Two way vs. Three way Speakers

In terms of sound what are the differences good and bad between two way and three way speakers. I have been researching and collecting information about a diy speaker project - for example looking at the SEAS Thor design (three way) vs something like the Proac 2.5 clone which is a two way. Still reading about other options too. Best speaker I ever owned was Maggies through the 80's that sadly were not child friendly. Currently have 2 way - Paradigm monitor. Looking for accuracy, detail, clean sound (great mids and highs)that is true to recordings - for cds through modded Jolida (warmer) and MF amp. Thanks for any discussion and thoughts on this.
Either Peter Aczel or J. Peter Moncreif (I can't recall who) once said: "No mid-range driver, no midrange - it's just that simple.
see I have trouble even knowing what is two way and what is three way nevermind understanding the benefits to one approach over the other. I need your help!

Thor seems to use two woofers? - guess this means its just a two way with two woofers? Complicated stuff with lots to learn.
I like big orchestra music with big choirs singing. So far I've not heard many speakers handle that kind of music. I think the overtones of the choir combined with the orchestra is very limiting to most speakers. Admittedly, I am new to this and I'm hoping the discussion of 2-way versus 3-way will help my search. So far the only speakers that did the job for my ears were the new PSB Platinum's and the B&W 604. Huge price difference, but both 3-way. I've hit almost every stereo shop in MI and I'm still looking.
Two ways are much easier to design the crossover for..
Three ways are a lot (not 30%) harder to design in the crossover......
so what I have so far is that it is not possible to get great midrange with a two way but that a three way is difficult to build a quality crossover for. Guess there is also the added cost of three drivers vs. two. Wonder if there is a simplicity factor of having two quality drivers doing the job vs. three - guess this is up to crossover but also sort of like when my sub gets in the way of my two way and just muddies everything and my system sounds better with the sub turned off. Will keep reading.
Given the fact that crossovers and crossover points are considered to be very tricky to implement and crucial to seamless blending of drivers, it only makes sense that having one vs. two crossover points would be easier for the builder to get a seamless transition between drivers. The statement about 'no midrange driver, no midrange' mentioned above strikes me as very bizarre considering there are many who follow the school of thought that single driver speakers are more coherent than any other design (not that I have any first hand knowledge about this - I haven't heard any single driver speakers).

Having said all that, I have owned many two ways and a few three ways, and it has always seemed to me that music from two ways seems more like a single point source than the three way designs (not that three way designs can't sound good too - many do).

When it boils down to it, in high end audio, more often than not simpler is better. But I've only been fooling around with audio equipment for 20 years... what the hell do I know?

Think about it this way: the ideal speaker would be a one-way with no power draining, distorting crossover. Unfortunately no one has yet perfected a single driver that can coherently portray all the wavelengths we prefer. Regardless, it might be fun to get a couple of twin 12-inch Fender or Marshall guitar cabinets and blast away.

The most balanced, long-term listenable speakers I've ever heard have been two-ways: Dynaco A-25's; original Large Advents; and the ProAcs Sigs I use today. There's something right about a well done two-way that defies description.

Three or more drivers usually offer greater power handling capability. More radiating area can mean bigger, more dynamic sound. I had some KEF Uni-Q three-ways that propagated a bass wave so palpable you could almost see it. They were fun, went way loud without strain but ultimately were too analytical.

If you look at graphs of many multiple (two or more) driver, speaker systems' response curves there's often noticeable dips where one driver hands off to another. Designers exploit these and other peaks, dips and resonances to voice their entire systems. For me, two-ways are models of elegant engineering. Of course no speaker does everything right. Keep searching and you'll find successful, enjoyable designs of every kind.
Midrange is no problem for two ways , it is bass. If you have a small room or listen to music that doesn't need to be played very loudly then two way is ideal. Three way can play louder with more bass but the midrange can suffer by being divided between two drivers. For large rooms or high DB's three way is better , but is inherently harder to design properly and more expensive. Subwoofers can give 2 ways the bass of three ways and are a good compromise. All the above is , of course , speaking in general terms. Each speaker has it's own virtues and faults.

A simple 2-way with really good drivers and crossover put in a properly designed box can be absolutely stellar.  As stanwal menionted, you're most likely to give up deep bass from a good 2-way, because anything larger than an 8" woofer tends to cause other issues.  Bass output is relative to the room, and can always be augmented by a subwoofer (or two). 

A 2-way is simpler to design, and less costly to buy good parts for, so when shopping at a price point that's worth keeping in mind, but it really depends on what you're preferences are and what the specific speakers are.  I'd personally rather buy a well made smaller 2-way to get stellar mids and highs, then add a sub if necessary, than to give up that critical clarity permanently just so I get more bass output from a larger 3-way.  Just my preference. 

Like virtually any engineered product, there are an endless series of tradeoff decisions to make when designing a speaker and deciding on 2-way versus 3-way (or more!)  As others have noted, transitioning from one driver to another affects the sound quality in that frequency range.  The ear is particularly sensitive in the bandwidth in which most instruments (including voice) have their fundamental range -- roughly just under 100 Hz up to about 3,500 Hz. Some speaker manufacturers try to avoid switching drivers in this range.  However, if you try to use a large driver (to preserve bass) you'll end up with beaming in the upper range of this band. Using a smaller driver addresses this issue, but makes bass response more difficult. 

And these trade-offs go on and on in lots of other areas. Ultimately, all you can do is audition lots of speakers and see which make and model best lines up with your own preferences. 

Or, you could do what I did and end up with a set of Ohms. They use one driver for bass up to around 8 kHz and only cross over to a tweeter at that frequency. But, they have their own compromises since they have a semi-omni radiation pattern, which some love and others don't.  

So, the advice you get here may give you some interesting candidates to check out but ultimately you should ignore the rigid advice others give and just buy what sounds good to you. 

I have three systems. One has two-way speakers. The other two have three-way speakers. They all sound good.

It does not matter if it a 2 or 3 way speaker. It is all about frequency range and even dispersion without the driver breaking up. Driver size plays into dispersion so this is often why speakers are 3 ways too. Both designs can work well.


I currently use a 2 way (JBL 4367) and my last speaker was a 3 way (Revel 228be) and those designs could not be more different but both had about the same frequency response in my room. The revel hands off to the next driver to keep dispersion wide and distortion low. The JBL uses a horn to let the “tweeter” play lower than it normally could. The results are about the same…. But the JBL is a lot better but that is a discussion for another day.

@rockvirgo  +1 I recently built the Seas A26 kit and I am blown away at how good they sound and by how "listenable" they are.