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How to install a crossover

Running tweeters, speakers, and subs in an active system

Sound Ordnance P-65C component crossover

Passive Crossovers

Passive crossovers for component speaker systems are very simple to install. They each go between your amplifier and a speaker and 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 component crossovers are small enough to fit inside your car door near the woofer's location.

Examples of in-line crossovers

Examples of in-line crossovers

There's another kind of passive crossover, called in-line crossovers, which go between your receiver and amp. They look like little cylinders with RCA connectors on each end and simply plug into your amplifier’s inputs. In-line crossovers each come set to a specific crossover frequency and can’t be adjusted. Another disadvantage of using them is that they react differently to different amplifiers, possibly changing their crossover points unpredictably.

Active Crossovers

Installing an active crossover requires a bit more work. You'll mount your crossover securely, preferably near the amplifiers; give it power, remote turn-on, and ground wiring, like the amps have; and get signal from the receiver and send it to the amps. Once you've done the work, however, you'll gain new control over your music, being able to tune your sound system so that all of the speakers can give you their best performance.

Finding the right spot

You'll want to put your crossover in a location that won't take up too much space in your vehicle, but is accessible enough for you to be able to make adjustments. Usually, you'll just make the initial adjustments to fine-tune the sound and then leave it. But sometimes, you may get into the mood to just tweak your system or give it a different sound for the day. You need to securely mount your crossover so it won't become a flying liability in the event of an auto accident.

Audio Control DQXS and  a Boston GT-50

Audio Control DQXS 4-way crossover with 6-channel EQ (left) getting mounted next to a Boston GT-50 5-channel amp

Do not bolt your crossover directly to metal — that's inviting noise problems, like ground loops which hum or buzz. You could use rubber grommets around the mounting screws to isolate the case. Or you could mount the crossover on a wooden board and attach that to the car body. Some people even mount their crossover and amps on the same board, for convenience. A crossover can actually go anywhere between the receiver and the amp, but most people mount theirs near their amp, making it easier for connections and for future system expansion.

Wiring for power

You'll need to provide 12-volt power from your car battery to operate the crossover just as you would to power your amp. The power and ground wiring for your crossover do not have to be the heavy-gauge stuff that you use for your amp — typically wire as thin as 18-gauge wire will be fine. A distribution block is a good way to get power for your crossover via the same main power cable as the amp uses. You'll also need a solid, noise-free grounding point — it's best to ground your crossover at the same place as your amp. Make sure the grounds get attached tightly to the metal chassis of your vehicle, with all the dirt and paint removed where contact is made.

As for the turn-on lead, you can usually tie it into the turn-on lead for your amps. However, a receiver's turn-on circuit has a limited capacity and could fail if there're three or more devices to be turned on. If that's the case, you'll need a relay, that'll get triggered by the turn-on circuit but get its 12-volt power from another source, like the fuse box. If you bought your crossover from Crutchfield and need help with such a relay network, you can call our tech support department for free advice (please have your invoice handy).

Signal wiring

You get the input for your crossover via RCA patch cables from your receiver. If your receiver doesn't have RCA outputs, you can use a crossover that accepts speaker-level signals for inputs. Or, you can get a line output converter to step the speaker-level signal down to preamp level. Lastly, you 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

Make sure the patch cords supplying the musical signal to the crossover and amplifier are kept well away from potential sources of noise, such as the amp's power and ground cables, the vehicle's brake light wires, or rear window defroster wires.

Kicker KX3 3-way crossover

Kicker KX3 3-way crossover

Crossover points

Crossover points are the frequency settings of a crossover that represent the points in each output band where the signal is attenuated, turned down, by one-half — a 3 dB drop in power. The intention is, that at each crossover frequency, two adjacent drivers (tweeters, speakers, or subs) are playing the note at one-half power — so the result is full power at each crossover point.

