Many times, after you’ve increased your car’s performance, you want the sound to match. There are plenty of ways in which you can adjust the sound of your vehicle and you can completely change the sound of your car’s vocals by replacing just one part.
Resonators and mufflers each have their own unique properties that help to alter the sound, and while they’re both similar, the differences are vast enough that just swapping one for the other can make a huge difference.
Main Differences Between Resonator vs Muffler
The main differences between a resonator vs muffler are:
- Resonators offer a sound level that’s almost equivalent to a straight pipe, whereas mufflers lower the sound level.
- Resonators cancel certain frequencies to eliminate obnoxious noises, whereas mufflers do not stop droning.
- Resonators have little to no baffling, whereas mufflers are designed with quite a bit of baffling.
- Resonators do not reroute exhaust gases and create less back pressure, whereas mufflers work to reroute exhaust gases while creating back pressure and lessening noise.
- Resonators can increase performance, whereas mufflers tend to restrict it.
Just the Right Note
No matter what kind of exhaust you choose, chances are, what you’re looking for is just the right note. One of the great things about owning a performance vehicle is the ability to customize it.
With the number of quality aftermarket parts available to you, there’s no better way to make your sports car sound amazing than with the right exhaust system. Whether you like to announce your approach or you like a sneak attack, you’ve got options.
You may want to choose a raspy growl, a mighty roar, or something in between. The exhaust industry is vast and you’ll be able to get exactly what you want.
However, with so many options, it can be overwhelming, so it’s important to know what your options are first. Understanding how these components work will help you figure out which might be best for your ride.
What’s a Resonator?
The sound comes from pressure waves emitted at certain frequencies. As the frequency changes, the pitch of the sound changes. However, sound waves can cancel each other out, too. Much like waves in the ocean may meet and die, if two sound waves of the same size and frequency meet, they will cancel each other out.
Resonators are built to cancel out ranges of sound frequencies. Automotive sound engineers will build resonators to cancel out unpleasant sounds, which results in a more pleasant exhaust experience.
They may choose to eliminate loud droning, irritating buzzes, or harsh pitches. However, one of the best ways to use a resonator is simply complimenting what you already have. You can also use a resonator to enhance your existing notes while eliminating the drone.
You may also choose to replace your muffler with resonators, giving you a sort of straight pipe effect with more finesse. Keep in mind that resonators are not designed to reduce volume, so placing one upstream of your muffler won’t quiet your system as much as you think it will.
What Does a Resonator Do?
A resonator will make your overall notes louder and more aggressive, but it still won’t be quite as loud as a straight pipe. You also won’t experience as much of your exhaust gases rerouting because they have less baffling.
Without this rerouting, you get less backpressure, which frees up horsepower and can increase your performance. Keep in mind that a resonator does not lessen sound. It only eliminates certain frequencies.
What is a Resonator Delete?
Removing the resonator is called a resonator delete. Many manufacturers use resonators in conjunction with mufflers, but you may choose to remove yours. While they work well to eliminate annoying tones, you can achieve a totally different sound by taking it off.
It can also make your vehicle lighter. Muffler deletes are often illegal, but a resonate delete may not be, so you can change the tone of your car and increase performance slightly by taking it off, although it won’t make it louder.
What’s a Muffler?
Every car comes with a muffler attached to the exhaust system. It modifies the sound of the car and is an important part of the vehicle in terms of meeting legal sound and emissions requirements.
While factory mufflers are more restrictive because of manufacturing costs and sound level laws, upgraded mufflers offer more aggressive sound.
What Does a Muffler Do?
A muffler actually quiets your engine sound, and in many places, they’re required by law. They can create a more pleasing sound that’s not as abrupt. Manufacturers design mufflers to quiet engine noise by reducing the sound pressure they emit.
Mufflers have multiple chambers, each designed to redirect gases and reduce pressure. The chambers have baffles or perforated tubes, and some have both. This design helps the gas to expand, which lessens the pressure and the sound level.
They’re also often lined with materials like fiberglass that act as a soundproofing layer to absorb even more sound inside the muffler so it emits less ambient noise. And, as you might expect, because mufflers decrease the speed at which exhaust can leave the system, they also increase backpressure, which can put a damper on performance.
They may still sound good, but they can restrict efficiency. They’re restricted by cost and sound level laws. Stock mufflers on a sports car tend to be much too conservative for many enthusiasts.
