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Best Car Audio Crossovers

Car audio crossovers are probably some of the most underestimated audio components out there. There are a ton of things to think about when you’re building car audio system and obviously crossovers aren’t necessarily at the top of the list. However, you cannot believe the night and day difference having one will make.

Since car audio crossovers aren’t absolutely necessary, it’s pretty easy to just gloss over the subject altogether when building or upgrading a car audio system. Speakers, receivers, and amplifiers steal all the limelight, but that doesn’t mean crossovers aren’t of paramount importance as well.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at some of the best car audio crossovers in the market.

What Is a Car Audio Crossover?

A crossover is an electronics device that takes a single input signal and creates two or three output signals consisting of different ranges of frequencies (highs, mids, and lows), so tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers will each get only the range of frequencies they were designed to play.

The main purpose of breaking music into separated bands of frequencies, and only sending certain frequencies to specific speakers, or “drivers,” is to effectively reduce distortion and achieve higher audio fidelity. Because otherwise, a messy, sonic “traffic jam” results.

Because they’re essential, you’ll find crossovers present in every speaker system. For instance, if your car audio system uses a pair of coaxial speakers, it uses a tiny crossover network built into it somewhere. Component speaker sets on the other hand come with separate outboard crossovers, many with tweeter level selectors.

Within each crossover, a low-pass filter blocks the highs but passes the lows to the woofer, while a high-pass filter blocks the lows and passes high frequency notes on to the tweeters.

Crossovers for 3-way systems consisting of tweeters, midrange drivers, and subwoofers, include, besides high- and low-pass filters, “bandpass” filters which handle frequencies between two points by utilizing both a high-pass and low-pass in the same filter network. So, for example you could have a midrange driver that handle frequencies between 100 Hz to 2500 Hz.

Almost all external amplifiers come with built-in high- and low-pass filters that can serve as the crossovers in a component system. However, these filters are nothing to write home about and are often more inaccurate with less fidelity than a separate, dedicated electronic crossover.

So, if you want to build a car audio system that sounds clear and harmonious, consider using a car audio crossover.

Best Car Audio Crossover — Reviews

1. Clarion MCD360

Last update on 2020-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Clarion is an established Japanese manufacturer that specializes in car audio and automotive navigation systems. The company has been delighting the ears of audiophiles since 1940. It offers a wide selection of car audio components including speakers, subwoofers, amps and headunits.

If you’re looking for a great 3-way car audio crossover, we can’t think of a better option than the Clarion MCD360. It’s one of the top-rated car audio crossovers out there. It seems to hit the sweet spot for a lot of guys, for good reason.

This crossover can be used for a two or three-way system setups. It has lever control for front, rear, and subwoofer channel. It also has a subwoofer equalizer, boost level controls, as well as high-pass crossover frequency multiplier.

The best thing about this crossover is that it comes with a wired remote control that you can mount in the dash for adjusting the bass gain on the fly.

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2. Sound Storm SX310

Last update on 2020-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While Sound Storm Labs might be one of the younger companies in the audio space, its reputation is on the rise. Sound Storm Labs is a company known for their long tradition of making budget-friendly components, and their SX310 active car audio crossover is no exception.

The SX310 is a 3-way car audio crossover with selectable crossover slope. What this means is that it gives you a choice of 6dB or 12dB per octave. It also sports a phase shift selector which is meant to let you achieve the best sound possible by preventing noise cancellation caused by your sub’s overlapping sound waves.

Additionally, this crossover also comes with a variable bass boost to bump up the bass level within the boost range, as well as a remote subwoofer level control to boost or attenuate the sub level on the go.

All in all, the SX310 is one of the best car audio crossovers at this price range. It offers a great value for the buck. If I had to pick some criticisms for the Sound Storm Labs SX310, I’d have to say that its knobs and switches are kind of flimsy.

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3. DS18 PRO-CFX

Last update on 2020-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

DS18 is a brand we haven’t come across very much on our site. They’re a company known for their long tradition of making affordable products, however, they have a reputation for hit-or-miss quality.

The PRO-CFX is one of the best passive car audio crossovers you can buy. This thing is housed in a steel casing with a bottom made of see through plexiglass allowing a view of the inner components. It’s small and compact enough to fit into some sort of nook and cranny in most vehicles.

This 2-way passive crossover has 3.5kHz cut frequency. It can handle up to 300 Watts of power on continuous basis (RMS), and bursts up to 600 watts. Additionally, the fact that the DS18 PRO-CFX lets you cut down the tweeter output to 0, -3, or -6 db is awesome.

