Differences between 2 way and 3 way loudspeakers

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What does 2-way and 3-way loudspeaker mean?

If a speaker is referred to as a 2-way loudspeaker it means it has 2 speakers in it, each delivering a separate frequency range, usually high and low. If it is a 3-way loudspeaker it will have 3 speakers in it, 
each delivering a separate frequency range, usually high, midrange and low.

Why do 2 way & 3 way loudspeakers have more than one speaker?

Different sound waves are reproduced better by different speaker sizes. High pitched sounds like cymbals require a speaker to move very fast to reproduce the sound, as where low frequency sounds like a bass drum or guitar require a much larger speaker to move a greater volume of air. Although you could have one speaker to do both a two-way loudspeakers breaks up the task into two speakers, each specializing in producing a specific range of sounds. This means that each speaker will do a better job of reproducing the sounds within its frequency range. (referred to as frequencies) Low frequencies usually are those below 150Hz while most speakers can produce sound as high as 20kHz
Frequency Range

Frequency Range What type of sounds
Very Lowunder 30Hz Bottom notes on a pipe organ, rumble of explosion - Subwoofer only
Low30Hz to 160Hz Bass Tuba, Bass Guitar - Woofer
Mid160Hz to 3kHz Human voice, Trumpet, Sax - Woofer or Midrange
High3kHz to 20,kHz Cymbals, Piccolo - Tweeter


To split the sound between 2 or 3 speakers, we use something called a crossover. The crossover takes the signal from the amplifier and splits it into 2 or 3 frequency ranges and sending those signals to the speaker best designed to handle those frequencies. In a 2-way speaker, the sound is split between the tweeter and the woofer. The highs go to the tweeter, the lows to the woofer.

What is the benefit of a 3 way speaker system?

3 way speaker systems include a mid-range driver. This is usually a speaker that is smaller than the woofer in the system, and gets program material in the "middle" of the frequency spectrum. This allows the system to have one speaker that can concentrate on producing things like voices, saxophones and other instruments in this range.

Scroll to the bottom to see our picks for affordable 2 and 3 way speakers

Does a 3-way speaker sound better than a 2-way speaker?

As with all questions involving speakers the answer is a solid "maybe". Although it would seem that splitting the signal into 3 ranges would increase the accuracy of the music reproduction of a speaker, it depends on how well the crossover is "tuned" (setup) and several other items including cabinet design, how well the other speakers are matched to each other, the listening room and what type of sound you like.

How do I pick a good two way or three way speaker system?

Our advice is to "use your ears". Purchase your speakers online from a reseller or a local dealer who will let you return the speakers if you don't like the way they sound in YOUR house. Don't purchase speakers based on "price". Price is seldom and indication of how good a speaker will sound. We've heard $300 pairs of speakers that sound and look every bit as good as $800 speakers.

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Here are some reasonably priced 2 and 3 way bookshelf speakers we like.

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