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electronic MUSICIAN

You Ask, We Answer: Pros and Cons of 2-Way vs. 3-Way Speakers?

May 16, 2013

I’M LOOKING TO UPGRADE MY STUDIO MONITORS, AND WANT TO KNOW WHAT ADVANTAGES A THREE-WAY SYSTEM OFFERS OVER A TWO-WAY. IT SEEMS LIKE BEING ABLE TO DEDICATE DIFFERENT SPEAKERS TO LOWS, MIDS, AND HIGHS WOULD SOUND BETTER THAN HAVING ONE SPEAKER FOR LOWS/LOW MIDS AND ANOTHER FOR HIGH MIDS/HIGHS, BUT THREE-WAYS ARE BIGGER AND MORE EXPENSIVE, SO I’M NOT SURE IF THEY’RE WORTH IT.

Ken Bailey
Portland, OR
via email

 

 
Focal’s Twin6 Be is a three-way active studio monitor that takes full advantage of everything a good three-way design can offer—but as expected, it costs considerably more than two-way speakers.
Three-ways have several potential benefits over two-ways. They often produce higher SPLs, a separate midrange driver can reduce midrange distortion, and the sound may be more accurate. But the key word is “potential.” It’s more complicated to design and implement crossovers that split frequencies into three bands than two, and the physical design has to accommodate three point sources instead of two—while making sure all the drivers are working in unison. For speakers of roughly equivalent price, a two-way will usually outperform a three-way because the three-way will use less-expensive components to meet the price point.

Another option is a good two-way with a subwoofer for bass, which essentially creates a three-way system optimized for low-end reproduction. Also, filtering out the lows from the two-way’s woofer can help improve its performance. Just remember that ultimately, room acoustics play a huge part in how speakers sound.

THE EDITORS

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