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Crossovers FAQ

Answers to crossover questions

Kicker KX2

An active 2-way electronic crossover

Q: What's a crossover and do I need one?

A: For a more complete answer to the first part of this question, you'll want to check out our How to Choose a Crossover article. A crossover divides an input signal into two or more outputs of different ranges of frequencies, so tweeters, speakers, and subs will each get only the range of frequencies they were designed to play. Frequencies outside each designated range are attenuated or blocked.

Every speaker system needs a crossover of some type. Component speaker sets come with separate outboard crossovers, many with tweeter level selectors. Every full-range, coaxial speaker — with its tweeter mounted in front of the woofer cone — already has a tiny crossover network built into it somewhere.

If you want to run an "active" system, however, you'll need a more sophisticated crossover. In an active sound system each driver (tweeter, woofer, sub) has its own channel of amplification. This dramatically increases the available power, dynamic range (softest to loudest sounds), and your control of the system’s tonal response over the whole audio spectrum.

Almost all amplifiers come with built-in high- and low-pass filters that can serve as the crossovers in a component system. But these filters are small accessory features built into the amps and are often more inaccurate with less fidelity than a separate, dedicated electronic crossover.

An active crossover gets wired between the receiver and amplifier and cuts out the unwanted frequencies before the amp wastes energy boosting them, so the amp can focus on only the frequencies it's supposed to amplify. Active crossovers usually have volume controls on every channel or pair of channels so you can keep all the “voices” of the different drivers in balance. Some active crossovers include other sound-processing features like equalization for further tweaking of the sound to your personal satisfaction.

In a hypothetical 4-way active car audio system the original full-range audio signal might be crossed-over as follows:

  • Low frequencies (say 100 Hz and lower) go to subwoofers.
  • Midbass speakers get frequencies between 100 and 250 Hz.
  • Midrange speakers would see frequencies between 250 and 3,000 Hz.
  • All frequencies above 3,000 Hz are handled by the tweeters.

Keep in mind that the crossover points listed here are for example only and do not apply to every car or speaker system out there. The best crossover points for one vehicle might not be the best for another. It all depends on the speakers being used and the acoustic properties of the car. Most electronic crossovers allow you to choose from several crossover points.

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Component speaker passive crossover

The passive crossover from a set of high-end component speakers

Q: What's the difference between passive and active crossovers?

A: Short answer: an active crossover needs power — a passive crossover does not.

Passive crossovers go between the amplifier and the drivers (tweeters, speakers, and subs). A passive crossover circuit is built with coils, capacitors, and resisters beefy enough to handle the high output power of most amplifiers. Some passive crossovers include a tweeter level switch, which gives you some control over how loud the tweeter plays relative to the woofer. A disadvantage of using passive crossovers is that they filter out frequencies already amplified, creating extra heat and lowering speaker efficiency.

An active, or electronic crossover goes between the receiver and the amp. It handles low-level preamp signals with its solid-state circuitry to cleanly divide the signal and send each band of frequencies in the right direction. Active crossovers are usually adjustable (you can select the crossover points) and often have other features like bass boost circuits for subwoofers. Another bonus when using an electronic crossover is that you can independently control the relative volumes of all your different drivers.

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Audiofrog crossovers

Audiofrog passive crossovers are designed to work with specific Audiofrog drivers

Q: How hard is it to install a crossover?

A: Passive crossovers are very simple to install. They do not require a power connection, a turn-on lead, or grounding. You connect the speaker wire coming from your amp to the crossover's input. Then the tweeter gets wired to the tweeter output, and the woofer to the woofer output. That's it. The most challenging part of installing a passive crossover may be where to mount it, but most crossovers are small enough to fit inside your car door near the woofer's location.

Active crossovers require a bit more planning and time, but with a little effort, almost anyone can get the job done. You'll need to provide 12-volt power from your car battery to operate the crossover just as you must provide a 12-volt source of power to your amp or amps. A distribution block is a good way to get power for your crossover via the same main power cable as the amp does. You'll also need a solid, noise-free grounding point — it's generally best to ground your crossover at the same place as your amp.

Your electronic crossover also requires a turn-on lead to trigger it to turn on when you power up the receiver, and you can either run that wire to the receiver or daisy-chain it to the amp's remote terminal. You'll route the audio signal from your receiver to the inputs on the crossover via RCA patch cables. You then run more patch cables from the crossover outputs to the amplifier inputs — highs to the tweeter amp, mids to the woofer amp, and bass to the subwoofer amp, for example.

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Infinity component crossover

The 3dB switch lets you take the edge off the highs

Q: What's the little selector switch on my passive crossover for?

A: Many component systems have passive crossovers with 2- or 3-way tweeter level switches included. Ideally, a crossover will put out the same level of signal, or volume, to the tweeter as it does to the woofer. But many people find that sounds unbalanced and too shrill and bright. Many speaker manufacturers recognize that and put tweeter attenuators in their crossovers. The settings should include "0 dB," when the tweeter level is the same as the woofer; "-3 dB," for a little attenuation; sometimes "-6 dB," for a lower tweeter level; and sometimes even "+3 dB," for those who like it brighter.

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Stereo 3-way crossover

How an active stereo 3-way crossover fits into a system

Check out all our crossovers at crutchfield.com/crossovers.

  • Kaleb Jones from Waynesville

    Posted on 8/24/2021

    I just purchased a set of component speakers. My question is my head unit has active crossover built in if I put it in network mode I can control each speaker separately. Could I use this instead of the passive crossover that came with the component? I would like to tame down the tweeters and the passive crossover -3db is not enough for me. Would this negatively affect my tweeters or woofer's in away?

