The Top 8 Best 3.5 Speakers of 2019

If you're reading this, then it's safe to say you want the absolute best audio experience you can find.

We totally get it. There are no shortcuts when it comes to building the mobile audio system of your dreams.

We love our cars, so we'll never speak ill of the companies who design and build them. That being said... c'mon guys! We've had it with wimpy stock components!

This also applies to factory dash speakers. Don't underestimate the importance of these modest 3.5” components; top name-brands haven't forgotten.

Aftermarket brands are constantly innovating to offer elite performance that can fit in the smallest spaces.

We love all speaker sizes! That's why decided to find out which 3.5” speakers provided the best listening experience.

Before we get to the reviews, note one last thing!

Top name brands live or die on their reputation for performance and customer satisfaction. It's possible to 'cheat' some of the specs outlined here; that's why, when reviewing the best 3.5 speakers around, we only review brands known to provide accurate, honest figures.

Here are the eight best 3.5 speakers we could find on the market today.


Comparison Table


JL Audio C2-350x

best 3.5 speakers

JL Audio C2-350x

In 1975, James Birch and Lucio Proni teamed up to form JL Audio. Using the first letters of their first names, they wanted to tap into the rising car audio market – and boy, they sure did!

JL Audio is recognized as a manufacturing pioneer that specializes in subwoofers, offering rich throaty bass.  But they also do a fine job with other speakers classes, including this 3.5" set.

And like all the speakers on this list, the JL Audio C2-350x offers significant improvement to factory dash units.

When selecting our range of the best 3.5 speakers, what really stood out for us with the JLs was their excellent tweeter response.  Together with a reasonable 25-watts of continuous power, you'll be getting clear, all-encompassing sound for as long as you want.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 25-watts RMS / 75-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 130 Hz - 22,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 83 dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-9/16"

Pros

  • Outstanding sonic fidelity
  • Best tweeter response in class

Cons

  • Bass response is weaker than expected from JL Audio

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Infinity Reference REF3022cfx

best 3.5 speakers

Infinity Reference 3022cfx

Infinity was founded in 1968 to fill a specific niche. By exploring exotic and unorthodox materials such as polypropylene and neodymium magnets, they positioned themselves as the market leader in cutting edge consumer electronics.

Infinity's dash speakers are no exception. They gave us the best sound clarity and least distortion of any product on this list – some stiff competition.

Obsessed by crystal-clear audio with minimal noise interference?  Infinity designed these speakers with you in mind. Few dash units can offer the clarity of these crisp, sleek little components.

Infinity also understands the intricate relationship between impedance, range, and sensitivity. With an adjustable tweeter output level of 0dB or +3dB, you can optimize the output based on the speaker location.

Finally, the speakers boast Plus One woofer cone architecture - essentially this means the speaker cone area is larger than typical for this speaker range.  The result is a sensitivity value on the higher end, and an increased low frequency output.

One drawback is that typical head units may not have the power to give the REF3022cfx speakers the juice they crave. To get the full experience you'll have to feed that hunger!

If you aren't using an external amplifier, you might be better served with a more versatile product.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 25-watts RMS / 75-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 85 Hz - 21,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 91 dB
  • Impedance: 3 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-7/16"

Pros

  • Elite sound clarity that has no equal
  • Precision-engineered for a wide range of frequencies
  • Impressive sensitivity

Cons

  • External amplifier may be required to unlock their full potential

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Polk Audio DB351

best 3.5 speakers

Polk Audio DB351

Polk Audio: a name brand that needs little introduction. Founded in 1972 by a group of college students trying to engineer sound for a local bluegrass festival, Polk quickly established a permanent place on the shelf of quality car components.

The DB351 dash speakers deliver excellent sound fidelity, robust RMS, premium sensitivity, and proven range. Polk's patented Dynamic Balance strives to create speaker designs that eliminate as much resonance as possible - giving you smoother music easy on the ears.

They're also designed for use in boats and ATVs, which means more weather-resistant materials. They're built rugged to withstand greater extremes of temperature, sun, and rain than other devices in this class.

Polk delivers no-nonsense audio that's built to last.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 35-watts RMS / 105-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 90 Hz - 22,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 91 dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-9/16"

Pros

  • Silky-smooth acoustics push comfortable sound for any user
  • Includes bass blockers so you can fine-tune frequency management
  • Durable - designed to take a lickin' and keep on tickin'!

Cons

  • Tweeter sticks out more than most dash speakers, and may require extra mounting depth

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Kicker 40CS354

best 3.5 speakers

Kicker 40CS354

You haven't totally reviewed a speaker class until you've looked at Kicker. Kicker was founded in 1973 by two confirmed audio junkies working from a one-car carage. From humble beginnings they quickly rose to worldwide fame; today in 2017, they might be the most recognized brandin the world.

