Get It Right: How to Determine Speaker Crossover Frequency

Get It Right How to Determine Speaker Crossover Frequency
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If you’ve ever tried to set up a home audio system or a basic DJ booth at a reception, you know how complicated it can be to get everything sound right. Even once you have things mostly in order, there are times when something just sounds a little off.

Often, the problem is the crossover frequency, so to get all your equipment sounding great, you need to have the right speaker crossover frequency. With that said, below is a basic guide on how to determine speaker crossover frequency.

While the details can get more complicated than what is highlighted here, this guide will help you begin to understand crossovers and how to use them.

What is a Crossover?

A crossover is a device that separates audio signals into various bands—low, mid, and high—depending on its particular set up. These bands are then sent to specific output regions to best highlight those tones.

The crossover would take the lows and send them to the sub, while the mids and highs might be sent to the woofers and tweeters. For the unfamiliar, these are all specific speakers or parts of speakers, depending on your setup. Without separating these different bands, sounds can become muddled or even lag depending on the particular setup.

Because of how important they are, passive crossovers are included in nearly every speaker that you will come across. Home speakers typically contain a two-way crossover which blocks the highs from the woofer and blocks the lows from the tweeter to give you good sound quality.

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What is Crossover Frequency and Why Do We Adjust It?

Now that you know what a crossover is, let’s talk about crossover frequency.

Every crossover device, whether active or passively used, has a specific range of frequency that it will play. A mid-device might play anything from 100 Hz to 2500 Hz depending on your setup. The ranges engaged by each speaker part can be adjusted, and that is how you change crossover frequency.

Some common adjustments that are made to the audio output when the crossover frequency is changed include the following:

  • Rap fans may raise the low-pass filter above 100 Hz to give extra weight to the lows.
  • An 80 Hz setting will produce a more forward sound in the bass.

The crossover ensures that each part of the music goes to the proper part of the speaker to give you the proper sound. While most people go for a balanced crossover level, others prefer a bass sound to be booming and change things up to get that sound.

Without crossover devices, audio just wouldn't sound as good. This is because most audio drivers cannot faithfully create all of the sounds that we hear from audio devices. The point is that adjusting crossover frequency is much like fine-tuning a song. You want it to sound just right!

How to Determine Speaker Crossover Frequency for Your System

Despite how interesting it may be to learn about what crossovers do and how they work, you’re here to learn what crossover frequency to set up on your home system. And we’ve got the answers that you need.

Check your speaker’s frequency range.

If you have this information, try setting the crossover point just above the lowest frequency that the speaker can clearly play. Aim for something about 10 Hz above this level.

Consider using the standard.

The standard crossover frequency for THX is 80 Hz. Try using this if you’re unsure where to begin.

Try out “the usuals.”

When you’re first setting up your system, it can be helpful to have a set range of crossover frequencies to try out. These numbers may help you do just that.

  • Satellite speakers: 150 to 200 Hz
  • Small surround speakers: 100 to 120 Hz
  • Medium surround speakers: 80 to 100 Hz
  • Large surround speakers: 60 to 80 Hz
  • Very large surround speakers: 40 to 60 Hz
  • Tower speakers with woofers: 40 to 60 Hz, or try full-range if they have over 10” woofers.
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How Will You Know if You Have the Right Frequency?

First, it is important to know that there is no “perfect” frequency, as the listening experience that you desire is completely up to you. Still, there are ways to listen for the right balance.

Try to listen for any transition that you can notice between the speakers and the subwoofers in your setup. Ideally, you shouldn’t hear much at all. Instead, you should hear unison.

If you can localize the bass, then your crossover frequency is probably set too high because the right blending point isn’t happening. Thus, adjust the crossover frequency until it sounds like everything is playing seamlessly together.

There’s More to Learn

This basic guide should help you to set up your speaker's crossover frequency so that you can make the most of a home system, but there is a lot more than you could learn about frequencies, crossovers, and how they work.

Use this base lesson as the beginning of your knowledge, and just listen to the sound of your speakers intently to decide if the setup that you have will work for you or not.

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