Crossover and equalizer are two of the advanced level car audio components.
It means while they’re not as critical as speakers or amp, and you’d be fine if skip them, they can make your car sound from good to GREAT.
Many people think about crossovers and equalizers as two names for one thing (like head unit and car stereo) but that’s not the case as both of them serve different purposes.
Before actually discussing the crossovers, we’ll have to discuss sound frequencies. Speakers generally produce sound frequencies between 20-20000 Hz as this is the range where we humans can hear sound.
Since a single speaker cannot cover this entire range, different speakers are designed to produce different frequencies.
For example, the subwoofer is a specialized speaker to produce low-range (bass) frequencies; while the tweeters and midrange drivers are better at producing high-level and midrange frequencies respectively.
This is where crossover comes in. It divides an audio input signal into two or three parts and sends those parts to relevant speakers.
This way subs, midrange speakers, and tweeters receive the audio signal they are designed for.
In each crossover, there’s a high-pass filter and a low-pass filter.
While a high-pass filter blocks the lower frequencies and sends the high frequencies signals to the tweeter, the low-pass filter blocks the high frequencies and sends the bass-level notes to the subwoofer.
In a 3-way crossover, there’s a third filter called bandpass filter that filters the frequencies in between the low-pass and high-pass filters.
Without a crossover in place, your speakers can get damaged/blown by receiving a ‘wrong’ audio signal.
Crossovers come in two types: Active and Passive Crossover.
Passive crossovers don’t need any external power to filter the signal whereas active crossovers do require power and ground connection as they give you much more control and flexibility over the signal.
Up next we have the car equalizer. It’s a device that lets you tweak sound way beyond the typical treble, midrange, and bass settings.
Even if you have all of your car audio components in place, things can get ugly due to various external factors such as wind, vehicle noise, road noise, improper speaker location, grills over the speakers.
Most of these factors are not in your control but can affect your car sound. To negate these effects, you’ll need to attenuate their frequencies, for which you’ll need an equalizer.
Secondly, factory stereo comes with only standard EQ settings. While these settings are good enough for the factory speakers, you’ll need an equalizer to fine-tune settings if you’ve recently upgraded to aftermarket speaker, subs, or amps.
Lastly, car equalizers help you in truly customizing your music if you’re interested in just one genre, such as EDM.
Car equalizers mainly come in two types:
A graphic equalizer shows you a graphical representation of different frequency bands. These equalizer features different sliders, depending on their model, with each responsible for controlling a fixed frequency range.
For example, a 5-band EQ will have five different sliders: one each for sub-bass, bass, midrange, upper-midrange, and treble. The same goes for a 10-band EQ which will have ten different sliders for fine-tuning different frequency ranges.
One important thing to note here is that making changes in one frequency range will have some effect on the neighbor frequency ranges too.
Parametric equalizers allow you even greater control by tweaking the bandwidth and centre point of each frequency bands.
By adjusting bandwidth, you can control the effect one frequency band can have on its neighbor bands. The wider a frequency bandwidth is, the more it will affect its neighbor bands.
In short, these EQs let you make fine adjustments in any particular frequency band – giving you maximum control.
Crossover vs Equalizer: Conclusion
So by now, you know the difference between a crossover and an equalizer. While both of these components allow us our car sound, they work differently.
While crossover splits an audio signal and sends it to relevant speakers, the EQ customizes the frequency output of a car audio system.