All in all, whether you are upgrading your entire system or you’re just trying to get better sound out of your basic component speaker, the DS18 PRO-CFX is a cheap crossover that provides the perfect frequency distribution throughout your system to ensure the clarity and peak efficiency for your system.

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4. AudioControl 2XS

Last update on 2020-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

AudioControl is one of the most trusted names when it comes to sound sculpting components. The company has been around for quite a long time, and you could say they know a thing or two about sound.

AudioControl has released everything from digital sound processors and car audio equalizers to car audio crossovers and line output converters.

The 2XS is one of the best car audio crossovers that AudioControl have to offer. This 2-way electronic crossover has one set of inputs and two sets of outputs: high-pass and low-pass.

This crossover comes with a 90 Hz preset crossover point and uses a steep 18 dB per octave slope to separate the high and low frequencies, along with a built-in line driver that’ll enhance the signal so that an ultra-clean and powerful signal is being fed to your amplifier.

Additionally, the 2XS features built-in filter which cuts down sub-sonics from your signal so your amps and subs will play more efficiently. There’s also a line driver with adjustable output levels (up to 9.5 volts RMS). Its balanced differential input circuits on other hand attenuate the noise picked up in the transmission line between the crossover and the headunit.

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5. Taramp CRX4

Last update on 2020-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While Taramp isn’t as well known as some brands, their CRX-4 4-way active crossover seems to be well-liked, for good reason. This 4-way electronic crossover is well-engineered, and offers great flexibility.

Taramp CRX4 sports four ways (low, low-mid, high-mid and high ways) with adjustable high- and low-pass filters, as well as individual output level control, providing a better division of the bass, mid, and treble frequency ranges.

This crossover is also featured with a bass boost control for adjusting your subwoofer gain.

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Types of Car Audio Crossovers

There are two main types of crossovers: active and passive. Each of which is best suited to specific situations. Passive crossovers don’t require power to filter the frequencies as desired. Active crossovers on the other hand require power and ground connections, but they’re more advanced and give you much more flexibility and fine-tuning control over your music.

Active Crossovers

A sound system is referred to as “active” when each driver (tweeter, woofer, sub) has its own channel of amplification. This significantly increases the available power, dynamic range (softest to loudest sounds), and your overall control of the audio spectrum.

An active crossover sits between the receiver and amplifier and prevents certain frequencies from reaching your amp, so that the latter doesn’t waste energy boosting them. This way your amp focuses on only the frequencies it’s supposed to amplify.

Active crossovers usually have volume controls on every channel or pair of channels so you can keep all the frequencies of the different drivers in balance. Some upgraded actives crossovers also offer other sound-processing features like bass boost circuits for subwoofers, and equalization for further tweaking of the sound to your personal preferences.

Active crossovers are a little bit more complicated to set up than passive ones, as they require ground, +12V power, and turn-on connections. However, the rewards and advantages that an active crossover offers makes it clear why you’ll find one in virtually every competition-level car audio system. Likewise, car stereo systems tuned for high-quality sound will make use of crossovers so that all of the speakers can give you their best performance.

The best thing about active crossovers is that they let you independently control the relative volumes of all your different drivers.

In a hypothetical 4-way active car audio system, the original audio signals might be crossed-over as follows:

  • Anything below 100Hz goes to the subwoofer
  • Frequencies between 100 and 250 Hz are handled by midbass speakers
  • Frequencies between 250 and 3,000 Hz are assigned to the midrange speakers
  • All frequencies above 3,000 Hz are handled by the tweeters.

Keep in mind that the crossover points listed here are for example only and aren’t suitable for every car or speaker system out there. The best crossover points for one vehicle might be the worst for another, as it all depends on the speakers being used and of course your vehicle’s acoustic properties.

Passive Crossovers

Passive crossovers are very simple to install. They’re small enough to fit into some sort of nook and cranny in most vehicles.

Passive crossovers don’t need to get hooked up to a power source, a turn-on lead, or grounding to work. They come in two types: component crossovers that sit between the amplifier and speakers, and in-line crossovers that sit in between the receiver and the amp.

The downside, however, is that there is a certain amount of inefficiency that is inherent in passive crossovers.

Component crossover

Passive component crossovers are fairly simple to install. They step into the signal path right after the amplifier. Right after the signal went through the amplifier, it goes straight to the passive crossover which divides the full-range signal into two parts, sending the high notes to the tweeters and the mid and low notes to the woofers. Some passive component crossovers have optional settings, which gives you some control over how loud the tweeters play relative to the woofers. Most passive component crossovers have optional settings to attenuate the tweeters if they seem too loud for the woofers.

