2-way vs 3-way speakers for surrounds - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 12 Old 10-19-2019, 02:26 PM - Thread Starter
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2-way vs 3-way speakers for surrounds

I’m looking for advise on which speaker would be best for side and rear surrounds for a 7.1.4 system. Currently I have Monitor Audio Silver 6 towers for front left and right along with a Silver center, I think they are the 5th gen speakers. I also have 4 Polk RCi8 in ceiling speakers which currently act as front height and surround speakers in my living room HT but would be used as the ATMOS channels.
I plan on upgrading my AVR from a Denon X3000 to a Marantz SR7013 so I will have ATMOS.
But I will need to add some more ear level speakers first. I decided 4 in wall speakers would be best and have the most WAF. I looked at what MA offers for in wall speakers and have narrowed it down to these two
The MA W280IDC 3-way or W280 2-way both of which are timber matched to my other MA speakers.
Ideally I’d like a bipolar speaker for an in wall side surrounds but that’s not an option from MA and the on wall Silver Fx does not have WAF.
The 3-way W280IDC says it has better localization but isn’t localization bad for side surrounds?
The 2-way W280 are cheaper than the IDCs.
Which would best work for side and rear surrounds, 4 3-way W280IDCs, 2 of each or save a few hundred dollars and go with 4 2-way W280s.


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post #2 of 12 Old 10-19-2019, 03:09 PM
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I'd go with the 2 ways, there isn't much bass in the surround channels so a 3 way is probably overkill.
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post #3 of 12 Old 10-19-2019, 03:11 PM
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2-way. I don't think 3-way is necessary.

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post #4 of 12 Old 10-19-2019, 03:17 PM
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Localization has nothing to do with 3-way vs 2-way, it has to do with how low the bass extension goes. Anything below 80hz can be localized in a surround system, that's why the standard THX crossover frequency is 80hz. Both of these are rated well below that so there shouldn't be a localization difference.

The W280IDC will sound more even across a wider listening location than the 2-way W280 because it's dispersion is wider and more uniform, thanks to the 4" midrange driver. The W280 will sound less consistent because a 1" tweeter doesn't overlap that well with a 8" woofer and will have some holes in it's polar response, unless you use an extremely low crossover frequency, well below 1KHz.
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I have been tampering with in-ceiling Dolby Atmos. Originally I had two-way in ceiling speakers, once I switched to three way I had a dramatic increase in the dispersion rate. That being said I've had three ways in my surrounds and fronts for awhile, I would not go back to two-way speakers. IMHO, I believe that three way speakers provide better sound options for both music and movies, therefore I would go three way vs two way. Hope this helps.

Peace and blessings,

Azeke
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jakeshields View Post
Localization has nothing to do with 3-way vs 2-way, it has to do with how low the bass extension goes. Anything below 80hz can be localized in a surround system, that's why the standard THX crossover frequency is 80hz. Both of these are rated well below that so there shouldn't be a localization difference.



The W280IDC will sound more even across a wider listening location than the 2-way W280 because it's dispersion is wider and more uniform, thanks to the 4" midrange driver. The W280 will sound less consistent because a 1" tweeter doesn't overlap that well with a 8" woofer and will have some holes in it's polar response, unless you use an extremely low crossover frequency, well below 1KHz.


I only ask about the localization because it mentioned on MA website under the W280IDC description.
I’ve read a lot of good reviews on the IDCs and was ready to pull the trigger on them earlier until I read the description again and saw that bit about localization. I looked into monopole vs bipolar for surrounds already and from that I know I don’t want localization at least not for side surrounds, according to Gene from Audioholics.


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post #7 of 12 Old 10-19-2019, 08:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azekecse View Post
I have been tampering with in-ceiling Dolby Atmos. Originally I had two-way in ceiling speakers, once I switched to three way I had a dramatic increase in the dispersion rate. That being said I've had three ways in my surrounds and fronts for awhile, I would not go back to two-way speakers. IMHO, I believe that three way speakers provide better sound options for both music and movies, therefore I would go three way vs two way. Hope this helps.