The crossover points you choose ultimately depend on the frequency response of each component driver in your speaker system. Check out the frequency response specifications of each of your drivers and use those frequencies as preliminary crossover points. If you can't find any such specifications, start with 100 Hz as the crossover point between your subwoofer and mid-bass drivers, and 2,000 Hz for the midrange-to-tweeter transition point.

Adjusting frequencies

Unlike the following tune-up tips that take into consideration your music's tone and volume along its entire spectrum, you adjust crossover frequencies to eliminate the distortions a driver will put out when it tries to reproduce notes it can't play well, at the extremes of its frequency response. So, for instance, if you hear your mid-bass/midrange driver distorting on low notes, you adjust its crossover point higher, so it won't even try to play those notes. The same goes for the midrange/tweeter crossover point — you move the crossover point to eliminate distortion — higher to clean up the tweeter's sound, lower for midrange clarity.

Kicker Front Row signal processor

Kicker Front Row signal processor

Now you get to tune your system

The first objective, in setting up a crossover, is to end up with each band of frequencies — for the tweeters, midrange speakers, and subwoofer, for example — playing at the same volume. Next, you apply the EQ curves and other tone adjustments you like in your music. Then, you do it all again, re-setting the crossover to compensate for the equalization adjustments. Some people even tweak the EQ again after that, and on and on, until it sounds perfect to them.

You start off by playing familiar music with all the tone and EQ controls off or set flat and the amp gains down low. All crossovers are different, but you can use the following as a general guide for setting a 3-way crossover:

  1. Find the top level at which your receiver plays your music cleanly. Turn up the volume until music distorts, then turn it back a little.
  2. Set the input sensitivity of the crossover, if it has it. Crossovers with this feature will also have clip indicator lights that help you set this control.
  3. Set the level for each output so they play evenly.
  4.  Set the gain for each pair of amplifier channels. Turn it up until the music distorts, then turn it back a little.
  5. Re-set the crossover output levels to balance the highs, mids, and lows playing from each component. Try to make the system's total response flat— high notes, mid notes, and low notes all playing at the same volume.
  6. Re-set the amp gains, to compensate for any crossover output adjustments.
  7. Re-set crossover output levels again.
  8. Apply EQ or tone adjustments at the receiver. Adjust every available control and /or boost to allow your music to sound its best. Turn on the bass boost, if you use one.
  9. Because you've added equalization, you'll have to slightly re-set the crossover and amp gains again. Find the top level at which your receiver plays music cleanly. Turn up the volume until the music distorts, then turn it back a little.
  10. Re-set the input sensitivity of the crossover, if it has it.
  11. Adjust the level for each crossover output to blend them together smoothly.
  12.  Set the gain for each pair of amplifier channels. Turn it up until the music distorts, then turn it back a little.
  13. Re-set the crossover output levels to balance the highs, mids, and lows playing from each component. This time, your goal is to make it sound great, not flat.
  14. Adjust the amp gains, to compensate for any crossover output adjustments.
  15. Adjust crossover output levels again, if necessary.
  16. Adjust the tone at your receiver again, to allow your music to sound its best, and enjoy.

Audio Control 2XS 2-way crossover

Audio Control 2XS 2-way crossover

  • jim kappesser from Syracuse

    Posted on 1/18/2021

    I came upon the below statement while searching w/ Google for active crossover design: "How do you wire an active crossover? They each go between your amplifier and a speaker and 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. How to Install a Crossover - > ISEO-rgbtcspd > learn > car-how-..." An obvious description of the installation of a passive crossover. Just thought I'd let you know the Google search is crediting Crutchfield with this "false" info. Great article above, Thanks...

  • crazyhatch from San Jose

    Posted on 1/7/2021

    Hi If I choose to use a electronic crossover, should I still attach the passive one of the component set? or just wiring them directly to the amp?

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 1/12/2021

    Crazy, An electronic, active crossover takes full-range signals from the receiver, divides them into highs and lows, and sends them on to the high and low amplifiers. No need for any passive crossovers.
  • Giorgi from Quimper

    Posted on 7/14/2020

    I connect my tweeter and back door woofers to crossover now i do not know where should i connect input cables which coming from crossover to ampli , can you tell me where is its place ?