Everyone's heard of Kicker, so let's take a look at what they offer in the 3.5” speaker range.

The 40CS354 is designed to improve their mainstream appeal. It has the most versatile installation design of any component we tested, capable of mounting in virtually ANY vehicle sold in the US.

We hoped before testing that these speakers would offer impressive audio performance, and Kicker delivered. Forget all the fancy calculations and complex equations – these guys simply sound great.

Kicker doesn't just want you to buy speakers; they want you to use them – often. That means you get truly awesome music delivered to all corners of your car, and you'll keep coming back for more.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 30-watts RMS / 90-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 80 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-5/8"

Pros

  • Kicker's patented Extended Voice Coil technology creates high-fidelity sound at maximum range
  • Flexible design allows for a quick drop into most vehicles
  • Stock capacitor smooths audio signal for minimal distortion

Cons

  • Can occasionally rattle at extreme volume

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


JBL GX302

best 3.5 speakers

JBL GX302

JBL again makes our list with the GX302 dash speakers. Are we showing favoritism? Not at all – these guys earned it.

Just like you should expect from top name-brands, JBL speakers come with an attractive cup design and fantastic sensitivity.

What we like the most about the GX302 speakers is their unusual 2.3 ohm impedance. Low impedance combined with 25-watts RMS means that even when hooked up to weak power signals, these speakers STILL deliver quality acoustic performance; and they deliver it loud.

One drawback of smaller impedance values is that lower resistance makes it easier to overload your device.

Check these out if you're still using a factory head unit without an external amplifier – your system will thank you with a significant boost in power.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 25-watts RMS / 50-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 90 Hz - 21,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 89 dB
  • Impedance: 2.3 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-7/16"

Pros

  • Engineered to improve weak audio signals
  • Sexy design encourages open installation (show off your stuff!)
  • Unbeatable RMS output

Cons

  • Lower impedance increases risk of system overload

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Rockford Fosgate Punch P132

best 3.5 speakers

Rockford Fosgate Punch P132

Check this out: If you've ever purchased or used a car amplifier, you should thank James Fosgate. In 1973, he invented the world's very first car amplifier - and the world of mobile audio would never be the same.

Rockford Fosgate gave birth to Dolby; their credentials are top-notch. In the cutthroat world of consumer electronics, brands that cut corners or cheat customers quickly fall off the shelf.

Of course, we don't grade on reputation - we tested the Punch P132 and it passed with flying colors. If you're a proud audio fanatic, the FOSGATE 3.5” speakers should satisfy your every craving.

An average RMS and smaller range kept this device from being our top choice - but honestly, it's hard to find a reason to complain about these speakers.

Try them out! We think you'll be just as impressed. If Rockford can maintain this level of performance, we have no doubt they'll be proudly displayed in stores for another 50 years (or more)!

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 20-watts RMS / 40-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 120 Hz - 22,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 85 dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-1/2"

Pros

  • Quick, easy installation
  • LOUD music production; can handle a lot of power
  • Strong, punchy bass

Cons

  • Modest RMS output
  • Smaller range

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Kicker 41DSC354

best 3.5 speakers

Kicker 41DSC354

If you really need to save money, but still want a Kicker product, you'd better go check out the 41DSC354. Built to satisfy entry-level consumers, these sexy little speakers provide robust audio at great volume for less than you'll pay for a pair of 40CS354s.

It's Kicker, which means you should still expect awesome sound quality at dangerous volumes. RMS output is noticeably lower than the higher-end Kicker model. Sensitivity and range remain excellent.

One minor complaint: At 1-11/16", these have a slightly deeper clearance than most devices we tested. It's not terribly important (they'll still fit most systems), so unless you require lean speaker profiles this shouldn't be a concern.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 20-watts RMS / 80-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 80 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-11/16"

Pros

  • Kicker performance on a budget
  • Sound production that's too loud for parental approval
  • Versatile impedance means you'll have more flexibility while pushing power

Cons

  • Deeper mounting depth
  • Modest RMS

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Kenwood KFC-835C

best 3.5 speakers

Kenwood KFC-835C

Like Pioneer, Kenwood is a company that can legitimately claim to be O.G. Founded immediately after WW2, they've maintained top position for customer satisfaction through decades of market upheaval and relentless innovation.

When you test their products directly against the competition, it's easy to see why.The KFC-835C are an inexpensive speaker pair intended for the budget-wise consumer. It has great specs and decent sound range. Some distortion is noticed at higher and lower frequencies.

If you're a casual user just looking for a cheap upgrade over your inferior factory components, Kenwood's 3.5" dash speakers are worth every penny.