Peace and blessings,



Azeke


The Polk in ceiling speakers I have are 2-way and one I will probably upgrade them too. It seems like MA has more speakers for the ceiling than they have they have for walls. The ceiling speakers that interest me are bipole which could be cool for ATMOS effects but there is also IDC ceiling speakers too so I could go 3 way with them too. That upgrade will be ways down the road like phase 4.


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Originally Posted by Gamecock24 View Post
I only ask about the localization because it mentioned on MA website under the W280IDC description.
I’ve read a lot of good reviews on the IDCs and was ready to pull the trigger on them earlier until I read the description again and saw that bit about localization. I looked into monopole vs bipolar for surrounds already and from that I know I don’t want localization at least not for side surrounds, according to Gene from Audioholics.


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Sounds like gibberish written by the marketing team. It doesn't have anything to do with reality. A 3-way widens the sweet spot compared to a 2-way if both have woofers larger ~5.5", because it reduces inconsistencies in the polar response. If anything it will make the speaker sound "bigger" because more of the reflected sound will match the direct sound.

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post #9 of 12 Old 10-20-2019, 11:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jakeshields View Post
Sounds like gibberish written by the marketing team. It doesn't have anything to do with reality. A 3-way widens the sweet spot compared to a 2-way if both have woofers larger ~5.5", because it reduces inconsistencies in the polar response. If anything it will make the speaker sound "bigger" because more of the reflected sound will match the direct sound.
Very true!

As with all things, as you go deeper down the rabbit hole--you get a ton of information but both the bood kind and the bad kind. To save time and provide clarity, I went to Dolby's site and they give very basic specifications about "surround" and "Atmos" speakers to assist in the quest. Throw in a little logic and it actually makes sense. Dolby states that the surround AND Atmos speakers should be either the same speaker or "related" to each other to create the sound field correctly. Realistically, since speakers sound different at different locations, they can not and will not "sound the same" because of diffirent locations cause different reflections which color the sound to the room. They then give dispersion specs, if the speakers are not aimed at you (Atmos in ceilings pointing straight down) they need to have a dispersion angle of 80 X 80 degrees--if they are aimed at MLP, you can dut that down to 54 x 54 degrees of dispersion.

Using simple logic and the broad overview that Dolby provides, the "surround field" and your LCR channels (or mains) have different jobs so using the same speakers everywhere can be good or bad depending on the room acoustics, listening distances from the speakers and so on. For example, in my room my LCR use 90 x 45 degree waveguides (horns) for the upper mids/treble so I avoid floor and ceiling bounce which blurs the sound and makes a mess of the spoken word. According to Dolby, my "mains" would not work well as surrounds and considering I have a smallish/medium room I would agree. Granted, haning up 54 pound speakers for surrounds would last until the divorce was final but you get the idea. My wife is pretty cool about my hobby but if you take my speakers apart, there will be plenty of wood to make a coffin--throwing that out there. Considering my room size, the side surrounds will be around 2 meters or 7 feet away so I need wide dispersion so all the speakers can "blend" at such a short distance. Would a three way have wider dispersion than a 2 way? That depends on the design of the speaker and remember, the taller the speaker and the more drivers it has demands a longer distance away from it to "blend" properly.

The correct dispersion of the speaker reallly does not depend on how many "ways" it has, it depends on the speaker driver size and what the crossover points are to prevent beaming. For example, if I wanted an 80 x 80 degree dispersion--I can get that from Danley Sound Labs and the design is a 12 inch coaxial in a waveguide. I think they cross over the compression tweeter at 1,300 Hz to get that dispersion correct (something like that) You can get 15 inch coaxials but the issue is crossing them at 1,000 Hz to prevent beaming and getting a massive compression driver that can do that squeezed into the small theading allowed (and loading the driver that low with such a small waveguide) If you went with something like the outstanding JBL M2, it has a 15 inch woofer crossing to a massive compression driver/horn at a very low 680 Hz--but you PAY for that!

