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  1. #1
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    Which is better: 2 way, 3 way or 4 way speaker??

    I am a newbie and trying to learn from the pros here... Generally speaking, does it mean the "more way" a speaker has, the better it is than a "fewer way" speaker? Simply put, does it mean that a 4 way speaker can reproduce better sound quality than a 3 or 2 way speaker?? Nowadays, there are speakers on the market that have 2.5 way? What does that mean?? Many thanks for all your comments.

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    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    None is better than the other. All speaker designs have trade-offs, no matter how many drivers they use.

    Speakers should not be looked at based on their driver amount. There are some single driver coaxial speakers that outperform two way speakers, some two way speakers that outperform three way speakers and so forth and so on.

    You ever heard the term never judge a book by its cover? That goes the same for speakers - never judge a speaker by how many drivers it has. Good sound can be had by all designs in the hands of a talented speaker designer.
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    _ Luvin Da Blues's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=ken88], does it mean the "more way" a speaker has, the better it is than a "fewer way" speaker? QUOTE]

    You really want a speaker that goes ALL the way.
    Back in my day, we had nine planets.

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    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quality over qty.
    The number of drivers does not mean as much as the quality of the drivers, design and crossovers,
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

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    Great comments. I notice that the more high-end speakers tend to have more drivers, thus, implying the more drivers a speaker has the higher quality of sound it can reproduce. This is why I am confused. So why does high-end speakers have, in general, more drivers, if the quality of the sound is the same regardless of the number of drivers? Thanks

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Here is a state of the art two way available for $27,000. There are some very nice speakers using a single full range driver. Much depends on what is most important to you in your choice of speakers and the equipment you will be using with them.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Which is better: 2 way, 3 way or 4 way speaker??-mini2_1.jpg  
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  7. #7
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    Great comments. I notice that the more high-end speakers tend to have more drivers, thus, implying the more drivers a speaker has the higher quality of sound it can reproduce. This is why I am confused. So why does high-end speakers have, in general, more drivers, if the quality of the sound is the same regardless of the number of drivers? Thanks
    Designs using more drivers provides greater power handling and wider bandwidth. There are some systems like the Scaena that employ dozens of drivers in a three-way design. This they do not only for power handling, but also to act as a vertical line source. As for me, I prefer the inherent coherency and transparency of using a single very large driver whose mass is less than the air around it They will not, however, deliver 100 db output nor vast quantities of first octave bass unless you employ them in large arrays.

    A "two-and-a-half" way speaker implies using two similar drivers (usually woofers) that have overlapping frequency ranges. One is optimized for the low end at cuts off more quickly. The other is allowed to respond into the midrange to blend more evenly with the tweeter. An example is the Paradigm Studio 80 using two 8" drivers and a 1" tweeter.

    rw

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    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    Great comments. I notice that the more high-end speakers tend to have more drivers, thus, implying the more drivers a speaker has the higher quality of sound it can reproduce. This is why I am confused. So why does high-end speakers have, in general, more drivers, if the quality of the sound is the same regardless of the number of drivers? Thanks
    Hi-End is only for the best quality of sound.
    When some one have a lot of money he has a big listening room so he buy a 3 or more way speakers to fill thos big room with music. Mostly to have a better performance on bas.
    For e.g. you can buy MBL 101 (great speakers), or if you have really big room you can buy 101 Extreme with two huge subs.

  9. #9
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    Well, with a 4 way or more, you can get into some truly amazing Tantric sax!

  10. #10
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Luvin Da Blues]
    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    , does it mean the "more way" a speaker has, the better it is than a "fewer way" speaker? QUOTE]

    You really want a speaker that goes ALL the way.
    I thought that was what you wanted in a girl friend
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  11. #11
    RGA
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    Here is a one way speaker - one of the best speakers I have heard. It almost does it all - it's as good as midrange gets, it has a nicely open controlled treble band and more bass than most people will need - and to top it off it is highly sensitive and efficient making any amplifier choice on the market acceptable. It's not quite there on the driving bass that I think it needs but overall here's a one way speaker for a reasonable amount of money (albeit reasonable is still way more than I have - LOL) but there's a lot of bigger far more expensive speakers on the market that are not as capable in my opinion.

    This illustrates that one driver is enough - at least if well executed

    http://www.teresonic.com/product_speakers.htm#1

    There are also some nice speakers using a LOT of drivers from Scaena and Perfect8 technologies which shows that you can make a nice sounding product with a lots of drivers. It's in the execution of the design. The "multi-way" designs are tougher to do properly in my opinion and they tend to get very pricey - and even then the expense often outstrips the results.
    Last edited by RGA; 02-09-2010 at 05:19 PM.

