Is the Digital Crossover better than the Passive Speaker Crossover?

Using an active digital crossover for your loud speaker system is an engineering advantage that you shouldn’t want to miss out on.dbx-DriveRack-260-Loudspeaker-Management-System

If you are curious about how speakers work and want to learn more about diy speakers learn all you can about speaker crossovers.

Why are powered speakers and digital audio speakers the better way to listen to your favorite music and movies?

Because it is the single best way to get the most dynamic, transparent sound home speaker sound quality for your home theater speakers, or recording studio.

With one exception: if you are listening to your music on LP’s, then you need to stay with analog crossovers. You can still go active, but you will need to use an active analog crossover.

But; listening to any kind of digital media? Go digital for the best performance…

I understand these are some very bold claims- so let me explain…

The usual way of playing back a signal, music, or movie sound is described below.

This internal process is the same whether DVD or CD, or music file.

There is also a description of the digital crossover and why it works better both from an engineering and sonic perspective.

For a speaker building article supporting these facts written by a different author click here.

The Old Passive Speaker Crossover Problem:

A CD plays on the CD player. Internal digital to analog converters built into the CD player will convert the digital signal taken off the disc into analog after reading.

The player then sends the analog signal to the analog outputs. The analog signal is sent to an analog preamplifier or receiver. The analog preamp or receiver will then add volume control for driving the power amplifiers.

The power amplifiers send the power through speaker cables to the speakers. The powered signal then enters the passive crossover within the speaker.

Here the signal is split up between tweeter, mid-range, and bass drivers. It does this so that the powered signal will not cause the tweeter to try to reproduce deep bass signals.

Bass sound waves are longer than mid-range or high frequencies sound waves. If the tweeter would try to produce such signals it would need to move very long distances as the woofer does.Some speaker drivers -such as tweeters can typically only move up to a few millimeters. Whereas the bass drivers are called on to move up to several inches in some applications.

If a tweeter was called on to produce such a signal as the bass driver ‘sees’ it would bottom the voice coil immediately. If the excursion itself did not cause the lead wires to break the ensuing heat would fry the coil within a few milliseconds. The passive crossover within the speaker box design protects these speaker drivers from damage.

But, the passive crossover speaker components within the speaker brings another problem. These speaker components suck power from the amplifier and turn it into heat.

Essentially, removing the signal from the speaker drivers that it cannot adequately produce.

In a passive crossover system this causes many, many other problems and distortions for the output of the speaker.

Phase shift, crossover point shift(due to heat build up and component value change), added distortion due to power running through passive components, decreased power reaching the driver (from amplifier), decreased damping factor, and decreased impulse response accuracy. These are only a few of the issues.

The Digital Crossover Advantage:

Digital music is stored as 1’s and 0’s. Most people know this. When you use an active digital crossover it looks like this:

Digital music or file is played. Digital output is split into the two or three parts necessary for the final speaker output. Signal splits digitally into bass, mid-range, and tweeter or each channel of output.

Digital Room Correction can also be applied here. The digital signal is sent to the Digital to Analog converter and converted to analog.

Analog signal is sent from D to A converter to the analog preamplifier and volume control is applied. Analog signal is amplified with the amplifiers. (one channel is needed for each “way” of a speaker) (A three way stereo pair will need 6 preamplifier and amplifier channels.) Want to know where to find them? I get active crossovers at Parts Express (Deal of the Day) – New great deal posted everyday.

The powered signal is sent to the loudspeaker where there is a connection for each “way” or driver type of the speaker. This means that the amplifier directly powers the loudspeaker.

None of the above passive components are introduced into the output signal.

These digital crossover can be found at Parts Express – Free Shipping Every Day on most orders over $98 (Restrictions apply).Type in “digital crossovers” into the search bar at the top right of the Parts Express page.

You can also us the Home Theater PC to implement the Digital Speaker Crossovers:

There are a few considerations with a digital crossover. The quality of the Digital to Analog converter is of high importance. Not all are created equal.

A general sound-card can do digital to analog conversion but don’t expect the performance to be the same as a higher priced unit.

You will need more amplifier channels to power your speakers. One channel for each ‘way’ of each individual loudspeaker. It may also be a good idea to look at why would you use a speaker crossover with an HTPC to build speakers. There are also many articles aboutspeaker systems and how to build them. Go to Best Home Theater Speakers. There are over 120 help pages of this site. This is just a beginning idea of why you would use digital crossovers.

There are several way to use this type of speaker crossover. One is by a rack-mount device similar to what is used in pro audio. These are often called “speaker controllers”. The concept is really the same but we are showing you a slightly different approach here – Home Entertainment System.


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