If you’ve ever cranked your car’s speakers up to 11 then you’ll have noticed something: a hiss, a crackle, and a whole load of distortion.
Our vehicle’s factory sound systems aren’t up to much – they’re an afterthought from manufacturers who are more focussed on building a smooth driving experience.
If you like listening to music as it was meant to be heard, loud, and with every note shining through, then you’ll have thought about picking up an aftermarket sound system.
So what are the best car audio brands? And how do you know you’re getting a good deal on a speaker? After all, the difference between a good speaker and a great one can be subtle. It’s in the lowest lows of the rumbling bass, or the sudden shimmering of a guitar solo – and sometimes it’s only found after years of heavy use when a poor quality speaker goes kaput while a great one keeps on trucking.
That’s why we’ve rounded up the best car audio brands of 2023. We’ve picked brands that use premium materials to guarantee great sound quality and that use quality construction for long-term reliability. And we’ve made sure every brand on the list is offering value for money in their audio equipment.
So, after much deliberation, the best car audio brands of 2023 are:
- Rockford Fosgate
- JL Audio
- Polk Audio
With any of these brands, you’ll be in safe hands. But let’s take a deep dive into the reputation for sound, build quality, and value for money for each of these audio titans.
The 12 Best Car Audio Brands in 2023
We’re not talking about overpriced Gucci underwear here. In the car audio world, a brand isn’t a status symbol: it’s a genuine indicator of reliability and established quality. Here are the 12 best car audio brands operating today.
Rockford Fosgate is committed to building quality products – in fact, they stopped making head units altogether around 2011 when they realized they couldn’t compete on price without compromising on materials.
Nowadays, they focus on producing speakers, amps, subwoofers, and other accessories that help you build a serious aftermarket sound system. They’ve also got a strong reputation for building durable speakers – like the 6×8 Punch P1683.
And generally, you’ll find their amps offer even more power than advertised – so if you like it loud, Rockford Fosgate is a great choice. But the downside of all that power is you’ll need to pair your speakers and subs to match it!
With over forty years in the car audio biz, Alpine is one of the leading brands. They’ve been innovating ever since they started out – and they built the first automobile navigation system in 1981! (1)
When it comes to audio, Alpine makes head units and speakers that offer a great balance of premium sound quality and affordability. The Japan-based company produces head units and speakers designed specifically for premium German brands like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Quality meets quality.
But Alpine car stereos are available for everyone: in fact, Alpine makes so many incredible car stereos that we had to round them up here.
Pioneer’s car audio equipment is actually just one arm of Pioneer Corporation – another Japanese company that also produces Pioneer DJ equipment – so it’s no surprise their latest innovation is the Mixtrax function that mixes your song selection like a DJ would!
That might sound like a gimmick to some, but Pioneer speakers and head units are the real deal. They use premium materials in their speakers, including high-grade carbon and mica-reinforced propylene which produce a great response to low frequencies.
Pioneer tend to offer a great balance of sound quality without being outrageously expensive – and they make some exceptionally good value 5.25” speakers to boot.
Sony isn’t just a standout car audio brand, it’s a standout audio brand in general so you know you’re in safe hands for decent components and build quality. They produce double DIN and single DIN head units as well as audio equipment.
While their speakers don’t offer the best sound quality around they’re exceptionally well priced and so if you’re looking for budget upgrades, this is a brand to consider.
That being said, their new range of component speakers offer clean sound, even at high volumes.
JBL is well-known across the music industry for their low-priced speakers and head units. While they don’t always compete in terms of sound quality, you can always find value for money.
However, they do produce some top-end amps that can take your system to the next level. They always have one eye on style that makes them a great choice for those with a keen aesthetic – that’s why we picked the GT0609C as the best-looking 6.5-inch component speaker around!
Infinity put every speaker and subwoofer through an intense process of reliability testing. They subject their equipment to freezing temperatures, extreme heat, and UV (ultraviolet light) exposure, as well as running them at peak power for long periods of time: their 12” shallow mount subwoofer is one of the most durable and reliable options out there.
KICKER has spent almost 50 years, since their founding in 1973, developing a strong reputation within the car audio industry for well-built speakers and KICKER subs that produce a top-tier sound. Most of their amps have a 2-ohm impedance which lets you crank the power and the volume.
KICKER has also simplified their ranges, offering different series of products that are clearly delineated: the CS range is all about punchy bass while the KS range aims to deliver true, crystal clear sound. Oh, and their 6.5” coaxial speaker is one of the best on the market today.
Thanks to their goal-driven product design, they’re a great choice for newbies who need a bit of guidance to find what they want.
JL Audio doesn’t offer the cheapest products out there but when it comes to high-quality builds and exceptionally faithful sound reproduction they’re at the top of the game. They’re a real premium brand – for audiophiles with demanding tastes.
Despite the price tag, JL audio still offers great value for money – because you’re getting a professionally built product with unparalleled sound.
Fusion hasn’t made the list for premium build quality: their speakers and subwoofers offer only decent sound quality but for the price, they’re hard to beat.
In recent years, Fusion has been focused on producing high-quality marine radios, and as a result, their range of car audio equipment has suffered from neglect.
Nevertheless, they have a wide range of particularly well-powered subwoofers that offer an instant upgrade to your vehicle’s bass, without you having to splash the cash. Perfect for first-time upgraders who don’t want to go all in.
BOSS is a Chinese brand of audio equipment offering good value speakers, amps, and subs, primarily oriented at first-time buyers and budget builds. Two of their amps made our best picks thanks to compact footprints and affordable prices.
BOSS’s reputation for sound quality is iffy – but that’s largely because they offer a wider range of budget options that can’t compete with brands like JL Audio and Pioneer. For a solid upgrade in sound quality that doesn’t break the bank, definitely consider BOSS.
Polk is an all-American brand who moved across the country from their Baltimore origins to establish a base in California. And like many Californian tech brands, they’re an innovative brand – just recently they introduced smart speakers with integrated voice assistants – with a strong reputation for affordability and durability before sound quality. They’re also stylishly designed and look great as a part of any rig.
That means they’re a great choice for shoppers on a budget – their speakers and amps can handle anything you throw at them and will last for a long term, all without costing an arm, a leg, or an ear.
The last brand to make the list, Kenwood offers a really broad range of products tailored towards customizable systems. They don’t come cheap but they’re a good choice for anyone who wants to build a unique system that sounds as good as it looks.
Kenwood’s component series offers speakers broken down into tweeters and woofers that can be placed around your vehicle for customizable sound, letting you produce exactly the quality of sound you want to hear. And the Sports series stand out for their stylish, swanky design.
Upgrading your car’s audio system is a great move. Car manufacturers take terrible shortcuts in their sound systems, knowing it isn’t the first thing consumers care about. But cheap wiring and single cone speakers really hurt your sound quality!
Choosing from any of these quality brands ensures your sound system will be sounding great – but to find the best of the best, check out our top pick car audio speakers of 2023.