Choosing Between X-Pipes and H-Pipes For Your Exhaust

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Infusing your ride with extra power, fuel economy and sound is as simple as bolting on a performance exhaust system. Not surprisingly, new technologies and refinements to exhausts have made something as simple as tubing as obsolete as the floppy disk. By managing exhaust CFMs, scavenging effects and velocity, exhaust pipes squeeze every bit of flow from modern systems. An X-Pipe or H-Pipe are two exhaust crossover pipe components that serve the same purpose, while operating on very different principles.

An X-Pipe or an exhaust H-Pipe are at the heart of a performance system and bolted in the center of the car. Also known as a crossover pipe, each system works by balancing the exhaust pulses from either side—or cylinder bank of a V-style engine. The result is a smooth exhaust flow and a more efficient engine. But what’s the difference between the two?

Why an X-Pipe?

An exhaust X-Pipe muffler is, you guessed it, shaped like an x, and allows the exhaust to flow down the path of least resistance. At lower revs, turbulence is formed as exhaust gases try to shuffle past a second column of gases coming from the other side. While always producing more power than the restrictive factory system, the potential gains are not seen until higher rpms are reached. This is where an X-Pipe exhaust stands apart from the rest. Exhaust gas is pushed out harder as the engine spins faster. The X-Pipe merges this chaos into two uniform streams, allowing a smooth flow from engine headers to exhaust tips through the addition of this exhaust crossover pipe.

Why an H-Pipe?

An H-Pipe exhaust is also shaped like its namesake and relies on exhaust expansion to balance the cylinder banks. A small section of tubing in between the main pipes provides an area for gases to expand into during exhaust pulses. Only a small amount of exhaust flows from one stream to the other as both sides push back and forth in the center section. Flowmaster H-Pipes feature low restriction, so gains in performance are noticed from low rpm and give the exhaust a deeper, muscle car-like tone.

While both X and H pipes serve the same purpose, they use different methods to build power and economy, all while providing a distinctive sound. Think of an X-Pipe muffler as being at home in a high-winding modern V6 or V8 while an H-Pipe conjures memories of tire-shredding torque in classic American iron.

Which Pipe is Best for You?

It can be exhausting choosing the right exhaust system for your ride – but we’re here to make it simple for you. If you’ve got a newer car, and you want to be sporting that feisty zing every time you hit the gas, the X-pipe exhaust option will help to sharpen your tone and your power output along with it.

If you have a more classic beast that needs that throaty roar, an H-pipe gives you that borderline obnoxious sound while still providing you with the most performance gains possible.

Don’t Live in a Pipe Dream

Get the raw power you’ve been searching for, paired with your own custom sound when you choose from the X-Pipe muffler or the H-Pipe mufflers available at AutoAnything. The guesswork gets taken out of the equation with our vehicle finder tool, filtering out all the exhaust products (and any other part or accessory you could need) according to make, model and year. If you’re still unsure about the X-pipe vs H-pipe debate, there are loads of reviews for each product left by auto enthusiasts just like yourself that can help guide you towards the right choice.

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12 COMMENTS

    • Hey Sam,

      That actually comes more from engine tuning than the type of exhaust you have. That crackle and pop you hear on cars like the Focus RS is from fuel being dumped into the cylinders off throttle, resulting in it combusting in the exhaust system instead. This is done purposely from the factory just for this effect. Cars running a rich tune (low air/fuel ratio) will have a similar effect. An exhaust system with a lot of flow will help magnify this effect, but a X or H pipe won’t get you there.

      Hope this helps!
      Garrett

  1. Where does the rasp come from some cars? Straight six engined cars, such as the jaguar e type, have that famous deep sounding rasp. The e46 m3 captures some of this rasp, but carries A higher frequency ‘tinny’ noise. Does exhaust setup such as using H, X or straight through pipe with the appropriate resonator achieve this?

    Whilst I appreciate the engines are engineered differently, I’m at a loss at how it works?

