Question on the theory/practice of 2/3/4...-way speakers - diyAudio
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Old 5th June 2006, 06:05 PM   #1
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Default Question on the theory/practice of 2/3/4...-way speakers

I've been into audio for some time, but there are some areas in which I've never been well-informed. I've recently been comparing some speakers, one 3-way set and one 2-way set, and I've started wondering just how much the wayness really affects the sound.

My understanding is as follows (though is far from perfect, so please correct me): theoretically, it is desirable to have a large number of speakers handling small frequency ranges, because as the range of frequencies a single speaker has to handle increases,
the accuracy with which it produces the frequencies decreases. Therefore the sound will be clearer and more accurate with a larger number of speakers handling their own frequency ranges.
Of course, the effect is not drastic, as many very quality speakers only employ a 2-way system and sound great.

So my question is just how much, for example, a 2-way system will "suffer" from not having the extra area of frequencies being handled by a third driver. Any and all words and opinions are welcome.
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Old 5th June 2006, 10:50 PM   #2
preiter is offline preiter  United States
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Default It's complicated

A 3-way speaker will let you cover lower frequencies than you could with a simple 2-way. There are lots of drawbacks, though.

* More drivers cost more money
* The crossover network becomes more complicated. Not only is this more expensive, but it becomes more difficult to get it right.
* Getting 3 drivers to integrate well is much more difficult than getting 2 to integrate well
* The enclosure becomes more complicated as well.

Generally, 3-way designs (assuming a level of quality equal to a comparable 2-way design) are going to be a whole lot more expensive and a whole lot more difficult to get right.

The more popular way to go for DiY is either a 2 way system with a subwoofer, or a 2.5 way system which uses 3 drivers, but two of them are the same. The 2.5 way uses a 2-way crossover, which makes them much simpler than a true 3-way.
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Old 6th June 2006, 01:36 AM   #3
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preiter, I would like to expand on some of your statements if you dont mind.
* More drivers cost more money- The 3-way with better bandwidth (BW) distribution can sometimes lead to reduced cost per driver. What I mean is that it is easier(sometimes) to find a cheaper driver that will cover the necessary freq. range which was reduced due to more drivers. Finding two way drivers that can cover their respective part of the spectrum normally requires either a sacrifice of quality or money.

* The crossover network becomes more complicated. Not only is this more expensive, but it becomes more difficult to get it right.
well put

* Getting 3 drivers to integrate well is much more difficult than getting 2 to integrate well
since each of the drivers covers less BW it can actually be easier to integrate.

* The enclosure becomes more complicated as well.
Yes and no, if you go dipole mid/tweet then no. If you build a standard "box" then yes you may need to install som form of mid-range enclosure to isolate it from bass.

Quote:
So my question is just how much, for example, a 2-way system will "suffer" from not having the extra area of frequencies being handled by a third driver.
This is kind of a loaded Question. First it depends on the intended music you listen to, think classical vs. rap. the difference is in the bass extension required.
second, how big is the listening environment and how absorptive/reflective is it.
Third, distortion find some distortion graphs and look at how it rises considerably at low frequencies.
fourth, dont forget the tweeter it also has to extend low to mate with the woofer and will most likely cause the crossover to be in the critical midrange of hearing. If the tweeter is over extended you will hear it.
fifth, this one might upset a few people but you have to also discuss the audibility of some of the drawbacks. There are alot of people who like those nasty little boom boxes ick. And even more who like bose acoustimass despite their distortion, poor FR and weak extension (top and bottom). I have one of these bose setups, I can tell you first hand, they are crap and I love listening to them! Actually I like listening to music and watching movies so I enjoy what I have. They are clean where they need to be and until I build the new mains Im happy-enough. My point being there is no perfect "way", engineering is an art and science of compromises, cost, bulk, complexity, x-over, appearance, sound, room interaction etc.

One definite advantage of 3-ways is the mid can extend both above and below the crit. range and help minimize the audibility of phase and time issues.
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Old 6th June 2006, 07:13 AM   #4
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Benefits of 3 ways-:

- Ability to use drivers designed for the specific frequency application - eg 10" woofer, 4-5" mid, 3/4" tweeter.
- drivers not operating near the edge of their passband so less beaming
- greater low frequency extension/maximum SPL
- less intermodulation/doppler distortion & compression as the mids aren't riding on top of the bass
- greater power thermal handling due to three voicecoils instead of 2
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