2way speakers


What are the best two way speakers out there?

The b&w 805 d3 is one I'm interested in but not yet heard.

I've heard kef ls50, it was too bright no bass. I heard Psi audio. Not impressed 
Vivid v1.5. No bass.

Years ago I heard revel m20. This was a really impressive speaker but I wouldn't want to buy that now as it's an old model and there should be even better ones?

I was also impressed by the b&w nautilus 800 I heard again, many years ago. But, that's a floorstander so not suitable. 

The Wilson benesch arcs also sounded pretty nice but not completely neutral.

So what do all these have in common? 





kenjit
Please state your budget, partnering equipment and sound preferences. Some two-ways that pop up frequently here: Joseph Audio, Totem, Tekton, Sonus Faber, Wilson, etc..
+I  Totem Acoustic 

N
The problem with most two ways is the hole or BBC dip in the mid range. This is because the woofer/mid has to work too high in frequency and it starts to beam above 1 KHz. 

Try to listen to ATC SCM 19. This design has an even dispersion from their 3 inch dome grafted on a 6 inch woofer. ATC is neutral and excellent for critical listening and accurate timbre - the mid range and bass response is super detailed (sealed box). Harbeth 7es3 is warmer but still detailed. Harbeth SHL5+ is a little more neutral but still warm. Harbeth won’t play as loud cleanly but they have an engaging warmth (think FM radio) that folks love. John Darko uses Harbeth. Harbeth have only a slight BBC dip - a really good two way.

Anyway I recommend you listen to both Harbeth and ATC....
I did listen to the atc scm19. They are quite nice but still not really perfect. 
I did once listen to harbeth. Not really impressed. 
Please state your budget, partnering equipment and sound preferences.
I've found that budget doesn't really correlate with quality so I don't want to constrain my options by budget. I'm also different to most audiophiles here 
 I don't believe that cables matter or that amps make a huge difference. This is based on my experience. The speaker is what makes the most difference 
Well as you probably know these are highly successful two way designs. So it seems that you have a preference for something with heavier bass - more flavour so to speak. So a mid range dip two way may actually suit you - B&W all have a big mid range dip with emphasis on bass and treble - the design is extremely popular - so I would try their two way models out as that seems to be your listening preference.
Pretty much all the ProAcs are two-way.
@shadorne

If it's as simple as differences in frequency response why not just buy a cheap speaker and an eq unit to adjust it to your liking? 
If you want better bass in a two-way, why not look at Tannoy? You don't mention a particular budget. The Tannoy Prestige line (especially the GR models) are particularly fine. I couldn't afford them so I built my own speakers using ca 1975 12" HPD drivers.

I can't recommend them highly enough.

Regards,
Dan

@kenjit

If EQ works well for you then tune the sound of a cheap speaker to what you like best. Software like Roon has DSP control. We all have various hearing ability and tastes. Audioengine make excellent two ways that may work for you. B&W are quite expensive for what they are. Anyway, only you can know what kind of sound works for you - choosing a speaker is very much a personal choice.
no perfect for 2 way, best 2 way is 3 way, there are a lot a nice 3 way
on the market
Speaker Art Ribbon Clef. 
I'd recommend looking at an MTM design with 6 inch or larger woofers.  A couple of 6 1/2 inch MTM's will move the air of a 10 inch woofer and still give you the midrange performance of a 2 way. 

An excellent MTM is a very nice speaker.  Sorry,  no recommendations, I build my own stuff, but I'm sure a few people seeing this will have a couple of solid recommendations 
Post removed 
I have the 805s and they are pretty amazing. Definitely a totally different league than the LS50. It’s probably better to compare them to the Focal Sopra 1 or KEF Reference 1. 
There's a pair of Revel M20s available here now for 700 bucks.  If they really pushed your buttons before, they probably still will.  Newer isn't always better.  

I'd also suggest hearing the Joseph Audio Pulsars.  Very detailed in a natural way (not bright) with prodigious bass for a monitor.  They also image and soundstage like demons.  Just for reference if nothing else.  Anyway...

