2-Ohm Vs. 4-Ohm Speakers – A Sound Quality Comparison

If you’ve been to a yoga class lately, you might have sat cross-legged on the mat, pursed lips:

“Ohmmmmmmmmmm.” The soft drone of this mantra brings you into meditative bliss.

And if it’s bliss you’re after, a factory-issue sound system in your vehicle isn’t going to get you there. Cheap speakers can have a really harsh vibe, man.

So if you’re investing in an aftermarket sound system then you’ve got one thing in mind: audio quality. But when it comes to sound, there’s more than meets the third eye… or the ear.

Are you looking for audio you can crank up to 11? Or are you pursuing the cleanest, crispest studio sound around?

What you’re looking for from your sound system will guide you to the perfect speaker. And in this case, resistance isn’t futile.

So let me introduce you to another ohm. You’ll find this one outside the yoga class, but it’s just as important on the road to blissful sound.

Let’s find out what the difference is between 2-ohm and 4-ohm speakers.

Welcome Ohm: An Introduction To Impedance

The ohm rating on a speaker refers to how much impedance that speaker has: it’s a rating of the speaker’s electrical resistance.

Resistance and impedance refer to the same electrical thing, but when dealing with AC current, which powers the speakers in a car sound system, we use the term impedance to mean the electrical resistance.

You get speakers rated 2, 4, and even 8-ohm but when it comes to car sound systems, 2 and 4 are by far the most common so that’s what we’ll explore.

So what’s the difference between a 2-ohm and a 4-ohm speaker?

A 2-ohm speaker has a lower resistance than a 4-ohm speaker, and it draws more power from the amp.

When it comes to the sound of your system, that means that a 2-ohm speaker will cope better with a high volume. On the other hand, while a 4-ohm speaker won’t perform at the upper echelons of volume, it should sound better than a 2-ohm speaker.

That’s 2-ohm and 4-ohm speakers at a glance. Let’s take a closer look.

2-Ohm Speakers

With just 2 ohms of impedance, these speakers allow more current (the flow of electrical charge) into the sound system. With more current, your speakers will have a greater load and can produce more power.

So 2-ohm speakers are more powerful than their 4-ohm counterparts. They’ll sound louder so if volume is important to you, a 2-ohm speaker is the way to go.

With lower impedance, you can pump more power into the speaker and see the direct result of that: higher volume.

But the downside is that they’re going to consume more power, put more pressure on your amp, and more significantly, the quality of the sound is going to be compromised by the power.

4-Ohm Speakers

4-ohm speakers have a higher impedance rating, which restricts the amount of current in your speakers.

That puts a cap on volume, and you won’t get as big a sound out of these higher impedance speakers.

With greater impedance, you can’t get away with cranking the volume: the speakers are less responsive to the increased current, due to the higher impedance/resistance of the speakers.

The upshot of this greater impedance, and the reason 4-ohm speakers are valued in car sound systems by audiophiles everywhere, is that 4-ohm speakers tend to sound better than 2-ohm speakers. With less current, there’s less distortion on the sound.

Should I Buy A 2-Ohm Or A 4-Ohm Speaker?

If you’re weighing up a 2-ohm or a 4-ohm speaker, there are a few things to consider.

Sound Quality

Sound quality is probably your number one consideration for a speaker, and if you want a sound system setup that puts audio quality first, then a 4-ohm speaker is the best choice.

Of course, you might not care about the subtleties in your selection. If you think that big always means better when it comes to sound, you’ll appreciate the boosted volume of a 2-ohm speaker.

Price

Building an after-market sound system from all premium components can be expensive. Generally, a 2-ohm speaker will be a little cheaper than a 4-ohm speaker, but you can save by looking at other factors such as brand and size.

Durability

You’re probably looking for a sound system that’s going to keep the party going for a while. Because 4-ohm speakers limit the amount of current in the system, they’re likely to last longer than a 2-ohm speaker. The amount of power in a 2-ohm speaker can, eventually, damage the components.

Matching Your Speaker To Your Amp

Generally, it’s a better bet to use speakers that have the same impedance as your amplifier. So 4-ohm speakers will work more effectively and sound better when they’re powered by a 4-ohm amp.

If you’ve got mismatched speakers and amps, then you can use the wiring to bring the impedance into line.

With parallel wiring, you can limit the resistance in your system. Whereas with series wiring you can use the wiring to add a bit more impedance to your system if you need it.

Parallel wiring is the first choice for a sound system because it results in the best sound. But if you need a bit more resistance to match up your amp and your speakers, series wiring could be a good bet.

All About That Bass: 2-Ohm Vs. 4-Ohm Subwoofers

To bring the bass to life in your car sound system, you’re going to need a subwoofer. Car subwoofers are speakers that specialize in producing low frequencies – so is a 4-ohm sub better than a 2-ohm sub?

When it comes to these low frequencies, a lower impedance is less likely to affect the sound quality coming from your system. That means that a 2-ohm subwoofer doesn’t always reduce the sound quality.

In fact, because of the way we interpret low frequencies, louder bass often sounds better. That means more power can sound better in a sub: for once, quantity and quality come together.

But that doesn’t mean you can grab a 2-ohm sub on any system. When it comes to subwoofer sound quality, you need to match your sub to your amplifier.

If you’ve got a subwoofer drawing more power than your amp can provide, you’re looking at an overload. Any attempt to turn the volume up can shut down the amp and damage your system.

So to hit the low lows, let the amplifier be your guide.

Wrapping Up…

Don’t be put off by the electrical jargon – impedance, ohm, resistance. You don’t need a degree in electronics to understand which speaker will suit your system best.

For the biggest sound, 2-ohm speakers are the way to go. But if you’re an audiophile who finds the devil in the details, then a 4-ohm speaker will likely suit you better.

And of course, your speakers need to fit your amp unless you want to get wild with the wiring. And that’s especially true with a subwoofer.

So whether you want your sound system to be the life of the party or to give you subtle and optimized sound, there’s a speaker for you. You can say om shanti to that. Namaste!

Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

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