If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a music junkie. You never start a drive without turning on the radio or hooking your phone up to the aux cable. You crave that feeling of the booming bass as the wind blows through your hair.
But there’s a kicker.
Your car speakers aren’t exactly at the same level as a full-out PA system at an outdoor concert, but you can’t afford a brand-new, top-of-the-line audio system. You might be wondering if you can achieve the same effect as your favorite concert in your own car with PA speakers. But would that even work?
PA speakers can be installed in a car by a professional in their shop or even at home by anyone with the right tools and knowledge. PA speakers are generally used in a car when its owner wants a louder and fuller sound than most car audio speakers can provide.
PA speakers can take your car’s stereo to the next level, but there also might be some drawbacks. Make sure this is the right call before you fully commit! However, if you’re interested in learning more about how PA speakers could be added to your car, we’ve got you covered.
The Difference Between Pro Audio Speakers and Car Audio Speakers
The biggest difference between pro audio and car audio speakers is what they’re meant to be used for.
Pro audio speakers are made to project sound over longer distances than car audio speakers. The most common places you’d imagine finding PA speakers are at an outdoor concert, at a football stadium, or an auditorium. In these situations, there are a lot of people in a large space, and to sustain a loud, clean sound a powerful speaker is needed.
PA speakers generally have a higher Fs, or resonant frequency, and are built to be sturdier.
Car audio speakers, on the other hand, don’t need to project sound very far. The driver and passengers are sitting within five feet of the speakers, and a typical sedan only fits five passengers. These speakers don’t need to be very powerful to deliver good sound to everyone listening. They’ll most likely have lower Fs than a PA speaker and aren’t as durable.
Though there is definitely a range when it comes to the cost for any speaker, in general, PA speakers cost more than car speakers, simply because they are made out of sturdier materials and are built to last longer.
Choosing PA Speakers
If you’ve decided that you want to add PA speakers to your vehicle because the CA sound just isn’t booming enough for you, consider this before jumping right in and buying some.
Three main specifications determine the function of a speaker:
- Wattage – This will impact both the volume and clarity of sound in a speaker. In general, the higher the wattage, the louder the speaker, and the higher the clarity of sound. Speakers at high wattages can usually project sound at a higher volume without sacrificing the quality of sound.
- Size and Weight – A speaker’s size is measured by calculating the diameter in inches. In general, the bigger the speaker, the bigger the sound. Weight depends on the materials used to make the speaker, but usually, the size of a speaker will be proportional to its weight.
- Sound Quality – Depending on your sound needs, you may care more or less about sound quality. Typically, the better the sound quality, the higher the price of the speaker. So, depending on your price range, you might have to sacrifice compactness for quality, or vice versa.
- PA systems can come in separate pieces or as an all-in-one machine. For use in a car, the all-in-one option is best.
Installing PA Speakers in a Car
As mentioned above, with the right tools and electrical knowledge, PA speakers can be wired into a car fairly simply.
There are many videos on YouTube showing everyday people who have installed PA speakers into their cars by themselves. If you don’t think you have the skills you’d need, some professionals could take on the custom job and do it for you.
This video is one example of a home installation of a PA loud system.
The speaker used is a loudspeaker, which is generally used in a sports stadium or as part of an intercom system. It isn’t designed to play music with high-quality sound. If you are hoping to play music at a high volume, but also at high quality, then you wouldn’t want to use this type of speaker.
In general, most PA speakers aren’t specifically built to fit into a car.
Most people that install them have to get creative with where they place them. Some install them on the inside of their front doors, some on the dashboard. A quick Google search will afford you pictures of ambitious setups that will leave you wondering if passengers have any leg room once the doors are closed.
However, nowadays you can also find car speakers that are specifically made to give a “PA style” sound, which might be more appealing to people that want their sound system to look seamless.
While these speakers aren’t the same as a designated pro audio speaker, for people who simply want a more intense sound, they definitely do the job.
Is it Legal to Have PA Speakers in a Car?
There are no laws that directly ban installing a PA system in your vehicle.
However, most cities have noise ordinances that limit the volume you can play music or make other loud sounds at during different times of the day. Those sound limits are almost always higher in the daytime than at night.
We’ll use Los Angeles as an example. In single-family residential areas from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., the maximum sound is 75dB, while in semi-residential and commercial areas, the limit is 85dB. In contrast, from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., the limit is 60dB in single-family residential areas and 70 dB in semi-residential and commercial areas.
Violators of city sound ordinances can be reported to the police department and may be given a fine.
How to Know How Loud Your Music is
If you’re worried about your music being too loud, you can always use a sound meter to measure the sound level. Sound meters aren’t 100% accurate, but they will give you a pretty good idea.