Killing the crossover that's killing the sound

To Doug Schneider,

I also appreciate your candor on the Revels; however, I noticed that each model you referenced presents a significant audio problem to the listener: the existence of at least one passive crossover. After spending time with a variety of “widebanders” mated with active subs, and properly set up, I have come to feel that any speaker using a passive crossover, no matter how expensive, offers at least a bit of reduction of fidelity by comparison.

Of course, the equation changes when working with this type of setup. I see people complain about Lowther drivers, but I also note that they don't run them with the type of equipment that they were originally designed to work best with. Frankly, I see the same thing with Quad 57s and am dubious. I would be curious as to your opinion on this approach and the products available.


Speaker design is all about “balancing tradeoffs.” In other words, designers choose the best approach, accept that there will always be compromises made since the perfect transducer can't be made, yet still try to make the best loudspeaker they can.

To me, these wideband drivers might have some advantages, such as eliminating the need for a crossover, but they have many compromises that, at least to me, outweigh the benefits. For example, you’ll never find a truly full-range single-driver speaker (I did notice you mentioned using a sub), and you won’t find one that’s even close to flat across the entire audio band. Furthermore, dispersion is severely compromised, particularly in the upper frequencies. So while the crossover might be out of the way, a lot of other problems get introduced that always result in substandard sound, and, therefore, a serious reduction in fidelity also.

But your point about passive crossovers compromising the signal is relevant. The best way to eliminate the passive crossover is to go to a truly active design, which I have some experience with. One of the best loudspeakers I reviewed in my life was the Aurum Acoustics Integris Active 300B. This speaker system produced astonishingly good sound, truly state of the art, which designer Derrick Moss partially attributed to getting a passive crossover out of the way. He would compare passive crossovers to a sponge, basically soaking up part of the signal and killing some of the sound. The reason I didn’t include Aurum Acoustics in my list is because they’re out of business. Ironically, even though most speaker designers will tell you that active is the very best way to go, audiophiles refuse to accept active speakers, preferring passive designs instead. That might change, though, with a new wave of active, DSP-based loudspeakers that a number of companies are working on right now. If they deliver on their promises, they might be so good that audiophiles will no longer be able to say no to active and we'll be rid of passive crossovers for good. . . . Doug Schneider