What is a Muffler Delete?
This is a fancy way of saying you took your muffler out. Muffler delete systems bolt a replacement pipe in place of the factory muffler. They often also come with new tips.
While this can improve flow, reduce weight, and give you small performance gains, it’s important to remember that your exhaust will not only be extremely loud, but it may not actually give you the tone you want.
The obnoxious noise will attract unwanted attention, and if it’s against the law, it’ll end up being more hassle than it’s worth.
It may sound complicated, but in fact, mating the two options is rather simple. You’ll get the good characteristics of each device. The result is a pleasant sound and an overall hushed volume.
While this method was first used in many luxury vehicles, it’s considered more of an industry standard today, although you may choose to alter yours differently.
Whether you choose to modify your exhaust with resonators or mufflers, you may also look into other modifications like windpipes. Also called mid-piping or exhaust cutouts, this method of modification creates an open chambered design in your exhaust pipe that can improve sound and volume.
However, it’s important to check with your state’s emissions first. In some areas, this is illegal. If you have catalytic converters, you might still be legal, but you should always make sure. Sometimes it depends on whether you put the cutouts before or after your cats.
Some people choose to remove their cats altogether, but that’s another subject for another day. For one, it’s illegal in many areas. For another, it modifies sound and performance in a totally different way.
Best Resonators on the Market
If you’re shopping around, here are some of the resonators I would recommend.
This 3-inch Resonator by Vibrant is ultra-quiet and designed specifically to dampen the sound coming from your exhaust. As long as the size is compatible with your vehicle, it offers a great value for the price.
It’s a true straight core pierced design. This perforation is layered with noise dampening materials that will absorb the sound while keeping your exhaust flow intact. You’ll get an increase in performance without all of the annoying pitchiness.
The stainless steel body will resist vibration for longevity and rust resistance while withstanding chips from debris and impact. It can also hold up under high temperatures.
Vibrant also makes 1141, which is a 2.5-inch resonator. You’ll find a variety of sizes in Vibrant, which makes it an excellent choice for most vehicles.
This highly durable resonator can withstand high exhaust temperature and is Five year limited warranty. It is designed to dampen exhaust noise and facilitate undisrupted exhaust flow.
This Walker Resonator is made from aluminum steel, so it’s even more reasonably priced, but with the same durability. It uses louvered tube technology, which reduces pitches you don’t want to hear.
Walker also makes this device really easy to install via the use of pipe routing, and the flanged and brackets with hardware are easy to mount. The entire package delivers a great system at a good value.
Designed to fit, perform and sound like the original system, Walker resonators use precise tuning technologies to deliver excellent flow characteristics and OE-style sound.
This Cummins Stainless Steel Resonator adds strength and durability and will withstand temperature changes and harsh weather. It’s super affordable, but you’re not going to get the same performance out of this one as you will the others.
However, it’s a great solution if you simply want to lower your exhaust sound a few decibels. It can soften loud clattering and replace it with a low humming.
It takes a few clamps and some greasing to install. It may sometimes take some modifications to the diameter of your pipe as well, but it generally fits 1.25 inches or smaller. It won’t totally silence your exhaust, but it will make it more tolerable.
This is an exhaust resonator for Cummins Onan KY RV Generators. It softens exhaust noise and reduces sound levels in some installations up to one dB(A). It is constructed of aluminized steel.
Best Mufflers on the Market
Mufflers are quite a bit easier to find. There are more options to choose from, so there’s a bit more variety in terms of price and quality. Here are some of my favorites.
This is a great entry-level option for anyone wanting to increase performance and add a nice, crisp note to their sound without spending a lot of money. It’s a straight design that’s perfect for large vehicles with V8 engines because it allows a lot of airflow and combustion.
Increased airflow will improve horsepower, and Flowmasters tend to have a signature growl that many people love. The stainless steel case adds durability against corrosion and salt, which increases lifespan. It’s easy to install because of the straight design. Just weld it on and add your choice of tips.
The downside to these mufflers is that they don’t sound great on four or six-cylinder engines. If you’re looking for a slight upgrade, the Flowmaster 953047 Super 40 muffler is an excellent choice. See how Super 40 compares to Super 44 here.
The FlowFX series muffler delivers a moderate performance sound level for the enthusiast looking for an exhaust tone that is different from the "chambered" muffler sound that Flow master is famous for.
