Front stage breakdown in a nutshell go.
Originally posted by Kevin Norris:
What is my gain with 3-way over 2-way? Whats the diff between passive and active? Why is the sky blue?
1) Each speaker type (sub woof mid tweet) plays best in a particular frequency range. They are mechanically limited on the low end of that frequency range. The more of that lower end you remove via filtering, the more power you can apply to the speaker. A typical 1" tweeter crossed over at 2500hz has a fairly low power handling compared to the same tweeter crossed over at 6000hz.
Therefore a 3 way setup will buy you additional power handling (and thus maximum output) at the expense of complexity of install and imaging/soundstage development.
Properly designed and instaled 2 way setups can be frighteningly loud, so unless you're going on deaf or playing for the neighbors, a 3 way setup generally just buys you more copious midbass (which is a good thing.)
2) Speakers are overcomplicated by the people that buy them, refer them or sell them. Metal domes tweets are generally "brighter" and soft domes are generally easier to listen to for a long time (unless the crossover is complicated.) Stiffly coned mids (kevlar polyglass metal etc) are generally more difficult to crossover correctly, and so avoiding these materials in very cheap component sets is advisable (because cheap component sets usually forgo the notch filter required to make stiff midranges listenable.)
Other than that, once you factor in the road noise, cabin gain/loud subs, generally poor rear damping on the midrange due to unsealed door or kickpanel mounting, etc, one speaker often sounds much like another and the overall quality of the install comes from the crossover/amplification and speaker location as much as it does from any "magical" characteristic on the part of the speaker.
Passive crossover is done by passive components. One amplifier channel is distributed across several speakers by a "magic box". Cheaper, next to impossible to change and lower power handling
Active is done by a processor before the amplification step. One amplifier channel is required for each speaker. Much, much more expensive, very easy to change and usually better power handling