Installing a high-quality speaker system in your vehicle is a great way to get the most entertainment from your music when out on the town.
Powerful speakers however, will almost certainly require a crossover to accommodate the wide range of audio frequency output. So, how do you install car speakers with crossover in any car?
To install car speakers with a crossover in any car, plug the speaker wires from the amplifier into the input of the crossover unit. Next, wire the speakers into the crossover’s output terminals in the proper place, according to the marks on the unit.
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Tip: There are crossovers included in most of the speaker system packages you will find. However, when you do not have one or need to add additional speakers to the car audio, you do not have to worry. There are many crossovers available on the market, and if you need crossovers that will be the best for your car, check the broad selection on Amazon now.
In this article, I will explain what crossover technology is, how it works, and the available different types.
Next, I will give you few tips for installing speakers with crossover, regardless of the speaker brand or car model. Also, I will provide information and tricks on how to mount your crossover and hide your wires so that the job looks organized and professionally done.
What Is a Crossover Used for in Car Audio?
An audio crossover is an electronic sound system component that directs the output from the receiver to the appropriate speaker, depending on the frequency.
There are many different speakers, but the three common types are mid-range drivers/woofers, subwoofers, and tweeters. Mid-range drivers accommodate mid-range audio frequency output, while tweeters handle the high end, and subwoofers take the low frequency, and to work correctly, all of these speakers need to receive adequate frequencies.
Why Do You Need an Audio Crossover?
Different audio frequency output requires speakers of different sizes and shapes. For example, a subwoofer is a large speaker with a lot of movement and mobility, while a tweeter is small and stiff. That’s exactly why the crossover is necessary.
The audio crossover is simply there to judge and cut the frequency and then transfer it to the appropriate speakers to initiate its function.
It’s necessary to have a crossover simply because a single speaker isn’t structurally capable of covering the entire pitch range. A subwoofer cannot produce high-range frequencies, so another type of speaker is required to fill in the gap.
Having a proper audio crossover system in your car is essential to producing the best possible sound quality.
Crossover does not only allows speakers to produce the most optimal sound output, but it also acts to protect your speakers from a blowout. It prevents ill-equipped speakers from trying to bear the brunt of handling frequencies they are not intended to.
How Does a Crossover Work?
When the sound begins getting too low or too high for the mid-driver, a crossover will pass off the work to the subwoofer or tweeter.
There’s a range in the middle between this passing off where both speakers may be active to a certain degree. The point where the two speakers intersect in the middle of the transitional range is known as the crossover point.
Crossovers are typically either 2-way or 3-way (although they can be more). This simply means that the audio will break up into either two range categories or three depending on the number of speakers installed per channel.
- A 2-way consists only of a high pass and a low pass filters.
- A 3-way crossover is, on the other hand, much more specific and precise, but it’s not as often used in car audio systems. 3-way crossovers are most useful where the range of audio frequency is very broad and needs further optimization.
Some amps may already have crossovers built directly into them. But those running amps that don’t will need a manually installed crossover.
Let’s now take a look at the process of installing car speakers with crossover capability.
What to Consider When Installing Car Speakers With Crossover?
When installing speakers with crossover in your car, there are two main things to keep in mind:
- Physical layout and arrangement of the components
The first thing to consider is where you’ll mount your amp, your crossover, where you’ll hide your wires, etc.
- Wire system
Perhaps the more important factor is how you wire the system. Proper system installation is essential to having it perform and function as intended.
If your crossover isn’t wired or set up correctly, the wrong speaker may be forced to produce a frequency that it’s not suited for. This can result in a blowout, which in most cases will cause permanent speaker damage.
Wiring Car Speakers With a Crossover
Now, I will walk you through the most important and fundamental stage of the wiring installation process. Keep in mind that you may need a few simple tools to finish the installation:
- Wire stripper
- Twist-on electrical connectors
- Electrical tape
- 16-gauge speaker wire
When you’re wiring aftermarket speakers, always use 16-gauge wire. 18-gauge wire often used to wire stock speakers in most vehicles, is too thin and lightweight for a heavy-duty aftermarket speaker system.
