If you are a fan of a top-notch sound experience, then you will stop at nothing to get the very best from your sound system. This includes learning how to connect a crossover to an amplifier. By learning how to properly connect these components, you can enjoy excellent audio quality.
This article will show you the right way to connect a crossover to an amplifier and add them to your audio setup. It will also teach you about the types of crossovers, how they work, and their benefits and disadvantages.
What is an Amplifier?
In simple terms, an amplifier is an electronic tool that boosts weak audio signals from a source system into stronger waves. In this way, the original sound comes out stronger and louder with as little distortion as possible.
An amplifier isn’t just meant to make sounds louder. It also emphasizes all aspects and details of sound, which is something you wouldn’t usually get from just a speaker.
What is a Crossover?
A crossover is an electronic instrument used in both car and home audio systems. It takes in a single audio signal and splits it into multiple signals, resulting in low, mid, and high frequencies.
Each frequency band powers a specific part (driver) of the speaker. The low band powers the subwoofers, the mid one powers the woofers, while the high band powers the tweeter.
These drivers are built differently to accommodate different frequencies. The tweeters are small, woofers are oval and medium, and subwoofers are large and round.
Some sound systems do not come with built-in crossovers, therefore no signals will be split, and all frequencies will go to all parts of the speaker. When this happens, the signal is ruined, which can cause damage to the speaker itself. You may also hear unwanted noise and poor audio quality.
How Do Amplifiers and Crossovers Work?
The amplifier is connected between the speaker and the crossover.
The crossover sends sound signals to the amplifier, and then the amplifier strengthens the sound before distributing it to different parts of the speaker (woofers, subwoofers, tweeters).
Most amplifiers come with a high-pass and low-pass filter, but these filters tend to be inaccurate, so it is best to opt for a separate crossover.
Tips and Precautions for Connecting a Crossover to an Amplifier
Before going further, there are some things you need to know to make sure you complete this task.
- Like with all electronics, keep all liquids away from these devices, as exposure could lead to permanent damage. If you plan on cleaning dust or dirt from any device, use a dry cloth
- Place the instrument in a place where its vent openings are not blocked. Make sure the openings face toward an open space
- Do not install the crossover close to sources of excess heat such as stoves and radiators
- The wires are in green and yellow to represent “earth,” blue represents “neutral,” and brown “life.” These colors vary depending on the brand of the crossover system
- Double-check the correspondence of the color markings on the amplifier and crossover before proceeding. You can check the amplifier for the “E” symbol, the terminal is “earth” and is compatible with green and yellow on the crossover
- The blue color on your crossover is the same as the black on the amplifier. It should have an “N” symbol. The brown on the crossover matches with the red on the amplifier. It should have an “L” symbol
- You might find the “life” wire as red instead of brown and “neutral” as white instead of blue
How to Connect a Crossover to an Amplifier
Connecting a crossover to an amplifier is quite easy. Bear in mind that there are two types of crossovers: active and passive. These crossovers affect sound in different ways.
How to Connect an Active Crossover
A speaker is called “active” when it has its amplification channel. This type of connection increases the tonal response and dynamic range of the audio system. An active crossover unit is heavier than other models.
With this type of connection, the crossover removes unnecessary frequencies before sending them to the amplifier. In this way, the amplifier saves energy by only boosting useful signals.
With an active crossover, you can adjust the volume of each driver so you can set them to your preference. Some come with an equalizer you can use for added enjoyment.
- Disconnect the speakers from the power source
- Mount the crossover unit, making sure it’s in a place you can easily access to make adjustments. Do not place the unit on metallic surfaces, as they can affect the overall audio quality
- Connect the crossover to the receiver using the appropriate cables
- Place the wires from the receiver into the input terminal of the crossover
- Connect each output on the crossover to the proper terminal in the amplifier
- If you’re not using a subwoofer, place your crossover unit in two-way mode
- Send the low frequency to the woofer and the high to the tweeter. If you don’t know how to do this, your user manual should have the instructions
- If you’re using a subwoofer, you can connect it to your system in several ways. Ensure your crossover only sends mid frequencies into the woofers
Benefits of Using an Active Crossover
- You can adjust frequencies using a knob or switch. This allows you to use this crossover with just about any speaker, which is something you cannot do with a passive crossover
- Active crossovers do most of the work in terms of processing the signal, so you can have a weaker amplifier and still get excellent results
Drawbacks of Using an Active Crossover
- You need experience to properly cross your speakers at the right frequency
- Attaining the right frequency might be challenging
- Setting frequency too low can damage the tweeter
- High frequency can distort with mid frequencies. You can solve this by buying a crossover integrated with a digital sound processor
How to Power an Active Crossover
Most amplifiers come with a terminal to power active crossovers.