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 7/16/2020

    Giorgi, A crossover's input usually comes from an amplifier's speaker output.
  • Moses Smith

    Posted on 7/11/2020

    Hi I have ordered some components and the mid woofers have 4 terminals so would I take both the + and wire them both to the positive crossover connection and visa versus with the - ?

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 7/13/2020

    Moses, 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.
  • Rene Torres from Boston

    Posted on 6/18/2020

    Can you install regular crossovers on compression Drivers Speaker ? Or will that mess them up

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 6/19/2020

    Rene, I don't know about being "regular" but compression drivers are usually found in PA tweeters, and do need a crossover to operate safely.
  • Dustin from La

    Posted on 6/10/2020

    How do I get my Sony xav-ax1000 connected to the crossover for my infinity kappa 60.11cs?

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 6/10/2020

    Dustin, Presumably your aftermarket receiver is correctly plugged into the factory harness. Use the factory speaker wiring near each speaker for the crossovers' inputs.
  • Audley Dennis from Portsmouth

    Posted on 10/6/2019

    My name how to install 2 DJ amp to a 2 way crossover?

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 10/7/2019

    Audley, You should never connect two amplifier outputs to the same device - they could damage each other.
  • Justin Longfield from Monticello

    Posted on 5/6/2019

    Does the passive crossover need to be ran off of an amp or can it be ran off just the Main Head unit itself?

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 5/6/2019

    Justin, Most component speaker sets, including crossovers, will work with the low power of a receiver's built-in amp.
  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/26/2018

    Bob, You could eliminate connectors and screw bare wire under the terminal screws on the crossovers. If you bought your speakers from Crutchfield, you could call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. Their toll-free number is on your invoice. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Click on this link for details.

  • Bob from Naperville

    Posted on 5/24/2018

    Polk db5251 component speakers. Crossovers came with the speakers.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/21/2018

    Tip and Bob, Without knowing precisely what crossover, amp, or speaker 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 correct information to you.

  • Bob from Naperville

    Posted on 5/18/2018

    I am having trouble with the terminal connectors on my speaker wires staying on. Only seems to happen with terminals connected to crossover. Are there more stable connectors than crimp connectors?

  • Tip from Las Vegas

    Posted on 5/14/2018

    My active crossover sub frequency starts at 32 and my amp at 77. Do I adjust them together or am I able to bypass one?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/28/2018

    Tip, A good practice, when setting crossovers, is to start with the high-pass filters for the mid/high speakers and the low-pass filter for the subwoofer both set to around 100 Hz. Then, while listening to your favorite songs, you fine-tune the controls until the mix sounds good to you.

  • Tip from Las Vegas

    Posted on 4/27/2018

    Hello sir, I have a 6.5 inch component set for my front and a 6 by 9 full set behind my seat with a 4 Channel amp pushing the mids and a 15 inch competition sub with a matching amp all being ran through a preamp crossover. My question is how to set the frequency for the sub? Should I match the crossover and amp frequencies? Thanks for all your knowledge you share sir. Semper Fi

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/26/2017

    Thomas, You can use either one. The advantage of using the subwoofer outputs of your receiver is that you'll have control of the sub's volume and crossover filter from the receiver. If you use the crossover's sub output you'd control the sub volume with the wired remote, and the crossover filter on the amp itself.

  • Thomas Gray from Morenci

    Posted on 12/25/2017

    So I have a RockfordFosgate Prime R500X1D for my sub but I'm also using a active crossover for my other 4 kids and highs. The crossover have a sub out with RCA's can I wire my amp with the Crossover or should I do it from the sub outs on the deck?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/4/2017

    Alex, If you're building a stereo speaker system you would need two crossovers, one for each speaker.

