Speaker Asylum

General speaker questions for audio and home theater.

Return to Speaker Asylum


Message Sort: Post Order or Asylum Reverse Threaded

Are 3-way speakers better than 2-way, with piano recordings ?

72.36.1.26

Posted on April 6, 2022 at 17:24:18
peppy m.
Audiophile

Posts: 1001
Joined: February 19, 2021
Piano is both difficult to record and reproduce in playback.

Do 3-way speakers sound better than 2-way speakers do, with piano music ?

 

Hide full thread outline!
    ...
Duuh... It depends, posted on April 6, 2022 at 19:12:26
John Marks
Manufacturer

Posts: 6550
Location: Peoples' Democratic Republic of R.I.
Joined: April 23, 2000






I have been messing with loudspeaker design since circa 1966. I started making amateur recordings in 1968, and the first professional recording I worked on, in 1982, is still in print, and the original LPs fetch anywhere from $100 to $400 on eBay.

I count among my friends Bob Ludwig, Mark Wilder, Tony Faulkner, and Alan Silverman, and the answer still is, "It Depends."

In the past two years I have designed and built about 14 loudspeaker prototypes for paying customers.

I will now confer upon you the single most important piece of wisdom I have learned about loudspeaker design:

"To get 'this,' you have to give up 'that'."

What are the most important things for you?

If the sound totally does not work for you unless you really FEEL the bass down into the piano's lowest octave (55Hz down to 27.5Hz), then you probably need a 3-way.

BUT if the most important thing for you is that from Middle C (262Hz) up, the transition from woofer-mid to tweeter is SEAMLESS, only a 2-way will do.

INSIDER SCOOP:

Tony Faulkner has made more award-winning classical recordings than anyone, and his preferred recording monitoring speakers are modern QUAD electrostatics.

BUT, if the job is situated where he cannot bring in and set up QUADs, his fallback choice is Wilson Audio Duette 2-ways, because Tony just can't listen past the hash that he believes most three-way crossovers make of the all-important middle octaves.

FWIW & YMMV and Other Peoples' MMV.

amb,

jm

PS: The image is of one of my designs.

If you have to ask "How Much?", by definition you cannot afford them.

 

RE: Are 3-way speakers better than 2-way, with piano recordings ?, posted on April 6, 2022 at 20:48:09
Bill Way
Audiophile

Posts: 1786
Location: Toms River NJ
Joined: May 28, 2012
Contributor
  Since:
December 14, 2012
Un-ask the question. There are no meaningful generalizations that can be made about piano recordings and 2- or 3-way speakers.

Dahlquist DQ-10's (5-way) were great on piano.

Tannoys are all superb on piano - all 2-way, though I'm told they are improved with their optional super-tweeter.

Vandersteen Quatros (4-way) are outstanding on piano.

Dick Sequerra's little Met 7 Mk II's (2-way) were wonderful on piano. So were Spica TC-50's (2-way) despite a limited top end and a bottom that started to roll off at 80 Hz. John Bau's later design, the TC-60, also 2-way but ported, was better.

The Braun LV-1020 (3-way, internally tri-amped) were stunning on piano. But they were stunning on just about everything, so there's that.

ProAC Studio 100's (2-way) can be great piano reproducers, especially when used as nearfields.

The best piano reproduction I ever heard was on Tannoy Churchills.

KLH nine's, Quad ESL 57's, and Magneplanar 1's were all pretty great as well. Planars and 'stats get the attack *so* right. Back in college days we had a pair of Infinity Servo-Statik 1's without the awful bass module. When set up as nearfields, they were supremely compelling. They drew you into the music, piano or other, like nothing else.

WW

"Put on your high heeled sneakers. Baby, we''re goin'' out tonight.

 

RE: Are 3-way speakers better than 2-way, with piano recordings ?, posted on April 7, 2022 at 05:31:35
RGA
Reviewer

Posts: 14240
Location: Hong Kong
Joined: August 8, 2001
You really should just listen and decide for yourself because as John noted

"To get 'this,' you have to give up 'that'."

Generally speaking, the piano isn't the only thing you listen to - it is usually accompanied by other instruments and/or singer(s).