  12. #12
    Sophisticated Red Neck manlystanley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    I am a newbie and trying to learn from the pros here... Generally speaking, does it mean the "more way" a speaker has, the better it is than a "fewer way" speaker? Simply put, does it mean that a 4 way speaker can reproduce better sound quality than a 3 or 2 way speaker?? Nowadays, there are speakers on the market that have 2.5 way? What does that mean?? Many thanks for all your comments.
    Hello Ken,
    That's a good question. I think that you can ask the same about lots of other things. Such as: do the size of the pistons (displacement) equate to the most car engine power?

    The answer to this is: "it depends". My 1998 Volvo S90 has less displacement then my 95 Grand Caravan. But, my S90 runs circles around the Caravan. It has: significantly higher compression, tighter engine design, etc, etc. So, it really has much more power.

    With speakers its the same. Some speakers have lots of drivers BUT sound really poor. What matter is the engineering that goes into the speaker. Not just the number of drivers.

    Best Regards,
    Stan
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  13. #13
    _ Luvin Da Blues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    I thought that was what you wanted in a girl friend
    Of course but as long as something goes down around here Imma happy guy.
    Back in my day, we had nine planets.

  14. #14
    It's all about the music. Doc Sage's Avatar
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    Back to the subject at hands

    It is difficult to design a single speaker that covers the complete range of the human hearing. Possible but expensive. So a combination of units are normaly used to reproduce the desired sound range and a crossover is needed to separate the octaves that are to be send to this or that unit.

    But crossover adds distortion (back to this nasty bit later) and being that we hear much better in the 1000 to 5000 Hz (vibration per seconds) range just where a 2 way speaker system would have it, some designers went to a three way (or more) system. Not only will you have a tweeter to reproduce the higher sounds better, you will have a woofer for the lows and maybe a mid (we older folks may remember the term "squawker") for...well, the mids.

    So where does a "sub woofer" comes from? Well as the name state, it lives below the woofer. You can not have a subwoofer if you are without a woofer to begin with.

    Now, not only do we have a number of distortions created by the crossover, we have more problems matching the various speakers sound qualities, keeping to sound waves emited by each units in sink with each others and dealing with more vibrations coming from the box that contain all of the above.

    This is where the "art" of building a truly great speaker system begins. Do I use a single unit and avoid the crossover's nasty distortions? Keep to a two way and have a simplier crossover? Go for a three way and avoid the area where our ear hears the best? Have a big box that may extend the low notes? Keep it small to minimize vibrations generated by the box? What is best?

    Have fun finding the best speaker for your listening needs.

    Doc Sage

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Sage
    It is difficult to design a single speaker that covers the complete range of the human hearing. Possible but expensive. So a combination of units are normaly used to reproduce the desired sound range and a crossover is needed to separate the octaves that are to be send to this or that unit.

    Doc Sage
    Are there actually single speakers which will reproduce full-range (20Hz-20KHz) +/-3db? I've seen many single driver speakers declare they're full-range, only to read the specs and see their ranges listed as, for example 40Hz-17,500Hz +/- 3db. Being over 50, this probably isn't a big issue for me, but to someone (younger) who can hear full-range, they may feel a bit cheated.

    The physics involved say a 1" driver will never be able to reproduce 20Hz, or a 12" driver reproduce 20KHz, so there will always be a compromise, either in freq. response, dispersion or level. This is where multiple drivers and xovers come into play. A good engineer will use appropriate numbers of drivers, design box/panel and xover to minimize the compromises. Some may have better mid-range, but boomy bass, excellent frequency response, but poor power handling. This is where the big money comes into play designing custom drivers and cabinets using exotic materials and designing intricate xovers. This is also where diminishing returns on investment also come into play.

    I have a pair of Legacy Focus 7-driver 4-way speakers ($6800). I also have a pair of Klipsch Kg4 3-driver+passive 2-way speakers ($600). The Legacys are definitely a better speaker, but are they $6300 better? Maybe? (there's no substitute for 6 12" woofers for HT). Both are excellent speakers. Both will always have a place in my media room.

  16. #16
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bfalls
    Are there actually single speakers which will reproduce full-range (20Hz-20KHz) +/-3db?
    When you don't limit the discussion to dynamic drivers, the answer is yes if you adjust your cutoff to 25 hz. In room bass response (yes, there is some room gain) of my Sound Lab U-1s is flat to 25 hz where it disappears below that. It is a full range electrostat with about 15 square feet of 2.5 micron diaphragm per speaker. While they are not ideal for HT playback of planets exploding, they do a fine job at reproducing music at levels up to 90 db. High SPLs can be achieved with this type of speaker, but you would need to put together a suitably large array like Ray Kimber has demonstrated at RMAF.

    rw

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    From what I understand after reading your great comments, the number of drivers have nothing to do with a single/2 way/3 way, etc, system, meaning a speaker can have, for example, a 2 way system and at the same time has 7 drivers. Is my understanding correct?

