How to Determine Speaker Crossover Frequency? Complete Beginner’s Guide

Whether you're a regular listener or a professional, you want pure, high-quality audio when you're looking for a good speaker system. You want a sound system that will sound great for the type of music you play and of course, you want to be able to adjust speaker frequency settings. To do this, you need to learn how to determine speaker crossover frequency.

The crossover frequency of a speaker is the audio frequency point where particular sounds are blocked or reduced. This frequency is the reference where the output of your speakers or the input to your amplifier is reduced by 3 dB.

What is speaker crossover frequency? 

A speaker’s crossover frequency varies depending on its crossover component. The crossover is the electrical or electronic component that splits audio from a source and produces the ideal output for a particular speaker.

Almost all speaker systems capable of producing amazing sounds have at least 1 kind of crossover in them. The crossover frequency is the audio frequency point or cutoff point designated for crossover filters.

A focus on decibels

You can't learn about crossover frequencies without understanding decibels. All audio equipment and electronics like crossovers are measured by decibels. This is the mathematical unit that deals with numbers that occur along the powers of 10. This is in comparison with linear numbers that occur on a straight line.

Related: Best Equalizer Settings

The types of crossover frequencies and their benefits

There are different crossover frequencies and their specific uses. Here are some of them.

Active crossovers

Every sound driver has a specific channel amplification in an active crossover. This is why there are many types of speaker components like the subwoofer, tweeter, and woofer, each with their designated channels, unique power, and their dynamic ranges are increased from the softest frequencies to the loudest sounds. Because of this versatility, you'll have full control of everything including the tonal response of your speaker system.

In an active crossover, the component is wired from the receiver and the amp which reduces all the unwanted frequencies. The amplifier won't have to waste energy-boosting these unnecessary frequencies and thus, it can focus on supporting the frequencies that you prefer to hear coming from a particular speaker.

All active crossovers have volume controls for their channels so you can balance the sound from the different drivers. In some active crossovers, added features are included such as equalization which lets you change the sound according to your preference.

But active crossovers also have some drawbacks. This type of crossover needs +12V, a ground, and connections to work. Because of these requirements, active crossovers are more complicated to install or to set up in different audio applications.

Those who are serious with their music will prefer speakers with active crossovers despite the disadvantages. This is because it’s the best way for your speakers to produce clear and crisp sounds no matter what frequency.

Passive crossovers

A passive crossover does not need an external power source system. This is available as in-line and component crossovers. Component crossovers are located in between the speakers and amplifiers while the in-line types of crossovers are located between the receiver and the amplifier.

Passive crossovers work by using components like inductors and capacitors. Compared to electronic crossovers, passive crossovers are connected to an amplifier output and to the speakers that you want to use.

Inductors and capacitors behave differently when a signal frequency is applied to the component. Inductors or inductor coils are wires that offer increased resistance when a high-frequency signal is applied compared to a low-frequency signal. Inductors can filter out high-frequency sounds.

Meanwhile, capacitors offer increased resistance of impedance to low-frequency signals compared to high-frequency signals. Low-frequency sounds have reduced signals and these are permitted to pass by capacitors.

When an inductor or a capacitor receives a signal that's beyond the crossover frequency, resistance increases, and voltage decreases. The speaker will get less of the signal that you want to prevent. But remember, speaker crossovers should be used according to the speaker impedance which these are created for. This will ensure that all the speaker components sound the same. An 8 Ohm speaker crossover will never work with a 4 Ohm car spear as the part values were selected for 1 impedance. If this is changed, the crossover frequency is affected.

Related: Harman Curve

Passive component-type crossovers

Passive component-type crossovers will work with its signal track even beyond the amp. These crossovers have a small group of capacitor components and component coils that are connected to the speakers.

Speakers with component-type of crossovers can produce the best sound even without adjustments. You won’t have to make a lot of adjustments for this type of driver to work, even for the first time. Passive component crossovers are also easier to set up and are simple to use.

This type of speaker works this way; full-range signals come from the amplifier with a passive component and moves towards the crossover component. This is where the sound signals are divided in two. Higher-pitched notes work with the tweeter and low and mid notes are sent to your woofer speaker.

For most of the passive component-type crossover systems, it is possible to limit the speaker tweeter audio in case you find it too loud from the woofer. Meanwhile, passive component crossovers may waste power as it filters signals that have been already amplified. All the unnecessary sounds are emitted in the form of heat.

Speakers will not keep fixed impedance because these play a variety of audio or sounds. With this, the crossover frequency response may vary in a passive-type component crossover leading to sound inconsistencies.

In-line type of crossovers

Component crossovers are operated mostly from a speaker-level type of signal while in-line crossovers are located before an amplifier. This type comes with a cylindrical shape and both ends come with RCA-type connectors. Because of their location, the in-line type of crossover will connect directly to the amp input.

