When choosing motorcycle speakers, there are many things to know and consider, such as speakers, amplifiers, radio capability, and more. Sometimes when you are new to buying, it is easy to decide what system or unit you want to buy. But when it’s time to buy, and you’ve seen and laid out the options for you, then you’re going to have a hard time figuring out exactly what you’re going to get for your bike. We understand the difficulty each of us went through there for something else or related to the motorcycle.
So in this post, we will share some of the significant motorcycle audio system features with you. There are many to consider, but we will only share the ones we think are more critical in determining a suitable unit.
Speakers are transducers or convert energy from one form to another and, in this case, electromagnetic waves into sound waves. To be more specific, we are talking about loudspeakers used in radios or audio players.
When it comes to upgrading the audio system in general, one of the most considered devices or features is the speaker. Imagine if you had a good class source unit and a high-power amplifier connected to low-quality speakers. Wouldn’t this have a significant impact on sound quality? Oh, we know how bad your experience will be; you’ll prefer not to play it.
With high-quality speakers, it will significantly impact the accuracy and details of the music you listen to. The more details the sound has, the more background, tone, and pitches you can hear.
Now when it comes to motorcycle speakers, three essential requirements need to be met:
- Due to the sound power produced by the motor engine, especially on big bikes, it is common to drown out the sound of your audio system at higher speeds. Therefore, the speakers need to be loud and have more power to handle.
- Prolonged UV exposure of the speaker significantly affects the speaker externally and internally. Therefore, the speaker should withstand long UV exposure without harming it.
- Water can damage your speaker, even moisture. With that in mind, the speaker must be resistant to it. The good news is, most motorcycle speakers are waterproof by default. Even speakers are not just water-resistant but weatherproof to withstand any weather and elements that can damage them.
And let us add that each speaker should offer a smooth frequency response with no dips, free of peaks and no unwanted resonances that will distract your listening experience while on the ride.
It’s hard to find the three we mentioned above, but some units have these requirements; at least you know what to look for before choosing the speaker for your bike.
Going back to being a UV-resistant speaker, it must not fade, yellow, chalk, or crack after exposure to the sun for a year or two. The most accessible material to make for UV-resistant speakers is polypropylene cones as a stabilizer. Polypropylene cones are resin sheet material popular in home theater audio, speakers on walls, ceiling, and bathroom because it does not absorb moisture and has low distortion.
There are new motorcycle speakers that use a tweeter mounted on the bridge that spans the woofer. This design provides the woofer with more surface area to have increased efficiency and midbass output. Coaxial speakers are two or three-way loudspeakers in which the tweeter or/and the mid-range driver is mounted in front of the woofer, obscuring it partially. It is crucial to have a flexible secondary seal around the mounting post where the tweeter is centrally located in the coaxial speaker design.
The speaker design is different from how typical car audio applications are tested when it comes to auditioning. These speakers have less bass and middle bass output for them to be more efficient. These speakers emphasize higher frequencies to overcome wind noise and hear the sound even when wearing a helmet. During the auditioning process, the usual criteria of smooth response and lack of resonance are maintained. Not enough tuning can eliminate distortion if the midrange is harsh or if the speakers sound muddy.
In terms, Bluetooth is a technology for short-range wireless communications technology to replace the cables connected to electronic devices. It allows the user to have a conversation via headset, use wireless devices and synchronize information from a mobile phone to the PC.
On units without radio capability, your reasonable option is to stream audio via Bluetooth. To have Bluetooth capability, a device without pre-installed Bluetooth will need Bluetooth receivers. There are two types of receivers:
Hide-away module: This will allow you to play music stored on your phone or a streaming audio service such as Spotify, Pandora, and more. With Bluetooth capability, the phone will be the source unit for the system. With this type of receiver, you can adjust the audio system via the volume control button of the phone.
Module with track selection and play/pause buttons: these receivers add Audio Video Remote Control Protocol (AVRCP) to the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) using the audio stream. The buttons on the receiver send commands back to the phone to control the tracks or adjust the volume. Your phone is a source unit; you can control it from the receiver. These receivers provide preamp outputs that can be connected to an external amplifier to drive your speakers.