    Which brands are better in terms of good engineering going into the research & development of the final products? How would one rate these brands. I understand that this is so subjective and everyone has a preferred brand. Taking everything equal, which brands would rate higher than others?? I often hear that Japanese speakers would always rate inferior to American, Canadian and European. Is that true?? On the other hand, Japanese hi-fi equipment, like receivers, TV's, blue-ray players are always rated very highly. Is that so? Thanks.

  18. #18
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    From what I understand after reading your great comments, the number of drivers have nothing to do with a single/2 way/3 way, etc, system, meaning a speaker can have, for example, a 2 way system and at the same time has 7 drivers. Is my understanding correct?
    Yes. Roger Russell's equalized IDS-25 line array employs twenty five drivers per speaker in a one-way design. The exceptional Scaena 1.4 is a three way design using twelve ribbon tweeters, fifteen midrange drivers and two subs per channel. I heard a pair driven by VTL Siegfrieds. They offer jaw dropping performance.

    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    Which brands are better in terms of good engineering going into the research & development of the final products? How would one rate these brands.
    There are quite a few very good companies making wonderful speakers. It all boils down to your set of priorities and budget!

    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    I often hear that Japanese speakers would always rate inferior to American, Canadian and European. Is that true??
    As with American brands, there are the mass market flavors and the niche market players. While I've never been fond of the mid-fi Japanese product, they do make some nice higher end stuff be it dynamic, horn or electrostat.

    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    On the other hand, Japanese hi-fi equipment, like receivers, TV's, blue-ray players are always rated very highly. Is that so? Thanks.
    As a rule, yes. Don't get too bogged down with such hard rules.

    rw

  19. #19
    RGA
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    I would not get too caught up on frequency response - whether a speaker hits 20hz or 30hz - if the speaker doing 30hz sounds better then while the other speaker may have spec bragging rights it doesn't mean much if the bass is one note sounding or can't create the visceral pressure of the instrument in the room.

    You can follow our show report and see many different designs and how they did versus other designs. At the end of each reviewer's show report most of us put our favorite rooms - and there is a lot of shared results - meaning most of us heard most rooms the same way. Sometimes not remotely so. http://www.dagogo.com/View-Event.asp?hEvent=25

    I don't think you can necessarily compare one design off the other. At the end of my show report which is quite a ways off I list my favorite 5 budget rooms and 5 above $10k rooms based on the price of the loudspeakers.

    My five budget rooms have a couple of 2 ways (stanmount and floorstander), a couple of 3 ways, and an electrostatic panel.

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    Thank you all for your very insightful and excellent input. The other question I have is regarding the quality of the speakers. Why is it some of the very high-end manufacturers (like Teresonic) have never won any single award whereas those in the mid to expensive manufacturers (like Paradigm) have won many awards from industry experts. Please correct me if I am wrong !! I would think that the very high-end manufacturers would have spent a fortune to get the best acoustical engineers and best cabinet designers, etc to come up with their final products which, in theory, should be the best and yet they gather less awards than the less expensive manufacturers. Why is it? Many thanks.

  21. #21
    RGA
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    Awards from whom? Anyone can give out awards for products they may deem to be better suited for mass appeal or by price or functionality. A British magazine awarded the Roksan Kandy their supertest 5/5 shootout winner for amplifiers but the Sugden A21a an amp they gave 4/5 they noted as sounding by far the best of the group - but the Sugden had less features and less power and looked dumpy. But if it was about the sound then it was clearly viewed as the best sounding unit. Back then Sugden also didn't pay for print advertising which may or may not effect some magazine ratings.

    I'm not a big fan of awards because unless the specific reviewer heard everything in the speaker class how can he award one as the best - best out of what he has heard which in some cases may not be very much.

    Sometimes too - several writers for a magazine actually pay for a certain speaker - they liked it enough to buy it. The magazine may not give it a top rating but always remember that there are other factors, appearance, idiosyncratic requirements, size, looks, features (is there a home theater package available) what have you.

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    Good question RGA regarding who awarded those trophies !!!!!! The Paradigm website shows this company has been awarded so many different prizes. Perhaps, you can enlighten us as to who those people are. For me, I have no clues whether they come from credible organizations or from some " amateurist bozzos"!!! I guess a reputable company like Paradigm would not mislead consumers as to the credibility of these awards - they must mean something worthy. Do they????

