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2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

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  • 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

    Hi Guys,

    I've built both 2-way and 3-way speakers, but always end up adding a subwoofer to get the needed low end. Take two tracks for instance: the first is the live version of "Hotel California" from the album "Hell Freezes Over", the second is Diana Krall's "The Look of Love". Adding a sub to these tracks, to me, brings out a different dimension to the music. Many of my Telarc classical recordings absolutely shine with the sub on. So the question is, do we really need to build 3-way systems, since we can cover the entire auditory spectrum with a good 2-way and a sub? Thanks for your replies.

    Hong
    Some people are addicted to Vicodin. I'm addicted to speaker building.

    The Chorales - Usher 8945A/Vifa XT25TG Build
    ESP Project 101 Lateral MOSFET Amplifier
    LM4780 Parallel Chipamp
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    The Renditions - Active/Passive Towers

  • #2
    Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

    I've thought about this quite a bit in the past year or so... not the 3-way vs. 2-way question exactly, but more the need for a sub in general.
    I used to be sub-crazy, now I'm getting away from it a bit-at least in my thinking.

    I know for a fact that I am a bass lover. I like the bass to be boosted a few db as long as it's not 'tubby' or 'boomy' sounding. Clean, low bass is a beautiful thing. I tend to tune my speakers on the low end of what's considered acceptable... I almost always sacrifice volume for bass extension it seems.

    As an example - not a great one, but... - Some time back I replaced the front speakers in my car and added a subwoofer. Then I used Omnimic to adjust the tweeter L-pads and adjust the bass output on the sub amp until it was pretty close to 'flat'. Even though I know that the most even sound occurs with 'X' amount of volume on the sub amp, I still find myself turning the knob up quite a bit (it's handily located on the front dash) even though I know I probably shouldn't. I just like the sound/feeling of a bit more bass.

    Seems there are a ton of 5.5-6.5" two-ways out there that really sound fine. I just finished a set of the PE Encores with Mr. Bagby's tweaked crossover, and they sounded phenomenal to everyone who's heard them. Plenty of bass and superb clarity. Just that bottom octave or so is not so strongly represented.

    Also, it seems like there is an effortless type of bass from a good powered sub that sounds different from even a larger woofer in a three-way, even at the same volume. I guess it's probably the fact that most subwoofers are going to dig lower and louder than most any 3-way at low- to mid-volumes. That lowest octave and a half is stronger with a powered sub, I think... maybe that's a big part of it.


    It's a good question!

    TomZ
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    • #3
      Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

      Yes, maybe, it depends...
      For me, there is something about a large 3way that is usually "missing" a little in a 2.1 type layout. Perhaps it's using a larger driver (in my case a 12 per side that is crossing in the 300-350 hz range) that gives some music more impact and foundation. Perhaps it's because many 2.1 setups don't seem to fully integrate between the drivers.
      https://www.facebook.com/Mosaic-Audi...7373763888294/

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      • #4
        Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

        Originally posted by hongrn View Post
        ***So the question is, do we really need to build 3-way systems, since we can cover the entire auditory spectrum with a good 2-way and a sub? Thanks for your replies.
        --
        "Based on my library and laboratory research, I have concluded, as have others, that the best measures of speaker quality are frequency response and dispersion pattern. I have not found any credible research showing that most of the differences we hear among loudspeakers cannot be explained by examining these two variables." -Alvin Foster, 22 BAS Speaker 2 (May, 1999)

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        • #5
          Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

          I was thinking that a decently well thought out 2.1 system probably sounds as good or better to some because bass seems to be largely a matter of taste, some people want more, some want less and with an active sub you can dial in as much or as little as you want. Also since room modes largely dominate low end response the ability to move a sub to a better location independent of where the stereo speakers needs to be probably give it an edge as well.

          I think Pallas makes a valid point that these things don't necessarily make 3 ways obselete, but might help explain why even with a competent 3 way why so many people find themselves adding a powered sub anyways.

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          • #6
            Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

            So if you accounted for the cost of drivers and the resulting complexity of the crossover in a 3-way, why not invest in better drivers for a 2-way? Can someone please debunk my thinking? Thanks.
            Some people are addicted to Vicodin. I'm addicted to speaker building.