Steve Hoffman is one of the biggest Mastering engineers in the world who has mastered: The Beatles, CCR, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery, Pink Floyd, Eva Cassidy, The Doors, Elton John, The Guess Who, Willie Nelson, David Bowie, YES, Glen Miller Orchestra, The Rat Pack, Scorpions, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Peggy Lee, Phil Collins, Queen, Poco, Rage Against the Machine, Wings, Nat King Cole, Linda Rondstadt, Johny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Judy Garland, John Lee Hooker, John Williams, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Deep Purple, Art Pepper, Bad Company, and many others.

He has mastered a lot of jazz and classical on SACD and Vinyl for the likes of Analog Productions. He has worked in studios using the famed ATC speakers.

What does he use now? One set of Audio Note E speakers for the studio and another for his home. They are a two-way - a big two-way but a two-way with bass like a three-way. He noted they are the best sounding speakers he;s heard in 40 years.

I have been using one Audio Note speaker or other since 2003.

Having said all that - who cares? Play your piano music and decide. Your room and your gear are different and so is taste - I have liked a lot of three-way designs over the years and I have liked a number of big horns and single drivers.

One of my go-to recordings has always been the Moonlight Sonata and various Horowitz and even Jackson Brown.

The advantage of the three ways tends to be more frequency range - (well more bass) and the ability to play louder in the bass. But they sound less cohesive top to bottom - you tend to hear the drivers - it all winds up sounding more like a speaker. Still, they can make big music sound big and full orchestras sound - well - full. Cohesiveness isn't quite as important when there are 30 instruments or when you're playing AC/DC at 100dB.

A single driver and an ESL panel (which is a single driver) eliminate any handoff due to a crossover. But they lack bass, and dynamics drive and often have an issue in the treble - if you are older and lost your HF hearing that may not be an issue.

Single driver speakers like these IMO have early compression so while they are supremely clear and nimble sounding (the best in this regard) they tend to sound flat and lack the ability to pressurize instruments. The sound is a little "over there" - Still, it is spectacularly clear.

Everything gets a rave review in audio these days. They all have their camps of support. And if they've been around a long long time it means they continue to sell and attract people to their sound.


 

+1 (nt), posted on April 7, 2022 at 05:49:14
mhardy6647
Audiophile

Posts: 14856
Location: New England
Joined: October 12, 1999
Contributor
  Since:
October 23, 2016
enn tee

all the best,
mrh

 

RE: Are 3-way speakers better than 2-way, with piano recordings ?, posted on April 7, 2022 at 07:53:29
Mike K
Audiophile

Posts: 13511
Location: 97701
Joined: September 23, 1999
Contributor
  Since:
May 7, 2000
Magnepans do piano extremely well. I suspect that all planar speakers
do.

I do not like box speakers. They all tend to sound boxy.

Life is hard. It's harder when you're stupid.

 

RE: Duuh... It depends, posted on April 7, 2022 at 09:25:35
John Elison
Audiophile

Posts: 23428
Location: Central Kentucky
Joined: December 20, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
January 29, 2004
From what you say about speakers, I would conclude that a two-way with a subwoofer might provide the best of both worlds. Anyway, I've used this configuration and found it to be especially nice sounding with excellent deep bass.

Happy listening!
John Elison

 

RE: Duuh... It depends, posted on April 7, 2022 at 09:52:22
cawson@onetel.com
Audiophile

Posts: 2056
Joined: September 27, 2004
Subs should be avoided for 2-channel music listening unless you're are a bass freak or a movie watcher.

A good floor-stander with decent-sized drivers will provide ample bass for piano or other music. Subs are usually a different brand and won't have good compatibility with the main speakers without a huge amount of careful tuning. Also at high volumes, you are in danger of over-loading the (presumably small) bass driver in the main speakers.

 

I'm hearing no hash in the all-important middle octaves, posted on April 7, 2022 at 11:39:17
peppy m.
Audiophile

Posts: 1001
Joined: February 19, 2021
Maybe Tony Faulkner should have a listen to more modern 3-way speakers. At least two budget speakers I know of (the NHT C3 and the Monolith THX 365T Mini Tower) do not "make hash" of the all-important mids.

