Thursday, November 11, 2010

Convertible Car Component Speaker System Review Part One: The Two-Ways

When it comes to car stereo speakers, there are typically two types of speakers – coaxial and components. Basic stock speakers sometimes feature a single dual cone speaker. It is a cheap paper cone single driver speaker. When you want to upgrade, you will often choose between coaxial or components. There are pros and cons to each.

When you go with a coaxial speaker, you now get a midrange/midbass driver and a separate tweeter. The tweeter is mounted over the midrange, usually where the dust cap usually is. The nice thing about a coaxial speaker is there is only one speaker to mount, and the sound quality is good. They usually have a single cap mounted on the tweeter to block the lower frequencies from the tweeter.

With component systems, the tweeters are mounted separately. You also get a separate passive crossover network that sends the specific frequencies to the midrange and the tweeter. So with components the tweeter is mounted separately, usually higher, so you get better sound from the tweeter. The midrange is also by itself giving you better performance. And the passive crossover network adds to the performance even more. On the downside there are two separate speakers to mount, rather than just one. Depending on your vehicle, however, components may not be ideal.

Enter the convertible type speaker. It has all the pieces you find in a component set, but the tweeter can be mounted over the midrange/midbass driver. This extra versatility gives more installation options. Now if you need a coaxial for your current vehicle, you can get the improved performance of a convertible speaker set with a passive crossover network, and can be mounted as components if you ever change cars.

Today, we are comparing three different 2-way component systems. They are the D662 from Diamond Audio, CXS62 from Image Dynamics, and RS65.2 from Kicker. Now you can get mid to upper level performance in a coaxial mount system. The Diamond Audio 662 retails for $380, $380 for the Image Dynamics CXS62; and $449 for the Kickers RS65.2.

The Diamond Audio D662 has the following features:
-Hard anodized aluminum cone
-Rubber surround
-High density proprietary ABS composite frame
-Flat progressive spider
-Inductively controlled motor design
-Model specific crossover
-RAF (Rear Acoustic Fill)
-Silk or aluminum tweeters
-Power handling 75 RMS/150 peak
-Sensitivity 87.2 dB
-Frequency response 45-22,000
-Mounding depth 2.32 inches and diameter 5.5 inches

The build quality of the Diamond Audio D662 system is excellent. The aluminum cone is stiff for good bass response. I liked the screw on the terminals for which you will need a 3 mm allen wrench. ABS plastic is a feature found in some high end speaker components, as it will not color the sound through resonation. It also helps to reduce distortion. At the same time, you do need to remember the ABS when installing them does not bend like metal. It will crack. So if you are installing them yourself, you will want them installed on a flat surface. For tweeter I chose the silk dome option.

The crossovers were also well built with a black aluminum frame and a clear glass window to show off the air coils and components. There are also jumpers to adjust the tweeter attenuation and phase. A very nice unique touch is the RAF (rear acoustic fill) outputs. This allows you to add a pair of speakers to the rear using 15-20% of the power without a change in impedance on your amp.

To start things off, I went to my Fresh Aire II: Going to Another Place. The string guitars were nice and crisp and clean. The flute had nice air to it, and was smooth sounding. The percussion was also very sharp, and the bass was nice and tight. The resolution was excellent!

Next up was Throne Room from the Star Wars Trilogy album. The horns were nice and smooth sounding and not overly brassy. The imaging was great and they threw a nice soundstage. It sounded so good it gave me goosebumps! One of my reference home systems is NHT Classic Three’s which uses aluminum drivers. I’m familiar with the sound of aluminum drivers, and the Diamond Audio D662 sounded amazing with high resolution material, such as a full orchestra.

Going with something more recent I now turned to PCD: Don’t Cha. There is a good amount of midbass in this track to see how they can handle it. The snaps were very dynamic and crisp. The vocals were natural sounding. But what surprised me was the bass response. The midbass/midrange is not an overly deep driver, and at only 2.3 inches deep may even fit in some shallower locations. They had excellent bass output and extension for a midbass driver. With some speaker systems, I would question their frequency response, but not on these. Overall, the sound was very good. And these aren’t their Hex line of speakers. Ok, time for the next one before I start drooling.

The Image Dynamics CXS62 has the following features:
-Multiple layer composite with black woven glass fiber cone
-Light weight and rigid for excellent clarity and definition
-Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (NBR) surround
-Fiberglass composite basket
-Silk dome tweeter
-X-over with true audiophile components
-Frequency response – 50-22,000 Hz
-1.45” 4 ohm voice coil
-5-125 watts RMS
-Tweeter mounting - .83” depth, 1.97” diameter
-Midbass mounting – 3” depth, 5.55”diameter

As with the Diamond Audio’s, the Image Dynamics CXS62 is excellent in quality. The Image Dynamics Kameleon was the 1st convertible component system, so it is only fitting that they be included today. Just like with the Diamond Audio system, you will want to mount them on a flat surface. Build quality is also excellent. The cone of the midbass driver is very deep for great bass performance. I also liked the aluminum phase plug to help voice coil cooling. The magnet is quite large. While attributing to its performance, you will need to make sure the location where installing them can handle that deep of a speaker. The cones did prove to be light, and also very stiff. The tinsel leads are also sewn into the spider. Image Dynamics apparently used some technology from their subwoofer line. And the high quality surround lends well to cone excursion.

The crossovers have good quality construction, and ok in size. The aluminum cover does not display or show off its components. There are however a lot of potential adjustments allowable using the internal jumpers. This can also be a double edged sword. You will want to pay close attention when setting the jumpers as to not mess up your settings, as they are more complicated that your typical crossovers. And I was surprised at the speaker terminals. You need a fairly small screwdriver to work with it, and could be inconvenient.