Before installing your car speaker crossover, you’ll need a basic understanding of the wiring arrangement and how to do it.
While wiring a speaker crossover in a car is a relatively simple process, many ways are better in certain circumstances. Understandably, this may create some confusion during the installation. Planning out an ideal arrangement for your given car and speaker layout is important.
- Passive crossover: The most common type of car speaker, passive crossovers require no power source to function and are, therefore, very convenient to set up and install.
- Active crossover: An active crossover does need an external power source and ground to run, which complicates the installation. However, an active crossover offers the benefit of granting you full control over the adjusting and functionality of the audio pass frequency and these crossovers being installed in advanced sound systems.
If you’re not entirely convinced about installing these speakers all by yourself, don’t be afraid to seek help from audio professionals.
The money you pay in labor will pay for itself in a job well done, so don’t feel like you have to DIY it.
Installing Passive Crossovers
I will start with the most common and simplistic method for installing car speakers with a 2-way passive crossover. Here are the steps in wiring a passive crossover:
- The most important thing you need to know is that you have to place a passive crossover between the speaker and the amp. With this in mind, begin by taking the speaker wires coming from your amplifier and plugging/wiring them into the crossover’s input.
- Next, take the wires from your tweeter speakers and wire them into the tweeter output terminal on the crossover.
- From there, wire the woofers into the woofer output on the crossover.
Now, the 2-way passive crossover sits between the amp and speakers and will direct the output to the appropriate drivers. That’s all the wiring required for this method.
Remember that most amps will have output wires divided according to left/right and front/back. This means you’ll have to wire your left outputs through the crossover and to the left side speakers. You’ll do the same on the right side as well.
This, of course, requires two crossover units. Thankfully, almost all aftermarket crossovers come in pairs for this reason.
If you’re interested in purchasing a set of 2-way passive crossovers at an affordable price, I recommend you check out the Audiotek High-Performance Crossover. These crossovers are designed with convenience in mind, so they’re reliable and easy to install.
Whether you’re installing entirely new speakers or just fitting up your old speakers with a crossover system, the process will be the same. As long as you follow the steps above when installing the crossover, you’ll find no issues.
Installing in-Line Passive Crossovers
The second type of passive crossover is known as an in-line crossover, which works differently from a conventional passive crossover.
In-line crossovers plug directly into the input of your amp and are wired into the car’s receiver. Therefore, they sit between the amp and receiver, which sets them apart from a typical passive crossover.
In-line crossovers are relatively popular because of how easy they are to install. Still, I don’t advocate them as a first choice since you have no control over their functionality, and they won’t always be compatible with every type of amp and receiver you try to pair them with.
One great benefit of the in-line crossovers is that they don’t need to be tucked away anywhere. They’re very clean and organized, as opposed to other types of crossovers, which will need to be mounted and hidden after wiring them in.
In-line crossovers are a good option for beginners who don’t want to tinker too much with their stereo equipment and just want something that they can quickly attach and be done with it.
There’s almost no chance of making an error when installing in-line crossovers, so they can save you some time, effort, and the money of paying a mechanic for labor.
In-lines will probably get the job done, but they’re not the best option.
How Do You Wire an Active Crossover?
If you’re running a high-powered sound system in your car and want to optimize the quality of your audio to the greatest degree possible, you may want to go with an active crossover system.
However, an active crossover wiring job is slightly more complex than you’ll find with a passive arrangement.
As I mentioned earlier, an active crossover requires a power source.
The best option for a speaker system of this magnitude is to set up a second 12-volt battery in your car designated explicitly for powering your audio.
You may also want to arrange your active crossover system to incorporate the use of multiple power amps.
Regardless of the details relating to how exactly you decide to lay it out, the basic installation process will always remain the same.
