What You Need to Know: 2-Way vs 3-Way Sound System

Do you like to listen to the radio (or music) while driving? It’s a great way to keep you from getting irritated at the traffic and to make the time go by faster. Of course, we also want to treat our ears to high-quality music.


Unfortunately, not all of us possess the technical knowledge to understand the specifications of car speakers. You might be scratching your head at terms like “woofer”, “tweeter” and 2-way vs 3-way speakers. We want to help you by pointing out the differences and explaining some of these terms to you.

So let’s look at the difference between 2-way and 3-way speakers.

How do speakers work?

2-way-and-3-way-speakers

To properly explain the difference between 2-way and 3-way speakers, we first need to know how speakers work and what the “ways” mean.

As you know, sound is produced by waves of different wavelengths moving through the air. To produce higher sounds the frequency of the waves need to be faster and for lower sounds, the frequency needs to be slower. We measure the frequency of waves using a unit called Hertz (Hz) or kiloHertz (kHz).

Speakers use one or more individual components to produce the whole range of sounds required:

  • Tweeter: A tweeter produces the higher range sounds that are upwards from 3kHz (usually to 20kHz). Specialty tweeters can reach up to 100kHz. Instruments like cymbals, flutes, and tambourines usually operate in this range. (Nr. 2 in the image)
  • Mid-range: True to its name, a mid-range produces sounds in the 160Hz-5.2kHz range. The human voice and instruments like a saxophone fall under this. (Nr. 1 in the image)
  • Woofer: Just think of a dog's bark. A woofer produces the lowest range of sounds, between 30Hz-160Hz. Think tuba or bass guitar. (Nr. 3 in the image)

To put it in simple terms, the bigger the waves the lower the sound. Just picture your normal bookshelf speaker. Woofers are the big round speakers with the rubber lining we all know.

The tweeter is much smaller in size and usually just looks like a silver bauble somewhere above the woofer. The mid-range, in most cases, looks like the woofers smaller brother.


2-Way vs. 3-Way speakers

Some of you might have already figured out the difference between 2-way and 3-way speakers. It really comes down to the number of components the speaker uses to produce sound. Both have an extra part, called a “crossover”, that splits the sound signals according to their frequency and sends them to the different components.

2-way speakers (also called coaxial speakers) are almost always made up of a woofer and a tweeter, with no mid-range. This means that either (or both) the woofer and the tweeter need to have a wide range to close this “gap” in the middle. Sometimes the tweeter doesn’t go as high in Hz but supports lower Hz. The opposite can apply to the woofer.

3-way speakers (also called tri-axial speakers) have a woofer, tweeter, and a mid-range. This means that all the wavelengths should be covered by their respective producers. There is most likely an overlap, with the tweeter and mid-range or woofer and mid-range covering some of the same frequencies.

Here are some products on Amazon.com to give you an idea:

Sale
Sale
Pioneer TSD6802R 6 X 8 2-Way 260 Watt Speakers
Pioneer Mobile - Wireless Phone Accessory
$72.57 - $0.60 $71.97

Last update on 2017-12-15 at 22:01 PST - Details

As you can see a 3-way usually costs more than a 2-way speaker. BOSS and Pioneer are leading brands in the industry and you should look at them if you want to buy.



Anything else I should know?

Different compositions

When you shop around you should be aware that 3-way speakers can be made up of different parts, for example, two woofers, a mid-range, and a tweeter. Because there are also 3 three ranges of devices it is still called a 3-way. Some 3-ways even skip the mid-range and have a super-tweeter with ultra high frequencies. The same can go for 2-way speakers.

Component speakers

Another term you should know is a component speaker system. In a component speaker system, each of these parts come completely separately and are not built into one big speaker. This also means that different sounds come from different places. It can lead to some interesting sound effects, especially in a car.

So in the case of a 2-way speaker system the woofer and tweeter will come in two separate parts, whereas for a 3-way speaker system it should be three or more separate parts.

Quality

This means that you can generally expect better quality sound from 3-way speakers because of the extended range and more components covering only the range they are meant to cover. This leads to higher sound accuracy.

Nothing in this world is free and 3-way speakers usually cost more than 2-way speakers. The 2-way speaker design is more complex and needs to be split into 3 sources that work in unison. If you see a 2-way and a 3-way at the same price, chances are the 2-way will perform better. This is because the 3-way will definitely use cheaper parts to lower the price.

A big factor that affects the quality of a 3-way speaker is a separate mid-range driver. This will drastically reduce the mid-range distortion.

Conclusion

In short, this is what you should keep in mind:

  • If you are on a budget go for a 2-way instead of a cheap 3-way.
  • Check the range of each component to make sure that there aren’t huge gaps in frequency.
  • Never buy speakers without listening to the sound first. Even if the quality is good, different speakers highlight different sounds.
  • More expensive is not always better

If you have any thoughts on this article, have a question or want to share some information with the rest of us, please feel free to use the comment section below


Hi there! I’m Jordan, chief editor of Crushtheroad.com and I’m a self-confessed automative fanatic. Cars or vehicles has always been a passion of mine and will always be my favorite pastime. Now that I am married and has one adorable son, I have the time to write and share my personal experiences with other automative enthusiasts like me. Welcome to my fantastic blog!

Jordan

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