True high-end Speakers need a midrange

To be clear, I don’t mean expensive, I mean high performing.

I recently built a new center speaker for my home theater and as I was comparing/contrasting design alternatives between a variety of designs, everything from expensive DIY designs to Wilson, Legacy, ATC and Focal and others the thing that stood out the most was this:

  • You can’t get high output AND low distortion without a midrange driver.

I say this as a person who has had pretty good success with 2-way speakers and really admire 2-ways from Fritz and others, but when push came to shove, there was no way to make a 2-way with very high output AND low distortion AND excellent off-axis performance without a midrange driver.

You can push many tweeters down to 2kHz or even a tad below but it is very hard to find a tweeter that will do so with low distortion at high volume. On the other hand there are many 1" domes which will perform excellently when crossed over at 3 kHz or higher even when driven hard, things you don’t see from a frequency response plot, or really any measurements from Stereophile which never plots dynamic range charts. It’s not just about the frequency response and imaging, sometimes it is about doing all of that under pressure that matters.

Similar, complementary issues are true for the woofer in a 2-way design.  First, good mid-woofers with good frequency responses through 2-4kHz are expensive, but as you push the crossover up 7" drivers and larger have to beam, right in the middle of the midrange.  Instead of a wide open sound stage you can hear anywhere they restrict where you can sit.

In a large, full range speaker you can push your design for high output even further by going with a 5" midrange for instance.  Not quite as wide as the 4" counterparts but lots of power handling and plenty of overlap with the tweeter and woofers. 


I get all the volume, clarity and off-axis performance I need out of my Ohms, which have a single driver for bass thru treble. Their tweeter doesn't cross over until about 8 or 9 KHz.

Sad you have to say this but many 2 way speakers are marketed as high end now.  I haven't had a 2 way speaker since college (1970s).  

I don't share your positive experience with 2 way speakers.

I currently have 4 way speakers that are renoun for their flat frequency response and high sensitivity.  Absolutely awesome midrange.


 Interesting question...

What about one way dual concentric Tannoy ?



Perlisten audio has created a excellent design that is accurate, musical and can play very loud if need be ,and very unique the wave guide has a tweeter, but also 2 opposing 1 inch drivers that do midrange duties a very well thought out design 

far more accurate and precision then speakers ,i won5 T mention the  brand -S for example That throws a bunch of drivers around . Inside I helped rebuilt  one ,their top beryllium was the-only one that 

measured decent if you have not heard the Perlisten line you absolutely should 

this includes the smoother R line , the S line is their most accurate per se.

I may buy their R7  and as I always do with most every speaker  mod the Xover to even higher quality parts . I Donot know them, but have spoken with engineers ,just see their waterfall plots very good ,even more so then many speakers 2-3x their cost.

Centre channel is for dialogue more than anything else. To me that spells ESL. I use a Quad 2905, and it is excellent.

impulse at various SPL will tell you what you need to know. The german laser scanner of the cone will tell you why. This of course, if the definition of true high end = accurate to the input signal.

The mid range will make come speakers play louder for sure. Horns are another way to push down the tweeter to under 1000hz effectively without limiting volume as the driver moves a lot less. 

Odyssey Kismet Reference - Scanspeak Beryllium Tweeter Photo #4395120 - US Audio Mart


I have no problem with these at high volume. Clear as a bell

@carlsbad2 ls

I'm sure what you say is true, but 4 way speakers have their own problems too.

OP,  can you describe or define what "high output" is in this context?  Assuming it's an SPL value.   

@carlsbad2 ...Well, that's certainly the 'best presented Xover' I've seen in awhile...(most look like 'pre-re-hab' and not very...'presentable'.) ... ;)

Kidding aside, tho'....why?

Does admiration make it perform better?  We note the layouts and wiring in various other pieces of equipment, so....?🤷‍♂️


Agreed, except I would change that statement to read they all have problems even if done right. None is perfect. They all have their plusses and minuses.

*L* So...we're stuck in the middle, trying to find the speaker(s) whose issues dovetail to our imperfections....and those of the items we employ....

Kinda cynical, but....'splains why we expend so much time and cash trying to find that...symbiotic stasis....learning to love/hate the love/hate formula....*ow!* 

@erik_squires wrote:


  • You can’t get high output AND low distortion without a midrange driver.