Below are the steps in wiring an active crossover:
- Begin by wiring your receiver to the input of your active crossover unit.
- Wire your power amp(s) to the appropriate inputs on your crossover, corresponding to the labeling. For example, the power amp for the subwoofer will connect to the crossover where indicated, etc.
- Connect the speakers to the amp(s) in the place they each belong.
Now that you have the chain from the receiver to the speakers complete, it’s time to power the crossover. Here are the steps:
- Wire your second (auxiliary) battery in parallel with your original (starter) battery, and connect them via a battery isolator.
- Unhook your fuse box from the starter battery and connect it to the auxiliary battery.
- Ground your active crossover by securely screwing the ground wire to a bare, unpainted metal part of the car.
- Connect your crossover and amp(s) to the fuse box to supply them with power.
Your active crossover system is now completely installed and good to go. Always use a thick wire (lower gauge) when installing a crossover. If the speaker wire is too thin, you risk shorting it out or compromising the sound quality.
Where Do Component Speaker Crossovers Go?
At this point, we’ve got the wiring out of the way, which is the part of the installation process that requires the most thinking and planning, and now we have to make it look nice. After all, no one wants their car to look like a mess of wires and audio devices, so we need to find the best way to tuck it all away.
The exact location where you decide to mount your crossover unit will largely depend on the model and design of your car’s interior and the place you feel to be most convenient.
One of the most common places for people to mount their crossover is inside the door panels. Car door panels are the ideal spot because they are typically easy to remove, which allows you to have quick and easy access to the crossover if you need to adjust it and alter the crossover point.
Having your crossover(s) hidden inside your front car doors will also mean that you do not have to run as much wire because the crossover will be conveniently close to your receiver.
Having your crossover mounted in the door also means you don’t have to run the wires too far.
How to Securely Install a Crossover?
When mounding your crossover inside the door, do not mount it directly to the metal inner wall of the door. That’s because having the crossover fastened directly to metal can create audio problems like rattling and ground issues.
Instead, you should put your crossover on a piece of either double-sided tape or rubber grommets. This provides a buffer and will prevent electrical interference.
When you run the wires out of the door, you should feed them through the rubber grommet tube that runs between the car door and the car’s body. This will keep them dry in the case of rain and prevent them from getting pinched in the door when you close it. Use zip ties or electrical tape to bundle any wires together if necessary.
Some people will mount their crossover out in the open, such as the dashboard or center console. Still, we don’t feel that this is necessary, as a crossover shouldn’t need readjustment often, and it can take up a lot of space and clutter your vehicle.
Make sure nothing is loose and rattling when you’re finished, for instance, your license plate or door panel. These will vibrate and shake when your bass starts to drop, creating some very unpleasant and not-so-flattering sounds.
How Do You Change the Crossover Frequency on a Car Audio System?
If you have to set the pass frequencies on your crossovers manually, there are some general number ranges you should be aiming for to get the best sound quality possible.
- Your low-pass — meaning when your subwoofers will kick in to pound out the low tones — will fall somewhere in the range of between 70-80 Hz.
- The mid-range woofers will ideally sit around 1-3 kHz, a perfect middle ground range between the low and high frequencies.
- Lastly, the tweeters’ high-pass frequency is best when programmed to 3-3.5 kHz.
Never set the top end of your mid-range woofers to above 3.5 kHz. That’s because most can’t handle this frequency, and the risk of a blowout is very high.
Setting up the frequencies in your crossover is a surprisingly complex undertaking, and there are many different things you must consider.
If you’re looking for more details of programming crossover frequencies, see this article by SoundCertified. It will answer every question you’ll ever have about setting up your crossover points.
The most common car audio crossover is a 2-way passive crossover. A 2-way passive crossover goes between the amp and the speakers and can be wired according to the labeling on the crossover.
For active and 3-way crossovers, you’ll need a power source, and the process is more complex. You’ll likely need to run a second 12-volt battery to power an active crossover system.