How much of an advantage is an big 3 way speaker over a smaller 2 way if you dont listen to music loudly?

A speaker with a 10-12" (or 2 x 8") woofer, 4-5" midrange and 1" tweeter is roughly what is required to cleanly reproduce music at standard levels (the level in a cinema) at 3-4 m in a typical room. This isn't loud but is louder than some choose to listen with neighbours and kids upstairs. A typical small 2 way in comparison will have a more compromised midrange, less bass extension and won't play standard levels cleanly. It may well reach the level but won't do so cleanly tending to lead to backing off the volume a bit. What is loud and how much lack of clarity, distortion, lack of bass extension,... detracts from enjoying recorded music varies from person to person. It's not easy to answer for others.
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To compare concepts (3 way vs 2 way) is one thing. To compare speaker A vs B is different because either speaker may not conform to a general concept.

In general, the human vocal range is split up in both designs, with the 3-way splitting it up twice whereas the 2-way splits it once. The larger speakers will usually create more bass (simple physics) and typically handle a little more power. When it comes to distortion limited output, a bookshelf and sub can go toe to toe with a tower and no sub. A bookshelf alone doesn’t stand a chance.

I have found I am happy with bookshelf speakers and a sub. I am also happy with tower speakers and sub. This is comparing specific speaker A vs B. I could easily find a speaker of each variety (tower vs bookshelf) that I am equally unhappy with. No specific type of speaker wins in my book, they’re just different tools. Pick the right one for the job.
Another issue on many small modern 2-ways is sensitivity. To get decent bass response they typically trade sensitivity. Even at moderate playback levels they can be power hungry. Power is cheaper now than it used to be, but still may be an issue in some systems.
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To reach the same max SPL level a two way speaker will very often be designed to have a restricted dispersion pattern, where the three way can be designed to have a wide dispersion pattern. The two way may have a large waveguide or horn on the tweeter so it can play low enough to integrate well with a large woofer. For example the JBL M2 Master Reference Monitor. It's a high fidelity, full frequency range, high SPL two way that reaches 123 dB SPL, It has a large woofer and a large waveguide. A high fidelity three way system can spread that power over three drivers, so a 1" dome, a high power 3" dome and a large woofer can be used, where each of these still play with a wide radiation pattern in their assigned frequency range. For example the SCM100ASL Pro has a +/- 80 degree dispersion over a wide range.

Main advantage of a 3 way is giving the smaller midrange driver the opportunity to concentrate exclusively on what his supposed to deliver- a clean midrange reproduction.
At any SPL it will free the cone from those demanding bass notes and clean the soundscape. Here is an example of a commercial loudspeaker YG acoustics being bookshelf+sub.
Sounded in the last munich fantastic. BTW this design of course doesn't take more place then a bookshelf and being a closed design is not too intrusive in small room.
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A long throw, 12.5 mm 0-peak Xmax 12" woofer only makes 96 dB, 1 meter at 20 Hz. So if you want full range, it's exactly what you want. It would be interesting to find the IMD specs for the large JBL or maybe the recent MOFI Source Point 10 inch two way. I don't think many people are complaining about the distortion of these speakers.
music soothes the savage beast
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Lets say something big like Statement II compared to a significantly smaller floor standing 2 way. I know that the statement would go deeper, but how much of an effect would having bigger and multiples of drivers on distortion, clarity and other properties?
I would take 3way...even you do not listen loudly. Especially at low listening level, due to loudness curve, bass needs help.
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What resources are you counting when weighing up the differences?

For DIY, people often ignore things like hours spent, and only count raw materials. But then the contest is wide open.

It seems like a 3-way could be a "double or nothing" bet. You know that it's going to be more work, but will it pay off? much of an effect would having bigger and multiples of drivers on distortion, clarity and other properties?
It all depends on what you do with them. IMD could go down with 3-ways. In principle, each driver gets less bandwidth, but passive LC filter components also add their own distortion, or worse: interact badly with the amplifier.

Active crossovers expand on this by limiting the bandwidth coming into the amplifier channels, so the IMD could really go down, as long as it's not offset by the additional noise and distortion from the active filters themselves. Passive components also change the output impedance as seen from the speaker -- often a lucky side-effect of a good passive design, but that means it's easy to mess up active filters if it's not accounted for. It's NOT all about getting the perfect house curve on the frequency plots.

You could try to get the best of both worlds, like simplified passive components that focus just on controlling (reducing) the damping factor at mid-to-high frequencies. Then separate the speakers from each other with "bi amping" or tri-amping as an intermediate step, and, if necessary, do any remaining frequency correction actively.

On the mechanical side, a bigger box is likely to be more lively with resonances, diffraction effects, and miscellaneous microphonic effects. Whereas, the simpler you go (even 1-way), the more effort you can focus on exotic shapes, box tuning, active filters or even amplifier design.
Wow tnx to everyone for a bunch of replys. I'm new to the speaker game and need to learn a lot and this thread is quite educational for me <3

@Lojzek It depends on the ways I can finance it. I could go for a higher price speaker if I can source the drivers where I'm from and pay in installments. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1000-1500 euro.

@planet10 Honestly haven't given that much thought and research into 1 ways.
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@planet10 Honestly haven't given that much thought and research into 1 ways.


Do some. There is a reason people choose FR, single driver speakers.

For a first project build something modest, what you learn from that build will inform you of what compromises you are most likely happy with and will inform your next build.

Kust like pie, it is hard not to have a second piece.

Lets say something big like Statement II compared to a significantly smaller floor standing 2 way. I know that the statement would go deeper, but how much of an effect would having bigger and multiples of drivers on distortion, clarity and other properties?
IME, it is FAR more difficult to design and build a great 3-way compared to 2-way, especially if you don't listen very loud.


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I am a huge fan of 3-way speakers with large woofers, and I very definitely do not listen loudly. (Professional pilot for 30yr, loud just lights up my tinnitus and becomes unpleasant…)

In my opinion, like auto racing, there’s no replacement for displacement, and big woofers do everything better, even at low levels.
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3 way
Reduces distortion in midrange.
And improves bass.

Basically allows a smaller midrange.
So less restraints finding tweeters
that can crossover low.
With smaller mounting rings for modern
Can actually get close to very good vertical.
The tough one. Horizontal is easy.

Far as 2 ways, small bookshelf speakers
or small drivers dont make bass.

Love 2 ways but default to get bass
Gonna need a large piston for woofer.
But if too large hard to get good directivity
cause tweeters cant cross low.
Easily done, you just need a tweeter that can cross low.
Then all good.
About 8" far as possible without tradeoffs.
put your crossover at around 1400 Hz.
Only so many tweeter near a 700 Hz Fs
to do that well