You might gain something while you lose something, it's true. 3-way speakers probably eliminate some types of hash while creating others

 

That depends on room size and, posted on April 7, 2022 at 12:01:34
Ole Lund Christensen
Manufacturer

Posts: 1907
Location: Switzerland
Joined: January 1, 2001
how loud you want the low-frequency notes to be.

A larger room and a greater distance from you to the loudspeakers will require more output from the 2 way woofer, again causing distortion in the midrange.

A small woofer in a two way will distort the midrange, if you play it loud enough with the lowest notes on the piano.

3 way loudspeakers are more difficult to develop, and they normally have a bigger cabinet. The woofer in a 3 way will cause cabinet vibrations, and they make the midrange less clear.

So if you live in a small room and do not play loud notes at the lowest frequencies, the best results often come from a small 2 way loudspeaker.

Planar loudspeakers is a different case.







 

RE: Duuh... It depends, posted on April 7, 2022 at 12:19:12
John Elison
Audiophile

Posts: 23428
Location: Central Kentucky
Joined: December 20, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
January 29, 2004
Well, I disagree with you completely. Of course, I've never owned a one-channel music listening system, so I could be wrong. However, I've been using subs with my two-channel music systems for the past 30-years they sound spectacular to me.


 

Someone with actual sub experience says " found it to be especially nice sounding.", posted on April 7, 2022 at 13:35:13
alaskahiatt
Audiophile

Posts: 6575
Joined: December 9, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
November 1, 2005
nt

 

most real-sounding piano reproduction I have ever heard..., posted on April 7, 2022 at 14:23:14
mhardy6647
Audiophile

Posts: 14856
Location: New England
Joined: October 12, 1999
Contributor
  Since:
October 23, 2016
... to date, is provided by the venerable Altec Duplex (two-way coaxial). This particular one is a 604E.

604E

DSC_8271 (2)


604Etest2 (2)


all the best,
mrh

 

Yes, but..., posted on April 7, 2022 at 16:26:09
peppy m.
Audiophile

Posts: 1001
Joined: February 19, 2021
The midrange driver in a 3-way design is devoted to the all-important midrange. This decreases midrange distortion and allows for a high(er) crossover point into the tweeter.

And a separate bass driver in the same cabinet as a separate midrange driver and tweeter helps preserve clarity - or at least, is surely no worse for clarity than a single "midbass" driver of the 2-way trying to pump out both bass and midrange at the same time.

The "tweeter/midbass" scenario of the 2-way creates different types of clarities and distortions than the 3-way does, that's all.

 

RE: I'm hearing no hash in the all-important middle octaves, posted on April 7, 2022 at 19:00:22
RGA
Reviewer

Posts: 14240
Location: Hong Kong
Joined: August 8, 2001
Everything is in comparison to something else and almost no one makes completely "fair" comparisons.

1) Auditioned in the same room with the same gear
2) Auditioned at the same volume
3) Auditioned with the same music
4) Auditioned blind and bias-free.

#4 is kind of important because I have been to audio shows where the dealer or manufacturer sits too close - is too pushy - has bad breath - says things that are technically impossible - comes across as cultish - or is a boorish lout. Now, it takes a lot to then be completely objective about what you are hearing when you have a negative view of the dealer - not least of which is true if you hate the company based on forum discussions.

1 matters because the speaker may not perform as well with perhaps inferior front-end gear or the room is more conducive to one speaker over the other. Indeed, I had two speakers ranked dead last at one show and ranked 1-2 at the next (YG Acoustics and MBL) - the latter is understandable to a degree being Omnidirectional so the room is quite important.

3 matters because some rooms play only audiophile approved Diana Krall recordings and some rooms play the music that they like which may be a 1950s noisy LP. If the music played suits your music taste chances are you will like the room more than another playing something you don't like.

When I went to audio dealers I made appointments to spend the entire day there and made comparisons in the same room with controlled volume. But I bought from them so they knew I would not spend the day and then buy it online for less.

