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tobias07

2-way vs 3-way vs 4-way speakers

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Hi all,

I just wanted to know what is the difference between 2-way (sometimes 2-1/2-way), 3-way & 4-way speakers and which ones are better?

I have seen that the more expensive speakers are normally 3-way speakers but I am unsure why. Also if you could tell me what to look for when buying a new set of speakers. I normally just looks at the watts but sometimes these are all different and makes it hard to compare. I know this also depends on the amplifier, but how do you match speakers to an amp correctly?

I am very new to this, any help would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers

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Posted (edited)

Hello @tobias07
 

It really is a case of horses for courses and the type of loudspeaker you choose, whether it is 1, 2, 3 or more way, depends largely on your choice of music, how loud you like to play that music is important too and then it is down firstly to the room these speakers are going in and then the amplifier you are using will also be a worthy consideration.

 

If you share some detail here about the above, I’m confident you’ll be inundated with suggestions!

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

Edited by cheekyboy

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Posted (edited)

In answering your question, you need to qualify if passive crossovers or active crossovers are being used. 

 

For instance a 2 way with passive crossover can be very good due to simplicity of the crossover network, in that it is not interfering too much with the amplifier and is relatively easy to drive. A great example of a two way like this is the Acoustic Research AR7, or with a more complex crossover the LS 3/5a    ,

 

A 3 way with passive crossover needs much attention, to how the passive crossover is designed, and can be successful like   http://0339436.netsolhost.com/WordPress/gs401-speaker/

 

But generally a three way, unless the passive crossover and drivers are carefully chosen, becomes a difficult design effort, you will need to listen to appreciate, and to see if the manufacturer has nailed it, so to speak.

 

All though, including 4 way if you want to go that far, are much better with active crossovers:   

 

Edited by stereo coffee

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Thanks for your reply Keith.

 

It is mainly for listening to music (not really movies) in a room size roughly 4m x 10m. The type of music I listen to is reggae, r&b, soul and a bit of jazz. I do play my music fairly loud.

I have not bought an amplifier yet. I am looking to buy am amp and a set of speakers soon. Just looking for suggestions about what to buy. I don't know whether to go surround sound or just a nice pair of floorstanding with a sub and possibly a centre speaker - this would affect what amp I purchase. This is why I am trying to understand how to compare speakers and what to look for and how to match an amplifier and what exact specs are required.

 

I hope this helps. Cheers

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9 minutes ago, stereo coffee said:

In answering your question, you need to qualify if passive crossovers or active crossovers are being used. 

 

For instance a 2 way with passive crossover can be very good due to simplicity of the crossover network, in that it is not interfering too much with the amplifier and is relatively easy to drive. A great example of a two way like this is the Acoustic Research AR7, or with a more complex crossover the LS 3/5a    ,

 

A 3 way with passive crossover needs much attention, to how the passive crossover is designed, and can be successful like   http://0339436.netsolhost.com/WordPress/gs401-speaker/

 

But generally a three way, unless the passive crossover and drivers are carefully chosen, becomes a difficult design effort, you will need to listen to appreciate, and to see if the manufacturer has nailed it, so to speak.

 

All though, including 4 way if you want to go that far, are much better with active crossovers:   

 

+1 on what 'stereo coffee' said.. A 3 way design has the benefit ( over a 2 way) of each driver being more specialised and doing less work and having a more coherent sound. The Big Caveat though, is unless the Very Complicated Crossover design is very well executed, those benefits fly out the window. In that case, a well implemented 2 way would surpass a poorly implemented 3 way. 

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19 minutes ago, stereo coffee said:

In answering your question, you need to qualify if passive crossovers or active crossovers are being used. 

 

For instance a 2 way with passive crossover can be very good due to simplicity of the crossover network, in that it is not interfering too much with the amplifier and is relatively easy to drive. A great example of a two way like this is the Acoustic Research AR7, or with a more complex crossover the LS 3/5a    ,

 

A 3 way with passive crossover needs much attention, to how the passive crossover is designed, and can be successful like   http://0339436.netsolhost.com/WordPress/gs401-speaker/

 

But generally a three way, unless the passive crossover and drivers are carefully chosen, becomes a difficult design effort, you will need to listen to appreciate, and to see if the manufacturer has nailed it, so to speak.

 

All though, including 4 way if you want to go that far, are much better with active crossovers:   

 

Thanks for your reply Chris.

 

So in general passive crossovers are better? or active? I am new to this, so I'm not very sure about the difference. And how do you select a compatible amplifier to either 2-way or 3-way, passive or active?

