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A real-world speaker listening demo

Comparing different models of Infinity car speakers

“What’s the difference between different speakers from the same manufacturer?” That's a good question, and I used to get it often when I was an Advisor with Crutchfield. We try to cover these differences in our online presentations, but it’s often more impactful to let people hear the speakers and get their thoughts. We devised a real-world listening test and invited folks at our Charlottesville headquarters to have a listen.

O

rdinarily, if you want to listen to new car speakers before you buy them, you have to walk into a car audio store and listen to them mounted on a sound board in a big room. That doesn't give you the best idea of how they'll sound in your car.

Listening to speakers in their natural environment

For this comparison, we wanted to let our people hear these Infinity speakers in their natural environment. We temporarily installed Infinity Primus, Reference, and Kappa 6"x9" speakers in the front doors of three of our coworkers’ Toyota 4Runners. The 4Runner happens to be one of the most plentiful car models in our parking lot. This let us set up the speaker tests in similar, real-world environments. We also used a fourth 4Runner with a factory system as our “control” vehicle, just to compare the new speakers to the stock sound.

4Runner interior with JVC KW-V940BW DVD receiver

We used JVC's KW-V940BW DVD receiver connected to a power inverter for each of our three demo vehicles. The JVC had plenty of power for each of the speakers.

Keeping things fair — a level listening ground

We initially planned to use the stereo systems that were present in the vehicles, but we quickly realized that there were different audio configurations for each. It wouldn’t have been a fair comparison, since some had factory amplifiers and some didn't. Also, some of the speakers were "crossed over", so they only received certain frequencies. We wanted full-range signals going to the speakers in our test.

We decided to use the same car stereo, the JVC KW-V940BW DVD receiver, for the three test 4Runners. This let us keep the volume and power on a level playing field. We powered the JVC stereos with power inverters so that we didn’t drain the batteries in the 4Runners. We used the same song playlist for each, and we left the door panels off for a quicker installation. This way, the listeners could hear and see the speakers they were checking out.

On to the Infinity speaker comparison

We were having a holiday potluck nearby that day, so we had people checking out our listening demo throughout the day. Here are some to the things they had to say about the different speakers.

Infinity Primus

Infinity Primus — great factory replacement

Infinity’s Primus speakers perform like anything but entry level. They fit many vehicles and work well with factory or aftermarket power. After checking out the Infinity Primus PR9613IS 6"x9" 3-way speakers, our listeners came away impressed with how impactful the sound was from these modestly priced speakers.

OEM and Infinity Reference 6x9 aftermarket speakers

When comparing the magnets, which is basically the "motor" of the speaker, you can see that the Infinity Reference speakers (left) are far more substantial than the factory speakers. Bigger motor, bigger sound.

Infinity Reference — super-efficient winners

Infinity’s Reference speakers have been fan favorites since long before I started at Crutchfield in 1997. Their high efficiency lets you get a lot of volume with even low power. Most listeners told me they preferred the Infinity Reference REF-9632IX 6"x9" 2-way speakers due to their versatility to work well with all kinds of music.

Infinity Kappa

Infinity Kappa — built to perform (and last)

Kappa speakers represent the best of Infinity’s lineup, offering improved power handling and bigger sound. Infinity also backs up the Kappa series with a 3-year warranty. After listening to the Infinity Kappa 93ix 6"x9" 3-way speakers, we heard from various advisors that the speaker’s design technologies helped deliver a lot of bass extension, as well as a lot of detail, especially in the higher frequencies.

Happy Dave and Hannah after the speaker demo

Product demos, the Crutchfield way

We try to do a lot of demos for our folks here at Crutchfield, and this listening test served as a new direction for us. Car audio demos can be more tricky and time-consuming to arrange than the home A/V setups that we often show off. But many of our Advisors have asked for this type of demo to better assist customers when talking about car audio. We wanted to provide that for them. 

Challenges and rewards

Thankfully, we had the help of coworkers who owned the 4Runners and were willing to have them taken apart temporarily. We coordinated schedules to make sure we had time to install the speakers and show them off all within one day. It certainly wasn't easy to get all that gear running in three vehicles, but the listeners who took part in the comparison expressed that they now felt much more confident in talking about the Infinity speaker models. Hey, it's what we do here and we dig it. 

Ready for new speakers?

