Topic #1 - Speakers 3,4,5, 6-way? Is more better?

The State of Car Audio in Mauritius

Those who have been in the car audio & car accessories sector in the last 10-15 years must have seen a dramatic change in the industry.  New technology has made driving a car safer, more entertaining and even more productive.

When it comes to car audio, we’ve moved from old mono Radio FMS to DABX+ Radio (Digital Audio Radio). We’ve almost entirely erased CDs thanks to the USB and slowly losing compressed MP3 formats to more preferred FLAC files and soon to come MQA formats (Master Quality Authenticated). The rise of Android & Apple Smartphones brought about the creation of Apple CarPlay & Android Auto in medium to high end head units. I’m certainly willing to take the bet that in less than three years, these will be standard options in most double din head units.

Amplifiers have gone smaller and more powerful than before, and more resistant due to fail safe technologies shutting the amp down before it overheats. Subwoofers offer more versatility and can fit in tighter spaces than before, while still being able to offer decent power. Speakers are now made with more durable material that also offer increased sensitivity and frequency response is neater than ever. All in all, we’ve made some great strides forward!

Every week I will address some common questions I usually get and some lingering confusion that we still encounter in the car audio world.

Speakers 2,3,4,5, 6-way?

What is a 2-way or 3-way speaker?

In simple terms, a 2-way speaker consists of a speaker (main woofer) + one tweeter mounted in the middle. It is called 2-way because there are arguably two parts (Main Speaker + Mounted tweeter). A three-way speaker means that there’s the Main Speaker + Mounted Tweeter + another sub-tweeter mounted next to the Tweeter as in the picture below.


[Pioneer three way 6 x 9 speaker]

In 4 or 5 way speakers you will see more little tweeter components being added on and on.

Most people are misled to believe think that the more ‘ways’ the better the speaker will sound. However, I am sad to announce that more ‘ways’ does not mean better sound.

Before going in the technical reason, it’s important to understand how and why the 2-way speaker came to existence. Conventionally, people would buy speakers (low frequencies) and tweeters (high frequencies) separately a bit like component speakers now. Tweeter material used to be very expensive (beryllium, aluminum or titanium) and manufacturers made the game changing discovery that it was much cheaper to produce speakers with already mounted tweeters made of cheaper plastic based material paired with mylar. This gave birth to the coaxial speakers (producing both high and low frequencies- also known as Full Range Speaker). Since it was cheaper and some people thought that more is better, manufacturers increased it to 3,4,5-way speakers to make it more commercially appealing and win competitive advantages.

Now that you understand the business and practical reason for making these speakers, now let’s look at the technical reason.

1)  Coaxial Mounting Only: 3-Way speakers are generally only built with the tweeters mounted coaxially over the full range woofer cone. This means that they are blocking a significant amount of sound produced by the woofer cone, often reducing both volume and clarity. If you gain in an area and lose in another area, it is not sure if the net gain is positive, or negative.

2)  3-Way Tweeters Built Cheap: Most tweeters in 3-Way, 4-way + car speakers are made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or similar plastic materials. This means that they are not going to produce the same crisp highs as most mid to high range 2-way component tweeters.

3)  3-Way Speakers Have Integrated Crossovers: While they are certainly much easier to install and sound find with most existing factory and aftermarket car stereos, they simply will not give you your money’s worth in terms of how they are wired when connected to a car audio amplifier.

This is not to say that 2-3-4-5-6 ways speakers sound bad. You could build a very solid sound system with those speakers. My advice is not to be fooled to think that more is better. What really matters in a speaker is the material being used, the sensitivity it offers and the quality of the driver of the speaker. A 6-way speaker with a poor driver will sound worse than a high quality 2-way speaker, any day any time.

Are you interested in building quality a car audio system? Get in touch with us for some free advice - no charges, just passion!


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