Hardware vs software crossovers

December 16, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

4 comments on “Hardware vs software crossovers”

  1. Good morning Paul!
    I know of two different sets of active speakers/monitors that uses passive crossovers.
    You won’t find this information on either Avantone Pro’s or Klipsch’s websites.
    One of them, and that one being Avantone Pro, I called them and asked them about their active monitors.
    The ones that they call the CLA10-A monitors.
    Just like their passive monitors, they both passive and active monitors use the AV10-XMO 2-way crossover.
    But as for the Klipsch speakers.
    Take your pick of either passive or active!
    Rather they’re the R-41PM or R-41M speakers.
    Even take a look at the R51PM or R-51m speakers.
    Two different sets of Klipsch speakers from each mottle line.
    What they all have in common with each other, is this.
    They all use passive crossovers.
    The only question I don’t have an answer to, is why.
    Can you explain that to me?
    Thanks Audiophile Dad!

  2. I think George’s question was about Software crossovers as related to home theater systems. I understand that your explanations are geared to people who do not have the engineering education you have and therefore, you are trying to keep things as simple as possible and still get your point across. I do notice that sometimes you miss the mark in that you don’t speak the same language that they do and this session was one of those that just weren’t exactly correct.

    The problem in the case of a hardware crossover made up of capacitor(s) and inductor(s) have the issue of phase shift where often the tweeter has to be connected out of phase so that the phase shift of the crossover network is somewhat negated. Where as the software crossover doesn’t have a phase shift problem.

    Also, the capacitive value (20 ufd vs. .1 ufd) has nothing to do with where the crossover takes place, in the speaker or in the electronic crossover. The values are determined by the desired frequency of the crossover. And the physical size of the capacitors relates more to the voltage of the applied signal. Of course, the voltages of the signal in the electronic crossover are in the area of .5 volts to 3 volts, the input to the power amplifier, where as the voltages of the input to the speaker from a power amp of 100 watts is in the area of 30 Volts, requiring a capacitor physically large enough to handle 30 volts. Usually the designer would probably select a capacitor what would be able to handle 50 volts.

    Since the electronic crossover has no phase shift, it could be argued that it is the better choice. But I think the questioner was asking about this issue relating to subwoofers, not to full range. Hence the use of the term “software crossover”.

    I do look forward to your blogs each day. Please keep it up and as arrogant as this might sound, reach out to people like me who might be able to help out with trying to “dumb down” ( hate using that, but it’s the only term I can think of.) your very complicated subject matter into something more understood by the masses without getting lost in accuracy.

    Have a great Christmas and a profitable New Year.

    Allen Boogaard

  3. I would argue that all things being equal meaning designing an active speaker or a passive speaker and its amp to the same level, the active speaker will be superior.

  4. Let’s not forget the “software” crossover performed in a DSP device. There are no fixed capacitors, inductors or resistors but you can have extremely steep, extremely accurate filter roll-off without the inevitable drift in “hardware” crossover components due to thermal effects, aging, etc. Audiophiles in general should not fear digital at least in this capacity.

    I think a better naming convention for crossover types would be: “Active Analog”, “Passive Analog” and “Active Digital”.

    Active Analog = Fixed or adjustable via potentiometers electronic based signal level crossovers feeding multiple amplifiers.

    Passive Analog = Fixed higher power rated passive component based crossovers after the amplifier.

    Active Digital = “Software”/user adjustable digital based crossovers feeding multiple amplifiers.

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