If you're looking for a speaker recommendation for your vehicle, we invite you to talk, chat, or email with one of our knowledgeable advisors. They'll pick out some winners to make your journeys much more enjoyable.

  • Michael Bresler from Plano

    Posted on 1/22/2020

    Would have been nice to hear subjective comments about how the three speakers differ. Examples: "If you like a lot of bass..." or "Exceptionally clear highs..." or "Sounded great with base/treble controls set to mid range..." etc.

  • BRyan from Murfreesboro, TN

    Posted on 1/22/2020

    Could we at least get a rating as to which was most liked?

    Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield on 1/23/2020
    Fair question, BRyan. Our listeners loved the Reference speaker and were impressed by its balanced, crisp sound, especially compared to the price of the Kappas. But overall, the Kappa was the favorite of the day. They reported that the Kappa's extra bass added more fullness to the music.
  • Brent S from Wilmington, NC

    Posted on 1/22/2020

    Like others have said...there is really no objective or even detailed info here. How the systems were configured beyond the head unit and front door speakers. Most 4Runners have a factory amp and 8" subwoofer in the cargo area. How was this bypassed and/or accounted for in the listening comparisons? Obviously pairing any full range speaker with an active sub is going to make it appear to have more bass or let it be played louder without distorting since the bass is being redirected by the factory amp. Further muddying the water, one of the 4Runner's pictured is a 4th gen, while the other 3 are 5th gens. Different acoustic environments, even if the front speaker sizes are the same. Not that it really makes a difference, but who was the control (factory system)? The newest a 4th gen could be is 2009 model year.

    Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield on 1/23/2020
    Brent, your points about the Toyota stereo system's amp and subwoofer are spot on. That's why we bypassed the factory systems entirely, driving all the Infinity speakers with the same model of aftermarket stereo. We weren't really trying to judge one speaker against another and by no means was this meant to be an intense shootout - "three speakers enter, one speaker leaves." Rather, we were listening for the improvement over the factory speakers and helping our people hear the differences between the three Infinity lines in an actual vehicle.
  • Frank D from Dunn

    Posted on 3/17/2019

    I concur...a more detailed descriptive summary from the advisors that had they're 4Runners use as "audio guinea pigs"....these guys should have trained ears and could provide more details about the audio "personalities" of each Infinity model. Things like harsh/soft highs, deep lows, mid bass response, sound stage etc. Otherwise, yes Crutchfield is absolutely on the right track because sound boards in audio shops are optimized to make the sound and positioning of the music/vocals very precise.....in-car/truck/boat/etc. demo's are the way to go so advisors can give real world advice about how each speaker performs and sounds. Next test sould be a comparison of low cost Rockford coaxes, a Rockford powered sub in a 2010 Kia Sport integrated into the "premium system w/sub" ...that's my car and would love a demo on which way to got...integrate or just trash the whole premium system (that's a real joke, sounds, well, terrible!) and the stock amp too. Since the great wonderful amazing sound comparison application you have now maybe implement a program (at customer's cost) a demo of selected speakers in X vehicle before buying. I know I would pony up some cash for such a trial demo....cars/trucks etc. surely could be found in junk yards or even the parking lot at Crutchfield like the Infinity test...great job guys!

  • Scott P from Randolph, NJ

    Posted on 2/24/2019

    For all the collective expertise gathered here, respectfully, this is a little short of information. In trying to evaluate speakers without actually listening to them, when coming to the website it would be helpful to get a little more detail about these respective speakers than one sentence each. An assesment of which speakers were 'warmer' or 'brighter', which were more neutral or boosted in certain frequencies, which people liked with genres, etc..., a little more like a typical speaker review would be helpful to me.

  • Eddie E Hicks Sr from Galloway

    Posted on 2/13/2019

    Thank you very much for your reply.

  • Eddie E Hicks Sr from Galloway

    Posted on 2/10/2019

    I have a 2013 4Runner. I'm considering purchasing new speakers. Were the speaker test done with an amp, or just the head unit? I have a higher end aftermarket Kenwood nav head unit. Your link to the Infinity Primus says they do not fit my vehicle. That's strange since the test were done on 4Runners, which is what I own.

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield on 2/11/2019
    Eddie, the speakers were only powered by the head unit. As far as fit goes, I've forwarded your question to our Advisors. Someone will contact you soon to help out.

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