As other speakers waste energy, in-line-type crossovers avoid this scenario. There’s no worry about problems like a very high frequency processed by the subwoofer amplifier.  With an in-line crossover, you may boost the audio of a speaker system significantly. This is very important in a speaker component system.

How to determine speaker crossover frequency?

As crossovers vary, so will their crossover frequency. And to produce better audio, you must determine your speaker's crossover frequency so you can better understand the type of speaker you're using.

When you have an idea about the ideal speaker crossover frequency, you can apply these recommendations and distinguish between the different speakers like 2-way, 3-way speakers, woofers, and subwoofers. Consider the following to find the ideal crossover frequency setting.

Check the speakers’ specs for the speaker crossover frequency

The speaker specs sheet has all the information you need to get to know your speakers and their components. The frequency response can be any number from 32 to 10,000 Hz.

Check the receiver’s set-up menu for the cross overvalue and speaker size

From the setup menu of the receiver system, look for the part that pinpoints the speaker sizes and its crossover point. This information is located differently from one speaker brand to another.

The speaker’s spec sheet from the receiver menu is a good place to start

A speaker receiver provides a lot of information including the crossover frequency. From the menu, locate the lowest audio frequency. For most speaker systems, the numbers would be 30 to 55Hz. In a subwoofer, the frequency could be only 20Hz as this speaker has one of the lowest frequencies.

From the options in the receiver’s adjustment menu page

As you locate the lowest audio frequency value from your speaker spec sheet, multiply the value by 2. If the frequency is 20Hz, your crossover value is 40Hz.

Differentiate the crossover frequency of bookshelf speakers

Meanwhile, if you have a bookshelf speaker with a subwoofer configuration, the bookshelf speaker's high-pass value is the value when the bookshelf yields to the subwoofer. Also, it’s the value where your subwoofer will start to tone down to prevent any mid-range audio.

A flat sound will result from the crossover value to the roll-off point. This is below the lowest speaker frequency, the point when it stops working. A speaker that has a 40Hz lowest frequency rating will have a 32Hz roll-off.

Using an audio crossover calculator

A crossover calculator will help you calculate passive filters such as a 2-way crossover calculator or a 3-way passive crossover calculator. There is a 2nd order crossover calculator, first-order crossover calculator as well.

Some reliable crossover frequency calculator programs can even help you create circuit diagrams plus give you the right component values that you need.

To use an audio crossover calculator, you must first determine the crossover type (2 way, 3-way speaker crossover calculator, or a 4-way crossover calculator). Then select the order or the kind of filter, and indicate the crossover frequency. Afterward, enter all the values by clicking the button "Calculate."

You will get the component values needed for your crossover type. In Goodcalculators.com, you will find a formula guide used to find the 2-way crossover network design.

Recommended outboard crossovers and the guide to set these

Setting the right outboard crossover is easy with the following guide:

Are you planning to expand? Start with an active network

Just like you, almost all speaker system owners want to expand their systems. To do this, it's best to use a separate outboard crossover rather than using the ones in your amp and receiver. These components may work well but won't provide the necessary system control needed in an outboard system. When you upgrade the amps, there's no reason not to use the crossover.

Tuning the speaker system

Changing the crossover values is also about tuning your speaker system. This is common in all kinds of active crossover speakers. Also, setting crossover points will determine the tonality of the speaker system.

Consider the following setup

By placing the low-pass filter at a range higher than 100 Hz, you will enjoy the kind of sound that rap enthusiasts want. But when you put it lower at 80 Hz, you’ll get a tighter bass and better front. Take note that each output channel in the active crossover has individual-level controls. Use this to correct any varying efficiency or sensitivity in your speakers.

How to set the phase and crossover frequency on a speaker and subwoofer

Setting the phase

  • Place all the speakers in the same direction so it’s easier to determine the quality of the sounds coming from them.
  • For out-of-phase subwoofers, the bass from each speaker can cancel out the other. This will lead to poor sound.
  • You can’t switch the wires so use a phase switch.  Listen to the sound and if you don’t like the bass, flip the switch to 0 or to 180.
  • Check once more the quality of the sound coming from all the speakers.

Setting the crossover

  • Use the EQ feature of your speaker system. This will automatically configure the crossover according to your speaker specs.
  • You may enhance this manually by going to the receiver menu. Place the cross over value 10 Hz higher compared to the low values of the speaker’s tolerance range.
  • You may also use a subwoofer matching tool to determine the crossover values of your speakers.
  • When you've adjusted the cross overvalue, check the sound coming from the speakers. There must be a seamless change from the subwoofer to the speakers. The sound should be clear, clean, and smooth.
  • When you find a bump in the bass from the crossover value, tweak the volume to keep up with your main speaker’s volume.

Final Words

Now that you have an idea of how to determine speaker crossover frequency, you may now improve your system at home and listen to your music better, clearer and smoother. Start tweaking and experimenting on different speaker sounds and see why the right crossover frequency can help you appreciate music more.

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