I agree with @shadorne that most two-ways have a radiation pattern discontinuity in the crossover region. It can be viewed as an off-axis dip at the top end of the woofer, or an off-axis emphasis at the bottom end of the tweeter.

Let’s assume we have a 6" woofer and a 1" dome tweeter, crossover at 2.5 kHz. What happens is, the woofer’s radiation pattern is getting narrow as it approaches the crossover region, and is roughly 90 degrees wide (-6 dB limits) at around 2.5 kHz. But down that low, the 1" dome tweeter’s pattern is so wide that it would be virtually omnidirectional except that the baffle itself limits the tweeter’s dispersion to 180 degrees.

So if this speaker is essentially "flat" on-axis, its off-axis response has a lot of extra energy in the octave above the crossover, where the tweeter’s pattern is 180 degrees or so. The 2-4 kHz region just happens to be where the ear is the most sensitive. So that extra off-axis energy at the bottom end of the tweeter’s range can make the speaker fatiguing to listen to for long periods of time. This is partially because the extra energy is right smack in that most sensitive region, and partially because a significant spectral discrepancy between the first-arrival sound and the reflections can be detrimental anyway. Let me explain the latter; feel free to skip the next three paragraphs because they get kinda nerdy:

The ear derives directional cues from the first-arrival sound but ignores directional cues from reflections (repetitions of that first-arrival sound). So even in a reflective room, you can close your eyes and point right straight at me when I speak from across the room. The reflections still affect loudness and timbre, among other things, but their influence on sound source localization is minimized.

The way the ear/brain system does this is pretty cool: It puts a copy of each new sound into a short-term memory, and compares all incoming sounds with all of the sounds in that short term memory. If the spectrum is a match, then it’s classified as a reflection. If not, then it’s a new sound. This suppression of directional cues in the reflected sound is called the "precedence effect".

So, what happens if the spectrum of a reflection is off somewhat? In that case, the ear/brain system literally has to use more computing power to correctly classify the sound as a reflection. This extra usage causes the CPU to overheat (figuratively speaking), and the result can actually be a headache!

Imo there are several possible ways to minimize listening fatigue in the design of a loudspeaker. One is, to put a dip in the on-axis response at the bottom end of the tweeter’s range. This simultaneously reduces the excess off-axis energy in that region, and a happy medium can usually be found. It doesn’t totally solve the problem, but at least the speaker’s in-room response isn’t extra-loud in the 2-4 kHz region where the ear is most sensitive.

Another solution is to widen the pattern where it would otherwise be narrow, at the top end of the woofer’s range in our example. The (sadly discontinued) Cliffhanger Bulldog does this. It uses a low-bass-optimized 6" woofer with a 2" dome mid, and a quasi-ribbon tweeter for the top end. The different drivers were close enough in width (in the horizontal plane) that we end up with an off-axis response that tracks the on-axis response quite well. (Yes I know it’s not a two-way - but is neatly solves a problem that many two-ways have).

A third solution would be, to make the tweeter’s pattern narrower at the bottom end of its range by using a waveguide-style horn. Amphion would be an example. Imo this may be the preferred solution, as I subscribe to the school of thought that says early reflections are generally undesirable.

Obviously the radiation pattern in the crossover region is not the only consideration when choosing stand-mount speakers, but imo it’s worth being aware of, and it may explain things that we can hear but which do not show up in an on-axis frequency response measurement. And unlike many other issues, a radiation pattern problem cannot be fixed with EQ.

Best of luck in your quest.

Duke

dealer/manufacturer

I prefer any LS3/5A design ( two way sealed ) type. Spendor, Harbeth, Stirling, Falcon, etc., etc. If you don’t like bright speakers I doubt you will like B&W!
Duke, excellent write up. Thanks for taking the time.
Why did I not like the cold sound of the green mountain audio chromas? 

What makes the speaker sound that way? 