 

Most 3-ways put a crossover in that all-important midrange, posted on April 8, 2022 at 02:36:17
Dave_K
Audiophile

Posts: 4339
Joined: September 30, 2014
The downside of most 3-way designs is that the midrange doesn't cover the full midrange. There's usually a handover from the midrange driver to the woofer(s) in the lower midrange. Around 300 Hz is becoming the norm, which is better than it used to be when 500 Hz was more common.

No single driver can cover the full range of the piano. Every design is a tradeoff and the only correct answer to your question is that it depends on room, listener, and priorities.

 

RE: Most 3-ways put a crossover in that all-important midrange, posted on April 8, 2022 at 09:05:38
E-Stat
Audiophile

Posts: 33711
Joined: May 12, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
April 5, 2002
No single driver can cover the full range of the piano.

Hmmm. My single driver Sound Lab stats pretty much do just that.

Measurably flat in-room response to below 30 hz.

 

Yes, but..., posted on April 8, 2022 at 12:45:14
peppy m.
Audiophile

Posts: 1001
Joined: February 19, 2021
At least the woofers are truly separate entities from the mids in the 3-way design. So possibly, there is less confusion of sound in the 3-way.

 

Impressive extension, posted on April 8, 2022 at 13:21:52
Dave_K
Audiophile

Posts: 4339
Joined: September 30, 2014
I had dynamic drivers on my mind. Point taken.

 

RE: Impressive extension, posted on April 8, 2022 at 14:55:26
E-Stat
Audiophile

Posts: 33711
Joined: May 12, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
April 5, 2002
Thirty-two square feet of diaphragm certainly helps! Albeit only 2.5 microns thick having less mass than the air around it.

I enjoy regularly hearing live piano when wifey plays her baby grand and find that to be a great reference.

 

And, posted on April 9, 2022 at 03:48:13
cawson@onetel.com
Audiophile

Posts: 2056
Joined: September 27, 2004
And the mid driver is protected from deep bass that could damage it at high volumes, specially quite small ones. My speakers' bass XO is about 160, but I can adjust it to overlap more or less with the mid driver depending on how full or lean I want the musical presentation.

 

There is another option!, posted on April 9, 2022 at 10:59:39
John Marks
Manufacturer

Posts: 6550
Location: Peoples' Democratic Republic of R.I.
Joined: April 23, 2000



I don't have the time to get into a long 'splainer, but...

The "Middle Path" between a 2-way design and a 3-way design is a "2.5-way" design.

Now, I can be as cynical as the next guy... well, actually, seeing as I spent 20 year as a trial lawyer and back in the day I helped Alan Dershowitz get Claus von Bülow's Attempted-Murder conviction set aside, I think I will be on the Olympic podium when they hand out the Cynicism Medals...

anyway, one could be tempted to think that the first person who designed a 2.5-way loudspeaker might have done so at least in part because buying a larger quantity of one woofer-mid resulted in a larger quantity discount then buying half as many of one midrange and one woofer driver.

Despite that, the 2.5-way alignment has a few things going for it, primarily (1) better acoustical coupling to the room than a 2-way, and (2) the fact that the two low-frequency drivers have radiation patterns that are more similar than different.

A 2.5 implementation is basically a 2-way that would work rather well on its own, with an additional woofer that has a lower High-Frequency Cut-Off Point than the driver that is above.

So, the Tweeter is at the top, crossing over to a woofer that (usually) has a LF acoustical roll-off, and which either "runs wild" into the treble, or has a HF roll-off circuit in the crossover to integrate the upper end of the woofer-mid's output with the tweeter's roll-in.

So, there is basically a 2-way crossover, plus an extra woofer.

And, between the extra woofer and the woofer-mid, which are connected in parallel, there is an inductor between the woofers to provide additional HF roll-off for the lower woofer, which helps its efficiency in the bass.

The first 2.5-way I had extensive experience with was the original Wilson Benesch ACT One, which had a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter and two 7-inch woofers... although I dimly recall that the woofer surrounds might have been different.

If you wanted to try a 2.5-way loudspeaker at a rather amazingly low price, you could try Meniscus Audio's "Speedster TMM" kit. Buy the kit, paying for crossover assembly, and then have Lee Taylor make the loudspeaker cabinets for you and do the final assembly and testing.