Audiophiles and sound junkies will probably be left wanting more.

Technical Details

  • Power Range: 23-watts RMS / 40-watts Peak
  • Frequency Response: 96 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 89 dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Top Mount Depth: 1-9/16"

Pros

  • Friendly to your wallet
  • Slim profile and easy installation
  • Kenwood support for defects and replacements

Cons

  • Some distortion along the margins
  • Underwhelming clarity at high volumes

Features

Performance

Value

Our Rating


Final Thoughts / Before You Buy

Don't sleep on 3.5” speakers! The past ten years have seen an explosion of design improvements benefiting you, the customer.

There was a time not so long ago when you were pretty limited in your choices. Today's consumer has it better than ever before.

We understand that much of your decision to buy is simply personal taste and brand loyalty. We're the same way!

That's why we're dedicated to an unbiased and objective approach to evaluating all products – not just our personal favorites.

Trying to find the best 3.5 car speakers is like trying to find the prettiest girl. There will always be disagreement, but when you know – you'll know.

It's your money. What matters is YOUR SATISFACTION. Educate yourself, read customer reviews, and when you find the speakers you love – go for it!

Many speakers we reviewed have limited availability – for obvious reasons!

To save you time, we selected the 3.5" dash speakers that impressed us above all others.

[Did we leave anything off our best 3.5 speaker list? Contact us and tell us what you think!]



Key Terminology

RMS

Audio companies generally advertise their products using terms like "MAX" or "Peak power".

Forget about all that. When we're discussing power, RMS is the only value that lets you make any sort of meaningful comparison between two products. Why is that?

Well, RMS stands for Root Mean Square. No math lessons here; this just means that RMS measures how much continuous power a component can handle safely.

Peak power is how high the system can go at maximum output, but it can't stay at that wattage for long without causing problems.

That's why devices that advertise "peak power" are being a little misleading. What's really important is sustained sonic output for an indefinite length of time.

RMS lets you quickly and easily compare power outputs between components.

This means a speaker with 200-watt MAX but only 60-watt RMS is less powerful than a speaker with 100-watt MAX and 80-watt RMS.

Range / Response

When we start talking about speaker range or frequency response, you might have a general idea of what we mean.

On the surface, it's pretty simple. Range is a measure of how much of the audible sound range the speakers can produce. It's measured in Hertz (Hz), with low numbers being long, deep tones (like the boom of a drum) and high numbers being shorter, sharp tones (like the singing of a bird).

Obviously, we're only concerned with the portion of the Soundwave we can hear. Human ears are capable of responding anywhere from 20Hz to 20,000Hz (or 20 kHz).

Range is a simple concept to understand, yet difficult to master. If you want to fully appreciate the implications of range and how it applies to audio equipment, you have to dive into some complex mathematics. That's beyond the scope of this article.

For now, just remember: Range is a useful way to measure how much of the audible spectrum a device can produce.

Please note - it doesn't tell you anything about the quality of that sound! Don't make a purchase based entirely on response.

Impedance

This fancy term just means how much AC resistance exists in the wiring of the speakers. Please note: Different frequencies can have different impedance values.

Generally, most loudspeakers will have resistance that ranges between 4- and 8-ohms. As long as your speakers have similar impedance to your amp, you'll be fine.

A higher impedance means that an amplifier will have to push more voltage to create the same sound quality. On the other hand, it also means a component can handle more juice without taking damage.

As long as you make sure these values are in alignment, you shouldn't worry too much about impedance.

Sensitivity

This isn't how fragile or delicate your speakers are; nor does it have anything to do feelings. This is a universal metric that simply tells you how much sound pressure (loudness) an audio device will create at a stated distance on a single watt.

What does this mean to you? The more sensitive your speakers are, the less power they require to produce the same amount of volume. Basically, it's translating more of that raw power into crisp audio goodness!

Depth

My first car was a 2005 Subaru WRX. I loved her, but she had very shallow door panels and it was a struggle to find speakers with a profile narrow enough to fit.

Depending on your ride, you'll have more or less room to work with as you build a stereo system. Make sure you don't make the mistake I did and assume depth is universal - you could save yourself some serious money and a lot of heartache. 

Work components around your car; don't work your car around components.

How much room will you need to mount the speaker in your vehicle? What's the difference between "top mount" depth and "bottom mount" depth?

Top-mount depth is how much room the top of the speaker needs from the point of installation. This is how far it 'juts' out into your car interior.

That means bottom-mount depth is how much room the bottom of your speakers need to clear the interior of your dash or panel.

For simplicity's sake, in our reviews we focus on the more commonly available measurement: top-mount depth.

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