 

Cheers.

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, tobias07 said:

Thanks for your reply Keith.

 

It is mainly for listening to music (not really movies) in a room size roughly 4m x 10m. The type of music I listen to is reggae, r&b, soul and a bit of jazz. I do play my music fairly loud.

I have not bought an amplifier yet. I am looking to buy am amp and a set of speakers soon. Just looking for suggestions about what to buy. I don't know whether to go surround sound or just a nice pair of floorstanding with a sub and possibly a centre speaker - this would affect what amp I purchase. This is why I am trying to understand how to compare speakers and what to look for and how to match an amplifier and what exact specs are required.

 

I hope this helps. Cheers

Well, you have some work to do and you should have some fun finding what is going to suit you. Your room is not small, but there are plenty of other aspects of the room you’ll need to take into account.

 

You can probably leave a lot of loudspeakers off your list to consider and given your choice of music and that you don’t mind reasonably high SPLs, no need looking at small single driver full range loudspeakers, or small two way standmounts, as they are invariably not going to be able to deliver what you want and that is purely from a physics standpoint.

 

If you are looking to glean information and suggestions here, an idea of what your budget is will help.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

Edited by cheekyboy

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, tobias07 said:

 

So in general passive crossovers are better? or active? I am new to this, so I'm not very sure about the difference. And how do you select a compatible amplifier to either 2-way or 3-way, passive or active?

 

Cheers.

Passive v active crossovers is probably getting a little ahead of where you need to be at the moment, it will be opening a can of worms here too, that will probably confuse you more than help you.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

Edited by cheekyboy

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Reinforcing some ideas expressed above about passive crossover speakers,  less drivers, simpler crossovers means more chance it will sound good.  Just my experience over the years, is that 2 way speakers have more often impressed me than 3 way.  As said above, 3 way is much harder to do,  and I think many manufacturers do it because the market wanted it, not because it sounds better

 

I really like 1 way i.e. full range single driver speakers, but I recognise there are compromises in the range - they will lack the very low and very high ends.  Of course, if you add a subwoofer, and have old ears, a fullrange speaker would be my recommendation :)

 

I would put subwoofers and the .1 in 2.1 way speakers aside from the comparison.  They don't really impact the decision, and can be added to any system you choose.

 

I have 2.1 way speakers upstairs, 2 way speakers on my desktop, and full range single driver downstairs at my home.  No 3-way.

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30 minutes ago, cheekyboy said:

Well, you have some work to do and you should have some fun finding what is going to suit you. Your room is not small, but there are plenty of other aspects of the room you’ll need to take into account.

 

You can probably leave a lot of loudspeakers off your list to consider and given your choice of music and that you don’t mind reasonably high SPLs, no need looking at small single driver full range loudspeakers, or small two way standmounts, as they are invariably not going to be able to deliver what you want and that is purely from a physics standpoint.

 

If you are looking to glean information and suggestions here, an idea of what your budget is will help.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

Do you know where I can go to find out some more information?

 

I am looking to spend around 5000AUD for the full system, including amplifier hopefully. I am currently looking at brands like Klipsch, Paradigm, JBL, Integra (amp).

 

Cheers

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Could you also please tell me how to match up an amplifier to a set of speakers and what to look for?

Thanks

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1 minute ago, tobias07 said:

Do you know where I can go to find out some more information?

 

I am looking to spend around 5000AUD for the full system, including amplifier hopefully. I am currently looking at brands like Klipsch, Paradigm, JBL, Integra (amp).

 

Cheers

You’ll find many threads here if you do a search for them and plenty too with around that budget and asking for recommendations.........would be a good place to start.👍

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, tobias07 said:

Could you also please tell me how to match up an amplifier to a set of speakers and what to look for?

Thanks

That’s another ‘can of worms’ question!😄 Try doing a search and I’m sure you’ll find discussions on that subject too. There are many considerations in matching an amplifier to a loudspeaker and the other way around, but in very basic terms, a loudspeaker with an efficiency rating of around say 88-90db or higher, should easily go loud with a well made amplifier with a power rating of 25-30 watts a side or higher.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

Edited by cheekyboy

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You really need to have a listen to some systems in that budget. Think you would get a competative system by going vintage. Yamaha NS-1000X(?) or NS-690ii speakers paired with Yamaha CA-2010, or CA-1010 or CA-1000 should be gettable for under $3k.

