If you’re on the market for new speakers for your home theater, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the number of options. Not only do you have make and model options – you also have to determine whether you want two-way speakers or three-way speakers. You’re probably wondering: which is better for your home theater?
Three-way speakers are better for your home theater because they cover a wider range of sound frequencies. Though two-way speakers are generally a more affordable option, they don’t give you as broad a range of sound as three-way ones do.
To clear up some of the unknowns about the differences between two-way and three-way speakers, check out this helpful guide to give you the clearest information possible. That way, you can outfit your home theater with the best equipment that exactly suits your needs.
What Are 2-Way Speakers?
When it comes to audio systems, there’s a lot of lingo and jargon to cut through. There are often terms that beginners don’t understand, like the “2-way” label. Let’s break it down, shall we?
A 2-way speaker is referred to as such because it has two speaker elements within one unit (“2-part” speaker may actually be a more accurate name for the unit, but we’ll keep referring to it as a “2-way.”) The two speaker elements that comprise the 2-way speaker are the “tweeter” and the “woofer.”
The tweeter is the element of the speaker that allows playback of high-pitched sounds. This part of the speaker system is designed to handle high-frequency sounds because of the way it’s shaped. Pro Audio Land does a great job of describing the features of the tweeter in their article.
On the other hand, the woofer is the aspect of the speaker that allows for the playback of deeper, lower-pitched sounds. If you’re an action or sci-fi movie fan, you’re familiar with the booming bass that accompanies explosions, automobile noises, and intense soundtracks. The woofer handles those sounds.
When you’re on the market for a new speaker system for your home theater, you’re going to need to know what you’re getting into. It might be tempting just to go for the two-way speaker because it’s less expensive, or skip the two-way because you think it’s the “better option.” Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this style of speaker.
2-Way Speaker Pros
It’s important to take into account all the little nuances of your speakers when you’re making a big purchase for your home theater. There is a lot of information on why a certain speaker style is better than another, but there isn’t a lot of talk about why some people prefer two-ways over three-ways or vice versa.
To make your research and shopping experience as easy and painless as possible, we’ve done the research for you. While there are definite reasons why people pick three-way speakers over comparable two-ways, two-way speakers might actually be exactly what you need.
There are a few aspects that make two-way speakers the best option for your home theater. If you’re someone who’s living on a small budget or in a small space, you might want to opt for two-way speakers instead of three-way speakers because of these reasons.
One of the best aspects of a two-way speaker is, first and foremost, that they’re less expensive than their equivalent three-way speakers are. Look on almost any audiophile supply site – you’ll see immediately that two-way speakers are more affordable than the three-way.
If you’re searching for speakers from the same company, the two-way variants of a speaker will always be less expensive than the comparable three-way style, even if they have similar specs like design, shape, and general use. But why exactly are the three-ways so much more expensive?
Two-way speakers are less expensive than three-way speakers because they’re designed with one less element. You could probably tell that by the name. While two-way speakers have two internal elements, three-way speakers (naturally) have three. Simple, right?
Companies aren’t trying to con you, though – it really is more expensive to produce three-way speakers than it is to manufacture two-way speakers. Because of the nature of manufacturing, if you have to put more effort into building a product and add more equipment to it, it’s always going to cost more money.
If you have a smaller budget and aren’t concerned about having professional theater-quality sound specs for your living room, stick with the less pricey option.
If you’re living in a little space like a condo or apartment, you likely don’t have a lot of room for new equipment. Many people already have a hard time fitting their TV of choice in their home, and people who live in apartments often don’t have the space for new speakers, either. This can be troublesome for people who want a professional setup but don’t have the room.
One of the biggest pros of buying a two-way speaker is that they’re smaller in size than a three-way speaker. This means that they can more easily fit into tight spaces like a condo, apartments, and even bedrooms. It’s not impossible to fit a couple of two-way speakers in your miniature living space – you can still have your dreams’ home theater!
Because they only consist of two internal speaker elements, two-way speakers have the ability to be more compact than three-way speakers might. There’s less actual equipment to fit inside the monitor, so if you’re looking to beef up your home theater but don’t have much space, go for a couple of high-quality two-ways.
2-Way Speaker Cons
Although they’re relatively affordable and less bulky than comparable three-way speakers, there are a couple of characteristics of two-way speakers that might not make them the right option for your home theater. You should definitely take note of exactly what you want in your home theater to make sure you can get it out of your speaker selections.
If you live in a larger space than just a small apartment, there’s a chance you might want to go for the larger three-way speakers. If you have space, why not fill it with something that will bring you and your friends and family entertainment for years?
Another reason that two-way speakers might not be right for you is that you have a bigger budget and really want the absolute best that the market has to offer. Why not splurge on three-way speakers if you can afford them?
Lower Volume Potential
Because they only have two internal speaker units, two-way speakers often can’t handle high volume sounds and noises. This can be really frustrating when you’re trying to watch and exciting movies and speakers end up frying. Imagine that you’re trying to watch a movie or show with a crowd of people, and you need the volume up high – think game day.
If you have low-quality speakers that only have two elements, there’s a chance the sound quality could drop off if they’re overloaded with volume. Two-way speakers are great if you’re just watching TV shows by yourself or with one other person, but if you’re into loud movies with the crew, splurge on bigger speakers.
There are few things more annoying when you’re trying to watch TV than having the speakers zap and buzz. These are some of the signs of poor-quality speakers. There’s also a chance that you could attribute the poor audio quality to the two little speaker units being overloaded by sound.
Less Sound Depth
Aside from not being able to handle a high volume, two-way speakers also can’t handle the same range of sound that three-way speakers can, just because of their shape, size, and design. As Pro Audio Land describes in their article, the three-way speaker’s three elements collectively hold a greater range of sound playback potential than those in a two-way speaker.
