Spectre vs K&N: Important things to know

by | 0 comments

Clean air filters – something so small, yet so indispensible for your vehicle. And, debated as they might be – cold air intakes, one of America’s more popular car modifications.

When we talk about these aftermarket parts, two brands that battle it out here are K&N and Spectre. Before comparing them, here’s something that might shock you.

In 2011, K&N sued Spectre for false advertising and won (news here). A few years later, they actually bought Spectre. So as far as I’ve seen, K&N owns and manufactures both brands right now.

Now, let’s see how they differ from each other – starting with air filters.

Quite a few people think that K&N air filters are overpriced (check prices here). They have a point, considering that Spectre filters deliver similar results on a better price tag.

K&N’s strong point is the increased air flow (high-flow design) and the fact that their filters are washable. The airflow increase, however, can turn into a drawback if you drive in areas especially high on fine dust.

As far as the washing/cleaning goes – it will save you money, yes. It’s also better for the environment.

Lorem Ipsum Lorem Ipsum
K&N Air Filter
  • Washable so you save money and nature.
  • Better airflow due to its smart design.
  • Great for racing, but a bit expensive for casual use.
Check Price on Amazon

What about increased HP? It’s debatable how tangible the power gain is, but that’s not the primary reason you should get an air filter anyways.

For most stock cars, I’d say you can save a bit with Spectre’s Performance air filters. Since K&N bought them, the quality has stepped up quite a bit:

  • Performance-grade synthetic filter helps provide more air flow.
  • Comes with sealing edge for better sealing and engine protection.
  • Pre-oiled and goes live with easy plug n play installation.

If you’re into racing or tinkering with horsepower, however – K&N is a better choice. It’s worth it. There’s a reason why Nascar, Le Mans and similar races rely on K&N for their filtration needs.

With cold air intakes, however, I’d 100% go with K&N’s original manufacture like this system.

There’s a simple reason: the tube construction with the FIPK or AirCharger series.

These intakes are made of tough, high density polyethylene. The material doesn’t look as shiny and cool as Spectre cold air intakes. However, the non-metal construction is guaranteed to make your system run cooler.

Additionally, it might help with the intake running a little quieter when at speed. Don’t worry, you’ll still have that satisfying growl upon acceleration 🙂

Custom-engineered, durable and reliable – with a 1 000 000 mile warranty, K&N takes the cold air intake crown. Please continue reading for a comparison between the different CAIs they have.

Lorem Ipsum Lorem Ipsum
K&N Cold Air Intake Types
  • Durable polyethelene prevents heat soaking.
  • Growls upon acceleration, stays quiet at speed.
  • Four different CAI to choose from depending on your needs.
Check Prices

Want to save a few bucks with intakes too?

You can still go with Spectre cold air intakes. Just remember that the otherwise beautiful chrome finish on the mandrel-bent tube will conduct more heat.

Things are the same with K&N’s Typhoon intakes which have a similar metal appearance.

The anatomy of a K&N cold air intake:
FIPK vs Typhoon vs AirCharger vs Blackhawk

There are 4 main types of K&N intakes, which confuses a lot of people. Let’s break these down for your convenience.

One of the very first things you have to consider is which CAI is CARB legal.

FIPK and Typhoon are CARB legal, and street legal in all US states.

The newest Blackhawk 71-series cold air intake isn’t. The classic AirCharger series isn’t street legal according to CARB either.

The second consideration you should have is what exactly are the different CAIs recommended for.

FIPK and Typhoon are great for performance street use.

The chrome Typhoon (check prices) gives you a little more edge when accelerating, with an initial power boost. FPIK is more mellow, but it optimizes motor performance later on. It also pairs really well with the VTEC system Honda cars utilize.

Spectre vs K&N Filters and Cold Air Intakes: A review that also talks about AirCharger, Spectre Performance, K&N Blackhawk and Typhoon.

AirCharger and Blackhawk are absolute beasts when it comes to offroad adventures or racing matters. The polyethylene here is molded, not bent, and minimizes heat soaking. Another huge improvement with these is the filter on top.

The cutting-edge, extra powerful Blackhawk (see different styles here) demonstrates it the best, with an oil-free synthetic filter that achieves maximum airflow. Its design, paired with K&N’s newest DRYFLOW filtration tech provides you with enhanced negine protection too.

The intake tube here is made of aluminum, instead of metal. This means a lighter CAI that also dissipates heat better, especially paired with the black powdered coating.

Speaking generally, all of these are relatively easy to install. Even for beginners, it should take no more than 2 hours or so. If you’re experienced, I can bet that you can install these in an hour.

Here’s a wonderful overview/tutorial on how to install the Typhoon 69 intake system:

Things are similar with the brand’s other CAI types – only the AirCharger might be a bit tougher due to the longer, internally larger tube.

Concluding thoughts

There’s a lot to write about these two brands. Heck, probably you can write a full 50-page research paper on them.

However, time is money – and I tried my best to give a condensed, informational summary that’s easy to digest.

My own conclusion is that for air filters you can save a bit of money and go with the cheaper version. If you’re looking at cold air intakes, though, splurging a bit more will yield fantastic results.

Just make sure you’re getting a CAI that’s legal in your state…and that suits your needs.

Have you used Spectre or K&B? What is your experience with their cold air intakes or filters? Hit up the comments and let me and my readers know!

Founder of ToolingFun. Couldn't even change a lightbulb in my teenage years. Discovered the joy of DIY projects during my 2nd year in college. All about tinkering around, trying fun tools and projects, and giving my opinion on industry brands!