3 way vs. 2 way

I currently have Mirage M5si bi polar speakers, I believe these have two tweeters and two 6inch drivers. For my room size I want to go to a conventional speaker. I would also like to give a high end store in my area the business as the owner is a friend. He carries Totem and B&W. I notice may of the Totems have only a tweeter and a driver. Can I get as good sound out of smoething like that as compared to a speaker with 3 or 4 in the cabinet?

The number of drivers in a speaker is no indication of relative sound quality. The sound quality comes from the quality of the drivers and the implementation.

Many folks on this forum think a single driver per speaker is the absolute pinnacle of speaker design (I personally use a single driver speaker).

That said, a bi-polar speaker is going to sound different than a traditional speaker that has all of the drivers radiating in the same direction. You may loose some of the "presence" and off-axis response from your current speakers, but you may also gain some accuracy and pin-point imaging offered by a conventional configuration.

I would highly recommend you audition the Totem and B&W line and arrange for an in-home demo if possible. You may find that you love the attributes of these speaker lines or you may find that you prefer the Mirage sound.


Less can be better...
Some single driver speakers are amazing-Lowther
Less drivers means less complicated crossovers (usually).
Some multi driver units are phenomenal also-Pipedreams
Since you say this dealer is your friend definitely get an in home audition. Also if you want better advice from us it would be helpful to know the room size and associated equipment. Good luck!

3 way is necessary for elevated sound levels. It retains balance, clarity and dynamics over a broader range of volumes. It is however much bigger and more imposing and potentially ugly/obtrusive.

A two way is fine for "near" or "mid-field" and it is often the best compromise for the home; good quality at modest volume levels.

Single driver speakers (drivers usually with a whizzer) are used in cars, boomboxes and some high end applications where crossovers become a nuisance as they degrade the signal and absorb too much power(for example a high end tube amp with very low ouput power can still sound great with a single driver speaker).

The choice is yours and all can sound good. Why not try to move up in quality however - rather than switch. Why not give the 802D's an in home audition...this should definitely give both you and your friend something to smile about (they ain't cheap)!
let your friend guide you with the differences....those mirage's are awfully good though.....if they were some esoteric ma/pa brand, audiogon would light up singing their praises.
I prefer a two way speaker...the fewer crossovers, the better. Keep it simple...more is not always better.
3 way is necessary for elevated sound levels

Ever heard a pair Zu speakers? Technically it is a single driver with a tweeter simply to increase efficiency, so does that makes it a 1.25 way speaker? At any rate they can crank!
I agree that if you have a friend in the business take advantage and home audition anything you think about before you purchase.
Thanks to all for the advice. I sit 6 feet away from the speakers and I'm against the rear wall, my room is about 9feet wide. Ceiling is standard 8foot high and speakers are a good distance from side walls ( it's a long narrow room and runs in to a kitchen on the right) and three feet in front of the wall they are on. My rig sits between them on a knee level audio table. It's a dumpy little in law place but I have stayed due to the generosity of my landlady and my place has no common walls with the main house so I can listen any time without disturbing her. The rest of my gear is as follows.

Aragon 8008bb dual mono power amp
Musical Fidelity A3cr dual mono pre amp
Cal Audio Alpha - Delta dac and transport
Ps Audio P-300 Power Plant (has been modded)
And of course the Mirage Speakers which are now approaching 14 years of age. They are bi wired with basic Audioquest cable. I have Ps Audio statement and extreme plus power cords from the dedicated line to the amp and power plant. Signal Cable power cable from the pre and Signal Cable digital power cables from the cal pieces. Interconnects are Signal Analog two's and I have a Signal digital between the Cal Pieces. The cork and rubber "sandwiches, called V-Pads by a fellow Audiogoner who set me up with them, are under all my components. DH Squares as well are under the amp and speakers. Any more input after hearing that would be welcomed. Thanks, Zar
My bias is that less is more in many ways. But in your room and listening distance, a two-way seems like the way you must go; I think you would have a difficult time getting three drivers to integrate with a coherent sound at that distance. What price range are you looking at? I do love the Totems when I have heard them at shows, but I'm under the impression they need quite a bit of power and preferably solid state (I'm not a Totem expert). You might also want to consider the Merlin TSMs, they would work well in you environment, or two-way Harbeths, Spendors, ProAcs, are also good choices. I don't think you would be able to take advantage of large three-way bass in you room. My 2cents.
I built both 2 ways and 3 ways speakers before.

2 ways are far easier to build, easier to get it to sound "right" ... but then, don't expect the bass will go too deep. (well, I will never use a 10" woofer in a 2 ways)

3 ways are just the opposite.

In your case, I'll go for higher line 2 ways Totems or B+Ws instead of the lower line multi-way models.

