2-Way vs 3-Way Speakers .. What's the difference and which one to choose?
2-way and 3-way speakers are two foreign-sounding terms that you’ll encounter frequently when you’re shopping for aftermarket speakers for your car’s audio system.
What do they mean, you ask? Well, to put it simply, a 2-way speaker combines a tweeter and a woofer in a single speaker basket. Sometimes, a 2-way speaker might also come with a crossover. Meanwhile, a 3-way speaker adds a midrange to the equation, which is where the name comes from.
Now, if you’re wondering what a crossover is, it’s basically an electrical circuit used to minimize if not completely eliminate unwanted frequencies. This prevents each speaker from disrupting each other. The result? Good-sounding speakers.
With that said, we’re not really surprised that, even with our brief explanation, you still don’t know the difference between 2-way vs 3-way speakers, as well as which of the two is better. Because of this, we’ve put together a small but inclusive guide to help you find an answer to a couple of questions surrounding 2-way and 3-way speakers.
What is a 2-Way Speaker?
As already mentioned, two-way speakers combine both a woofer and a tweeter in one. The woofer is a full-range speaker, while the tweeter is a much smaller speaker that’s primarily focused on producing high-frequency sound.
2-way speakers are named so because they essentially split sound in two ways. The splitting results in a drastic improvement in sound quality. This is especially noticeable in high-frequency audio. But even mid-range and low-range sounds benefit from this because the speakers are capable of independently resonating signals.
The way that a 2-way speaker configures its tweeter, woofer, and crossover will determine just how good the quality of the sound coming from the speaker setup will be.
What is a 3-Way Speaker?
Adding “one more way”, a 3-way speaker system uses three independent devices to produce low frequency, mid-frequency, and high-frequency audio. However, this isn’t always guaranteed. This is because some 3-way speakers use super-tweeters instead of mid-range drivers instead. As a result, the lack of a mid-range driver makes the audio sound less natural, but at the same time, the additional tweeter helps add more detail.
What’s the Difference Between a 2-Way and a 3-Way Speaker?
The main difference between a 2-way speaker setup and a 3-way speaker setup is the number of dedicated drivers. The former has 2 while the latter has 3. Although it is possible for a 2-way speaker system to come with multiple woofers, all of them are handling the same frequency, which means that it is still technically a 2-way speaker system.
For the average person, a 3-way system makes little to no sense. It is only people who demand the highest quality music or audiophiles who can see the difference between both. Not to mention, the overall sound quality of a 3-way speaker is much more dependent on the quality of the materials used.
Which is Better? A 3-Way Speaker or a 2-Way Speaker?
Conventional knowledge suggests that more drivers lead to better sound quality, but that isn’t always the case. Or, at the very least, things aren’t always simple.
You see, the problem with 3-way speaker systems lies in the crossover network used. They’re basically what helps split the high and low frequencies and make sure that the signals are redirected to the proper speakers. The better your crossover, the better the sound quality once it reaches the woofer, tweeter, and so on.
Unfortunately, crossovers aren’t cheap. A really nice 3-way crossover will take up a huge chunk of the 3-way setup. As a result, you’ll have to spend more to make a 3-way speaker system sound just as good as a 2-way system. You’ll have to spend more if you want to see improvements, and even then, the difference in audio quality isn’t exactly justifiable for most people.
Simply put, although the potential for better sound quality with 3-way systems is a lot higher as a result of having specialized drivers for each frequency range, you’re better off spending on a high-quality 2-way system with really nice crossovers.
The only reason to spend money on 3-way speakers is if you can afford the more expensive crossover circuits and better-quality materials for the additional driver. Otherwise, you’re better off with a 2-way system. This is because you can easily power them using a low-quality crossover and still enjoy high-quality audio.
More Reasons Why 2-Way Speakers are Better
1. A huge issue with 3-way speakers is that to make them affordable, manufacturers have to cut costs. This results in having the tweeters mounted co axially over the woofer cones. The result? Volume and clarity suffer tremendously.
2. Speaking of making 3-way speakers more affordable, most manufacturers also use lower-quality materials. A common material used in 3-way speakers is a plastic material known
as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This is of lower quality compared to the materials used in 2-way speakers at the same price range. Because of this, the sound quality will not be as good in 3-way speakers.
3. Using integrated crossovers might make 3-way speakers easier to install, but this affects the car audio quality.
All in all, what we’re trying to say here is that 2-way speakers are generally better than 3-way speakers. This is especially true for the average user. Unless you’re willing to spend big money to have a full 3-way speaker system for your car, you’re better off investing in a high-quality 2-way speaker system.
More almost always equals better, but the added cost isn’t worth it.
For most people, we recommend a high-quality 2-way coaxial speaker. Even if you’re on a budget, you won’t find yourself shortchanged in terms of audio quality and durability. There are plenty of 2-way speakers that are both affordable and capable of producing high-quality audio. However, if money isn’t an issue, a 3-way system CAN sound better, but it will cost you a WHOLE lot more.