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What is even the point of passive crossovers in 2021?

dfuller

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I cannot for the life of me figure out an advantage here. Adequately performing amps are cheap, both analog and DSP based active crossovers are cheap, and the performance all other things being equal is far superior. Even if the amp and crossover aren't in the box with the speaker (e.g. with soffit mounted speakers where the crossover and amps are in a rack in another room), the advantages of actives still hold - steeper filter slopes, easier EQ correction of driver behavior, higher sensitivity because the crossovers don't dissipate amp power...

So what exactly do speaker level passive crossovers do that make them so popular other than "well they're how we've always done it"?
 

richard12511

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I cannot for the life of me figure out an advantage here. Adequately performing amps are cheap, both analog and DSP based active crossovers are cheap, and the performance all other things being equal is far superior. Even if the amp and crossover aren't in the box with the speaker (e.g. with soffit mounted speakers where the crossover and amps are in a rack in another room), the advantages of actives still hold - steeper filter slopes, easier EQ correction of driver behavior, higher sensitivity because the crossovers don't dissipate amp power...

So what exactly do speaker level passive crossovers do that make them so popular other than "well they're how we've always done it"?

I would guess there are no real technical advantage of passive crossovers, only disadvantages. However, a great passive crossover can come remarkably close(perhaps even within audible limits). I think the most likely reason there are still so many passive crossovers is due to the unfortunate fact that most audiophiles still think that DACs and amps make a big difference in the overall sound quality of the system. Having the amplification before the crossover allows them to "upgrade" to infinitely "better" amps with no hassle.

I also think the "they're how we've always done it" that you mention is a big part. I'm hoping the industry is moving more towards active designs.
 

voodooless

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So what exactly do speaker level passive crossovers do that make them so popular other than "well they're how we've always done it"?

Don’t underestimate the cost difference. Open up an average speaker and look at the often simple filter and low cost components. An active filter + amps cannot compete with that. Even in the higher segment, we’re complexity rises as does component cost. There is still a difference, since you’ll probably want a higher quality DSP/DAC/AMP as well.
 

Dennis Murphy

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I cannot for the life of me figure out an advantage here. Adequately performing amps are cheap, both analog and DSP based active crossovers are cheap, and the performance all other things being equal is far superior. Even if the amp and crossover aren't in the box with the speaker (e.g. with soffit mounted speakers where the crossover and amps are in a rack in another room), the advantages of actives still hold - steeper filter slopes, easier EQ correction of driver behavior, higher sensitivity because the crossovers don't dissipate amp power...

So what exactly do speaker level passive crossovers do that make them so popular other than "well they're how we've always done it"?
I always wonder the same thing as a passive crossover designer (although I don't think steeper slopes is really much of an advantage for active designs--4th order is generally enough if you can trap out resonances). But the market rules, and people like to keep hookup simple and choose their own electronics. Fortunately, there are enough well-behaved drivers out there to keep passives competitive from an audibility standpoint.
 

DonH56

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@amirm - How come there is no ordered list option (1,2,3)? Or did I miss it?

Not saying I strongly agree or disagree either way, but here are my off-the-cuff thoughts on cons (we could make a similar list of pros):

1. Passive components are cheaper.

2. Passive components are likely to last longer and be more reliable over time. In an active speaker, any one failure (e.g. one amp) takes down the whole system, and consumers are unlikely to have suitable replacements around. With a passive speaker, if an amp dies, I may have another amp or channel I can use, particularly for an HT system. Of course if a driver dies, the speaker is down, active or passive.

3. Passive speakers do not require having an outlet near each speaker and associated power cord. Unless wireless, you still have to run a cable to the speaker, so a wash at best.

4. Active speakers still need a crossover somewhere, whether active or passive line-level. More cost, and greater if you go with a DSP-based approach for flexibility. DSP opens the option for greater flexibility, a mixed bag, since some customers can take advantage and some cannot/will not, plus the one who mistakenly (or not) totally trashes the performance (and perhaps the speaker) with bad programming.

5. Active speaker amplifiers must be designed for the listener farthest away so may be way over powered (and thus more costly, bulkier, etc.) for many listeners.

6. Speaker size and weight may increase when amplifiers and support circuits are added (may not matter, but a difference).

7. Historically users like buying separates, or having the option to buy separates, and "all-in-one" anything is looked down upon. Thank Marketing for that -- separates are always considered a step-up and the pinnacle of performance, right or wrong...

8. Makes it harder for users to upgrade. Modular designs, which should solve that issue, have not fared well in the past for various reasons including proprietary interfaces, higher cost for swappable components, and reduce reliability due to the additional connections.