It is time to turn on the music and see how they perform, so onto Gershwin: Blue Rhapsody. The piano sounded very natural. The resolution was excellent, and they threw a nice soundstage as well. The dynamics are also excellent for a 2-way system. The clarinet had good air, and the trumpet was very clean sounding.

With No Doubt: Hella Good, the sexy lyrics of Gwen Stafani came out loud and clear. The percussion was really crisp and clean sounding. The bass beats showed a nice low end extension, providing plenty of excursion from the midbass driver. The CXS62 appeared to handle it with ease. At times however the tweeter was a bit bright.

Huey Lewis and the News: Heart of Rock and Roll made it seem easy. Huey sounded just like Huey. The kick drum had a lot of punch. The sax and harmonica solo were also clean sounding. But on occasion as with No Doubt: Hella Good, the tweeter sounded a tad bright and just a little over the top to my liking.

The Kicker RS65.2 has the following features:
-25 mm DuPont Tetoron elliptical tweeter dome for great off-axis response
-Incandescent tweeter protection
-Curvilinear polypropylene cone
-Selectable tweeter attenuation 0/+3/+6
-100 watts RMS, 200 watts peak
-Sensitivity 87dB
-Frequency response 40-21,000 Hz
-Woofer mounting – 5 7/16 hole, 2 7/16 depth
-Crossover point 3.5 k
-Crossover slope 18 dB hi/ 12 dB low

The build quality is nothing short of superb. The construction appears to have taken a thing or two from their subwoofer line. I prefer a metal gasket, and the cast aluminum gasket is impressive. For a midbass driver it is very solid. The spring loaded terminals were a nice touch. And the sewn in tinsel leads in the spider is overkill in the best way! The spider is only about 1 ½ “ from outer edge to the voice coil. One stitch would have been sufficient, but the kicker R565.2 has four stitches! And there is nice venting for the voice coil. The cone material is also light and stiff. The rubber surround also is sufficient for high excursion. I was also impressed with the 16 gauge wire that was used with the tweeter, instead of usual much higher gauge. The rubber boot for the magnet like the one found on the Diamond Audio is a nice touch.

Although a bit bulky, a very well built crossover network with a clear plastic cover to show off it’s air coils and components, which even includes jumpers for tweeter attenuation, and phasing. It is also the only one in the group with incandescent tweeter protection. There is also a cool little jumper for the speaker wire terminals. Just remove the jumper and now you can easily bi-amp the system.

For the first track I turned to Limehouse Blues from Jazz at the Pawnshop. The RS65.2 threw a nice soundstage. Imaging was excellent! While I really enjoyed the level of resolution, what really got me was the xylophone. The harmonics were great, with a dynamic yet smooth sound that was an aurally delicious treat!

For the next track I will just apologize up front for some of the guys out there: I know the stigma the Twilight movies can have. But track one of the first album, Supermassive Black Hole, rocks. I liked the smooth vocals. The electric guitar was edgy. And there was a lot of midbass that shined through. The RS65.2 had great extension in the low end, and a lot of bass response! Kicker has the theme “Livin' Loud,” and it shined forth in their RS65.2. On Supermassive Black Hole, I couldn’t help but turn the volume up, and up some more as the RS65.2’s almost seemed to dare me into doing it. They handled every decibel very well!

Last up is Journey: Faithfully. Imaging again was excellent, with great natural vocals. The keyboard was very clean sounding. The tweeters had a wide dispersion as advertised. And then when the drums kicked in, it was tight with nice bass extension, and goosebumps all over again. I had to put down my pen that had turned into a drumstick and stop singing, reminding myself to focus on the review. But then again, I guess getting caught up in the music is one of the best compliments to give!

This was very difficult when comparing the systems from Diamond Audio, Image Dynamics, and Kicker. They all have their strengths, all of which far outweigh any weaknesses they have. All three have won well deserved awards. I will sum it all up below.

As I started the review in alphabetical order with Diamond Audio, I will start there again. Thanks in part to the aluminum driver, the D662's are an excellent all around performer. One thing I failed to mention that I also liked was the housing for the tweeter when installed as a coaxial. It was not only a simple install but the tweeter sat at an angle upward toward the listening position. The D662 performed better than expected and has earned our Editor's Choice Award!

Next up is the Image Dynamics CXS62. Build quality was also top notch, even if it is abnormally deep for a midrange driver. You will want to make sure your install location can handle it. The tweeter at times did seem a bit on the bright side, and the crossover network was not quite at the same level of the Diamond Audio or Kicker. They did their job well and had more options with tweeter response curves and crossover points, but is also more confusing with the various jumper settings. Sound quality however was excellent. Distortion was not apparent on this clean sounding component system that also had great resolution and midbass performance. The CXS62 has earned our Highly Recommended Award.

Last but not least is the Kicker RS65.2. Again, we have another excellent component system. Build quality was stellar and had some nice touches such as the spring loaded terminals, and the 16 gauge tweeter speaker wire. Kicker builds on the theme "Livin' Loud" and it shows! They play loud well and sound great doing it! I was skeptical of the Dupont Tetoron tweeter material, but they sounded great and detailed and gave a wide dispersion. The RS65.2 played well with a variety of music, yielding great harmonics and nice imaging. All of this combined has earned them our Editor's Choice Award.

Kudos to all three manufacturers on delivering excellent products. If you are in the market for an excellent set of component speakers, they should be on your short list. And as convertible speakers they give a lot of versatility in installation options! For more information and complete specs, check out their websites at:,, and Reference gear used was a Kenwood Excelon KDC-X991 receiver, and Vibe Audio LiteBox 4 Class GH 4 channel amplifier.