Choosing the Best Fairing Speakers for Your Harley

How to choose the best Harley speakers

Some Tips for Choosing the Best Fairing Speakers for Your Harley Stereo System.

Several of the major speaker manufactures that currently make great Harley speakers consult with our engineering at American Hard Bag. Over the years we have had a hand in the design of many of the speakers that we sell and even some that we do not sell. The reason we do this is because it strengthens our relationships with the speaker manufacturers and it gives us a say on current speaker design trends. There is a lot more to choosing a good set of speakers than the brand and how many watts they are. The following article explains some of the important aspects of speakers that you should know before plunking down for your next set of speakers. 

You May Have Noticed That There Are Some Big Design Differences in Good Harley Speakers and Good Car Audio Speakers.

There are very good reasons for that. 

  1. Harley speakers need to play much louder than car audio speakers for longer periods of time without giving up the ghost!
  2. Harley speakers need to be able to perform well in a fairing as a speaker enclosure. A fairing is a very different environment than a car door. 
  3. Harley speakers need to be able to fit in a smaller area. Some fairings do not have a lot of room. 
  4. Harley speakers need to be able to endure harsh weather. Boat speakers can be a big mistake!

Harley Speakers Need to Play Much Louder Than Car Audio Speakers for Longer Periods of Time Without Giving up the Ghost!

Powerful car audio type speakers might look like they would make good bike speakers, but even very high power car audio speakers generally do not have the thermal or mechanical abilities to deal with a bike application. This is the primary reason that pro audio type speakers have become so popular. 

Whats a Pro Audio Type Speaker? 

Pro audio speakers are a special kind of design that was originally made for outdoor concert use. Recently though many speaker manufacturers have adopted the pro audio designs to work in Harley stereo applications. The result has been a huge leap in output and performance.

Pro Audio vs Car Audio Speakers for Harley Davidson Stereo

Pro Audio vs. Car Audio

The first thing that you will notice about pro audio speakers is that they usually have an accordion type surround instead of the typical rolled rubber. This is because the suspension of a pro audio type speaker is designed to endure much greater forces and still keep the cone motion under control. If you press on the cone of a pro audio woofer you will immediately notice that it is much stiffer than a car audio woofer. Even very nice and very expensive car audio woofers have loose and floppy suspensions that do not hold up to high volumes at all. Most car audio type speakers just fall flat on their face when it comes to performing on a bike. 

Can It Take the Heat?

Speaker Voice Coil

Did you know that the power rating on a speaker is not....

  • Speaker power rating does not tell you how loud a speaker is.
  • Speaker power rating is not how much power is required
  • Speaker power rating tells you nothing about performance

A Speaker Power Rating Is a Thermal Limitation.

A speaker that is rated for 200 Watts RMS and 400 Watts Peak will physically melt down if played with a constant input of anything more than 200 watts and it will melt down in just moments if played with anything more than 400 watts. 

Pro Audio Speakers are designed to take much more abuse and dissipate excessive power (heat) away from the voice coil. The voice coil is the electromagnet in the speaker that is made up of thin wire. The voice coils of pro audio speakers are much more robust than what you will find on car or boat audio speakers. 

Speaker Cone Design Is a Huge Part of What Makes a Speaker Loud (Or Not!).

Most all pro audio speaker cones are made of pressed paper and not plastic. This is because paper is much more efficient as a speaker cone than plastic is. This results in much more sound output for every watt of power you feed the speaker. Car audio speakers use a wide variety of cone materials. In almost all cases though, the loudness of the speaker is not the primary reason for what cone material is used in car audio. Paper cones are not generally a problem with moister that you might think. Pro audio speakers usually use a special type of paper that is naturally water resistant or just simply water proof. Additionally when installed in a fairing water will have a difficult time even making it to the speaker cone. Any water that does make it to the cone will simply run off. 

Boat Speakers Use the Worst Kind of Speaker Cones for Bike Applications.

Boat speakers are designed to endure being submerged. That doesn't happen on a bike in a fairing unless you take your bike scuba diving or you ride backwards in hurricanes. Because submersion and salt water are a very real problem for boats, boat speakers generally use very heavy plastic materials for the cone and all moving parts. This cuts the loudness of the speaker way down. It also makes them sound bad.    

Harley Speakers Need to Be Able to Perform Well in a Fairing as a Speaker Enclosure. a Fairing Is a Very Different Environment Than a Car Door.

Harley Fairing Speakers

'15 Road Glide With Hetrz Pro Audio SPL Series Speakers.

There are two types of fairings out there.

  1. Rushmore fairings on '14 & up bikes that have speaker enclosures built into them.
  2. Open fairings on '13 & down bikes that have no speaker enclosures in them. 

In both fairing types you will need a speaker that will perform well in  a less than ideal speaker enclosure. In both types of fairing the design of the speaker needs to be very different than the design of a speaker made for a car door. 

What About Speakers That Are Car Audio and Not Pro Audio but Perform Really Well in Bikes?

Harley Hertz MPK165.3 speaker kit from American Hard Bag

Hertz mpk165.3 Component Speaker With American Hard Bag Tweeter Bracket for '15 & up Harley Road Glide.

 There are indeed some great speakers out there that are well known for performing spectacularly on bikes that are straight out of car audio. These speakers all happen to have the right qualities for the job. This is why at American Hard Bag we do not sell entire manufacturer lines of speakers. If we did that we would have to sell speakers that are just not right for Harley use. So instead we pick and choose what speakers we are going to sell. The speakers that don't perform up to our standards on a bike never make it to our store. 

So What Makes a Car Audio Speaker Work Well on a Bike?

Harley Road Glide Speaker and Horn Kit

Answer: It's not a simple answer. The right combination of electro-mechanical properties that can not be expressed on a spec sheet, along with the right materials, voice coil design, and dimensional qualities. 

We do our homework at American Hard Bag so that the entire Harley industry can follow our lead and get their hands on the good stuff. If you find a speaker in our store, you can count on that speaker being an exceptional performer. Otherwise it wouldn't be there. 

Feel Free to Contact Us

If you have any questions or just need some guidance, we help people put together Harley systems all day every day. It's what we do. 

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