally more expensive as well.

PA Speakers vs. Car Speakers

There are some pretty important differences between PA speakers and car speakers. The main differences are in power and sensitivity.

Power Differences

A typical car stereo system is designed to use several small speakers to produce enough sound to make the cab full of sound. This isn’t all that hard to do. The distance from any passenger’s ears to the nearest speaker is only going to be about two to three feet. That’s a lot closer than you’d normally sit to your home stereo.

For this reason, car speakers don’t normally have high power ratings – they don’t need them. A typical car speaker will handle about 15 Watts RMS and will probably melt if fed over 50 Watts of power (ah, the smell of burnt speakers in the morning – takes me back!).

On the other hand…

Professional audio speakers can handle way more juice. Coaxial speakers like these 6.5” GTO629 Premiums from JBL can give you 60 Watts RMS and 93dB@1W1m sensitivity (more on that in a second). So, you’ll get way more power which generally means you can produce way more sound.

Of course, you need to have an amplifier capable of producing more power in the first place. That’s why most people buy a new stereo before choosing the speakers that will go along with it.

But, once you hook up more powerful speakers in your car, you can find yourself producing way more sound. Just be careful you don’t melt your passengers.

Sensitivity Differences

Sensitivity is a measure of a speaker’s ability to convert electrical power into sound. So, if you have a high-sensitivity speaker, it will use less power to make the level of sound as a low-sensitivity speaker would for the same volume.

Car speakers are usually very utilitarian and made of lower-cost materials that allow them to be manufactured cheaply and easily. So, a typical car speaker may have a sensitivity of just 87 decibels at an input power of 1 Watt measured from a distance of 1 meter (about 3 feet) or 87dB@1W1m.

Quality PA speakers, on the other hand, are going to be in the 90s and really good stuff at 95dB@1W1m or higher.

What does this mean for your system?

It means you can get more bang for your buck or more volume for the same amount of power. A 10 dB difference represents 10x the power. Therefore, to get the same volume with those 87dB@1W1m car speakers as with 97dB@1W1m PA speakers, you’d need ten times the power.

Other Differences Between Car Speakers and PA Speakers?

Other Differences

When you buy more powerful, more sensitive speakers, you’re not going to be surprised to find that they also cost more than regular old car speakers. However, they’re usually also made from better materials that last longer and put up with a heck of a lot more abuse.

Therefore, when asking, “Can you use PA speakers in a car?” knowing the advantages of using PA speakers in a car can make a big difference.

Construction materials can vary on speakers…

Good quality PA speakers can be made from a large range of materials. Instead of paper, tweeter cones can be constructed of silk or durable textile blends for a nice, soft, and even sound.

Harder materials like metals and ceramics can make tweeters very crisp and bright instead, which you might prefer, especially in a very loud system.

Woofers in your car are normally made of just paper. But, again, tougher materials are often used in PA speakers. Many use polypropylene, but others can be made out of reinforced textiles, synthetic fabrics, or even mica (a thin, flaky mineral) for increased durability.

Something to keep in mind…

While paper cones can sound just fine, they don’t stand up well to direct damage or things like changes in temperature and humidity. And, since your car isn’t a perfectly controlled environment, it’s best to look at speakers that will be a bit more rugged.

Types of PA Speakers for Your Car

There are three main types of PA speakers that we can look at. These are component, coaxial, and micro-amplifier speakers. All three can have a place in constructing a great car stereo system.

Component Speakers

Component speakers are called this because they are like individual parts of your system. These are individual tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers that are wired individually and fed different frequencies from your amp.

They require a crossover to control what parts of the signal they get. That way, the tweeters take control of the high-end, woofers the mids, and the sub takes the luscious bass.

You normally need to buy component speakers separately, though sometimes you can find them in sets. Pyle offers this 2-way component set with two tweeters and two 6.5” woofers that handles 400 Watts of max power.

Coaxial Speakers

Coaxial speakers have multiple drivers built-in, all wired onto the same wire or “axis.” In most cases, these are going to be 2-way or 3-way speakers for car stereo systems. That means you’ll have two or three components built into one point, usually a small tweeter in the center and a woofer behind it.

To compare with the 6.5” component example, we just looked at, this pair of Boss Audio 3-way coaxial speakers contains three drivers in each speaker. You get a big 6.5” woofer, a smaller mid-range cone, and a tiny piezoelectric tweeter in each. And each can handle up to 150 Watts max power.

Coaxial speakers can be easier to wire and often contain their own crossovers for convenience. But, they generally can’t handle as much power as component speakers can.

Micro-Amplifier Speakers

Micro-Amplifiers speakers are also known as micro-subwoofers. These are fully encased speaker boxes that hold subwoofer speakers and produce some intense bass sounds for their smaller size.

They’re normally 12” x 12” square boxes that are only a few inches deep, so they can fit under seats or in other tight spots. For example, Rockville’s SS8P gives you 100 Watts RMS and 400 Watts max power through just an 8” subwoofer cone.

Is it Safe to Put Powerful PA Speakers in your Car?

Is it Safe

You can have PA speakers wired up by a professional installer or try your hand at it yourself if you’re electrically inclined. As long as they are properly installed, using wires of the correct gauge, with correct impedance matching, and with an amplifier that’s providing the correct amount of power, you’ll be in great shape.

But the other issue is the sound level…

According to the CDC, exposure to sound levels of 70dB over extended periods of time can begin to cause damage to your hearing. That’s not very loud, and things like city traffic or a gas-powered lawn mower would be louder.

But, at 120dB, you can experience pain and even immediate damage to your ears. Most headphones or entertainment venues have a preset maximum level of 105-110dB to prevent hearing damage. And, if we’re talking about driving in a car, you should keep the level below that threshold as well.

However, car stereos aren’t just for listening in the car…

If you plan to park and play music at a bonfire or tailgate party, you can turn it up as long as no one is in the car. This is because sound diminishes over distance. So, while it could be over 120dB in the car, it might be a comfortable 65dB when you’re ten feet away.

You’ll also want to consider city noise ordinances. These will vary from city to city. But, daytime maximums will be around 70-80dB, and at night, probably less than 70dB.

If you’re not sure how loud your system is, you can use a sound meter to measure it both inside and at a distance from your vehicle. Most smartwatches have sound meters built-in these days. You can also load apps like Sound Meter for Android or use the built-in Health app on your iPhone.

Looking To Upgrade Your Car’s Sound System?

We can help. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best 6×8 Speakers, the Best 6.5 Speakers, the Best 15-inch Subwoofers, the Best 12-Inch Subwoofers, the Best Under Seat Subwoofers, and the Best Subwoofers for Single Cab Truck you can buy in 2023.

Also, take a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Car Subwoofers, the Best Car Amplifiers, the Best Monoblock Car Amplifiers, the Best 2000 Watt RMS Amps, and the Best 3000 Watt Amps currently on the market.

Can You Use PA Speakers In A Car? – Conclusion

Now you know that you can use PA speakers in a car to replace the weak factory speakers it came with. Just know your limitations.

You can get a whole lot more power out of more sensitive speakers. But, if your stereo has a high output already, don’t go too sensitive. You can also get PA speakers with much higher wattage so that your car stereo system will really blast.

Just remember to be safe and smart about things. And, remember to always listen at safe levels. That way, you and your passengers will be able to enjoy great audio for years to come.

Until next time, happy listening. 

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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