Sound depth is important when you’re trying to get a high-quality sound out of your speakers. This is especially essential if you’re someone who really values how soundtracks, sound effects, and announcers’ voices sound on coming from your TV setup.
Sound depth is also really crucial if you’re someone who has any sort of impaired hearing. When you have impaired hearing, it’s important to be able to pick up on the smaller, more nuanced sounds that come from TV shows, movies, and pieces of music.
If your speakers can’t provide those auditory nuances, then people in your life with hearing loss will have an even harder time understanding what’s happening on the screen. Make their life easier!
What Are 3-Way Speakers?
Just from what we’ve already told you about two-way speakers, you can probably guess what a three-way speaker is – it’s a speaker unit with three different individual speakers that work together to provide a great range and depth of sound.
Similarly to using a two-way speaker, using a three-way speaker allows the listener to get high-quality high-pitched sounds as well as heavy bass-y sounds. However, as Pro Audio Land puts it in their article on the matter, three-way mirrors have a mid-range speaker that fits in between the tweeter (for high sounds) and the woofer (for low sounds).
Because of this three-way setup, three-way speakers have a wider range of sounds they can cover easily. Since the third mid-range speaker has the opportunity to do the work of emitting mid-range sounds, the tweeter can work on high noises while the woofer can work on the low ones instead of the tweeter and woofer trying to get those medium sounds.
Just like two-way speakers, three-way speakers come in all different varieties, from super-affordable small models to huge stacks that can pump your home theater with the sound you need. It might take a little bit of research to figure out if three-way speakers are right for you. Read on for more information.
3-Way Speaker Pros
There are a few attributes that make three-way speakers a seriously great choice for your at-home theater setup. Many audiophiles swear by three-way speakers for their home theaters, and for a good reason – in most cases, three-way speakers consistently outperform comparable two-way speakers from the same company.
Greater Sound Range
The first reason to buy three-way speakers over two-way speakers is that two-way speakers only have those two internal speaker components that we previously mentioned. Two-way speakers have to juggle whole ranges of soundtracks and movie effects with just a tweeter and woofer, while three-way speakers have the mid-range speaker to pick up some of the sounds in the middle.
When two-way speakers are strained, it puts a lot of undue stress on your speakers. If you’re trying to play music or watch movies that have a lot of variants between pitches, you might notice that your speakers become weaker or more muffled over time.
And, when your speakers are strained, you’ll also notice that the sound quality decreases. Signs that your speakers are on their way out vary, but generally, you can tell that speakers are damaged because auditory static (think “fuzzy” noises), tinny-ness (like you’re listening to the audio from inside a tin can), and squeaking noises.
Greater Volume Potential
Much like the increased sound quality that comes from having three internal speakers instead of two, three-way speakers also have the potential to withstand higher volumes than a simple two-way speaker.
Think about it this way – two speakers have a limited decibel amount they can withstand in a certain amount of time. There is potential to blow out your speakers when you only have two ways. When you invest in a three-way speaker, you have three internal speaker units that can handle the volume.
3-Way Speaker Cons
Even though three-way speakers are awesome choices for some people, they’re just not the best for others. As mentioned above, three-way speakers have some great benefits, like the higher quality of sound and great volume potential. However, if you’re not prepared for an investment in space and price, you may not want to opt for three-way speakers.
The first big “con” of three-way speakers is that they’re always going to be a bit pricier than two-way speakers. As we went over in this article’s portion about the “pros” of two-way speakers, it’s important to remember that companies don’t charge you more for a three-way speaker just because they can, although some may make you pay more for the name than others.
Companies have to charge more money for three-way speakers because they have at least one extra component that makes manufacturing pricier and more difficult – they up the price for a good reason. Even so, some people simply can’t afford a larger speaker, so they should opt for a two-way speaker instead.
If you live in a small apartment or condo, you should consider buying two-way speakers instead of three-way speakers. This is because three-way speakers always tend to be bulkier than their two-way counterparts because of that one extra component.
If you’re someone who has a huge home theater setup and doesn’t mind lugging in a larger speaker setup, then the three-way is a great bet for you. However, for those of us who live small, two-way speakers are the way to go – they’re better for people who just watch TV shows with only one or two other people.
So, Which One Is Better?
It’s difficult to say that either two-way or three-way speakers are better than the other – they each have attributes that make them perfect for some people as well as characteristics that make them inconvenient for others.
Two-way speakers are the best if you’re working on a lower budget. They tend to be less pricey than their three-way counterparts because of manufacturing costs. Two-way speakers are also less bulky than three-ways because of the materials.
Three-way speakers are the best if you’re okay spending a little bit more money for a better-quality speaker. If you’re on the market for the best of the best, I suggest getting three-way speakers because the sound quality is better. This is boat I find myself in more often than not.
The sound quality of three-way speakers is better thanks to the extra internal speaker element – the mid-range. The mid-range speaker element picks up a lot of the hard work that the higher and lower elements have to take care of in a two-way speaker and allows for an awesome sound variety.
If you’re looking for the best of the best when it comes to two-way vs. three-way speakers, pick the three-way speakers. Although they’re a bit pricier, the three-way speakers have a greater potential for sound quality than the two-way speakers do.
Along with having greater sound quality, there’s also potential that the three-way speakers will be at a lower risk for a blowout when used with high volumes. Although you should always be careful when it comes to high volumes (to care for both your ears and your audio tech), people who want bigger sound should invest in three-way speakers.
Hopefully, these tips and suggestions have helped you on your speaker-buying journey.