Since passive component crossovers sit between the amplifier and the speakers, they filter a signal that has already been amplified, therefore they waste power releasing the unwanted parts of the amplified signal as heat.

Furthermore, because speakers’ impedance is constantly changing, which in turn changes a passive crossover’s crossover point, or frequency response, leading to inconsistent sound definition, especially around the vocal regions. (Another great reason to opt for an active crossover, which doesn’t get affected by speaker impedance).

In-line crossover

An in-line crossover is another type of passive crossovers that goes between your receiver and amp. They look like little cylinders with RCA connectors on each end and simply plug into your amp’s inputs.

The best thing about in-line crossovers is that they prevent your amp from wasting energy amplifying signals you don’t want — like high frequencies to a subwoofer amp. The downside, however, is that they come set to a specific crossover frequency and can’t be adjusted. Another drawback to in-line crossovers is the fact that they react differently to different amps, possibly changing their crossover points unpredictably.

All in all, installing an in-line crossover is one of the most cost-effective way to sharpen the sounds of your system, especially in a component speaker system.

Who Really Needs a Car Audio Crossover?

It goes without saying that every single car audio system requires some sort of crossover in much the same way that every car audio system requires some sort of amplifier. But in the same exact way that ever car receivers is fitted with a tiny built-in amplifier, speakers also come with built-in crossovers.

Sure, you can survive with just regular built-in crossovers. You don’t, strictly speaking, need an additional outboard crossover. However, there are times and cases wherein a passive or active unit will come in handy and significantly improve sound quality, efficiency of the system, or both.

An outboard crossover is especially important if you fancy yourself as something of an audiophile, enthusiastic about pure sound quality.

You probably won’t need any sort of crossovers if your car audio system comprises of only coaxial speakers. The latter already have built-in passive crossovers that cut down the frequencies that reach each driver. Even with an amp added into the mix, the crossovers built into the speakers should be more than sufficient. However, you may need a crossover if you add a subwoofer and an amp to that type of system.

On the other hand, you’ll definitely need an outboard crossover if you have an upgraded car audio system consisting of a set of component speakers, multiple amps, and subwoofers. This is especially true if you plan on using separate amps to power specific speakers, such as your woofers or tweeters.

It’s worth mentioning that most aftermarket amplifiers come with built-in high- and low-pass filters which effectively act as crossovers. The high-pass filter let you drive the tweeters, whilst the low-pass filters let you drive the woofers, without the need for any additional crossovers.

When an Active Crossover Can Really Help?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, having a crossover isn’t necessarily mandatory in simple situation where only one single amp is used to power the whole car audio system. However, an active crossover comes in handy in more advanced systems relying on multiple amps. For example, a 3-way active crossover is a component that sits between your head unit and multiple amplifiers.

In such situations, the crossovers divides the signal frequencies into multiple bands, each of which is send to a separate amp. In turn, each amplifier is used to driver a specific type of speakers. For instance, one amp may drive a subwoofer, a second one could be used to drive front speakers with a high pass, while a third amp may drive rear full-range speakers.

Are Crossovers Complicated to Install?

Not really. Installing a crossover isn’t that complicated at all, however, some basic knowledge of how car audio systems works is required.

Installing a passive crossover is a piece of cake since it’s just a matter of plug and play. A passive crossovers goes between your amp and your speakers. So, all it takes to install one is to hook it up to your amp, then wire the crossover’s tweeter output to your tweeter and the woofer output to your woofer, and Voila!

Installing an active crossover requires a bit more work. Similarly to amps, active crossovers require ground, +12V power, and remote turn-on wiring. Once that’s done, you’ll gain new control over your music, being able to tune your sound system so that all of the speakers perform at their best.

Bottom Line

The main purpose of using 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.

If you plan on upgrading your car audio system down the road, it’s wise to opt for an external crossover, instead of relying on the ones built into your receiver and amplifier.

While the crossovers built into your headunit or amp do work well, they don’t offer the total system control of an external unit. Also, if you ever upgrade your amp, you don’t have to give up your crossover.

In this guide, we’ve evaluated the best car audio crossovers money can buy. We included everything from cheap ones all the way to high-end models and a few in-between to cater for different budgets, and needs.

Alex Brown

Hey There, my name is Alex Brown, I'm a music lover and a car audio enthusiast who loves everything from new receivers to car security. I've been in this industry for years now. I enjoy creating solutions and simplifying everyday needs. My passion for music came at an early age. I love helping people get great sounding gear, thereby, saving the world from bad sound one customer at a time.

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