  23. #23
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    Who cares about awards the country of origin or how many speakers are in the box? None of those things mean diddly. The only thing that matters with any speaker is, do you like it. Nothing else matters in the slightest. Well price and size may have some significance but If you want the speakers bad enough even they won't matter.
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  24. #24
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    Good question RGA regarding who awarded those trophies !!!!!! The Paradigm website shows this company has been awarded so many different prizes. Perhaps, you can enlighten us as to who those people are. For me, I have no clues whether they come from credible organizations or from some " amateurist bozzos"!!! I guess a reputable company like Paradigm would not mislead consumers as to the credibility of these awards - they must mean something worthy. Do they????
    Paradigm makes a lot of products over many years. It may be that in their particular price class they view a given Paradigm package of home theater speakers as being the best - and who knows maybe you and I might agree with them - but the more important question is what else did they audition?

    The thing is when you compare a tiny company like Teresonic or Sonist or Gallo etc these guys are not very well known compared to gigantic companies like B&W and Paradigm. Many magazines with very good intentions are out to compare BIG speaker makers that tend to be in every city all around North America - so when you walk around you are assured of seeing Paradigm B&W and Klipsch someplace. So it makes some sense to compare Paradigm and B&W to a Klispch or a Polk or whatever. But have any of those guys ever even heard of Teresonic or a Sonist or a Studio Electric or King Sound let alone auditioned one? I'm betting not very likely.

    I started way way back assuming the same thing - you would very logically assume that if a B&W (enter model here) is going to be very good because of the sheer number of reviews. And you know many of their models are pretty good. I auditioned a Sugden A21a in the early 1990's - at that time (before the internet) I was thinking wow this is great - who the hell is Sugden. I then auditioned an Arcam Delta 290 - roundly reviewed as the best integrated amplifier in its price class. And it sounded good but the Sugden was a lot better. But being a newbie I said well you know it got an editor's choice award in a Brit magazine, Stereophile raved - it was the least expensive class B amp they had. Award winner in several other magazines. Sugden who? So I decided that perhaps it was the room acoustics and that I should trust the magazines. And the Arcam was good - it wasn't like it was junk or anything but it really is outclassed by the Sugden.

    Sugden's view was 'If we build it they will come" and didn't bother actively seeking out reviews - they could care less - they were entirely about word of mouth sales. As my dad used to say - the more they advertise a movie the more it probably sucks. And he's not too far off. Plus you have to factor in price. The S2 for example is not too expensive but I found the upper mid lower treble and lack of dynamics at reasonable drive levels to be completely unacceptable - Stereophile liked the speaker a lot - but noted the very same problem that I noted but for whatever reason they were less bothered by something that to me is not something I can stomach whatsoever - I believe they raved highly - but did any of their reviewers actually buy the loudspeaker to use as their main speakers? That is more important to me than any award.

  25. #25
    It's all about the music. Doc Sage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken88
    Good question RGA regarding who awarded those trophies !!!!!! The Paradigm website shows this company has been awarded so many different prizes. Perhaps, you can enlighten us as to who those people are. For me, I have no clues whether they come from credible organizations or from some " amateurist bozzos"!!! I guess a reputable company like Paradigm would not mislead consumers as to the credibility of these awards - they must mean something worthy. Do they????

    To answer your question, I have to go back some 50 years and that is a decade before anyone ever heard of Paradign. Back them our national government built a research center in Ottawa and employed the most knowledge individual to run it, if my memory serve me right, a Dr. O'tool. His interest was sound reproduction, how our ear hears stuff, how this sound is affected by the room it is produced in and the likes.

    He did something that was unheard at the time, he open this lab to anyone who wanted to test speakers, do research on our hearing, on how our brain takes these sound waves and makes sense of them. Paul Barton of PSB was one of the early visitors so was the fellows at Dayton-Wrights who build some great electrostats back in the late 60's. Soon a numbers of great Canadian speaker companies made surface, like Energy, Sound Dynamic, Paisley and many more.

    Paradign came out of this same lab. But they went one step further, they built their own lab and soon their speakers started to be noticed by the various trade publications...and awards followed. Their Monitor 5 Serie 1 was way ahead of its time and was available at a great price. Yes, these awards do mean somethings.

    Because todays computers can do most of everything this great lab was doing 50 years ago and do it in basements and garages, todays speaker designers have the know how at their finger tips with at a very little cost to built some great sounding speakers. These last 10 years, I listen to some amazing speakers built by some "golden ear" with the help of his friend, a cabinet maker.

    Doc Sage

    P.S. I am listening to Miles Davis on my Josephaudio speakers powered by a Sugden amp. Since I purchase these two pieces of equipments, I have no more urges to upgrade.

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