    Commenter image

    Bruce Southall from Crutchfield

    on 8/24/2021

    Kaleb, It's impossible knowing what'll work for an unknown receiver. If you want a question answered about a system, you must identify the gear by brand names and model numbers so we can get the right information to you.
  • jack m from houston

    Posted on 3/12/2021

    How can a passive crossover "boost" the tweeter signal +3dB? It's just resistors capacitors and inductors, how is it possible to amplify?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 3/30/2021

    Jack, I honestly don't know. Perhaps these crossovers use step-up transformers in their circuitry. For example, Morel's MXT380C 3-way crossovers feature +2dB settings for both the midrange speakers and tweeters.
  • Bill Young from TRENTON

    Posted on 11/10/2020

    Not sure if my previous question went through so sorry if this is a duplicate. I just purchased an RF T1675S speaker system for my 2018 Chevy Silverado. I downloaded the instructions and they don't have any info on the crossovers that are included. Do I not use them as I am replacing factory speakers to factory locations with no AMP? If not how/where do they go? It looks like all the extra connectors and brackets included are for the speaker install not the crossovers.

  • Henry from NYC

    Posted on 11/5/2020

    Hello, I have a BMW e46 with HiFi system (non-HK) with stock 10 channel amplifier. I plan to replace the stock speakers with aftermarket speakers that match closely to the specs of the OEM speakers, but with slightly better specs. The BMW system has in it active crossover points from the stock amp (23.6Hz @ -6dB/oct slope input high-pass filter for all front channels, then 23.6Hz to 430Hz@-12dB with added notch filters at 190Hz and 550Hz for Woofer output; then 1.25kHz to 5.5kHz @ -12dB for Mids; and then 6 kHz @ 12dB upwards for Tweeter highs). So without changing out the stock amp, do I exclude the inline crossovers that come with the speakers, or is there a way to help streamline or compliment the current crossover points with them, as you can see the stock filter points have "holes" between each range? The stock BMW amp handles 40W @ 2ohms for the woofer channels and 35W @ 4 ohms for all else. Is there a good replacement amplifier/crossover combo that can be used to replace the stock amp (looking for specifications such as RMS rating, number of channels and ohms per channel; not brand names, they can be matched to the specs later), without going too extreme (would prefer good audio, but not over the top; that is why thinking of keeping stock system except for the speakers)? If I put 4 ohm woofers on the 2 ohm channels, would this cause issues with the stock system so long as the speaker RMS is above the rated RMS of the channel from the amp (such as heat or wear)?

  • tony doan from miami

    Posted on 8/14/2020

    I recently installed the morel ccwr254 in a 2010 accord. I am using the supplied capacitor which has an crossover point of approximately 265hz. I have a pioneer avh2700bs and have the hpf at 200hz 12db slope. I've noticed that if I change the slope or lower the hpf to 100hz or so, it affects the sound of the morel, as if there is the capacitor was not connected. Is this normal? Is the slope from the head unit adding up with the morel capacitor slope?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 8/18/2020

    Tony, Engaging a second crossover filter will, of course, affect the sound, especially if the second crossover point is different than the first.
  • Jay

    Posted on 8/12/2020

    Is it safe to use the included crossover from a component set with only one of the components? i.e. with just the tweeter

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 8/13/2020

    Jay, The safest way to hook up your components is to do it as the manufacturer designed, with both tweeter and woofer connected to the crossover.
  • Eric from Granite Bay

    Posted on 8/11/2020

    I recently purchased a component speaker system that includes a passive crossover box but also has an "integrated crossover" built into the wires of both the tweeters and speakers. Am I supposed to use both or are they just including both for different setups? My though was that I should only be using the passive crossover box as it seems that it would be redundant to use that as well as a built-in crossover.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 8/11/2020

    Eric, Without knowing precisely what components you're referring to, we can't help you with advice. If you want a question answered about a system, you must identify the gear by brand names and model numbers so we can get the right information to you.
  • Alex

    Posted on 7/23/2020

    Just put new components in the front doors with tweeters and passive crossovers. Bit of a newbie..I have a pioneer headunit that has Crossover settings. Should I use these crossover settings or leave them off?? Currently do not have an amp.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 7/28/2020

    Alex, I recommend setting the high-pass filter in your receiver to about 80 Hz, just to keep extreme lows from distorting. The component's passive crossover takes care of the rest.
  • Todd from Lake Charles

    Posted on 7/16/2020

    After completing the install on my 17 Accord im confused on how to adjust all the crossovers. The new high end Kenwood deck has xovers. The 2 P500 Fosgate amps have xovers. And I have all four corners of the car with separates and passive xovers for each. Plus the T1000 Fosgate sub amp. With the passive xovers controlling all the separates what would be the best setting for the deck and amps xovers. And will any the audio adjustments on the deck have any affect with the passive xovers installed? Thanks.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 7/20/2020

    Todd, Use the crossover filters on your receiver or amplifiers but not both at the same time - that would cause distortion. If you think your receiver's electronics are best, use it. Setting both the high-pass filter for the speakers and the low-pass filter for the subwoofer at 80 to 100 Hz is a good place to start.
  • Matt

    Posted on 7/12/2020

    I believe I made a mistake when getting speakers for my truck. I think I should have just gotten a set of components for my front doors/pillars. I have a 2020 F150 and currently have a set of Hertz mille pro 2 way in the doors and also hertz tweeters in the pillars. Is is possible for me to just switch out the 2 way speakers for just a 6.5" woofer that comes in a component set? And would that speaker suppose to be in the range of 250hz-3000hz?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 7/13/2020

    Matt, Crutchfield carries about eight different 6.5" midrange speakers. Give us a call and an Advisor will help you pick out the speaker and crossover that'll work best for you.

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