    • Hey Ben,

      That’s a great question! I’ve actually read up a bit on this because I’ve been curious myself on why different engine formats sound so distinctly different, but I really wish I knew more. A lot of the sound is of course inherent to the cylinder layout, so straight sixes are always going to sound different than a V-configuration engine, a lot of that comes from the fact that V6s require heavy counterbalancing to stay smooth. A lot of the sound has to do with the firing order and the natural, symmetrical balance of the I6 configuration.

      The smoothness and balance of these engines comes from the fact that two cylinders opposite of each other are always mirror each other’s stroke, with one cylinder firing and one cylinder on the exhaust stroke simultaneously. That balanced firing order is a big thing that sets it apart from a V6. When compared to a I4, the I6 will have more cylinders to fire at say 6,000 RPM, giving it a lot more rasp. These factors are much more what contribute to that sound than an x or y-pipe, simply because most I6s have either a shared header across all cylinders going into 1 pipe the rest of the way back, or two headers that combine the same way. An exception to this would be something like the E46 M3 like you mentioned, where the two headers feed into seperate pipes like a V-configuration engine, and then they will have an x or y pipe.

      For some more reading, this isn’t specifically on straight sixes, but here is an interesting piece on how an engine’s resonance effects the sound: https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a15107374/this-is-why-various-engine-types-sound-so-different-feature/

      Honestly, I really need to read up more on this, because I find it fascinating! It’s a good rabbit hole to head down. Hope this gives you a little info to go on!

      Cheers,
      Garrett

  2. I have a Jag XKE 4.2L. The stock system is 3 into 1 x 2 completely separate pipes (muffler and resonator). Would an X or H improve flow?

    • Hey Jim,

      So I did some digging on aftermarket systems for the 4.2 I6, and it looks like most commercial aftermarket kits stick with the true dual setup. In general, yes, an X/H pipe will help with exhaust flow, specifically aiding in scavenging. I did a much better write-up on this with one of our content partners, LSX Magazine. It’s written with Chevy guys in mind, but the concept is universal so I think you’ll find some good information there.

      Here’s the guide: https://www.lsxmag.com/tech-stories/whats-the-difference-between-an-x-pipe-and-an-h-pipe/

      I have a feeling that there are an awful lot of traditionalists with the old XKE, so that may be why aftermarket kits tend to stick with true dual exhaust. People probably don’t want to mess with that classic sound. You might have to have an exhaust shop make one for you if you wanted to go that route. I’ll shoot you this info in an email just in case.

      Hope this helps answer your question, please let me know if you need any more specific info or advice. I have more guides on exhausts and scavenging as well.
      Cheers!
      Garrett

  3. V6 @ 60 decrees is even fire.
    I6 Inline is even fire.
    V12 @ 60 degrees is even fire..
    V8 @ 90 degrees is even fire.
    * No two adjacent cylinders fire. Much better than offset crank grind or balance shaft. It is all about cylinder bank angle.

  4. I have a E400 Mercedes (C206)
    It has the twin turbo V6, I would like to make a it louder I was considering removing the two centre boxes but on looks like a H configuration. Do you think it’s wise to straight pipe it. Or do you think I should just remove rear mufflers I don’t want to spend a great deal, but it’s just way to quiet. Thanks

    • Hey Chris,

      I wouldn’t recommend straight piping it, you’ll most likely only lose power that way. If you want it to be louder on the cheap, I would pick up some new mufflers and have an exhaust shop weld them in. Anything in the Flowmaster 40 series will be loud and aggressive, the Super 44s are great if you want even more volume.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  5. I have a van I drive and race. 1975 Dodge. 360 small block headman headers . 36 inc. glass packs. No crossover tubes. I run 250 shot of nitrous. 10.5 to 1 compression. Aluminum heads. Would an x pipe help me pick up a few tenths.

    • Hey Robert,

      If you’re running straight pipes all the way back, adding an X pipe can definitely help with scavenging. It’s hard to say for sure based on all your mods, but that should help you pick up some power. Sounds like a beast van!

      Garrett

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