High quality speaker stand is essential for bookshelves.
let your friend guide you with the differences....those mirage's are awfully good though.....if they were some esoteric ma/pa brand, audiogon would light up singing their praises.

I agree Jaybo...Mirage are great value...I think you need to go significantly up in price to go better with B&W (imported from UKw with a strong pound right now).


Is this in Canada? If it is then Totem's might be better balue.
Will no one say that they prefer three-ways to two-ways in a "social" context? What is this website coming to?

I just saw your second post on the this thread. Given your room a good two way is your best option, IMHO.

ChadnLiz, you are correct the Zu Druid's 10" driver and whizzer cone may make it an exceptionally loud playing "single driver" speaker - good point! My generalizations often have exceptions (such is the complexity of the real world) and you are very observant/knowledgeable to spot this error. Thx.
Try 1 way Sound Labs. I hear they are pretty good.
It really doesn't make too much difference which you design you pick. Both have their pluses and minuses. It's far more important that you like the way a speaker sounds with your equipment than focusing in on any specific design element. People who say they think one method is better than the other haven't listened to enough speakers to make such a sweeping statement.
I don't think 2-way is better than 3-way, or vice versa. I do think that if you sit six feet from the speakers 3-way won't work - not enough distance for the drivers to focus at the sitting position. Without the proper driver integration, you will loose a balanced, seamless transition across the frequency spectrum. 3-ways certaintly have their place, many, but not in this situation, IMHO.
Thanks all for the further responses. Seems like 2 way is the consensus. I'll let you guys know how it comes out. Zar
The comment about playing LOUD is correct. To get a woofer to work up to a tweeter crossover frequency (2000 Hz or higher) its size must be small (6 or 7 inches). Such a driver is not capable of high volume bass.

Of course, when you use a subwoofer with your 2-way monitor what you have is a 3-way. Still, if the 2-way woofer were optimized for higher frequency (at the expense of lows) its crossover to the tweeter could be moved up to 3500 Hz or so. Such a woofer is a midrange driver.
Utter nonesense Zar, these guys are same puritanical maniacs that took away all the controls. The best design is the design you like best. You said will a 2 or 3 way sound the way I like. I have no idea , but if you like those speakers just have them refurbished. BTW if you are interested in TSMs write to me . I have 10 pairs of speakers the majority are in fact are two way, but the ones I use the most are 3 way.
Yeah, your right. Utter nonsense.
I'd say try your Mirages in the new room first. You might need to diffuse the rear-firing drivers' radiation somewhat if the wall is too close.

As far as how many "ways" a speaker should have, I look at other things first. How many "ways" is a design choice that involves tradeoffs, and there are exceptions to most of the generalities that can be raised. However since you've narrowed your choices down to what your local dealer carries (and I think that's great that you're committed to supporting him), the theoretical merits of two way vs three way is of academic interest only.

Instead, let's do some listening! Your own ears are far more reliable than the consensus opinion of this or any other audio forum.

My premise is that the speaker that's the most enjoyable long-term is the best speaker. In pursuit of such, you might try these techniques:

1. Listen at very very low volume level - down at the threshold of audibility. Do you still get good clarity? Is the midrange still enjoyable? You won't hear the bass and will hear but little treble, so this technique sort of throws a spotlight on any midrange anomalies that might otherwise go unnoticed in a brief listening session but become distracting over the long haul.

2. Turn the volume level up louder than normal, and see if it gets harsh. The ear is more sensitive to colorations that give rise to harshness at high volume levels than at medium or low volume levels, so this technique is designed to reveal such colorations more quickly than low or medium volume listening would.

3. Leaving the volume level up louder than normal, get up and walk outside the room but leave the door open. Now all you can possibly hear is the reverberant field. If the speaker sounds convincing from the next room that means the reverberant field is smooth (which is very good for long-term listening enjoyment) and it probably means that the dynamic contrast is also good (which once again is great news).

Listening at a variety volume levels can help reveal whether or not the tonal balance changes significantly with volume level. Manufacturers almost never talk about this, but it happens a lot more often than we'd like to admit.

Take into account your normal listening habits as well. For instance, do you sit in the sweet spot only, or do you (or other listners) often sit outside the traditional sweet spot? If the latter, then obviously you want a speaker that sounds good across a large arc (in general, a three-way with a dome midrange or small diameter cone midrange will sound more uniform across a large arc than a typical two-way).

Finally, go back home and try these test on your Mirages - you may be surprised. You may find that in some ways these new speakers are more of a step sideways (or maybe even backwards) than a step forward. I say this out of respect for the Mirage design.