This rings true with direct radiating dome tweeters in 2-way designs, but when you load a fitting, relatively low fs down tweeter with an 8-10" waveguide you can lower the crossover to below 1kHz and have rather flat power response at the crossover, while also relieving the dome tweeter in its lower band (even crossed that low) to such an extent, that the real limitation in output is more likely to be the woofer/midrange driver (example: S.P. Technology’s Revelation speakers (sadly discontinued) sports a ~10" waveguide on a 1" dome tweeter and two 8" SEAS woofer/mids in a d’appolito configuration, and they’re true full-range speakers down 20Hz. They might be a standout, but nonetheless they’re 2-way, full-range and no less SPL capable than many comparably sized 3-way designs).

Another advantage here is that neither an 8, 10 or even 12" woofer/mid would see no significant beaming issues crossed below 1kHz. With a curved waveguide profile (to save diameter size) that doesn’t amplify linearly it does typically equate into a more complex crossover design (active config. would come in handy here), but if size isn’t an issue you can have yourself a fairly straightforward approach.

Horn-loading a compression driver makes for an even more powerful combo compared to using a dome tweeter, and maintaining a 2-way design becomes a matter of finding the proper balance combining lower range energy at a given crossover point with upper end extension. Using a 4" diameter compression driver - while having excellent lower range output in a fitting horn and very low distortion numbers even at prodigious SPL’s - will be a challenge above ~10-15kHz, but with a proper motor structure in particular can alleviate severe drop-offs here.

Myself I find crossing 15" woofer/mids in the 600Hz range to large format constant directivity MF/HF horns to be very well sounding, and the dispersion pattern match at the crossover between the woofers and horn is excellent. The EV compression driver sports a 3" titanium diaphragm with a pre-fitted 1.4 to 2" exit snout adapter. Flux density sits a 2.1 Tesla, so a large horn is necessitated to properly load such a powerful driver. In any case this combo handily combines very high output with very low distortion - even more readily so with the main 15" woofers high-passed above 80Hz, but that’s trivial in this particular context.

Also worth mentioning here is the advantage of having a single point source from ~600Hz on up, and thus while augmenting with subs for an effective 3-way design for all intents and purposes what’s at hand is 2-way.


If true high end means full range, then I agree. Trying to get extended bottom end out of a two way is always a compromise relative to a properly designed three way.

BTW, good comment about Stereophile and lack of measurement of dynamic range. Personally, most of the improvements I hear in the best new designs are in respect of dynamic range and transient response - along with lowered noise floor and colouration from better cabinet and crossover designs.

Sonically, Borresen speakers are true high end (Magico killers, Wilson killers, etc) and happen to be 2.5-way.... (nullify phase shift --> bass driver/midrange driver).


@erik_squires Wrote:

True high-end Speakers need a midrange

To be clear, I don’t mean expensive, I mean high performing.

Mine do not! 😎



True high end does not exist under 50,000 bucks ...for sure ...😁 this is my opinion ....

Trade-off exist and are the basis of engineering ...This is a fact ...

Is Tannoy dual concentric 2 way speakers high end ?😁

They are not by the arbitrary price tag i determinate picking 50,000 bucks as the borderline ...

But as anyone can see my choice is meaningless because high end is meaningless concept based on price tag ...

Acoustics science rule then trade-off rules at any price ...Two -way Tannoy can be high end in an acoustically controlled room ...

Some two-way speakers can own a mid range ...


I agree with you. I have had a number of 3 ways and two ways, and both can be very good.

I was looking at your system and have a question. Is one of your speakers on blocks and therefore higher than the other? It looks that way in the picture. Very nice speakers! 

2 or 2.5 ways can be very satisfying and end game speakers. Maybe the audiophile wants to hear music from a certain amplifier that can’t be played effectively on a 3 way. 
In my experience I’ve never been completely satisfied when the designer pushes the limits on the highs coming from a woofer, or subwoofer in some cases. 
However, there’s an ass for every seat and if someone finds bliss in a design and power options that suit them, who am I to highbrow and shame them. 
I’ve heard a few two way systems that would be end game, perhaps,  but I can’t say I’ve lived with them, so who knows.


Thank you for the compliment. Yep, up on blocks also, 15lb’s of lead in between each block, Wanted to see how sounds, before I did both. lol They are the best sounding two way speakers I ever heard, extremely coherent. better then some three and four ways.😎


Ohm Walsh 2-way very coherent endgamers for many with very high crossover point to what functions more like a supertweeter.

There have been a lot of 3-way designs over the years that I felt were not very coherent in many more modest size rooms but I do believe things have improved immensely in recent years with 3 ways. For example coaxial designs like KEF UniQ seem to solve the problem quite well. I’ve become a bigger KEF fan every time I hear the current line and especially when compared to others


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@ricevs ...and if you build it, they will come....(exactly How that would occur will be left to be explored in another 'discrete' forum.....)....

