To put it simply, a 3-way speaker means that it consists of 3 parts.
- The Woofer
- Mid-range speaker
The Woofer handles the low range (bass) frequencies. These are the larger speakers in the 3-way speaker system.
The Mid-range speaker is smaller than the Woofer and larger than the Tweeter. Not surprisingly, this speaker handles the mid-range sound frequencies.
Lastly, you have the Tweeter. This baby works on all the high and super-high frequencies.
(These are also called “drivers” and can be used interchangeably.)
How Sound Works With A 3-way Speaker
The reason for having 3 separate speakers in a 3-way speaker system is based on how sound behaves.
Sound is created in waves when air moves over the speaker. To hear all the “frequencies” of these waves, you need different-sized speakers to produce these.
With low frequencies, you need a large movement of air. This is why the subwoofer is bigger than the mid-range speaker and tweeter.
On the other end of the spectrum, high frequencies need a rapid movement of air. This is hard for a larger speaker to produce.
Since the tweeter is much smaller, it is better equipped to handle the high frequencies.
This leads us to frequency crossovers.
The crossover refers to the overlap of frequencies covered by each of the woofer, mid-range, and tweeter.
Having the frequencies “crossover” each other is an integral part of having a quality-sounding audio system.
They need to be tuned very finely to balance the sound and get the precise amount of output. If you have too much or too little output combined, the sound balance will be off.
Because they need to be finely tuned, the manufacturer will set these frequencies, and they can’t be changed.
This is why coaxial speakers are ideal for those looking for a simple solution to their car audio.
It combines the multiple frequency requirements of a complete sound system into a single configuration.
Coaxial vs. Component
I thought I’d add this section to this article because it relates to the configuration of speaker systems.
When I’m talking about 2-way, 3-way, etc., speakers are considered coaxial speakers systems.
Whenever there are multiple drivers in a single speaker, it’s a coaxial speaker.
Conversely, if there is a single driver in a speaker, it’s called a “Component” speaker.
In other words, there’s only a single mid-range speaker or a single subwoofer, or a single tweeter.
Component speakers are more for those that want complete control over their listening experience. You have to get the drivers separately and put them in ideal locations in your vehicle.
The best placement for tweeters is up high, and the best placement for subwoofers is down lower.
With component speaker systems, you’ll also need a good quality amplifier to provide the power this audio system needs.
I hope that makes sense.