I learned about dispersion the hard way, PA systems back in the 90's. Most 15 inch 2-ways sound terrible off-axis, most 15 inch 3-ways sounded better but then again, a very few 15 inch 2-ways sounded better than 15 inch 3-ways. PA systems have a few extra specs that consumer audio generally does not worry about, things like durability, size/weight since you have to lug it around and very high SPL levels. The reason 15 inch 2 ways dominated back in the day was they are very, very durable, they are lighter/smaller than 3 ways and they USUALLY cost less than 3 ways until the really good ones cost more than 3 ways. The difference became obvious on the spec sheets, the great sounding 15" two ways crossed over to massive compression drivers on big horns at 1,200 Hz or lower which cost big bucks. A cheaper way to do it was a 15 inch 3-way to avoid the $400 compression drivers and big horns but it was larger/heavier. I used 15 inch 3-ways for that reason. After all, a 70 pound 3-way cabinet was much easier to carry around than something like a JBL 4722N (15" two way) at around 150 pounds. I went with a 15" 3-way and bi-amped it to protect the mids from feedback destruction with a limiter on the mid/high part at 200 watts. The woofers could handle the 800 watts of feedback but the mids could not (I purchased the things at 65% off because of blown mids from feedback and fixed them )

For me and my room, listening distances and the fact that I'll keep the speakers longer than I'll live in my present house--I am going coaxials. They are "two-way" but very wide dispersion by design. My LCR is around 11 feet away but the side surrounds at the end most seats on the couch are at 5 feet so I have a choice of small 2/3 way speakers to "blend" properly or a larger coaxial. I am going coax as it gives the performance required, has a smaller "face" and can hammer out over 110dB easily be it a 6.5, 8, 10 or 12 inch coax. I want a 10 inch coax, my wife wants a Bose jewel cube so we comprmosed on a 6.5 inch coax in a box of 1/2 a cubic foot or less. To calm my OCD and to keep with Dolby suggestions, all my surrounds be they side, rear, Atmos elevation or (furture) Atmos ceiling speakers will use the same compression driver with the same crossover frequency and the same "motor" (magnet, voice coil, spider and Xmax) Basically, 6.5 inch coax for side surrounds and 10 inch coax for in ceiling Atmos running infinite baffle as the limits. Since the compression driver has to be so large to handle the 1,500 Hz crossover point--it will give up response over 16 to 17 KHz--because physics. Then again, I am a human adult so smooth response out to 16 KHz is about all I need and it IS a surround--off axis will kill off response over 10 KHz because--physics. You compromise in the right spots where it don't matter and press on!

Now if money was no object, if I had a larger room and I was single--you can get a "three-way coaxial" in a way--but better! I think the technical term is a "multi-entrant horn", basically, woofers/mids/tweeters all sharing the same horn with correct time delays and phase so it acts like a point source. The smallest/lightest one I know of is the Danley SM60F with a 5" coaxial and two 8" woofers tucked inside the horn (you'll see the holes which the drivers vent through to keep the time alignment and phase correct) They have a 60 x 60 dispersion and it IS a "3-way" that would meet Dolby specs for surrounds if they are aimed at MLP. Weight at 50 pounds is not too bad (for large rooms) but the size and $2,500 each price might slow you down! However, if you want a point source "3-way" that is the way to go. In reality, I'd get their SM100F which is an 8" coaxial loaded in a large flared waveguide/horn and a 15" to provide the low wend. It has a 110 degree dispersion which would rock for surrounds in large rooms or the occasional barn. Weight is around 122 pounds each, not to mention the size/cost of them but if you need a "3-way" that has over 100 degrees of dispersion and 128dB of output--you are set!

https://www.danleysoundlabs.com/prod...d-horns/sm60f/

https://www.danleysoundlabs.com/prod...-horns/sm100f/

Realistically, since you are using a subwoofer for HT systems--the "2-way" is actually a "3-way" if that helps. If you journey deep down the rabbit hole to the land of theory--and you want enough SPL to cause massive hearing damage--then technically, the total system should be a "4-way". In theory, a driver should never be driven beyond a "decade" or say the subwoofer does 8 Hz to 80 Hz, the woofer does 80 Hz to 800 Hz, the mid does 800 Hz to 8 KHz and the tweeter does 8 KHz to 20KHz +. IF you choose to go deep in the weeds, that is what you will find and some people on this plenet build speakers that do just that--I am not one of them! I don't have a huge room laying around filled with acoustic panels and a breaking bad pallet of money so compromises that won't be an issue with the SPL, distance and room acoustics I have are key. Sure, an 8 or 10" coaxial would be "better" for my side surrounds but then again, so would a Danley SM100F--so I go for the 6.5 inch because in reality, I don't "need" more than what it can do--just one of those OCD want things. In the future if I need more output than the 112 to 115dB the 6.5 can do, then I'll go to the tens to get me there. Put the old 12.5 pound 6.5 inch coaxials in the rear deck of my car or have computer desk speakers that will make my ears bleed--always a use for small speakers!