You gotta give it to this muffler – the name just sounds cool. It has large, internal flow tubes that minimize backpressure, increasing your performance, and adding sound.
With fiberglass matting technology, the Dynomax 17733 Super Turbo also does a great job of reducing unwanted tones, so it’s almost like a combination of muffler and resonator in one.
This high-performance muffler produces little to no drone and it comes with a lifetime limited warranty. It results in something a little bit louder than your factory mufflers, but it’s not overpowering, and it’s definitely not as loud as a welded muffler.
The tone is deep and mellow, without drawing unwanted attention, and it’s easy to install.
Featuring exclusive flow technology, DynoMax Super Turbo mufflers channel exhaust flow and reduce turbulence. Fiberglass matting absorbs unwanted interior resonance for a mellow tone.
This MagnaFlow Performance Muffler is ideally suited for smaller vehicles like Hondas, Mitsubishis, or Hyundais. It offers a wide-open design that generates more performance and deep rumbling sounds. It’s a large muffler that can improve the aesthetic of your vehicle.
It’s made in America of stainless steel and idles quietly, which is a nice surprise, given the performance and sound enhancement it offers when you step on the gas.
The problem with this option is that it doesn’t come with installation instructions, so you better know what you’re doing or be prepared to pay for professional installation.
MagnaFlow performance exhaust has universal mufflers available for many applications in various sizes and configurations to fit your needs.
Where to Buy
You can purchase resonators and mufflers almost anywhere. There are benefits and drawbacks to each place, so it depends on what you’re looking for.
Amazon is a one-stop-shop for everything these days – even car parts. If you’re looking for resonators and mufflers, you can certainly get them here.
However, you’re less likely to find a shop that will install something you bought on Amazon, so you’re going to want to be prepared to install it yourself.
You’re also going to want to be familiar with what you’re ordering because you can’t see it before you buy it. The good thing about Amazon is that their return policy is pretty liberal, so if it’s not what you expected, you can send it back easily.
Auto parts stores
Places like Napa, O’Reilly, or Auto Zone will gladly order parts for you. They’ll look up the make and model of your vehicle and be able to order just about anything you like.
They don’t offer installation, so you’ll have to do that yourself, but you’re more likely to get exactly what you want, and the people who work here are much more knowledgeable about stock and aftermarket parts.
However, they don’t offer quite the selection of aftermarket parts as a specialty shop might.
Specialty shops, exhaust shops, or local mechanics
Look locally for a specialty auto parts store that focuses on aftermarket devices. They may have accessories in stock or be able to order from a larger selection. They can also offer better advice for you based on what you want to do.
Individuals with years of experience will be able to not only order parts for you but install them as well. If you want a true expert on what to order and how to install it properly, find a reputable mechanic in your area.
If you want a quiet ride, don’t do either. The average person doesn’t care what their car sounds like. They want a car that’s not obnoxious. However, if you’re into performance and you want your car to sound like the beast it is, you may be considering removing one or the other.
Removing your muffler will definitely give you a louder sound, but it may be illegal, so be careful. However, removing your muffler could also help increase exhaust flow, which gives you better performance, too.
Removing your resonator won’t make your car any louder, but it could eliminate some unnecessary weight while still obeying the law.
If you’re looking at replacing your mufflers, there are several things to consider. Aftermarket mufflers alone aren’t enough to significantly increase your performance, but you’ll still want to make sure you choose the right product for you.
Weight reduction can help increase performance, so sometimes just a lighter weight product will be better.
However, look at the design and make sure it’s engineered to increase airflow. MagnaFlow Mufflers are some of the best, but Flowmaster is also very good.
You’ll never find anything quite as good as open exhaust, but you also can’t get away with that in all places either.
Resonators typically work in conjunction with mufflers to harmonize the sound coming from the engine. However, if you’re looking to give your engine a bit of a different note and increase performance, look into Vibrant or Flowmaster resonators.
The point of an exhaust modification is to increase performance or customize your sound. There are plenty of exhaust upgrades you can do to alter your system and get what you want. Installing aftermarket resonators and mufflers will alter your sound and performance somewhat but in very different ways.
Alternatively, removing them altogether will open up your system, but may not be the best thing for your car, depending on where you live and what’s legal there.
You may choose to upgrade one or the other. For a more aggressive sound, look into an aftermarket muffler that doesn’t restrict as much airflow. If you want to change the pitch, try a different resonator.