Plenty of other good vintage amps from Sansui, Luxman,,,

 

Choice of spkr will depend on available space, if you have room for floorstanders then go 3-Way. If you only have room for bookshelves then 2 way. Have a listen first...

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11 minutes ago, mbz said:

You really need to have a listen to some systems in that budget. Think you would get a competative system by going vintage. Yamaha NS-1000X(?) or NS-690ii speakers paired with Yamaha CA-2010, or CA-1010 or CA-1000 should be gettable for under $3k.

Plenty of other good vintage amps from Sansui, Luxman,,,

 

Choice of spkr will depend on available space, if you have room for floorstanders then go 3-Way. If you only have room for bookshelves then 2 way. Have a listen first...

Agree that the OP needs to audition equipment and that should be a fun time for him, if he takes his time and has a listen to a wide cross section of gear...........all the time his knowledge base will be improving too.

 

The OP says that his room is 4mts x 10mts, so not a small room, but I guess it comes down to how much of that space is usable too. As I said earlier, just his choice of music and that he likes it loud, is going to preclude small single driver full range and most small two way standmounts, however, there are exceptions in that category though. I feel there are also plenty of very good 2 way and 2.5 way floorstanders he could consider, without looking exclusively at 3 way floorstanders.

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, tobias07 said:

Thanks for your reply Chris.

 

So in general passive crossovers are better? or active? I am new to this, so I'm not very sure about the difference. And how do you select a compatible amplifier to either 2-way or 3-way, passive or active?

 

Cheers.

The short answer is a simple 2 way passive, where the crossover frequency matches the drivers well, is a recipe for good audio result

 

The long answer, delves into why a active crossover is still though better in a 2 way, which will depend a lot on your own expectation of approaching realism with audio reproduction,  at which point you might want to firstly see just how good a simple passive 2 way can be, before taking the active path.  

 

Choosing a amplifier would lead to choosing a power amplifier rather a integrated, because the amplifier can then better match to the actual amplifier task of driving a loudspeaker ie more current can be used for the voltage amplification. There is no distraction for the power amplifier manufacturer, its a simple or should be a simple task of getting no deviation in voltage amplification. The better ones though go a bit further and will begin to test their amplifiers with specific needs in mind, ie can the amplifier work with an electrostatic speaker ? and does the amplifier manufacturer actually listen to the audio being produced, or is it like a production line with robotic assembly, with some measurements, but quite alien to our hearing capability.

 

An example of a loudspeaker manufacturer listening is Martin Logan, a inquisitive reviewer found in one of their rooms a pair of Quad ESL 57's 

 

There should be with ANY amplifier chosen, adequate sensitivity to a input signal, with 1v for full output, or preferable even lower, you are otherwise narrowing down what form or type of attenuation you can use. 

 

Similarly simple is best with attenuation, and the simpler the better.  Contact less volume and switching of inputs is a must.

 

As to best types of amplifier, there are certain designs that have automatic appeal, as they incorporate novel distortion cancelling, namely Quad's current dumping.  In choosing one amplifier vs another, rather than simply looking at specifications, look more toward the design intention, and what effort any manufacturer has made to provide for outstanding audio result. For instance the use of feedback, the input stage design, and output design,  are all factors, that any purchaser should investigate. 

------------------------------

 

The long answer is:

The majority of amplifiers you can buy, are specified into a resistor load, and the amplifier itself knows nothing of the loudspeaker, it attaches to. What manufacturers offer is plainly a voltage amplifier. Some amplifiers will have more current capability to deliver said voltage, but are still voltage amplifiers. 

 

There are very few current power amplifiers presently made, but they offer exactly what is needed, namely being able to continuously sense the loudspeaker, and to adjust timing and current delivery that matches the source component. Some though do not sense the loudspeaker, rather provide resistance sufficient to  have what is called transconductance occurring. The better design of current amplifier would have a percentage of forward current and return current from the speaker being monitored and then used to compare to the input signal. Its a difficult thing to do - but provides the best result:  https://www.current-drive.info/

 

Generally with any electronics providing for audio, the more dedication to each needed task , and the higher degree of retrospection before proceeding, each area has  - the better.

 

An active crossover will always be better because it does exactly this, it tailors for the needed frequency without a amplified audio signal to contend with, and without other crossover components interfering, it delivers to the speaker exactly what the speaker expects - its intended frequency range  

 

Active crossover is better, but needs for a two way system 2x stereo amplifier, so one channel of each amp is providing for higher frequencies, and the other channels of each amp for lower frequencies. the exact crossover frequency can be chosen. Simply put there is more expenditure in amplifiers but the outcome with active crossover designs, is  better. 