@audiokinesis

Agreed. You can’t argue the physics. Even off axis dispersion or even power response was discovered in the 70’s. I think reknown manufacturers like B&W know this but B&W has built a succesful global business selling designs with a hole in the mid range. B&W crossover a 6 inch woofer at 4 KHz (big mid range hole) and tend to boost their bass response too. B&W speakers all sound like hi-fi - boosted bass and boosted treble. Along with other manufacturers they have defined a sound that most people equate to hi-fi. It isn’t natural sounding and it is fatiguing principally because the ears/brain can’t quite make sense of the unnatural sound. It demands attention because it sounds different from everything else we hear all our lives. It sells well as owners are proud of the distinctly unnatural “hi-fi” sound. In a sense, the marketing department and magazines have educated us to expect this kind of exaggeration from “hi-fi” speakers. Natural sounding speakers do not draw any attention to themselves in the way “hi-fi” speakers do. Most well heeled buyers are actually more willing to part with large $$$ when they can clearly hear something different and attention grabbing. B&W know exactly what they are doing and it works! Great and tremendously succesful company.
@shadorne 

You're making the common mistake of judging the sound of a speaker entirely based on its response.

The fact of the matter is most hifi speakers I've seen reviewed in stereophile do have quite a flat response within a few db.

Why should anybody pay several thousand dollars more than a basic hifi speaker costing say 300 dollars if the only difference you're getting is a few db differences in the frequency response? 





B&W crossover a 6 inch woofer at 4 KHz (big mid range hole) and tend to boost their bass response too

B&w are using true phase cohesive first order filters so the discontinuity in off axis response is not as sharp as you think it is.

Anyway nobody should be listening in an untreated room so the importance of off axis response depends on your room acoustics.

If you move up to 3way in an attempt to even the polar response you now have further problems with trying to merge three drivers to make them sound coherent. You will need a bigger cabinet too.

As for boosting the bass, that's dependent on room and positioning too. There is no correct answer to how much boost there should be. You don't want the speaker to sound too thin or too warm or bassy. The response shown on the graph depends on how the measurement was taken


@kenjit

You are assuming that I stated that even frequency response and even dispersion is the only criteria for evaluating speakers. It isn’t. Dr Floyd Toole research conclusively demonstrated that these two factors are however extremely important.

To name just a few other important factors that a good speaker design must consider:-

Waterfall plot. Power compression. Crossover design & quality. Q of the bass response. Dynamic range. Intrinsic driver damping. Driver break up. Short coil in large magnetic gap (for linear response). Low hysteresis. Good driver alignment (no rocking motion). Good voice coil cooling from extremely tight tolerances to reduce thermal compression. Baffle design. Port design. Impedance and amplifier load. Driver sensitivity matching. Phase alignment of drivers.
But you didn't mention any of those before. You simply chose to focus on the response. 


@kenjit

My apologies. Let me know what else you want to discuss in more detail. I am sure the experienced folks at Audiogon can help. There are extremely few speaker designs that don’t have any weaknesses at all but ATC and Harbeth are up there among the better designs that have withstood the test of time.
Fitz and Monitor Audio. 
@kenjit I thought you had positive experience with Proac.  Why not stick wit them?

+1 on Fritz.  I have heard them at shows and thought they were good.

"Dr Floyd Toole research conclusively demonstrated that these two factors [even frequency response and even dispersion] are however extremely important."

@shadorne , Yesss!

Toole found five factors to be reliable predictors of subjective preference:

1.  The first-arrival sound’s frequency response at the listening position;

2.  The spatially-averaged response across a window plus or minus 30 degrees horizontal and plus or minus 10 degrees vertical;

3.  The spatially-averaged response of the early reflections from the four walls, ceiling, and floor;

4.  The sound power, or the sum total of the speaker’s acoustic energy radiation; and

5.  The directivity index, which looks at the difference between the first-arrival sound’s frequency response and the sound power (summed omnidirectional response).

By making these measurements, Toole could predict with a high degree of reliability how several competing speakers would rank in a controlled blind listening test.   Notice that 4 of the 5 have to do with the radiation pattern.

Obviously nobody here is saying that these are the only things that matter, but they may be what matters the most. 

Duke