Best of luck in your quest,

Thanks, Duke. I always learn so much when you contribute to a thread. I also appreciate your forthrightness and the fact that you never push your products and that you use full disclosure. Your willingness to share your knowledge and experience is very helpful. I plan to try those maneuvers on my speakers. And when I am in the market for new speakers again, I would then be interested in what you sell and interested to hear more about the speakers you are designing. Thanks again.
I can remember when the debate used to be "acoustic suspension" vs. bass reflex.

Dealer to the rescue....Audiokinesis forgot to tell you about the blindfold...using the same set of CDs to evaluate equipment so its apples to apples....Of course your ears should be the judge! I think we all get that...but its also fun to hear everyone's opinion on two way vs. three way...tubes vs. solid state...ying vs. yang...kimber vs. cardas...Thiels vs. Linn....there is no right or wrong answer....this is not a medical diagnosis...so lets keep it light. System synergy may be more important than comparing a speaker A/B in your dealer's showroom. How many times does a dealer make the comparison for you using amplification and a front end that cost $20K or more? When dealers begin to bring the speakers to your home and A/B them for you in your equipment, then you have something to hang your hat on.
"Let a hundred flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." In a true forum, like Audiogon, the person who asks a question greatly benefits by having a broad range of opinions and thoughts to consider...and yes...the dealer has made some very good points. Don't stop breathing when you read a dealer's opinion, as everyone writing in does have experience and an opinion. When the dealer became the dealer, the sky didn't open and the angels didn't come down with a set of Golden Ears. A dealer's first bias is that selling you something is the basis of his livlihood...and beyond that...Guess what, even the dealers have a bias when it comes to sound...because we are all human after all. Also keep in mind that a dealer can only sell what he carries, so that may or may not be in tune with your own ear.
If you think more drivers equal better sound, try the Omega Super 3 XRS single-driver speakers, especially in your small listening room. They are amazing, especially with tube amplification. If these don't float your boat, stick with a 2-way because of the better driver integration. I have Opera and Spendor 2-ways and love them but the Omega Super 3 XRS's made a believer out of me when it comes to single driver speakers. I own a pair and they are keepers.

Once again I find myself in total agreement with your comments.

Ditto Eldartford and Jaybo.

These forums can be extremely informative.

Back to the original question

I notice may of the Totems have only a tweeter and a driver. Can I get as good sound out of smoething like that as compared to a speaker with 3 or 4 in the cabinet

I would say that if you have no price restrictions and you can build the ideal sized room to suit the speakers - then the answer is generally NO - you can't get as good of a sound in a two way. If you simply look at most globally respected acoustic suspension speaker manufacurers product offerings then you will notice that their top of the line tends to be larger three way+ designs and not two ways (so I am kind of stating the obvious although I expect many will still disagree...facts tend to get ignored here)

However, practially speaking two ways are a sensible way to go in the middle price range (two way is often better than a smilar priced three way), for smaller rooms and for near field listening positions. (After all, if you can't change your room it is best to use something that works within your space...for example, a big expensive B&W three way looks overkill for your room, IMHO)
"When the dealer became the dealer, the sky didn't open and the angels didn't come down with a set of Golden Ears."

Egads man, you've totally exposed me and my fellow bottom-feeders!

Seriously, Mcpody, you are absolutely correct - "dealer" doesn't mean anything beyond the fact that I stood in line and got a business license, and "manufacturer" doesn't necessarily mean much more (do I even design or actually build my own products? Who knows?). My ears are probably average at best, and I hope I haven't implied otherwise. If anyone finds merit in something I say, hopefully that's based on the content rather than the hat I wear.

Incidentally, I have somewhat mixed feelings about proclaiming my industry affiliation on a regular basis. It's a judgment call as to whether that constitutes "advertising" on the one hand, and whether non-disclosure constitutes "shilling" on the other. In a recent thread on the subject of industry members disclosing their affiliation, one person commented that he'd like to know when he's reading the words of someone who may have a vested interest, and that sounds reasonable to me.

Thanks for the thumbs-up, Jndean and Shadorne.

In a small room, big speakers will overload the room, have boomy bass, and sound bad.

But assuming you have the space, and assuming you like DYNAMICS, unfortunately there is no 2 way in existence that can sound like a large speaker.

Something like a Verity Parsifal monitor will have a great midrange, spot on image, and other great qualities - but unfortunately even a SOTA 2-way like this will never sound like a Wilson X2, Pipedream line arrays, Avantgarde Trios, or Dynaudio temptations. The sheer scale of sound presentation of one of these large and well-built speakers is unfortunately unmatchable in a 2-way monitor. The physics simply don't allow it.

2 Way monitors by all means have their time and their place - but if you are serious, and you are looking for BIG orchestral dynamic swings and rock-arena scale, you need a BIG speaker.