 

I hope that has been helpful.

 

 

Edited by stereo coffee

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3 minutes ago, stereo coffee said:

The short answer is a simple 2 way passive, where the crossover frequency matches the drivers well, is a recipe for good audio result

 

The long answer, delves into why a active crossover is still though better in a 2 way, which will depend a lot on your own expectation of approaching realism with audio reproduction,  at which point you might want to firstly see just how good a simple passive 2 way can be, before taking the active path.  

 

Choosing a amplifier would lead to choosing a power amplifier rather a integrated, because the amplifier can then better match to the actual amplifier task of driving a loudspeaker ie more current can be used for the voltage amplification. There is no distraction for the power amplifier manufacturer, its a simple or should be a simple task of getting no deviation in voltage amplification. The better ones though go a bit further and will begin to test their amplifiers with specific needs in mind, ie can the amplifier work with an electrostatic speaker ? and does the amplifier manufacturer actually listen 

to the audio being produced, or is it like a production line with robotic assembly, with some measurements, but alien to our hearing capability.

An example of a loudspeaker manufacturer listening is Martin Logan, a inquisitive reviewer found in one of their rooms a pair of Quad ESL 57's 

 

There should be with ANY amplifier chosen, adequate sensitivity to a input signal, with 1v for full output, or preferable even lower, you are otherwise narrowing down what form or type of attenuation you can use. 

 

Similarly simple is best with attenuation, and the simpler the better.  Contact less volume and switching of inputs is a must.

 

As to best types of amplifier, there are certain designs that have automatic appeal, as they incorporate novel distortion cancelling, namely Quad's current dumping.  In choosing one amplifier vs another, rather than simply looking at specifications, look more toward the design intention, and what effort any manufacturer has made to provide for outstanding audio result. For instance the use of feedback, the input stage design, and output design,  are all factors, that any purchaser should investigate. 

------------------------------

The long answer is:

The majority of amplifiers you can buy, are specified into a resistor load, and the amplifier itself knows nothing of the loudspeaker, it attaches to.

What manufacturers offer is plainly a voltage amplifier. Some amplifiers will have more current capability to deliver said voltage, but are still voltage amplifiers. 

 

There are very few current power amplifiers presently made, but they offer exactly what is needed, namely being able to continuously sense the loudspeaker, and to adjust timing and current delivery that matches the source component. Some though do not sense the loudspeaker, rather provide resistance sufficient to  have what is called transconductance occurring. The better design of current amplifier would have a percentage of forward current and return current from the speaker being monitored and then used to compare to the input signal.

 

Generally with any electronics providing for audio, the more dedication to each needed task , and the higher degree of rerospection before proceeding each area has  - the better.

 

An active crossover will always be better because it does exactly this, it tailors for the needed frequency without a amplified audio signal to contend with, and without other crossover components interfering, it delivers to the speaker exactly what the speaker expects - its intended frequency range  

 

Active crossover is better, but needs for a two way system 2x stereo amplifier, so one channel of each amp is providing for higher frequencies, and the other channels of each amp for lower frequencies. the exact crossover frequency can be chosen. Simply put there is more expenditure in amplifiers but the outcome with active crossover designs, is  better. 

 

I hope that has been helpful.

 

 

What did I tell ya!😄 @tobias07

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, aussievintage said:

I really like 1 way i.e. full range single driver speakers, but I recognise there are compromises in the range - they will lack the very low and very high ends.  Of course, if you add a subwoofer, and have old ears, a fullrange speaker would be my recommendation :)

 

I have 2.1 way speakers upstairs, 2 way speakers on my desktop, and full range single driver downstairs at my home.  No 3-way.

A typical misconception unfortunately, believe me🤪, that loudspeakers using single full range drivers will be lacking in low and high frequencies. I have had the pleasure to demo single full range loudspeakers on many an occasion and it is always pleasing to see these individuals, with exactly the same pre conceived idea re lows and highs, after only a few minutes picking their jaw up off the floor.😲

 

I’m also curious as to what your 2.1 way loudspeakers are?
 

Cheers,

 

Keith

Edited by cheekyboy

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8 minutes ago, cheekyboy said:

A typical misconception unfortunately, believe me🤪, that loudspeakers using single full range drivers will be lacking in low and high frequencies. I have had the pleasure to demo single full range loudspeakers on many an occasion and it is always pleasing to see these individuals, with exactly the same pre conceived idea re lows and highs, after only a few minutes picking their jaw up off the floor.😲

 

I’m also curious as to what your 2.1 way loudspeakers are?
 

