2-way vs. 3-way


What would be the advantage and disadvantage of a 2-way floorstanding speaker versus a 3-way floorstanding speaker?
agiaccio
2 way has only one crossover. Many people believe crossovers cause phase and other anamolies and without a doubt they eat up power. OTOH, 3 ways have each driver covering a smaller frequency range which often can lead to lower distortion. As is usually the case, there are tradeoffs a designer makes and implementation is often more important than the specific design type.
As is usually the case, there are tradeoffs a designer makes and implementation is often more important than the specific design type.

Well said!

I'll just add that the fact that the low frequency driver in the 2-way speaker has to handle frequencies relatively high up in the mid-range likely means that it will not be able to produce bass as deep as in a 3-way of comparable quality.

Regards,
-- Al
Two way is good for nearfield (3 to 6 feet). Generally three way is needed for far field (8 feet +). A two way just cannot do it all (cover the enormous bandwidth with two drivers and do this with low distortion and even dispersion at the higher SPL levels necessary to sit far back).
Agree with the 2-way statements,but using multiple midwoofers can produce good bass extension and still handle the dutires in the mids/lo-treble.Simpler is usually better.
I have a pair of 4430 and a pair of 4435 JBL studio monitors. The best two way speakers on the planet. They have dynamics, low distortion, bass, and excellent imaging.
I'd agree with Shadorne in general.

There are some 2 ways that work particularly well for far field listening as well though. Ohm Walsh and planars like Maggies are two that come to mind. Many other better made 2-ways may also still sound very good far-field as well.

Three ways seldom do well with imaging accuracy listening near field though. One way where it exists and is done well is good also.
I'd agree with Shadorne in general.

Yes - that is exactly what I meant - "in general". It does not mean you can't find something that will work outside this "general" envelope - say in a particular situation or requirement.

I'd add that a two way is often better than a similarly priced three way. Not until you spend a good deal more money on decent drivers will a three way overcome the simplicity and lower parts cost of a two way.
Yes, good 2-ways can do most of the frequency spectrum and allow far field listening. Merlin VSM do this, and have coherence that most 3-ways have trouble attaining. Bass often sounds out of character (incoherent) to mids and tweeters in many 3 ways I've heard, the Merlins speak as one voice.

Also, 2-ways are generally more efficient than 3-ways, allows for lower power amplifier, SET for example.
"Far field" is 8' from the speakers?

And a two-way just cannot "do it"?

Wow.
"Far field" is 8' from the speakers?

8 Feet "+" - I think in your haste you missed the "+". If you prefer to draw the line at 10 feet then I would not argue with you.

And a two-way just cannot "do it"?

Perhaps you missed the conditions I gave for being able to do it "ALL" (you missed that too) - "cover the enormous bandwidth with two drivers and do this with low distortion and even dispersion at the higher SPL levels necessary to sit far back"

If you disagree "in general" (not talking about a specific speaker) then please explain?

You seem to have a strong point - why not make it?
I agree (as usual) with Shadorne and disagee with Ditusa, best on the planet? c'mon!
Tell me where then on this planet will you find a two way loudspeaker such as the 4430's or the 4435's that will encompass efficiency, low distortion levels, farfield and nearfield imaging, and the superior dynamics of horns versus tweeters. As any educated and knowledgeable person will understand that horns produce ten times the dynamics at massively less distortion levels than tweeters ever could. Another reason being that I can sit five feet or I can sit fifteen feet from the speakers and there seems to be absolutely no diffrence in sound or imaging. I would like someone to show me a smaller audiophile loudspeaker that will keep up, let alone surpass these fine loudspeakers. As far as driver quality, we wont even go there considering most audiophile woofers arent even as large as the JBL's 15 inch woofers voicecoil.
>>I have a pair of 4430 and a pair of 4435 JBL studio monitors. The best two way speakers on the planet<<

That's funny!!
Let's not forget that the 4430/35 was a landmark design that became JBL's most succesful monitor - see this JBL Paper. The 4430/35 replaced many previous three and four way designs - it has extremely impressive even dispersion (power response) AND high SPL capability for a two way. A rare two way that will sound good in a wide variety of situations (nearfield to farfield).

