You may look into car speaker designs or speaker configurations for your home setup.
If you’re thinking about the difference between a 2-way vs. 3-way speaker system, you can find your answers in this handy guide!
Three-way speakers feature an extra speaker called the midrange speaker. It handles mid-frequency levels ranging from 200Hz to 2,000Hz.
We’ll dive into their key features, advantages, disadvantages, and main differences. All these so that you can decide which is the better speaker system for you.
- Two-way speaker systems have two main components: the woofer and the tweeter.
- Three-way speaker systems add one speaker to the two-way setup. It is often a midrange speaker.
- A crossover is an electrical circuit that divides the full range of frequencies among the speaker drivers. It is present regardless if you’re using 2-way vs. 3-way speakers.
What Is a 2-Way Speaker?
As the name suggests, a two-way speaker system splits frequency ranges between two speakers for better clarity.
Its speakers are the woofer and the tweeter.
The smaller tweeter handles high-end frequencies. These are the sounds that instruments like the tambourine, cymbal, and woodwind produce.
The woofer accounts for all frequencies LOWER than the tweeter, including mid-range frequencies.
Examples of low-frequency sounds are those that a drum or bass produces.
TAKE NOTE: The human ear can handle frequency levels from 20Hz to 20,000Hz and is most sensitive to mid frequencies. One driver cannot handle this full range, so it is best to have at least 2 speakers for high frequency and mid-range.
The size of two-way speaker systems is generally small. As such, they have small power requirements for their power amplifier.
Most of these systems have a passive crossover, which only isolates sound signals and does not intensify them.
This simple system has a more focused audio performance and is commonly integrated into bookshelf speakers.
This speaker system is better used with coaxial speaker frameworks.
Coaxial speakers have more than one speaker within the same box. Therefore, its speakers produce audio within only one axis.
- Low-cost with a simple crossover
- Take up less space
- Simple installation requirements
- Does not require much power
- Provides insufficient detail of voice range
- The woofer also handles the mid-bass, which limits its capacity for lower frequencies.
What Is a 3-Way Speaker?
A three-way speaker system splits frequency ranges between three speakers for better clarity.
Its speakers are the woofer, the midrange, and the tweeter.
The tweeter still handles high frequencies. These frequency levels go beyond 2,000Hz, but the woofer does not handle all the other lower frequencies anymore.
Instead, the midrange now handles medium frequency levels. These frequency levels are from 200Hz to 2,000Hz.
The woofer only handles low-frequency levels. These are sound frequencies below 200Hz.
Some three-way speakers replace the mid-range speaker with a super tweeter or subwoofer. The former extends to higher frequency levels, while the latter covers lower ones.
Three-way speakers, unlike most bookshelf speakers, have dedicated drivers. They sort out different ranges more thoroughly.
They also have more elaborate isolation of low-frequency and high-frequency sounds.
Two-way speakers divide frequency levels into high and low only. Meanwhile, three-way speakers divide levels into high, mid, and low frequencies, affecting sound quality.
3-way car speakers aim to produce better-quality audio in terms of clarity. Its versatility makes music sound good regardless of the song you’re playing.
- Offers broader frequency response for lower distortion
- Can handle greater power without the risk of damage
- Has a more detailed voice clarity
- Provides more options and versatility
- Larger, heavier, and more expensive
- Requires a complicated crossover
- Rare and harder to find
What Is a Crossover?
Both two-way speakers and three-way speakers have a crossover. It is responsible for separating the audible frequency levels of the different speakers.
It doesn’t split frequency levels nor start and stop at certain frequency levels.
A crossover works by using a filter that tapers at the ends of a certain frequency range. It gives each driver their corresponding frequency range to produce an audible sound.
How the speakers produce sound, their materials, and the crossover design all determine the resulting sound. These factors also influence whether or not there would be sound distortion.
The design and precision of a good crossover are also important as they contribute to minimizing sound distortion.
Thus, it affects the overall sound quality of an audio result regardless of using a two-way or three-way speaker.
Aside from these, a crossover circuit helps maintain a balanced sound output. You must consider how the speakers would interplay to set up an external crossover.
What Are the Major Differences Between 2-Way vs. 3-Way Speakers?
The key difference between two-way and three-way speakers are:
- Their size – Two-way speakers are smaller than three-way speakers. This also corresponds to their footprint.