Cheers,

 

Keith

 

I have built them myself and listened to some of the "respected" drivers in shops.  Maybe what I said came across too dismissive.  I love FR speakers too and I am quite happy with the bass and highs.  The Fostex ones I have now do down to maybe 30-35 Hz, and up to maybe 16-18kHz, and that's good enough for me.  It's just there are people who will say they are missing the extreme ends of the spectrum, and claim they can hear it.

 

My 2.1 speakers - I see you call them 2.5 above - are my Osborn Eclipse.  A two way design with a sub below about 125Hz I believe.

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Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

 

I have built them myself and listened to some of the "respected" drivers in shops.  Maybe what I said came across too dismissive.  I love FR speakers too and I am quite happy with the bass and highs.  The Fostex ones I have now do down to maybe 30-35 Hz, and up to maybe 16-18kHz, and that's good enough for me.  It's just there are people who will say they are missing the extreme ends of the spectrum, and claim they can hear it.

 

My 2.1 speakers - I see you call them 2.5 above - are my Osborn Eclipse.  A two way design with a sub below about 125Hz I believe.

Interesting Greg calls them a 2.1 way........I’ve heard the Eclipse and they are a very good loudspeaker. Oddly, I always thought they were 3 ways, but thanks for educating me.👍

 

I don’t think many would find a 30hz - 18khz range wanting, especially once in room. What is the frequency range of the Eclipse? I have had many audition a single full range loudspeaker and even though their ears are telling them what they’re hearing is simply fantastic, most can’t get over that pre conditioned prejudice, that a full range loudspeaker is somehow deficient, despite what their ears are telling them. Believe me, it can be extremely frustrating!:emot-bang:

 

Cheers,

 

Keith

 

 

Edited by cheekyboy

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A good 2-way speaker is much better than a poor 3-way speaker.

A good 3-way speaker is much better than a poor 2-way speaker.

Extrapolate to include 4-way speakers. 
 

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9 minutes ago, cheekyboy said:

Interesting Greg calls them a 2.1 way........I’ve heard the Eclipse and they are a very good loudspeaker. Oddly, I always thought they were 3 ways, but thanks for educating me.👍

Oh,  I don't know what he calls them himself.   A discussion, on stereonet I think, educated me as to they way they truly work.  Either way I don't care, as you say, they sound really good.

 

12 minutes ago, cheekyboy said:

What is the frequency range of the Eclipse?

Latest version on his web site   25 to 18000Hz, +/- 3 db. -10db  points  20 and 21000Hz.

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, audiofeline said:

A good 2-way speaker is much better than a poor 3-way speaker.

A good 3-way speaker is much better than a poor 2-way speaker.

Extrapolate to include 4-way speakers. 

 

A good 3 way speaker is much harder to build than a good 2 way speaker

corollary:  there are far more good 2 way speakers available on the market

corollary 2:  a 2 way speaker in the same price bracket as a 3 way speaker will mostly likely sound a LOT better

Edited by aussievintage

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The difficulty one has is : Because Speaker and Amplifier technology in 2020 is so mature, I'm not sure if there are any really 'bad amps' or ' bad speakers' out ( does anyone know any?) a bit like there arn't any bad Japanese cars..  However, it's important to find components that work well in tandem together-(Synergy).. Once you have synergy sorted, then every 'synegised' stereo will have a different flavour.. Then it comes down to your preference.. Perception is reality.. if it sounds better to you, then... it is better.  Having an actual  listen to a couple of setups is worth more than reading 10 reviews imo.. 

 

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2 minutes ago, bryansamui said:

The difficulty one has is : Because Speaker and Amplifier technology in 2020 is so mature, I'm not sure if there are any really 'bad amps' or ' bad speakers' out ( does anyone know any?) a bit like there arn't any bad Japanese cars..  

 

 

Well cheap ones are bad of course. :)     

 

3 minutes ago, bryansamui said:

However, it's important to find components that work well in tandem together-(Synergy)..

Not just Synergy in the "does it sound nice" sense, but there is still the problem of  low vs high efficiency speakers need respectively the approriately sized amps, and also the "difficult load" loudspeakers, that some amps cannot handle at  high power.

 

5 minutes ago, bryansamui said:

Perception is reality.. if it sounds better to you, then... it is better.  Having an actual  listen to a couple of setups is worth more than reading 10 reviews imo.. 

and remember the sound will change in your own home compared to the sound room at the dealers.

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