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Old 10th September 2004, 11:13 AM   #1
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Question why do we bother with passive crossovers?

It seems that some of the best speaker designers spend years to design a high end speaker, with nearly all of that time spent on passive crossovers. I find that I'm very skeptical about this. Why does it take so long? After all that time, the result will be a speaker that is the best effort of that person to suit their own tastes, but to someone else it might be quite ordinary!

Is the difference between a professional and a diyer with some basic measuring equipment and a reasonable amount of time really that much?

This is going to be perhaps highly controversial!

Can a diyer do better than a professional spending years perfecting a passive crossover with:

* an active crossover which is much easier to design - bafflestep included along with notch filters if needed - very little design work needed I would imagine

* a digital crossover with something like the Behringer Ultradrive where you can say run a 3 way speaker which allows you to digitally time align the drivers which could also include the subs which can be placed for optimum smoothness with modes

* how does the transparency of digital crossovers / eqs compare to an active crossover / filters?

Food for thought:

Thorsten Loesch wrote an interesting review on the Behringer Ultracurve eq unit, and his comments were that it is as transparent as many other components placed in the audio chain like a preamp, but the improvement was quite dramatic:

Here is the review
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Old 10th September 2004, 11:31 AM   #2
Mr Evil is offline Mr Evil  United Kingdom
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I never bother with passive crossovers anymore; ever since I first built a bi-amped system some years ago and realized what a huge difference it made.

In my opinion, yes, even a fairly haphazard active crossover can outperform a passive crossover in many ways.

It is not only easier to design an active crossover (inculding various compensation networks), but it's possible to make them tunable too, which can help with room matching.

I've never used one myself, but theoretically a digital crossover could sound like anything you want.
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Old 10th September 2004, 11:32 AM   #3
SY is offline SY  United States
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Not controversial at all. A skilled diyer CAN do better than the pros since:

1. He's designing a speaker for a known environment.

2. He has complete control over what sort of amp/amps are driving the speakers.

3. He's got an audience of one to please.

4. He can customize the crossover (electronic or otherwise) to the specific set of drivers he's using without regard to scale-up and mass production.
"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
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Old 10th September 2004, 12:10 PM   #4
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Maybe because they're cheaper? This is the poor diy'ers answer.
I don't know the answer if we apply the question to expensive speakers though. Paying $20K for a speaker with passive xovers is rather strange.
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Old 10th September 2004, 12:30 PM   #5
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I asked Colin Whatmough (Whatmough speakers) if he had considered active designs. That was after listening to speakers he had designed worth AUD $25k with $10k amps, very high end stuff.

His response was that he thought it was too expensive. He obviously thinks its better to spend more on ultra high end amps and drivers, etc. The speakers were excellent, flawless.

Still, I went away thinking that it would surely be possible to achieve the same result more cheaply with an active system. I could tell the room was messing with the bass as there were audible dips in the response. I went home to hear my system on the same track I heard on his system. Not quite as good, but the differences were subtle, at least when buffered by a half hour drive in between, although I would have picked more in an AB comparison.
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Old 10th September 2004, 12:37 PM   #6
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why do we bother with passive crossovers?
I don't know either !


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Old 10th September 2004, 12:44 PM   #7
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Is there anyone who thinks passive crossovers sound better?
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Old 10th September 2004, 12:58 PM   #8
Mats J is offline Mats J  United States
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Well, I would guess some of the reasons would be, that not everyone wants, say, six big monoblock amps taking up all the floor space in the listen(re:living) room. Also, as mentioned before, there's the added cost of the extra channels of amplification, plus more interconnect and speaker wire to deal with. From a commercial point of view, it just seems like it would be that much more difficult to sell an active speaker because of the above mentioned issues.
As for DIY'ers, many don't know how to do the electronics side, and for some (unknown to me) reason, there seems to be a bit of a stigma against active speakers.
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Old 10th September 2004, 01:04 PM   #9
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Stigma against active speakers? I didn't know this!

Yes, lots of amps is an issue ...

one further advantage is that you can choose amps to match the speakers better. eg. you can use a small diy class A amp for the tweeter, a valve amp for the mids (if that's what floats ya boat), but a more chunky solid state amp for the bass!

Again I ask, does anyone think passive sounds better?

Is the idea that a diyer can easily better passives with active or digital flawed?
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Old 10th September 2004, 01:06 PM   #10
markp is offline markp  United States
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Passive crossovers can take care of lots of things an active does not deal with. Like bumps in response within a drivers bandwidth etc. You also only need one good amp rather than multiple good ones. There are less active(noise inducing, signal degrading) stages in the path. A good electronic crossover can cost more than 10 times that of a passive.
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