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If you've already bought your speakers but your ears find them fatiguing, you can experiment with your tweeters to improve their sound and increase your listening pleasure.
Try placing different fabrics in front of the tweeter (like silk or cotton) to diffuse the high frequencies and make the speakers sound softer. If you're feeling adventurous, you can get inside the speaker and change the passive crossover. If all else fails, you can always try replacing your tweeter with an aftermarket model. With a little patience, some tools, and the internet as a resource, you can replace your old and busted tweeters with some new high tech models, and enjoy smooth, non-fatiguing high frequencies. You also have the satisfaction of doing it yourself.
Horn tweeters put a different spin on things. By using a compression driver mounted to the throat of a horn, these types of tweeter have very high efficiency compared to cone or dome speakers.
The horn tweeter is a sophisticated system. Within the compression driver of this tweeter there is a diaphragm constructed of either resin or metal (such as titanium or aluminum). This diaphragm vibrates at a very high speed and funnels its output into the mouth of the horn. As the horn flares out, it focuses the sound waves creating a uniform wave front which makes for a very efficient tweeter. Horn tweeters approach 100dB in efficiency (most other tweeter types hover between 87 and 94dB). Horn tweeters dominated the early "tube" days of music reproduction and they continue to dominate the sound reinforcement segment.
Over time, as recording and playback equipment grew more sophisticated, speakers were needed that played ever higher sound frequencies. Cone tweeters evolved to fit this need. About two to three inches in diameter, they were basically just scaled down versions of modern, larger paper cone drivers. Although compact, these tweeters lacked the high frequency dispersion of other designs (such as dome tweeters).
We're talking about audio tweeters--not the kind of tweeters with beaks and wings. While hunting for your new speakers, you should become familiar with the different tweeter technologies available today. Because tweeters are responsible for reproducing the top two or three octaves of audible sound (about 2000 Hz to 20,000 Hz), they have a significant impact on the overall sound of a speaker system. A poorly designed tweeter can sound harsh and tinny, whereas a great one will add to that sense of realism all audiophiles strive to achieve.
A simple paper cone tweeter, although primitive, works very well for some applications (when you want to focus the treble in one direction). Most tweeters today are of the dome variety (textile, titanium, polymer, etc.). More exotic designs include horn-loaded drivers and planar / ribbon speakers. Tweeters must have incredible transient response (the ability to start and stop in less than a tenth of a millisecond).
Most audiophiles feel there is a definite 'flavor' difference between the various types of tweeters. You should audition all types to hear which sound best in your listening room or home theater.
In an effort to shrink tweeter size beyond cone speaker technology, dome tweeters were first seen commercially in the mid-fifties. A dome tweeter allows the speaker diaphragm to be small, which improves high frequency extension, and the magnet structure to be large which means higher power levels can be reached. The original dome tweeter's diaphragm was made of a phenolic material (similar to some compression drivers of the 1920's).
Speaker manufacturers offer speakers with dome tweeters constructed of diamonds, silk, and titanium (just to name a few). Each has its own unique 'sound' so try to compare before investing in one. Out of all the tweeter designs, dome tweeters are the most prevalent today as they're easy to manufacture and handle lots of power.
Ribbon tweeters are the close cousins of full-range planar speakers. A ribbon tweeter consists of a thin piece of metal, usually aluminum, which is placed between a magnet's positive and negative poles. The poles are then wired to a special transformer which feeds it a high current. The ribbon reacts to changes in this current, effectively acting as the coil in a normal dynamic speaker (which we're all used to).
A ribbon's efficiency is directly tied to how strong the magnet is; big magnet equals high efficiency. Ribbon tweeters have a different quality about them when compared to other tweeter designs.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|