In summation, for surround speakers it matters more about the dispersion, the off-axis sound quality, iff the SPL they provide at lower distortion meets your needs, not how many "ways" it has. If you are worried about "future proofing" something, your existing system won't do an actual 2 or 3 row 12 to 20 seat theater anway so take stock in what you have and go in the best direction. My mains/center will do reference levels and more at 20 feet--but not 50 feet but I don't lose sleep over it. I'm at 11 feet and unless I inherit a castle or something, beyond 20 feet is not in my future.

So relax, use whichever one you like, you are paying for it so if the 2 way does what you need--go for that. If the 3 way is what you want--then you have to make that determination for yourself. Good question though, the answer is 3 ways are not inherently better than 2 ways just as 3 ways don't always cost more than 2 ways (JBL M2 cough, cough) The design is critical, your needs help determine which would be better/worse/no difference and the room is always messing up those pretty frequency response charts. Give Dolby a good once over on their site, they tend to be really good at helping you along with specs and education about surround systems, their proper deisgn, setup and calibration. They actually do know a few things about surround! Give it a good read, pay attention to your room and make an informed decision about what would work best for you, your budget, your size limits and budget limits and go. Enjoy the read and good luck with your build.
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post #10 of 12 Old 10-21-2019, 11:23 PM
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I plan for my surrounds to go a similar route as @18Hurts describes -- coaxial due to close seating. My plan is to use a 3-way comprised of a Faital Pro 8HX200 8" coaxial for ~300Hz-20kHz and a yet-undecided 8 or 10" woofer to cover ~60Hz-300Hz -- which will avoid the intermodulation distortion that occurs when the coaxial woofer (which is acting as the HF waveguide) starts moving significantly. And if the woofer is capable enough I may also redirect some LFE to it as well to smooth in modal region.
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post #11 of 12 Old 10-22-2019, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
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I have decided I’m just going to go with the 3-way speakers. After looking at some more MA speakers with the IDC drivers they all have that description ending in “superior vocal intelligibility and sound localisation” so yea sounds like marketing gibberish.
I feel like I’m having to make a compromise by going with a monopole side surround in the first place since MA doesn’t have an in wall Bipole. But from reading Audioholics article on Bipoles/Dipoles, I fell like I should be fine using a monopole in my room. The room is 20’ wide and 22’ long with an 8’ ceiling. I have a large L shaped sectional so it’s basically one row of seats. The sides surrounds would be slightly behind MLP 9’ to right and 11’ to left. Rears will be 10-11’ behind with a similar 2-3feet off of center of the room but centered behind the MLP in the rear wall.
I looked at other brands for in wall Bipoles but I think I’d rather stay with MA since they say they timber matched to my towers and center.
From my dealer it’s only a $70 difference between the W280 and W280IDC so the budget factor isn’t really an issue. But I am reluctant to spend much more knowing I’ll be selling the house sometime in future and will most likely let the speakers stay in the walls and ceiling.



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post #12 of 12 Old 10-22-2019, 08:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 18Hurts View Post
Very true!



As with all things, as you go deeper down the rabbit hole--you get a ton of information but both the bood kind and the bad kind. To save time and provide clarity, I went to Dolby's site and they give very basic specifications about "surround" and "Atmos" speakers to assist in the quest. Throw in a little logic and it actually makes sense. Dolby states that the surround AND Atmos speakers should be either the same speaker or "related" to each other to create the sound field correctly. Realistically, since speakers sound different at different locations, they can not and will not "sound the same" because of diffirent locations cause different reflections which color the sound to the room. They then give dispersion specs, if the speakers are not aimed at you (Atmos in ceilings pointing straight down) they need to have a dispersion angle of 80 X 80 degrees--if they are aimed at MLP, you can dut that down to 54 x 54 degrees of dispersion.