Well put. I tend to agree. Although some exceptional two ways are pretty impressive (Meyer X 10 for example) but as a generalization, "rule of thumb", I am in total agreement.
I have a pair of vintage AR91s, two way speakers, that would huff, puff, and blow down your house, Goatwuss.
Please note that the poster's room is only 9' wide, and assuming the speakers are about 2' from side walls the distance between speakers that's left is only 5', or less. Any moderate sized speakers wouldn't sound too good in that kind of space, and larger speakers would be disastrous.

Unless you can place the speakers along the long wall, a small 2-way or a pair of floorstanders with a small footprint would be a wise choice.
Ryder gets the point exactly, this is not a theoretical debate (althought that is interesting in its own right) but a specific application in a given room. As a practical solution, I think that 2-ways are the best way to go IMHO.
Ryder and Pubul57,

We are in total agreement.

[Shadorne ] I just saw your second post on the this thread. Given your room a good two way is your best option, IMHO.
Utter nonsense a two way or a three way will vary in quality and quantity. The fact is I played them both in a closet of a bedroom as a teenager 30 years ago, it was fine. I had the JBL Signature C36s a two way vintage 1959 a compression driven bullet horn AKA the 075 and the long lived extended range 15" woofer mid the d-130 which were used by the dead as their wall of sound and then by the Dave Mathews band. They are exquisitely sensitive despite the rated values of 101db /M/W. What are you nuts Mechans that is extremely sensitive. Yes that is true but I swear they are louder given the same juice than my La Scalas which are rated at 104 db. The other speakers were Klipsch Heresy a 3 way horn 12" woofer. I can't tell you how they compared since I had 2 speaker taps on my Kenwood KA-7100. Using the more is better mentality. The room was so small that I actually had them up on a big shelf near the ceiling. So the answer is... place your speakers such that they are no more the 1' from the cieling. Using this placement will eliminate the "correct" # of drivers. By the way the dumb old idiots found that bass required so much energy that you will not hear it at low volumes so they invented the loudness switch. Heresy I should be banned from audiophooldum.
I swear they are louder given the same juice than my La Scalas which are rated at 104 db.

You are probably correct. The majority of audiophiles assume that efficiency equates to absolute loundness...it doesn't. Some high quality speaker drivers do not compress at higher volumes whilst cheaper drivers do...it is compression that limits loudness (thermal heating of the coils and when driven past a limited Xmax). Most speaker drivers use the long coil in a short gap which is cheap and robust - however, this design severely limits their volume potential and dynamics.
You need at least 3 ways to have sufficient displacement for bass reproduction without compromising speaker directivity at higher frequencies.

Drivers like Mangers and full-range units with whizzer cones count as 2-ways, where the cross-over between the two is mechanical instead of electrical.

A horn couples the air in the throat to the air at the mouth so linear displacement is the same at both ends; in effect providing MUCH more surface area. A full-range whizzer-coned driver in a back-loaded horn is a 3-way.

A 2-way stand-mounted monitor plus a sub-woofer is a 3-way with independant placement for the bass-unit.

This is orthagonal to what the best compromises are once you limit price - more lower quality drivers, reduced output limits, missing the last two octaves (your brain does a reasonable job filling in the fundamental from harmonics)...
I think that absent the lowest octave, my Merlin VSM-MXe provide the coherency of two-ways, with the bass extension, dynamics, and loudness (105db peaks) of most three-ways, down 3db at 33Hz. Of course this is done with bass EQ (BAM), but from 40 Hz up this is my favourite speaker, and the bass is satisfying for 95% of the music I would ever listen to. A different approach to dealing with the tradeoff and compromises required when choosing to go 2-way or 3-way.
In theory, there is no way that 2 drivers can cover a frequency range of 20Hz to 25000Hz as well as three drivers can. This of course assumes that everything else is equal such as, driver quality, proper crossover design, prober box design, etc.

If you build your own speakers, three ways also give you much more flexability to balance your sound to suit your particular taste. For example, I have adjustable L-pads on my mids and tweets so that I can bring the mids or highs up or down to achieve the sound that I desire. My woofs cover 20-500 Hz, my mids cover 500-5000Hz, and my tweets cover 5000-25000Hz

Soda14a6v, I agree with you that not only in theory, but in practice, you can't have 20Hz response from from a good sounding two-way. But I think we start to accept serious compromises and complexities and power requirements when we seek 20Hz response. I think for most applications, and most rooms, good response down to 40Hz or so provides the best set of compromises (and possible with 2-ways), especially when value is taken into consideration - in most cases the low,low bass (16-30Hz) comes at a serious sonic cost to the rest of the spectrum IMHO, and is not suitable for most domestic rooms.