  • Alex from Plovdiv

    Posted on 5/4/2017

    Hello, i bought this passive crossover filter for a DIY portable speaker : [link to site selling a 2-way passive crossover] The amp board is stereo ( 2x 4W 8Ohm). Do i need 2of these filters, one for each channel or should i connect the to channels together + to + and GND to GND on the input of the filter. Thanks in advance Regards, Alex

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/2/2017

    Andrew, It sounds like you might benefit by getting an 8-channel digital signal processor, like a HELIX DSP.2, to take care of the crossover and EQ duties for your four tweeters and four midrange drivers. Or, if you can afford it, you can get a HELIX V EIGHT DSP, which has a built-in 8-channel amplifier so you wouldn't need to get separate amps. The signal processing features versatile and detailed crossover and EQ settings as well as time-alignment for centering the stereo image.

  • Andrew Duddles from Big Rapids

    Posted on 3/31/2017

    I want to run my highs and mids separately using different amps. I also plan to use an active crossover and an equaliser. My question is how exactly do I accomplish this? I plan to use two 4 channel amps. One for 4 midrange drivers that will be bridged to meet their power requirements and one for 4 tweeters that will be unbridged. I don't want to buy a set of components because none of them meet my requirements so I decided to build my own using an active crossover. I understand all of the power wiring and remote wiring but I don't know how to wire my RCA's so that both amps get signal and the proper crossover frequencies. I have three outputs on my HU, so do I just use RCA splitters then run an equaliser and crossover for each amp? If I did this would I lose the ability to fade my front and back?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/3/2017

    Jonah, At the power levels we're talking about here, the "insertion loss" of a well-designed passive crossover will be negligible. If you do wire your components the way you describe, the tweeter will operate normally, as it would still get its signal from the high out of the crossover, but the woofer would play both low and high notes, inefficiently duplicating some of the tweeter's notes making a shrill mess. It's best to use the crossover of a component system as it was designed to be used. If you want to go active to increase power and efficiency, you'd use one amplifier channel per driver and employ an onboard low-pass filter to keep highs away from woofers, and a high-pass filter to keep lows from tweeters.

  • Jonah from Miami

    Posted on 1/1/2017

    Hello, I have a Pioneer AVH5700BH DD head unit connected directly to the 6.5 Polk Audio components up front with the included passive crossovers. I just bought a MB Quart OA800.4 Amp which will be giving out 100watt RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms. I've read that the passive crossovers will reduce the power or frequency going to the components speakers from the amp? Or I really didn't understand that part correctly? Can I connect 2 speaker wires each from channel 1 and 2 of amp. One goes directly to the components speakers, the other wire goes to the "speaker inputs" on the crossover, and on the crossover I connect wires to the "tweeter out" to the tweeters. That way I bypass the crossover going to the speakers. Is this a good way of doing this? Or the crossover doesn't really affect amp power going to the speakers and I can connect the crossover to the speakers as intended? Thanks.

  • Simon from gravesend

    Posted on 11/28/2016

    hi crutchfield, witch crossover would be the best. i want to connect a sub swr12d2(300-1000rms 3000w) and midrange ~100rms 300w. or how to know witch one is right for those parameters thanks

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/31/2016

    Bro, A tweeter absolutely needs a crossover to operate, otherwise it'd blow when the first bass note tries to play. And without knowing anything about the system, I can't help you hook yours up.

  • Bro from Hattiesburg

    Posted on 10/31/2016

    I just got a set of Memphis tweeters it came with crossovers do I need to run them and if so can I hook them directly to the back of radio ,oh yea and how do I do that

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/10/2016

    Endy, The only solution I can offer you is to contact Alpine tech support to get replacement crossovers for your component sets. If you're located in Malaysia, the best place to start would be the online Australian site, They also seem to have a tech support Twitter feed, @alpineAU.

  • Endy from Rawang

    Posted on 10/8/2016

    Hi, I have a pair Alpine ddl-rt17c without crossover. Its any suitable crossover in market to add to my speaker?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/28/2016

    Irving, The Epicenter creates bass, and the crossover directs it to the subwoofer - they work together without any adverse effects.