In this case, you can simply connect the crossover to a power outlet as you set up your home equipment. If you are setting it up in a car, plug the crossover into your car’s battery. This battery will power the crossover.
Once your crossover powers up, you can test the system to make sure it is to your liking. To do so, use the knob to reduce the crossover and amplifier to the lowest. Then, play a song and turn the input gain of the crossover up until you are happy with the audio.
Set the crossover’s output to the appropriate frequencies, adjust the amplifier’s gain until it is appropriate (right before distortion starts) and you are good to go.
How to Connect a Passive Crossover
Unlike active crossovers, passive crossovers do not require a power source to work.
With passive crossovers, the unit is between the amplifier and the speaker.
- Unplug the speakers from their power source
- Using speaker wires or RCA connectors, connect the amplifier’s output to the crossover’s input. To do this, plug the amplifier’s +ve and –ve terminals into the crossover inputs. Keeping in line with the tips mentioned earlier, connect the red wire to the +ve terminal and the black to the -ve
- Using a hex key or screwdriver, tighten the terminals
- Connect the crossover to the speaker
- Play some songs to make sure the sound is clearer than before. If it isn’t, figure out which step you missed and rectify it
Some passive crossovers come with instruction manuals with easy steps on how to make the connection.
Benefits of Using a Passive Crossover
- Easy to set up
- It does not require power or ground connection
- There is no need for frequency setting because passive crossovers work automatically to find a specific frequency for different speakers
Drawbacks of Using a Passive Crossover
- You cannot change the frequency. If you want to, you need to buy a new crossover system altogether
- A passive crossover takes up a lot of energy and is easily affected by noise
How to Connect an Active Crossover to Two Amplifiers
To get the best listening experience possible, some people connect an active crossover to two amplifiers. This is called bi-amping. In this case, the crossover sends high-frequency and low-frequency audios to separate amplifiers.
For this connection to work, you have to connect the amplifiers to separate speakers or speaker component inputs. This means connecting the tweeter to one amplifier and the woofer to the other. You connect the crossover between the source of sound and the amplifiers.
When the sound signal is created, it is sent to the crossover, which then separates the signals into various frequencies and sends them to their amplifiers. The amplifiers then send these frequencies to the woofers, tweeter, and subwoofers.
- Connect the sound source’s primary output using a shielded connection cable. Depending on your device, you would need an XLR or quarter-inch connector
- Connect the opposing side of the cable from the system’s output to the input port of your crossover
- Take the second cable and connect it to the high-frequency terminal of the crossover. Connect the opposing end to the input of the amplifier
- You need a third cable for the low-frequency terminal of the crossover. Connect with the input of the amplifier
- Plug one speaker cable to the speaker output port of the high-frequency amplifier. The other side should be connected to the input port of your frequency horn
- For the second cable, connect it to the output port of the speaker. Connect the other side to the input jack of the bass speaker
- Enjoy your high-quality sound
Using a Crossover Without an Amplifier
Unfortunately, it is impossible to use a crossover without an amplifier. All audio systems come with amplifiers, whether built-in or external. If they didn’t, no sound would come from your speakers.
Some amplifiers found in these sound systems are not as strong as others, so you may require additional amplification (e.g., an external aftermarket amplifier) depending on the crossover unit you are using.
Some speakers come with built-in crossovers, and in most cases, you do not need any more amplification. The crossover should be able to handle it.
A crossover is essential to any sound system. It helps delegate the appropriate signals to the suitable drivers in a speaker. In this way, you can get the best out of your sound system without having to buy new equipment.
There are different types of crossovers: active and passive. As a sound enthusiast, isn’t it exciting to find out there are multiple ways to connect a crossover to an amplifier? You can even go a step further by connecting two amplifiers to one crossover.
For the most part, crossovers are relatively easy to install and require little to no knowledge to do so. Others are complex, and you might need help from someone. If you are stuck, some crossovers come with manuals you can consult.
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