Okay, you are starting to shop for home audio speakers for your living room or apartment and already are bogged down in unfamiliar terms and names. Let’s try to discuss the different types of home speakers as simply as possible.
Honestly speaking, the basic audio speaker technology hasn’t changed in several decades. Most all types of speakers have a combination of drivers or speakers with a crossover installed inside a cabinet. The cabinet might be of a plastic or composite material or a wood box of one type or another. The crossover circuitry actually divides the audio signal into various frequency bands and sends those bands to the drivers best capable of reproducing them. This simple setup enables the most accurate reproduction of sound possible depending upon the range and quality of the drivers.
You will regularly read of terms like “2-way” and “3-way” which indicates how many separate frequency bands each speaker system will handle. For example, a 2-way, full range speaker has two drivers including a tweeter and a woofer which handle two different bands. The tweeter handles upper or higher frequencies while the woofer handles the middle to lower frequencies. A 3-way speaker will normally have the tweeter for higher frequencies, a mid-range driver for midrange frequencies and a woofer for the lower frequencies. You can see why the 3-way might be a bit more desirable than just a 2-way and why it might also be a bit more expensive to purchase.
There are many improvements that have been made over the years so today, the sound quality is also related to many other factors such as speaker size, materials, room placement and so on. Many new designs present almost unbelievable sound clarity and quality. They are now engineered for reproduction of dynamic digital sound sources so there really are no hard set rules leading to best sound quality. Where decades ago you could find standard 18″ bookshelf speakers and 3′ to 4′ floor standing tower speakers, today speaker sizes range from huge tower speakers in heavy wood cabinets to small satellite speakers that will actually fit into the palm of your hand.