If you splurge on the crossovers and the cabinet veneers, the pair might run you $2500 to $3000. If you got the cabinets in plain MDF (no veneering), you might be able to get it all done for a little under $2000 the pair.

Best of luck,

john

PS: I have used the Fountek NeoCD3.0 in a 2-way design--it is a wonderful driver. And while I have not used the Tang Band 1720, I have used the Tang Band 1320, and that is a rather amazing driver for the money.

Or, for a little more money, you could use the Bold North Audio BNA 4001 carbon-fiber 4-inch woofer, which has a rather amazing Force Factor, as well as amazing midrange and treble extension. That would require a crossover redesign, though.

 

RE: There is another option!, posted on April 9, 2022 at 14:05:05
Ole Lund Christensen
Manufacturer

Posts: 1907
Location: Switzerland
Joined: January 1, 2001
The 2,5 way can be made using the same woofer and tweeter as the 2 way. Giving the manufacturer two different products from the same tweeter and woofer stock of parts, just using a change in crossover and the cabinet.

But the main selling point of most 2,5 way loudspeakers is louder bass!

 

Yes, I know that..., posted on April 9, 2022 at 17:59:45
John Marks
Manufacturer

Posts: 6550
Location: Peoples' Democratic Republic of R.I.
Joined: April 23, 2000
Yes, I know that the usual 2.5-way uses identical woofer-mid and woofer drivers; the difference is the inductor on the low woofer.

But (even though it was about 25 years ago) I think I remember that because they were making their own 7-inch drivers, Wilson Benesch had the luxury of being able to specify different compliances for the upper and lower 7-inch drivers surrounds. IIRC.

One thing I forgot to mention was that in the 2.5/TMM DIY kit I recommended, another function of the lower woofer is to raise the efficiency or sensitivity of the woofer function as a whole which means that the very efficient ribbon tweeter has to be padded down less radically in the crossover.

IIRC, the Fountek NeoCD3.0 ribbon tweeter is 93dB sensitive, and it is very hard to find a conventional woofer that is that sensitive.

atb,

john

 

2.5 also allows for higher efficiency due to using less or no Baffle step, posted on April 9, 2022 at 22:08:11
Edp
Audiophile

Posts: 4110
Joined: September 23, 1999
Might get 2 to 4db that way depending on midbass used

 

Interesting!, posted on April 10, 2022 at 10:14:59
jimbill
Audiophile

Posts: 2765
Location: Texas
Joined: May 31, 2004
Now that he's dead, do you think he did it?

 

HAH! THE LAST QUESTION I EVER EXPECTED TO BE ASKED!!!!, posted on April 10, 2022 at 18:08:01
John Marks
Manufacturer

Posts: 6550
Location: Peoples' Democratic Republic of R.I.
Joined: April 23, 2000



I expected a question about Baffle Step Compensation!!!

If you want to talk to me about this, viva voce, email me and I will give you my phone number.

My bottom line always has been he might have done it.

Alexandra Isles... I would have wanted to be her boyfriend.

But, would I kill a woman, regardless how bad a Psycho Bitch, to clear the way forward?

No.

Of course, I have never married for money.

Mutatis mutandis with that, even if von Bülow had done it, the only evidence that convicted him came from a private detective agency that had been hired by the step-children, and there was no chain of custody.

It could have been invented evidence. And the fact that the insulin deposits came from the outside of the syringe needles certainly suggested fabrication.

So, if that conviction had stood, anyone of us who had a well-funded person who hated us, was at risk.

In Scotland, there is verdict "Not Proved," which means, "We think he did it, but the evidence is not quite there," and that is where I have always come out.

I pat myself on the back for never having asked Alexandra Isles out.

Professional standards, you know.

tee hee

jm


 

Did you enjoy the film? Was Irons convincing? nt, posted on April 11, 2022 at 08:19:49
tinear
Audiophile

Posts: 65515
Location: Kansas City, KS
Joined: April 9, 2006
d

 

I was CRUSHED when I learned that Jeremy Irons had not been hired to play ME!!!, posted on April 11, 2022 at 09:17:11
John Marks
Manufacturer

Posts: 6550
Location: Peoples' Democratic Republic of R.I.
Joined: April 23, 2000
Bummer.