For louder speaker output, especially when at high speed, the amplifier will enter without distorting the result. An amplifier is an electronic device that increases the voltage, current, or power of a signal.
Motorcycle amplifiers have power ratings from 45 to 150 watts per channel and usually have 2 to 4 channel models. In finding an amplifier, it is essential to make sure that it is as efficient as possible. The motorcycle’s electrical system design is different from the car or truck; it does not have reserve current delivery capabilities. Mostly or usually, it is limited to 20 or 25 amps. Choose an amplifier that takes advantage of all the limited current to drive your speaker. Most of the suitable classes of motorcycle amplifiers available in the market are over 90% efficient.
When it comes to installing an amplifier, find out where to install it. If installed in the saddlebag, it is protected from water, debris, and dust, but it lacks ventilation to stay cool, especially when the model is inefficient. The most common mounting location is the front fairing. This location is reasonable for protection, but it is far from being waterproof. Some brands offer amplifiers with IPX6 or IPX7 ratings to help ensure that it plays continuously even when wet by water.
There are many reasons to upgrade or consider installing radio features, such as adding digital media file playback, adding preamp outputs to optimize amplifier performance, and adding Bluetooth audio streaming for older motorcycles. The options available on motorcycles depend on the bike. You can add an aftermarket radio or something else.
If you have 1998 to 2013 Harley-Davidson touring bikes, Aquatic AV, and Rockford Fosgate, they have radios directly into the fairing and plug-in factory wiring. The radio pre-installed on them has compatible with radio control buttons on the handlebars.
You can also use floating face radios from Sony, JVC, Alpine, and Kenwood; these radios have a single-DIN chassis with a large screen mounted on the fairing front. The design is the same as the radio design for Audi and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The radios also have larger screens ranging from 8.95 inches up to a massive 11 inches for the new Alpine ILX-F411. When the screen is large, it is easier to adjust while riding.
Single-DIN marine source units are also one of the options. However, it would help if you kept these units dry unless it has a weather-resistant feature. Its circuit board usually has a corrosion-resistant coating, and the face and electronics are still waterproof. The advantage of such radios is that they typically have a reverse-LCD display that is easier to see in sunlight than other conventional car audio.
Upgrading to this generation of Harley cruisers is also popular with others. One sample upgrade is the replacement of the inner fairing with the Saddle Tramp 95-HDIF upgrade. It has provisions for a double-DIN source unit to make it easy to add technologies such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Motorcycles like the 2014 and newer Harleys, Honda Goldwig, BMW K1600, Indian Roadmaster, Yamaha Venture, or Kawasaki Voyager have nice audio system upgrades. It is not easy to replace their radio, so your best option is to work on what you already have. An ideal way to connect high-power amplifiers and new speakers to these radios are to use a digital signal processor such as the ARC Audio PSM or Rockford Fosgate DSR1. In addition to modifying the speaker-level signals coming out of the radio to work with the amplifier, this processor gives your installer complete tools to optimize the performance of new speakers.
DSP solutions are capable of dealing with any equalization built into the radio to ensure that the sound output of the speakers is excellent. Other solutions such as PSM have options for various presets so that you have calibration or control while playing it with your fellow riders or while on a long drive.
Producing the lowest note in music is extremely difficult on motorcycles. The bike does not have a small cabin that can be pressurized by a relatively small speaker, unlike vehicles. With loud bikes, the challenge of overcoming exhaust noise what more for louder pipes? Adding a subwoofer focusing on the midbass range from 50 to 125 Hz is beneficial to the system because the small speakers can no longer be pressured too much. If this idea is preferable to you, you need to choose the subwoofer with good midbass performance. But during the ride at high speed, don’t expect to hear other notes like the organ since mostly these kinds of notes are obscured by engine sound.
So there you have it; those are just some of the features of a motorcycle audio system. In choosing the parts or the system like subwoofers, amplifiers, and more, consider buying it to the right shop and ensuring that these devices are of good quality.
Your bike may have a pre-installed audio system but don’t expect it to produce top-quality audio. So consider or plan how to upgrade your system. You don’t need to upgrade individually; you can do it one at a time.
If you want a buying guide, you can read the outpost here and choose the suitable speaker system for your bike.