Hopefully avoiding all the potential puns....and with the possible exception of deep bass, can a well designed and executed 2 way tower sound as good a well designed and executed 3 way tower when it comes to soundstage, detail, tone, etc....and if so, what are some examples?
I’d argue a 3-way can’t image as well as a 2-way in most listening locations. Dennis Murphy says ideally your listening location would be around 15+ feet away from a 3-way for it to image as well as a 2-way. So unless you are talking about a concentric 3-way where the woofer is where it would be in a typical 2-way, you won’t get that kind of precise imaging and tend to get a sound that varies quite a bit more in a typical (< 10 ft) listening distance in a medium to small room, especially on the vertical axis IMO a 3-way is a lot more height sensitive.
But that's why I love concentrics...pinpoint imaging with full tonality when you have 3-way+.
I don’t see how that distance claim can be made without knowing the distance between the drivers. From what I’ve seen in manufacture recomendations, you need to be 3x the distance between the woofers, so if a traditional 3-way has the tweeter 3ft above the lower woofer, you need to be 9ft away at least so that it sounds coherent.
As for the original question, the imaging from drivers that are closer in size will be better, unless waveguides and phase-plugs are in use. Meaning, this is why most 3-way towers use a 2” to 5” midrange, I’ve seen some companies use a 7” midrange with no waveguides, which means they valued more powerful/deeper bass over better imaging.
So, I'd like to re-frame the question and see what people think:
If I'm going to use a decent sub to shore up 45hz and below....and I set a speaker budget of $2000...is it possible to get a 2 way that sounds as good (wide soundstage, good tone, good dynamics) as a 3 way....or does the 3 way just have inherent advantages?
used Vandersteen subs and VLR or 1 ci would be fantastic
there is also a pair of what appear to be gently used model 2 signature II on agon right now, under your price target..no subwoofer needed with those..unless you listen to music w meaningful stuff below 40 HZ ( rare IMO )
A 4 string bass guitar's low E string is 41hz, and a 5 string bass low B is about 31hz, and a lot of ambient, drum tone low frequency and other normal stuff exists below 40hz in music. A good sub or two will make a full range speaker seem to sound much better (magic!), and the low frequency "hall sound" on live recordings helps things sound like reality. Subs "charge the room" which, if you get used to them and simply turn them (or it) off for a bit you immediately notice the life force going out the window, so to speak.
wolf, normally u and i fully on same page...however it is not like 2’s have little output below 40, in fact the acoustic coupler is capable of much... i would MUCH rather a good two or three way than poorly integrated HT sounding subwoofers.....which is all to often the norm...sadly..
Instead of asking for the best from a theoretical point, simply ask what’s the best speaker you can afford.
If only looking at new:
KEF R3, KEF R300, Philharmonic BMR (unless you sit far away), NHT C3/C4, Revel M105/M106, and Selah Audio Onesto. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head as being some of the best out there at their respective prices.