I don't really have an opinion on the film; my agosticism as to that venture is inextricably intertwined with the fact that Dershowitz & Co. tried to suck me down into the vortex of their Perjury Machine, which did not make me a happy camper.

Please see the linked-to NYT coverage of how our child-molesting star witness was indicted for... Perjury. Of course, the Catholic Diocese of Providence got him out of state ASAP.

So, a real-world film about Sunny & Claus (I loved the Lemony Snicket childrens' books) has yet to be made.

And one of the reasons for that is that Jeremy Irons was TOTALLY CONVINCING--but only as Charles Ryder in "Brideshead Revisited." Ryder was young, handsome, and doomed.

Whereas Jeremy Irons was MOST DEFINITELY NOT CONVINCING as Mr. Boberg, a/k/a Claus von Bülow.

Von Bülow was well into middle age, verging on just plain old. His head and face resembled a peeled potato. He radiated the smary self-satisfaction of someone who thinks he is debonair, but who is merely rich. He struck me as a cross between Daddy Warbucks and Nikita Kruschev.

ciao,

john

 

Consider the PSB T600 tower: a 3.5.5 way!, posted on April 11, 2022 at 12:09:26
Brian H P
Audiophile

Posts: 959
Location: Oregon
Joined: December 18, 2012
Topmost woofer crosses to the midrange. Middle woofer fills in the baffle diffraction loss. Bottom one supplements the other two at the very lowest frequencies, increasing bass extension a bit.

A clever and complex approach, and apparently successful judging from the reviews. Only trouble is, all three woofers are in parallel at the lowest frequencies, resulting in a wicked-low impedance. Only high current muscle amplifiers need apply.

 

Would all three woofers have to have the same impedance? , posted on April 12, 2022 at 10:42:32
MWE
Audiophile

Posts: 1662
Location: Hillsborough, NC
Joined: June 8, 2000
Didn't know if at least one (say, the upper one) could have a little higher intrinsic impedance to help with the overall impedance when all are in parallel? Or would that cause problems?


Mark in NC
"The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains" -Paul Simon

 

Not necessarily, as long as they're the same sensitivity, but I think they're identical, posted on April 12, 2022 at 12:50:07
Brian H P
Audiophile

Posts: 959
Location: Oregon
Joined: December 18, 2012
JA's measurements, linked below, show an impedance minimum of 3 Ohms around 120 Hz, and a broad band slightly above 4 Ohms from 300 to 700 Hz. This is consistent with three nominal 8 Ohm woofers rolled out at different frequencies.

 

Sorry, didn't make myself clear, was talking more theoretically...,, posted on April 12, 2022 at 13:49:54
MWE
Audiophile

Posts: 1662
Location: Hillsborough, NC
Joined: June 8, 2000
whether woofers with a bit higher individual impedances could be used in order to raise that 3 ohm combined minimum a bit. Not referring specifically to this speaker model, but a theoretical but similar design.
Just speculating.


Mark in NC
"The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains" -Paul Simon

 

If you changed one driver to 16 ohm it would only change to 3.2 ohms, posted on April 12, 2022 at 16:38:56
Edp
Audiophile

Posts: 4110
Joined: September 23, 1999
Your suggestion will work and has been used in speakers before

But to do any serious change to minimum, all three drivers would need to be to 12 to 16 ohm to even have a chance of getting 4ohm minimum (including most xover designs)

 

Alas, 16 Ohm drivers are rarer than hen's teeth anymore, posted on April 13, 2022 at 12:46:22
Brian H P
Audiophile

Posts: 959
Location: Oregon
Joined: December 18, 2012
Madisound had some 16 Ohm, 6.5" Silver Flute woofers awhile back, but they sold out while I was still sketching out cabinet and crossover ideas for them.

I honestly don't know of any others that are readily available.

 

A speaker manufacturer could have them custom-made in commercial quantities, but an individual, not so much. nt. , posted on April 14, 2022 at 07:12:36
MWE
Audiophile

Posts: 1662
Location: Hillsborough, NC
Joined: June 8, 2000
Nt.


Mark in NC
"The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains" -Paul Simon

 

Page processed in 0.051 seconds.