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Passive vs Active Crossovers

You may have heard the term “crossover” before. No, i’m not referring to SUV/hatchback vehicles or Chris Paul doing work on the court. I am in fact referring to audio crossovers. Most speakers are not going to be able to reproduce the entire spectrum of musical frequencies without distorting. For this reason, crossovers are put in place to separate frequency bands in order to get the best performance. There are two type of crossovers: passive and active.

Passive Crossovers

DLS Scandinavia Filter box

2-Way Passive Crossover

One of the main differences between the two is that passive crossover networks are unpowered which means there is no external power source.  They use capacitors and inductor coils to passively send frequencies to their desired drivers.  For example, in component speakers,  the crossover will passively send the high frequencies to the tweeters and the mid and lower frequencies to the mid bass drivers.  They will be wired in-line between the speakers and amplifier.  The amplifier’s output will be connected to the crossover’s input and the mid-bass driver and tweeter will be connected to the crossover output.  The disadvantages with passive crossovers is they are not usually adjustable and will actually cause a loss of wattage.

Active Crossovers

Hifonics HFXR

2-way / 3-way Active Crossover

Active crossovers are a different story.  They are essentially electronic circuits that divide the frequencies. They use the input side of the amplifier rather than the output like a passive crossover does.   It is a common conception in the audio world that active are more accurate and flexible than passive crossovers.  Active crossovers are adjustable and have variable filters such as low-pass,  high-pass, and gain.  They also have deeper crossover slopes.  This allows for a more customized and desirable sound for the user.  Another advantage to active crossovers is their ability to allow bi-amping.  This means you can use two amplifiers channels to power multiple drivers.

Usually, a component set of speakers will come with a passive crossover. However, the general consensus is that active crossovers are more accurate and a lot more flexible.  However, if you are looking for a good fixed signal then there is nothing wrong with passive crossovers.  Ether way you’re going to need one or the other in your audio system so what are you waiting for?

Jason has had a passion for electronics for as long as he can remember. Ever since his dad bought him a do-it-yourself electronic starter kit when he was a kid, it's been love ever since. From his adolescent years as a musician to his employment selling home theater equipment, Jason has always been surrounded and submerged in audio. Working at Sonic Electronix, Jason quickly became a car audio connoisseur and true audiophile. In his spare time you'll find Jason snowboarding and playing guitar.
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