            The Chorales - Usher 8945A/Vifa XT25TG Build
            ESP Project 101 Lateral MOSFET Amplifier
            LM4780 Parallel Chipamp
            Sonata Soundbar Project
            The Renditions - Active/Passive Towers

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            • #7
              Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

              Originally posted by hongrn View Post
              do we really need to build 3-way systems, since we can cover the entire auditory spectrum with a good 2-way and a sub?
              No, so long as the 2-way does the job as well as it can be done. But not all 2-ways can.
              www.billfitzmaurice.com
              www.billfitzmaurice.info/forum

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              • #8
                Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                the issue I see with 2 ways, and I am a big tm and mtm fan, is the 100 to300 hz zone.
                I prefer a sub to be a sub. the highest I want to cross a "sub" is around 80 hz, and 100 is the max. with music there is an enormous amount of energy in the 100 to 300 hz range. most smaller drivers just can not reproduce this at higher playback levels.
                if you are going to listen at low to moderate levels, and you have to decide what that is, there are many 2 ways out there that are very good.
                craigk

                " Voicing is often the term used for band aids to cover for initial design/planning errors " - Pallas

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                • #9
                  Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                  I think the main difference as iseagle stated is that a woofer in a 3way is usually xoed higher than a sub giving more (for lack of better word) "impact" in the higher bass frequencies. Also I seem to have much better results getting a woofer to sound good in a 3way than getting a sub dialed in. I have never tried a pair of subs though and have a feeling this may help.

                  Edit Craig typed faster but better described what I was getting at. ;)

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                  • #10
                    Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                    If I were to design and build both, I think my 3-way plus sub would sound better, or at least different, than my 2-way plus sub. I find that the difference is rather subtle, and not really important to me. A good 3-way will have better midrange with some types of music due to lower IMD , and if the woofer has say four times the Sd of the 2-way, the impact, or tactile presense will be improved. I can hear this at moderate spl with Diana Krall CDs on some large commercial speakers at my friends house. It's not really a lack of compression at that SPL, it's just a size thing. A 3-way with dual 12s or a 15 would be a much more expensive speaker than a 6.5" 2-way, so it's not really a fair comparison.

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                    • #11
                      Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                      Originally posted by hongrn View Post
                      ...So the question is, do we really need to build 3-way systems, since we can cover the entire auditory spectrum with a good 2-way and a sub?
                      This bring to mind a debate ( SB many years ago ) about mono summed bass.
                      I always relied on large (Sd) cones to cover the bottom octaves: either as part of a full range cabinet or in a separate module.
                      Separate bass modules ( that cover the bottom 2 octaves ) offer placement flexibility and the advantages that offers.
                      "Not a Speaker Designer - Not even on the Internet"
                      “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.”
                      "If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

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                      • #12
                        Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                        Originally posted by rpb View Post
                        A 3-way with dual 12s or a 15 would be a much more expensive speaker than a 6.5" 2-way, so it's not really a fair comparison.
                        Correct but if you have a 2way setup with two subs prices would start to even out. I like the 3way + sub idea. A 3way (with the right driver of course ) will reach 50hz fairly easily with a sealed 10"or larger and should be easy to xo to a sub if necessary.

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                        • #13
                          Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                          An 18" sub with 8"/3.5"/.75" three-way seems like a good compromise.
                          "We are just statistics, born to consume resources."
                          ~Horace~, 65-8 BC

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                          • #14
                            Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                            I think it depends on the drivers used. For some (many?) 5-7in TM 2ways, I've found the woofer to start stressing if I start really cranking up the volume with the sub crossed around 80Hz. Some woofers though seem to love power and I don't find them stressing at all to cover that high energy upper bass region (Peerless HDS come to mind for the power loving ones). Compared an 8in though, there is a difference in impact. Impacr is definitely something the TMs that stress at volume can't provide. The ones that don't stress, they do it pretty well but with a bit less impact. However once I go to an MTM 2way config, that lack of impact isn't a problem any longer (a pair of 6.5s will have about the same (ones with phase plug) or more (ones with dust cap) Sd than an 8in).
                            I also don't find a difference in distortion crossing a good 5-7in to a sub at 80Hz compared to crossing to a woofer around 150-250Hz. Maybe my ears aren't good enough to hear it but I can't tell a distortion difference.
                            For me, given the added cost and complexity of a 3way, if my 3way design turns out to cross around 200Hz or lower, I'd rather spend the funds toward a MTM 2way with nicer drivers and mate them to a sub(s) around 80Hz.
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                            • #15
                              Re: 2-Way Versus 3-Way - A Different Question

                              One of the reasons I abandoned a 3-way project a while back was because I didn't trust cheap amplifiers to drive them. My amps are ok but I have more than enough speakers and they would have to go somewhere. Altered the plan to use powered subs with 2-ways. Not gaining any bass extension, losing sensitivity, but got smaller. Small is a big thing for a lot of people.

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