If you read the paper it simply emphasizes my earlier point about using two ways for farfield listening - you can see that JBL went to a great deal of effort to achieve their design. The bi-radial horn was necessary to get the even dispersion in the treble and a compliant type 15" woofer was necessary to limit the beaming from such a large woofer. The large woofer and horn mean plenty of clean dynamic acoustic ouput necessary for a farfield position. From an engineering perspective it was a major achievement and I am not sure it has been surpassed.
As a recent convert to horn loudspeakers, I can state that Ditusa's claim is not ridiculous. My two way speakers consist of a custom conical horn with a 2 inch compression driver, Jbl LE 15B woofer in the JBL L-200 cabinet and an outboard active crossover. This system will fill a large room easily and works just fine at my 12 foot distant listening position.
He's also right that tweeters can't keep up unless they are horn tweeters.
My bandwidth is limited, however. I'm only good from about 40Hz to 16Khz. Within this range, this system is the best I have heard.
I suppose Ditusa thinks we all owe it to him to agree with whatever he says.....sorry to let him down.
Ditusa made a claim that defies what many of us assume. Some of us, however, are aware that the claim is not unreasonable.
Whether or not he is correct remains to be seen but just rejecting his comments without a substantial argument to the contrary is certainly unreasonable.

Chadnliz - You seem to disagree with his assertion. Why?
Best 2-way as in.. Biggest-Baddest-Loudest?
Best 2-way as in.. Biggest-Baddest-Loudest?

How about a definite contender for "Best 2-way that can compete with a big bad three way for farfield use?" (seeing as a three ways main advantage over a two way is broad even dispersion and generally a higher acoustical ouput - granted it comes with the disadvantage of an additional x-over)

This type design lives on without the Dolly Parton look. And yes - something like this is very big and very bad - with a transient response like a panel and ability to play at a max peak of 136 db SPL - there is very little out there that will play percussion as realistically as this will.

Anyway I'd like to stay away from "best" - for sure a 2 way is better in most nearfield applications and a bigger three way is generally better in most farfield applications (with noted certain exceptions in either direction)
Unfortunately for audiofeil I seem to have infringed upon the items he feels sell the most and I apologize if I have affected your profit margin. As far as Chandnliz, I do not feel as though anyone owes me their unanimous agreement. However it seems as though most of the forum does. In light of Audiofeil's highly intelligent response to my former comment:

>>I have a pair of 4430 and a pair of 4435 JBL studio monitors. The best two way speakers on the planet

That's funny!!<<

Well in that case im glad I gave you a good laugh.
In my opinion the basic concept and format of the model 4430 is sheer genius. It elegantly addresses several significant issues, some of which are still virtually ignored by most of the high-end audio world.

Briefly, the 4430 uses a large-diameter high-quality prosound woofer crossed over to a 90-degree constant-directivity horn at the frequency where the woofer's pattern has likewise narrowed to 90 degrees. The 4435 adds a second woofer that assists in the bass region.

Even today, the 4430 is an outstanding loudspeaker (as are its conceptual ancestors, the Altec Model 14 and Model 19). However, in my opinion there has been advancement in the state of the art since the 4430 and 4435 were designed - specifically the introduction of low-coloration, constant directivity waveguides based on the work of Earl Geddes. The big butt-cheeks horn in the model 4430/4435 was about as low in coloration as you could get in its day, but it has been surpassed (this opinion backed up by a controlled blind listening test).

To comment briefly on the original topic, in general I would probably choose a three-way over a two-way (assuming we're comparing roughly equal-cost, equal-size speakers). The exception would be a two-way designed in accordance with the principles embodied in the 4430.