  • Irvin from Topeka

    Posted on 4/27/2016

    Will the crossover affect the purpose of the epicenter?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2016

    Irvin, Yes. Make sure the Epicenter comes before the crossover in the signal flow.

  • Irvin from Topeka

    Posted on 4/27/2016

    Is it possible to run a crossover and an audiocontrol epicenter together ?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/10/2016

    Angel, Ordinarily, I'd point you to an example of a Y-cord adapter so you could distribute each signal to two inputs. But I think that parallel button eliminates the need for that, sending the front left-right input signals to the rear left-right inputs as well, so you can use a single-pair RCA cable from your receiver.

  • Angel Valdez from Cottonwood

    Posted on 3/9/2016

    Hi, I have an mtx rt-x02 crossover and it has RCA connections for front and rear. But my sterio deck only has a single right and left RCA. I want to run my low amp and my high amp for my door speakers. Does that mean I need a deck that has 2 rear and front RCAs? Or can I use the adapters to split the ends of the RCAs into two? Sorry I'm kinda new to these crossovers haha. I also would like to know what the parallel button does when pressed on the crossover? Thank you.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/21/2015

    Wayne, Because the inputs and outputs of passive crossovers are amplified, speaker-level signals not prone to interference, it really doesn't matter where you mount them. Go ahead and mount yours in your trunk.

  • Wayne arringron from Chantilly

    Posted on 10/20/2015

    Is there a good/bad distance to mount a passive crossover? I don't want to really mess with the wiring in my vehicles doors but want to add component speakers. I wanted to put the crossover in the trunk and run the wires for the tweeter and midrange separately from the front to the back.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/30/2015

    Walker, There are no factors that I know of that would dictate where a crossover should go between amp and speakers. Maybe some folks don't want to have to run two sets of speaker wires per side in their installs. Go ahead and mount your crossovers in a convenient location.

  • Walker from Kelowna

    Posted on 9/29/2015

    Hey Buck, I've read online that it's better to install crossovers as close to the speakers as possible and I was wondering if this is true, and why? The thing is I am looking at putting in HSK165XL speakers in my 01 Jetta TDI but the passive crossovers turned out to be huge. The crossovers alone are around 6" x 4" so my doors may not fit them with alterations. I was hoping you could help me on this one. Would simply having the crossovers in the trunk next to the amp work? Thanks so much for your time and efforts. TL:DR Is it better to install crossovers closer to speakers? What are the pros/cons?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/11/2015

    Jake, The crossovers that came with your Kenwood components were designed to work with those specific tweeters and woofers to create a balanced and smooth sound. The Boston crossovers were designed for a different set of drivers. You'll get no benefit from changing crossovers, and it might even damage your tweeters or woofers. When you do add an amplifier you should continue using the Kenwood components' in-line crossovers. Later, if you want a more advanced, but not necessarily louder system, you could "go active" and lose the in-line crossovers, and run each tweeter and woofer with its own amplifier channel crossed-over, filtered appropriately for each driver.

  • Jake Peterson from Los Angeles, California

    Posted on 5/9/2015

    Hello Crutchfield, I have a pair of Kenwood Excelon component speakers for the front of my car. They have an in-line crossover. The sound is fine but I feel as though the 18 watts that are coming from my heading are not enough. So my dad gave me a pair of his Boston crossovers (like the ones pictured at the top just made by Boston). My question to you is, can I replace my inline crossovers with the other ones, and then amplify them later?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2015

    Rolando, A full-range speaker should play fine without a crossover. A crossover filter could be applied to clean up the sound - remove high notes from a subwoofer or low notes from a small speaker that can't handle bass - but it isn't absolutely necessary. For a tweeter, however, it is absolutely necessary to employ a high-pass crossover filter, or else low notes will tear the tweeter apart.

  • Rolando Delos Santos from Philippines

    Posted on 4/25/2015

    what might happen if iwill directly attach speakers to amplifier without using crossover?

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