Sounds (no pun, no) like something I'd put into motion given a modest Lotto win, if only to break leases on demand and for hire.

I'd suggest baffles that would go a tad beyond the norm in rigidity and damping, so the cost involved would edge up a bit.  And bolting them down to the floor might be a good idea, and allow for a 'minimalist' look...the 2001s' monument, perhaps.

In that case....the obvious choice...

If you're going to challenge 'the Big Players'....go deep and Hail Mary the buggers.

MHO....I'll leave it to the cable crowd re the wires 'n ICs'.  ;)


So....when do we start? 😏

...hmmm..... ((4R+4B)x2 = F, L+R) + ((2R+2B)x2 = R, L+R) + ((1R+1B)x#= S, L+R +CC,F)...

= 15 Radians + 15 Beyma for the Ultimate AV Existential Array....

...Disaster Area level....*L*


"....why is the floor covered in plastic sheet?"

Because every dB Freak wants to 'hear 10' on the volume control....messy....

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned electrostatic solutions.....for 2 channel focused listening experiences, a pair of hybrid electrostatics (ex: ML Ethos) does IMHO a great job for a two way with 375Hz crossover. Seamless delivery of sound...

Does anyone make an ESL that isn't an absolute mess in the frequency response and dynamic range ??  <<< lights fuse and runs>>>


@helomech That's kind of the point of the discussion. :)

As soon as someone utters an absolutism, I turn off. “True high fidelity”: what is that? It’s what each individual listener hears for themselves. 

Btw, I’ve been fine with my Altec 604Cs since 1978. When guests come to hear them for the first time, they either fall out of their chair, or actually start crying. 

Hi @unreceivedogma , I must beg your forgiveness and indulgence.  Truthfully I thought this was an interesting discussion topic and wanted to read what others thought about solving the issue.  It's been very interesting reading for me, for sure.

There are many exceptions to your conclusion.  Also there are issues and compromises with three-way designs.  


Does this tweeter that was mentioned by @ricevs as the tweeter crossing at 1khz on the new Clayton Shaw Caladan resolve your concern?  In theory, using this tweeter would now allow many woofers/midwoofers to now operate in their sound quality/sound output comfort zone?



All drivers (from tweeters to subwoofers) have a distortion profile which gets worse the lower in frequency and higher in amplitude you get, the question is whether you can keep it out of your operating range so for any given device it depends on how low the distortion remains when the output levels are increased and when you plan on crossing over.

This is where a midrange can really come in handy.  By raising the crossover frequency from say 1.8kHz to 3kHz the high distortion area of the tweeter is avoided and the very low distortion area of the midrange is used, but as we know, no two parts are the same, and we don't all hear distortion in the same way.  If you want to minimize distortion, maximize dispersion and output levels, then going from a 2-way to 3-way design is often the solution.

There are a number of ring or dome tweeters between 1" and 1 1/2" which have a claimed sub 2 kHz operating range they are still limited in output. Often these models have unusually large rear chambers or like the legendary Scanspeak R2604 (Peerless had a very similar model) the bottom end of the tweeter will show increased distortion with output.

Perhaps the secret lies in the crossover though. I’ve read commentary that says you can get fabulous output from a tweeter if you use high order (i.e. 4th or higher) high pass filters, something I personally am loathe to attempt without an active crossover.


I don't own any Dynaudio, but they do a really good job with 2 way designs. 

It is true you cannot get low distortion at low frequencies with a normal tweeter.....unless you waveguide it, cross it over very steeply or use multiples like Tekton does. However, if you use a planar midrange/tweeter and you cross it over at 400hz using a steep crossover using a dsp crossover, then you get incredible low distortion sound with a two way. The 10 inch Radian driver is one such driver that can do this. A single one will play at least 105db......use multiples of them in a line array and you can hit 120+db. A two way, mounted on an open baffle using 2 12 inch Beyma woofs and a single Radian is easy to build. What you do not get with using one 10 inch long planar is vertical dispersion. You would have to sit directly in front of the driver to get the flat frequency response to 20K.....stand up and the upper highs will go away. If you use 4 of them in a line array then when you stand up you will still have one in front of you. Here is link to someone who is going to sell a bi-amped speaker using 6 radians and also 6 12 inch servo woofers.......pretty big two way....he he. However, even 2 non servo 12s and one Radian on a single baffle would blow your mind. You could also make a very tall single baffle and have the two 12s at the bottom and 4 Radians right above them.