Using simple logic and the broad overview that Dolby provides, the "surround field" and your LCR channels (or mains) have different jobs so using the same speakers everywhere can be good or bad depending on the room acoustics, listening distances from the speakers and so on. For example, in my room my LCR use 90 x 45 degree waveguides (horns) for the upper mids/treble so I avoid floor and ceiling bounce which blurs the sound and makes a mess of the spoken word. According to Dolby, my "mains" would not work well as surrounds and considering I have a smallish/medium room I would agree. Granted, haning up 54 pound speakers for surrounds would last until the divorce was final but you get the idea. My wife is pretty cool about my hobby but if you take my speakers apart, there will be plenty of wood to make a coffin--throwing that out there. Considering my room size, the side surrounds will be around 2 meters or 7 feet away so I need wide dispersion so all the speakers can "blend" at such a short distance. Would a three way have wider dispersion than a 2 way? That depends on the design of the speaker and remember, the taller the speaker and the more drivers it has demands a longer distance away from it to "blend" properly.



The correct dispersion of the speaker reallly does not depend on how many "ways" it has, it depends on the speaker driver size and what the crossover points are to prevent beaming. For example, if I wanted an 80 x 80 degree dispersion--I can get that from Danley Sound Labs and the design is a 12 inch coaxial in a waveguide. I think they cross over the compression tweeter at 1,300 Hz to get that dispersion correct (something like that) You can get 15 inch coaxials but the issue is crossing them at 1,000 Hz to prevent beaming and getting a massive compression driver that can do that squeezed into the small theading allowed (and loading the driver that low with such a small waveguide) If you went with something like the outstanding JBL M2, it has a 15 inch woofer crossing to a massive compression driver/horn at a very low 680 Hz--but you PAY for that!



I learned about dispersion the hard way, PA systems back in the 90's. Most 15 inch 2-ways sound terrible off-axis, most 15 inch 3-ways sounded better but then again, a very few 15 inch 2-ways sounded better than 15 inch 3-ways. PA systems have a few extra specs that consumer audio generally does not worry about, things like durability, size/weight since you have to lug it around and very high SPL levels. The reason 15 inch 2 ways dominated back in the day was they are very, very durable, they are lighter/smaller than 3 ways and they USUALLY cost less than 3 ways until the really good ones cost more than 3 ways. The difference became obvious on the spec sheets, the great sounding 15" two ways crossed over to massive compression drivers on big horns at 1,200 Hz or lower which cost big bucks. A cheaper way to do it was a 15 inch 3-way to avoid the $400 compression drivers and big horns but it was larger/heavier. I used 15 inch 3-ways for that reason. After all, a 70 pound 3-way cabinet was much easier to carry around than something like a JBL 4722N (15" two way) at around 150 pounds. I went with a 15" 3-way and bi-amped it to protect the mids from feedback destruction with a limiter on the mid/high part at 200 watts. The woofers could handle the 800 watts of feedback but the mids could not (I purchased the things at 65% off because of blown mids from feedback and fixed them )



For me and my room, listening distances and the fact that I'll keep the speakers longer than I'll live in my present house--I am going coaxials. They are "two-way" but very wide dispersion by design. My LCR is around 11 feet away but the side surrounds at the end most seats on the couch are at 5 feet so I have a choice of small 2/3 way speakers to "blend" properly or a larger coaxial. I am going coax as it gives the performance required, has a smaller "face" and can hammer out over 110dB easily be it a 6.5, 8, 10 or 12 inch coax. I want a 10 inch coax, my wife wants a Bose jewel cube so we comprmosed on a 6.5 inch coax in a box of 1/2 a cubic foot or less. To calm my OCD and to keep with Dolby suggestions, all my surrounds be they side, rear, Atmos elevation or (furture) Atmos ceiling speakers will use the same compression driver with the same crossover frequency and the same "motor" (magnet, voice coil, spider and Xmax) Basically, 6.5 inch coax for side surrounds and 10 inch coax for in ceiling Atmos running infinite baffle as the limits. Since the compression driver has to be so large to handle the 1,500 Hz crossover point--it will give up response over 16 to 17 KHz--because physics. Then again, I am a human adult so smooth response out to 16 KHz is about all I need and it IS a surround--off axis will kill off response over 10 KHz because--physics. You compromise in the right spots where it don't matter and press on!



