As important as good snacks and video quality are for enjoying a good movie, your experience also hinges upon the sound from your home theater.
Distortions or a poorly set home theater can take away from your home theater experience immensely and make the entire evening feel like a drag.
I have had my fair share of tug-of-war with several home theater systems before understanding that the issue was really about the crossover settings.
Many listeners don’t believe in the significance of a properly set theater system, but I’m here to tell you that it can make or break your experience.
To save you the headache of experimenting with different settings or blowing cash on a professional home theater installation, I’ve put together a guide to the best crossover settings for home theaters.
This should give you a baseline to start from so you can fine-tune according to your preference.
Best Crossover Settings for Home Theater
While generally, a good frequency response from any set of speakers ranges from 40 Hz to 20 kHz, the crossover frequency for your home theater will ultimately depend on your room, furniture, acoustics, speaker channels, and, most importantly, personal preference.
For my room, the crossover starts at 45Hz for the front left and right channels (and the surrounding sides), while the subwoofer crossover frequency varies between 120 Hz (LFE) to 150 Hz (LFE), based on what I am watching.
For action movies, it is a bit higher because I really like to feel the bass – the big boom – while for thrillers, horrors, documentaries, comedies, and more relaxed movies, 120 Hz is enough.
As mentioned, though, the best crossover ultimately depends on your room’s acoustics and personal preference.
Here is a chart that showcases a “rule of thumb,” but it isn’t set in stone.
|Channel||Frequency Response||Crossover Frequency|
|Subwoofer||20-120 Hz||80-120 Hz (80Hz is THX standard)|
|Center||50-20 Hz||60 Hz|
|Front-Left||30 Hz – 20 kHz||40 Hz|
|Front-Right||30 Hz – 20 kHz||40 Hz|
|Surrounding Channels||30 Hz – 20 kHz||45 Hz|
|Rear-Left||70 Hz – 20 kHz||80 Hz|
|Rear-Right||70 Hz – 20 kHz||80 Hz|
|Atmos Speaker Systems||70 Hz – 20 kHz||80 Hz|
|Front-High||35 Hz – 20 kHz||45-50 Hz|
|Front-Wide||35 Hz – 20 kHz||45-50 Hz|
What is a Crossover Frequency?
A crossover frequency is the frequency point where your speakers start to roll off, and your subwoofer takes over. It is generally accepted that the crossover frequency for most home theaters should be 80 Hz, but as seen, this number can change based on certain factors.
The idea behind a crossover frequency is to allow your main speakers to focus on the mids and highs while your subwoofer handles the low-end frequencies. This results in a cleaner and more accurate sound.
How to Set Your Crossover Frequency
There are a few ways you can set your crossover frequency, depending on your equipment. If you have a receiver with an auto-EQ (equalizer) mic, this will do all the work for you and set the crossover frequency automatically. All you need to do is follow the on-screen instructions.
However, if your receiver doesn’t have an auto-EQ mic or if you want to do it yourself, there are a few things you’ll need to take into account.
You will need to find the frequency response of your main speakers. You can do this by looking at the owner’s manual or doing a quick Google search.
Once you have this number, you’ll want to set your crossover frequency about 10-15 Hz below the low-end number.
For example, if your main speakers have a frequency response of 40 Hz to 20 kHz, you’ll want to set your crossover at around 25-30 Hz.
Next, you’ll need to take into account the distance between your seating and your speakers. The further away you are, the higher the crossover frequency will need to be.
For example, if you are sitting 10 feet away from your front left and right speakers, you’ll want to set the crossover frequency a bit higher, around 60 Hz.
But if you are sitting closer, around 5 feet away, you can get away with a lower crossover frequency, like 40 Hz.
Again, these are just general guidelines. The best way to find your perfect setting is to experiment a bit and see what sounds best to you.
Does a Crossover Improve or Reduce Sound Quality?
A crossover definitely improves sound quality. By allowing your main speakers to focus on the mids and highs, and your subwoofer to focus on the low-end frequencies, you are resulting in a cleaner and more accurate sound.
Another benefit of using a crossover is that it can help to protect your speakers from damage. If you are playing music or watching a movie that has a lot of basses, the low frequencies can cause your main speakers to distort.
By using a crossover, you are essentially taking the strain off of your main speakers and putting it on your subwoofer, which is designed to handle those frequencies.
So, in short, yes – using a crossover will definitely improve the sound quality of your home theater.
Crossover Frequencies for Atmos Speakers
If you have Atmos speakers, you’ll need to set your crossover frequency a bit differently. This is because Atmos speakers are designed to reflect sound off of the ceiling, which means they don’t need as much power to produce the same effect.
For Atmos speakers, I would recommend setting the crossover frequency between 70 kHz and 120 kHz. This will allow your subwoofer to take care of the low frequencies while your Atmos speakers reflect sound off of the ceiling to create that immersive experience.
I have found that for me 80 kHz works best, but it may be slightly different for you as everyone’s room is different.
Experiment a bit and see what sounds best in your room.
As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to crossover frequencies. It really depends on a number of factors, including the type of equipment you have, the size of your room, and your personal preference.
The best way to find the perfect setting is to experiment a bit and see what sounds best in your room.
And if you’re ever unsure, just follow the general guidelines I’ve outlined in this article, and you’ll be sure to get great sound.
A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.