Here is some info and pics of the same guy who used one Radian and 3 servo woofs per side at the Lone Star Audio show.


  1. Power Demands: SET tube amplifiers, especially those with lower power output like your 8-watt Decware 300b, may struggle to drive lower efficiency speakers to high volumes without distortion. While you may be satisfied with the volume at your listening position, pushing the amp too hard could result in clipping and distortion, affecting the overall sound quality.

  2. Impedance Matching: While your Sonus Faber Electa Amator speakers are 6 ohms, which is within the typical range for tube amplifiers, the lower efficiency (88db) means the amplifier needs to work harder to produce the same volume level compared to your higher efficiency Klipsch Forte IV speakers (99db). This can potentially stress the amplifier.

  3. Dynamic Range and Headroom: Lower efficiency speakers may have a reduced dynamic range, and they may not handle transients as well as higher efficiency speakers. This can affect the overall clarity and impact of the music, especially in complex passages or when playing music with wide dynamic range.

  4. Volume Control Position: If you find that you need to turn up the volume controls (preamp, tube amp, and Roon) close to their maximum settings, you might be operating at the limits of the system's capabilities. This can introduce more noise and potentially impact the linearity of the amplifier, leading to a loss of fidelity.

  5. Matching Components: Not all amplifiers are well-suited for all speakers. While your SET tube amp may pair well with high-efficiency speakers, it might not be the optimal choice for lower efficiency models. Matching components in a system is crucial for achieving the best sound quality.

Perhaps the OP can explain the perceived performance and measurements of this loudpseaker

At every opportunity this long term denizen of this Board is telling everyone that they can not understand high end audio unless they build their own loudspeakers and he seemingly, in retirement, is stuck on this mantra like a beaten up Crosley turntable stuck in the groove of the beaten up Donnie and Marie Album that has passed through fifty different garage sales. 

He, I suspect, is trolling any Devore Orangutan owners too. I refuse to bite. 

Hi @fsonicsmith


As I pointed out earlier, the intent of this post was really to elicit technical replies. Much like great art is often done as a reply to what has gone before, I thought that posting the merits of a 3-way design, and the challenges it solves would also cause others to come up with "but what about...." replies, and it has, rather beautifully.

Apologies if that sounded like absolutism, but given how this board functions I thought it would be understood. Now, for this...


At every opportunity this long term denizen of this Board is telling everyone that they can not understand high end audio unless they build their own loudspeakers

I’ve never said anything like that. I have said that I wish more audiophiles would build (cables, amps, whatever, not just speakers) so we’d have more arguments built on practical experience rather than either relying on manufacturers, myths, or reviewers.

Arguments over capacitor sound quality and break-in are a great example. More builders = more actual experience.

and he seemingly, in retirement,

Now you are downright making stuff up.

I am however always happy to troll anyone over the use of the "high-end" moniker. We get far too wound up over what it is/is not and who has it and how much it should cost.

I am also very amused at how many "high end" audiophiles get all wound up over the idea of participation in this hobby that is something other than going to the store and spending a lot of money.  Tinkers built this hobby and the brands you so admire.  I have no issue with consumers spending lots and lots of cash on stereos.  I just want to encourage the remaining 99% to get their hands dirty now and then as a satisfying way to enjoy the hobby as well.

I'm honestly surprised we don't have more arguing that any speaker with a crossover is a hot mess and the only high-end speakers are single driver, point source full rangers.

PS - I dont’ have a thing against Devore Orangutan or Audionote or the original Snells the AN is based on. :) I think they are excellent exemplars of 2-way design that take the room into consideration.


But buddy, have you tried building a Seas A26 kit? :) A crossover tinkerer’s dream speaker.



To make things clear, I don't actually believe you must use a 3 way or even a multi-way speaker to achieve excellent results.  Sorry if it seemed I was trying to denigrate other designs.  I really just meant to elicit technical responses, which have been fascinating, especially the horns.

My own stereo uses 2-way mains with pretty good results. :)

My "build your own open baffle two way speaker" page now has more info and a few pics. All the designs suggested use 2 (or more) of the 12 inch Beyma drivers that Clayton uses. These speakers are very easy to make and will give incredible sound for very little money. I make little or no money sharing this information. I just think it is too good not to share. I have added some passive xover versions (can be driven by one amp), as well.

DIY Bi-amped super speaker (


I have owned plenty of speakers over the decades. My current speaker (going on 3 years) are Emerald Physics 3.4s.Very simple coaxial design 12" bass driver with 1" polyester tweeters