The world of audio equipment is a technical one. That means it comes with its share of jargon. Jargon has a tendency to put some beginners off because they find themselves lost without the most basic understanding. The term "two-way speaker" is one of those pieces of jargon. However, with just a little effort you will probably find the terms is easy to understand.
Two-Way or Coaxial
Perhaps adding to the confusion, the terms "two-way speaker" and "coaxial speaker" are often interchanged. That's, of course, because they mean precisely the same thing. A two-way or coaxial speaker is made up of two separate speakers that work together as one unit. The configuration creates one unit from the two pieces since they operate in tandem.
Understanding Speaker Function
To understand why two-way speakers give a better sound than single speakers produce, you have to have an understanding of the way speakers reproduce sound. Essentially, as electric impulses trigger the magnet in a speaker, its cone is forced outward, in a direct thrust, a vibration or some combination. Once extended, the cone needs to revert to its standby position. If another sound comes before it has pulled back, the cone won't give the full sound because it will only travel part of the distance.
Coaxial Speaker Function
A coaxial or two-way speaker provides better response time because there are two speakers working to create the sound, but it's more involved than that. These speakers have both a woofer and a tweeter. A circuit built into the circuit is called a "crossover" and it divides the signal into low pitched and high pitched sounds. The low-pitched sounds are sent to the woofer and the higher ones to the tweeter. Since they move independently of one another, the cones are less likely to be extended at the time they need to push outward.
Woofer and Tweeter Distinction
In addition to the advantage of having two speakers operating independently, using a woofer and a tweeter produces a superior sound to a single speaker because of the design of the components. The tweeter is typically a smaller speaker and it's much more attuned to the high-pitched sounds it produces. Conversely, woofers are larger and therefore they create a sound that is deeper. This means that each end of the sound spectrum is more accurately represented.
While the basic premise of a crossover feeding sound to a woofer and a tweeter is a constant in all two-way speakers, there are some variants in configuration. A speaker that's designed to be used for a home stereo will tend to be larger. In that type of application the two speakers are typically mounted separately within some form of cabinet. For mobile audio speakers, though, the tweeter is usually mounted on top of the woofer (with a bracket arrangement).
- Photo Credit speaker stack image by Nicemonkey from Fotolia.com