- Their weight – The weight of the systems follows their difference in size. Three-way speakers are heavier than two-way speakers.
- The number of speakers or drivers – A two-way speaker has two drivers: one tweeter and one woofer. A three-way speaker has three drivers: these two plus a mid-range speaker.
- The function of the woofer – While tweeters always handle higher frequencies, the woofer in 2-way speakers handles both the mid-range and low frequencies. The woofer in 3-way speakers only handles low frequencies.
- The number of crossover points – The crossover point is when sound moves from one source to another, such as speakers. 2-way speakers have one crossover point, while 3-way speakers have two.
- Their design and versatility – 2-way speakers are simpler. 3-way speakers are more complex and therefore offer more options for higher-end performance.
- Their components – 3-way speakers have more components that impact the speaker sound: the method for crossover setting, cabinet structure, and speaker arrangement.
- Crossover setting: The 2-way crossover has high-pass and low-pass filters. The 3-way crossover has an additional band-pass filter aside from the filters of a 2-way crossover.
How to Determine the Suitable Speaker Setup
From the user’s perspective, both systems differ in terms of the sound quality they each produce.
It follows that each one has its designated setting too.
2-Way Speaker System
The 2-way speaker system is more AFFORDABLE as it only has two drivers and a simpler crossover circuit.
It can also perfectly handle all mid and high frequencies despite having only two speakers.
In addition, it does not have a high power requirement. If you don’t need anything too powerful, go for the 2-way system.
The 2-way speaker system is an ideal car speaker system. Aside from its size and cheaper price tag, it is also easier to install!
On the other hand, installing 3-way car speakers in your vehicle will take up more space.
Because of this, you will have to give up space intended for other components in your trunk or engine bay.
2-way speakers may have limitations in terms of handling lower frequency levels, but they can perform perfectly fine in a small room or office.
You can upgrade its bass sound by going for 2-way speakers with higher wattage ratings. Its woofer and mid-range combination should provide the extra bass sound you want.
3-Way Speaker System
The 3-way speaker system is for you if you have a higher budget allocation for your sound system and greatly appreciate deep bass sounds.
Furthermore, 3-way speakers are designed to reach lower bass sounds.
As such, 3-way speaker systems are often more powerful than 2-way systems. They provide better sound quality than 2-way systems.
3-way systems are ideal for home theater and living room sound systems. They provide more bass output that produces a much fuller sound.
This would be the perfect sound system for watching movies and television shows!
You can also use an equalizer, bass boost, or subwoofer on your receiver to enhance the sound signals from your TV.
This will ensure high-quality sound regardless of what you’re watching, playing, or listening to.
We recommend a 3-way system for the home setup of audiophiles or music producers. It should provide them with high-fidelity sound with the most detail and clarity.
They will appreciate it even more with classical and jazz music, which require the good frequency response that 3-way speakers provide.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can refer to the following section if you have more questions about these two different setups.
How Do Speaker Set-Ups Affect Sound Quality?
Audio quality translates from the different kinds of sound waves that speakers produce. Speakers produce these audio waves better when they are of the right size.
The SIZE of the speaker matters because each one is fit to produce different frequencies.
For example, the woofer can produce low-frequency sound better than a smaller tweeter. Subwoofers can handle even lower bass sounds that regular speakers cannot.
Should the Room Size Matter in Choosing a Speaker Set-Up?
Yes! You must consider room size in choosing a setup.
If you live in a small space, it is better to have 2-way speakers. A good example is bookshelf speakers.
3-way speakers have a larger footprint and are heavier. Their sound quality may not be worth their occupying more space if you are already limited with space.
How Should I Set My Speaker System Up?
When you set your system up, ensure you position each of your speakers with a reasonable gap from the wall or any piece of furniture.
Remember that your speakers should not be too close to each other. Your speakers may interfere with each other. This will likely produce distortion with your audio.
Final Verdict: 2-Way vs. 3-Way Speakers
A three-way speaker setup has one more speaker driver called the mid-range driver.
It comes out more expensive than a two-way speaker because of this additional speaker and a more complicated crossover that supports it.
The system has a more dedicated division of frequency levels from low, mid, to high.
Aside from the technicalities and pricing, the user benefits from a three-way speaker with higher audio quality.
However, music lovers who are not audiophiles may not be able to notice the difference.