Now if money was no object, if I had a larger room and I was single--you can get a "three-way coaxial" in a way--but better! I think the technical term is a "multi-entrant horn", basically, woofers/mids/tweeters all sharing the same horn with correct time delays and phase so it acts like a point source. The smallest/lightest one I know of is the Danley SM60F with a 5" coaxial and two 8" woofers tucked inside the horn (you'll see the holes which the drivers vent through to keep the time alignment and phase correct) They have a 60 x 60 dispersion and it IS a "3-way" that would meet Dolby specs for surrounds if they are aimed at MLP. Weight at 50 pounds is not too bad (for large rooms) but the size and $2,500 each price might slow you down! However, if you want a point source "3-way" that is the way to go. In reality, I'd get their SM100F which is an 8" coaxial loaded in a large flared waveguide/horn and a 15" to provide the low wend. It has a 110 degree dispersion which would rock for surrounds in large rooms or the occasional barn. Weight is around 122 pounds each, not to mention the size/cost of them but if you need a "3-way" that has over 100 degrees of dispersion and 128dB of output--you are set!



https://www.danleysoundlabs.com/prod...d-horns/sm60f/



https://www.danleysoundlabs.com/prod...-horns/sm100f/



Realistically, since you are using a subwoofer for HT systems--the "2-way" is actually a "3-way" if that helps. If you journey deep down the rabbit hole to the land of theory--and you want enough SPL to cause massive hearing damage--then technically, the total system should be a "4-way". In theory, a driver should never be driven beyond a "decade" or say the subwoofer does 8 Hz to 80 Hz, the woofer does 80 Hz to 800 Hz, the mid does 800 Hz to 8 KHz and the tweeter does 8 KHz to 20KHz +. IF you choose to go deep in the weeds, that is what you will find and some people on this plenet build speakers that do just that--I am not one of them! I don't have a huge room laying around filled with acoustic panels and a breaking bad pallet of money so compromises that won't be an issue with the SPL, distance and room acoustics I have are key. Sure, an 8 or 10" coaxial would be "better" for my side surrounds but then again, so would a Danley SM100F--so I go for the 6.5 inch because in reality, I don't "need" more than what it can do--just one of those OCD want things. In the future if I need more output than the 112 to 115dB the 6.5 can do, then I'll go to the tens to get me there. Put the old 12.5 pound 6.5 inch coaxials in the rear deck of my car or have computer desk speakers that will make my ears bleed--always a use for small speakers!



In summation, for surround speakers it matters more about the dispersion, the off-axis sound quality, iff the SPL they provide at lower distortion meets your needs, not how many "ways" it has. If you are worried about "future proofing" something, your existing system won't do an actual 2 or 3 row 12 to 20 seat theater anway so take stock in what you have and go in the best direction. My mains/center will do reference levels and more at 20 feet--but not 50 feet but I don't lose sleep over it. I'm at 11 feet and unless I inherit a castle or something, beyond 20 feet is not in my future.



So relax, use whichever one you like, you are paying for it so if the 2 way does what you need--go for that. If the 3 way is what you want--then you have to make that determination for yourself. Good question though, the answer is 3 ways are not inherently better than 2 ways just as 3 ways don't always cost more than 2 ways (JBL M2 cough, cough) The design is critical, your needs help determine which would be better/worse/no difference and the room is always messing up those pretty frequency response charts. Give Dolby a good once over on their site, they tend to be really good at helping you along with specs and education about surround systems, their proper deisgn, setup and calibration. They actually do know a few things about surround! Give it a good read, pay attention to your room and make an informed decision about what would work best for you, your budget, your size limits and budget limits and go. Enjoy the read and good luck with your build.

Dude!
That was a lot to take in.



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