9. Greater potential for ground loops and perhaps other noise due to distributed power (AC wall power) connections and longer line-level (or wireless) links (longer cables are unlikely to be an issue assuming competent design, but the potential problems do exist).

10. I couldn't think of another off-hand but didn't want to stop at an odd number. :)

FWIWFM - Don
 
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Frgirard

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So what exactly do speaker level passive crossovers do that make them so popular other than "well they're how we've always done it"?
A meme doesn't make it happen.
The fashion effect on a forum is not a generality.
 

Thomas_A

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If using active filters and amps, I think the ideal is to use impedance matching between amp and drivers, current drive etc. You can win in distortion.
 

DVDdoug

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Standard-traditional home stereo speakers and home theater speakers are passive (except for the subwoofer) so all you have to do is run a pair of wires to each speaker.

I'm not good at predicting the future but I can't see most people wanting to run power (or multiple wire pairs) to 5, or 7, or more speakers...

I think the ideal is to use impedance matching between amp and drivers,
No... Impedance matching doesn't apply to audio. You want a low impedance driving a higher impedance. (With power amplifiers the ratio of load impedance to output impedance is specified as the "damping factor".)
 

MinMan

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I think the industry and people needs a new kind of thing that can make every passive speaker into an Active speaker...

But a cloud data of each speaker its very important and the device must auto configure itself for the speaker
Must have a matrix gel that controls resonances, provides greater definition and lifts the veil between listener and music.
 

Thomas_A

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Standard-traditional home stereo speakers and home theater speakers are passive (except for the subwoofer) so all you have to do is run a pair of wires to each speaker.

I'm not good at predicting the future but I can't see most people wanting to run power (or multiple wire pairs) to 5, or 7, or more speakers...

No... Impedance matching doesn't apply to audio. You want a low impedance driving a higher impedance. (With power amplifiers the ratio of load impedance to output impedance is specified as the "damping factor".)
And current drive?
 

MakeMineVinyl

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The way a speaker manufacturer 'voices' their speakers is a huge part of their identity. If the end user is easily able to mess with that voicing, the manufacturer looses some of its identity. Passive crossovers lock in the sound of the speaker to a greater degree.
 

Sal1950

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10. I couldn't think of another off-hand but didn't want to stop at an odd number.
When one part of the chain goes down the whole system is down till that integrated product is repaired.
If I lose a DAC or amp, I can plug a new one in immediately and be back up.
 

NiagaraPete

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I would guess there are no real technical advantage of passive crossovers, only disadvantages. However, a great passive crossover can come remarkably close(perhaps even within audible limits). I think the most likely reason there are still so many passive crossovers is due to the unfortunate fact that most audiophiles still think that DACs and amps make a big difference in the overall sound quality of the system. Having the amplification before the crossover allows them to "upgrade" to infinitely "better" amps with no hassle.

I also think the "they're how we've always done it" that you mention is a big part. I'm hoping the industry is moving more towards active designs.
Well when you move on from from a 30 year old DAC in a CD player, get rid of the preamp, and add a modern DAC there really is a moment when you go "Holly crap".
 

JRS

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I would guess there are no real technical advantage of passive crossovers, only disadvantages. However, a great passive crossover can come remarkably close(perhaps even within audible limits). I think the most likely reason there are still so many passive crossovers is due to the unfortunate fact that most audiophiles still think that DACs and amps make a big difference in the overall sound quality of the system. Having the amplification before the crossover allows them to "upgrade" to infinitely "better" amps with no hassle.

I also think the "they're how we've always done it" that you mention is a big part. I'm hoping the industry is moving more towards active designs.
Absolutely can. Several years ago I put together a pair of Jeff Bagby's Kairos design--which was a perfect target given it was a minimum phase design made possible by the great bandwidth of the Satori woofer and ring tweeter. A terrific 2-way At moderate to loud playback levels absolutely no preference for either. I did this because while I was and am a huge advocate of triamped DSP systems, there was this little niggling doubt that the old timers might be right. At least in this case there was no magic missing, even when the passive is a "transient perfect" specimen. Whatever doubts I had were quelled.
 

NiagaraPete

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You must admit, the folks at Linn realized many years (decades) ago passive sucked. Their method of adding the crossover in the amp may not have been the best solution but it worked.
 

tonycollinet

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Probably a 10+x cost factor between passive and active crossovers when all is taken into account.

But here is the real kicker - unless you are selling active speakers, you can't sell a speaker without a passive crossover to anyone not already set up with active crossovers and multiple amps - unless they are buying a complete system in one step.
 
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