My speakers, Earl Geddes' speakers, and Wayne Parham's speakers all conceptually trace back to the landmark model 4430. In somewhat different guise, so do Emerald Physics and Gradient. And I'm sure there are others. In fact, I find that speakers I like tend to be ones that incorporate at least some of the philosophy of the 4430, whether deliberately or not.

Duke
dealer/manufacturer
Macro, it doesnt look like I am the only one who feels this way.........does everyone else have to explain?
Chad - I feel pretty sure my speakers are better than the 4430 but that isn't really what I was getting at with my question to you. I thought you were pretty dismissive of Ditusa without explaining why you felt he was mistaken or which other speaker you would consider superior.

I'm finding out that a lot of vintage stuff holds its own very nicely when compared to today's supposed state of the art. There are also many cases of early products being reworked with new materials and modern technological advantages to perform beyond our wildest dreams. The Saskia Turntable is an excellent example.

We should not assume too quickly that older equipment is automatically inferior to the recommended components.
It is the entire "Best on the planet" that I take issue with, it doesnt matter if its old or new, from ADS to Wilson............best on the planet is an opinion and I dont agree.
Ask Dit to explain why and how they are without a doubt the "best speakers on the planet".
The planet is a big place.

My guess is the young man has not heard many speakers.

Why?

He's posted into 13 threads and every single post is a shill job for JBL.

That demonstrates a remarkable lack of experience.

Note to Ditusa: you are far too irrelevant to affect my business.
Duke,

Thanks for your comments. I agree that things have improved since this landmark design.

One thing I was curious as to what is the difference between a flat chested bi-radial horn and a Dolly Parton bi-radial horn ;-)

Does one horn sound more chesty perhaps?

What causes the 3% distortion in the upper midrange treble -is that the horn itself ringing or something else?
No speaker can be best on the planet until someone thinks it is.
Perhaps you missed the conditions I gave for being able to do it "ALL" (you missed that too) - "cover the enormous bandwidth with two drivers and do this with low distortion and even dispersion at the higher SPL levels necessary to sit far back"

If you disagree "in general" (not talking about a specific speaker) then please explain?

Yes, I think there are quite a few two-ways that can meet that challenge very well indeed (*certainly* if one considers any type of horn-loading, which I won't).

Neglecting horn-loading, Audio Note AN/Es can play quite load quite cleanly flat to 30 Hz with quite substantial bass content below that.

The two-way Kharmas and dual-concentric Tannoys can do these things as well - although neither with the same bass extension (save perhaps the large 12" dual-concentric TD12; I had the TD10 which was solid to 35-40 Hz).

Obviously, if *max* SPL is the goal, a three-way gives an advantage in sheer driver area, of course. However, for most music and most tastes, well-made two ways can be very satisfying indeed - certainly, unless your goal is rock at 110 dB.

I listen to mostly jazz, 12' from AN/Es in a large room, at 90-95 dB peaks, and there isn't a three-way of any kind I'd take over them. And if I didn't have them I'd be using another high-quality two-way (or single driver back horn).

For me, the advantages of two-ways far outweigh any advantage another driver and crossover give.
Well said Bill (audiofeil)
Paul,

I understand you prefer two way for all applications because of the one less crossover - less compromise - that makes sense - speakers are often a balance of compromises - like how do you place the crossover away from teh critical midrange if you have only one - however, you appear to agree with me that

Obviously, if *max* SPL is the goal, a three-way gives an advantage in sheer driver area, of course.

...I would add that producing clean dynamics in a large room is the main reason I have a three way. A two way would be fine otherwise. I owned two ways for many years and still do - they are even better than a three way for nearfield listening. I have absolutely nothing against two ways - although my list of favored two ways that can produce even dispersion without a "midrange scoop" isn't all that long - perhaps a dozen or so!
I'll just add that the two-way AN/Es have *far* better dynamics than any boxed three-way speaker I've ever had, and I have had a couple. They have very nearly horn-like dynamics...