A few years back my lifestyle and work changed, so I needed a car for work that could handle tons of miles, get great MPG, and never break.

Car Speaker Upgrade

I bought a 2014 Toyota Corolla S to put the work miles on and save my other car from the wear and tear of Florida’s highways. But I quickly found that I hated the sound of the factory audio system. I didn’t want to upgrade the expensive in-dash head unit since it also controlled other parts of the car and was used by the backup camera. So, I decided to upgrade the speakers to see if I could squeeze any more audio quality from this otherwise unremarkable Corolla.

Trunk Speakers

Parts and Install

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Where I live in Florida, we have high humidity, hot weather, and lots of rain, so I went with a marine grade speaker by Polk Audio. They were not direct replacements for the speakers currently in the car, rather, I simply purchased drivers that fit the holes and matched the sizes of the stock speakers. I removed the old units with a metal drill bit to remove the rivets. I cut the wiring harnesses off and used blue butt connectors to wire in the new speakers. I then installed Dynamat sound-absorbing material behind the speakers and secured them with self-tapping screws, since the old rivet patterns were proprietary to Toyota speakers.

Trunk Speakers Installed

Stock Door Speakers

The hardest part was removing the door panels to get to the speakers in the front doors. Luckily, I didn’t have speakers in the rear doors, which would have made for twice as much work. I watched YouTube videos to learn how to remove the door panels and rear trunk cover. The trunk speakers were easy to get to but difficult to install and wire in. I didn’t touch the tweeters in the upper front doors because I couldn’t find products that matched the Polk speakers I was installing.

ALT

Cost
Polk Marine speakers – $85 for all 4
Metal drill bit – $4
Blue Butt Connectors – $7
Self-Tapping Screws – $5
Dynamat – $150
Total – $251

Time – 3 hours and 45 minutes

How did it affect the sound?

Midrange and low frequencies were much improved while highs remained about the same. The sound felt much more solid and less airy than the stock setup. The improved midrange made the biggest impact. Music now feels more alive and not just like a background noise in the car, it was better but still not great. Lows were improved, but not as much as if I’d added a subwoofer.

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I had expected a bit more from the upgrade with the speakers and Dynamat, but really the music just wasn’t there. I am not saying the stock speakers were in any way good, but the improvement was marginal at best. For as much as I drive though, it was a small improvement for a small investment at best, which is the only positive to this upgrade project.

Installing the Trunk Speakers

Was it worth it?

It was a fun project, but given the cost in time and money, it was not worth doing. Unless you have a speaker that’s gone bad and you need to replace it, then it’s not really worth the effort to replace them with something better. You also need to upgrade the power amps and add a sub to hear a significant difference in sound quality. I would first suggest looking into cars that already have a premium audio system installed. I have owned Audis in the past with Bose systems that sounded great.

Car audio is quite the challenge to get right, after all we do spend a lot of time in our cars. I also don’t think better speakers would have helped here, the pre-amplification and amplification stage also needed an upgrade. It’s like installing a high-end cartridge on a low-end turntable, it’s better but not by much. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!

  • gs4

    I agree. I think you need to really go for it if you want to improve the sound. I just put in some kenwoods to replace stock honda paper cones. I was replacing the deck to get bluetooth and figured why not go one more step. Top end is a little smoother, mid and mid-bass is a smidge more forward. Not worth it, especially since the self tapping screw hit a wire harness causing much consternation.

  • bclarkeva

    In my case (2002 BMW 330i w/Harmon Kardon audio package), moving to BavSound Stage One system (replaced all speakers except subs) was a BIG improvement. Sharpened the sound across all frequencies, moving from somewhat muddy to crisp. Unfortunately they don’t have a subwoofer upgrade for this year/model of BMW or I’d get that, too. Still not perfect as factory head unit and amps have limitations, but I want to stick with BMW fit and finish so don’t want to swap in other electronics. Like Indiana, I had to look at BavSound videos to learn how to remove/reinstall interior panels – but the sound improvement was definitely worth the full day it took me to do the replacements.

    Interestingly BMW has offered for first time a HIGH end audio package on new 750i model this year. Hopefully they will offer similar HIGH end audio packages across the model ranges so we can have The Ultimate Sound Experience to go along with The Ultimate Driving Experience.

  • yellowfever

    Thank you for sharing though…sorry it did not give the desired results