Harshness in tweeters: the price of transparency?


I can't help notice a correlation between ultimate tweeter transparency and having to put up with harshness at loud volume levels. It can be very transparent and smooth to an appreciable volume, bit exceed that and it will go harsh if you apply the materials necessary for max transparency in those drivers.

I owned titanium dome tweeters in Avalon Eclipse speakers that ultimately caused me a case of a decade-long bout with tinnitus from the titanium dome tweeters, even when using a smooth Music Reference RM-9 tube amp.

I then owned a pair of horns with lightweight metal compression driver diaphragms. Again, unbearable harshness at loud levels where the metal "breaks up".

I now own a pair of beryllium dome tweeeters in speakers that again are volume limited before that metallic glare and harshness comes in. When I had silk domes none of that happened to me, but the details and transparency are markedly down for those drivers at all volumes.

The most transparent drivers I heard were the best tweeter horns but at the cost of harshness. They exceeded electrostatics for dynamics and transparency and detail, but at that cost. Electrostatics seem to me to be the best compromise in midrange on up detail and smoothness but with a real decline in dynamics.

Maybe diamond is the answer with its extreme rigidity and hardness. But I'm not rich enough for that yet, and probably never will be.

What's the scoop on the best tweeters out there for all of what I'm asking for here, but at a reasonable price? One possibility that intrigues me is the ceramic tweeter, but again, I don't know and those are not cheap either.

I want to play horns and cymbals loud and clear, without that bite in my ear. Soft domes aren't enough for me, at least not the ones I've heard after hearing horns and beryllium.
Great suggestions. I've got the ToP on D2D Sheffeild Lab. "What Is Hip" and "Squibcakes" are a couple of my all-time favs. There's an effect on "Squibcakes" where some sound flies around the room and goes behind my head, in two-channel.

With ToP, newbies need to be careful and get HRCDs or D2D versions. I've got a greatest hits CD that truly sucks, due to poor production.

Robbie Williams is a new one for me, the hunt begins...

Yes, Gallo Ref. 3s do what you want - crystal clear with no hardness. One of the best tweeters ever made...

As previously stated, titanium did not cause your tinnitus; prolonged exposure to LOUD music, noises, or illness caused your condition. An interesting 1970's study that few know about correlate loud noise combined with STRESS as the major factors in hearing problems.

As others have stated, think of your room as an integral part of your sound system. Once the dB's start reaching insane levels, room treatments & tweaks are mandatory!!!

I paid close attention to the "tweak factor". Even so, I believe that most rooms have a maximum dB level, were the sound starts to "fall apart". For my set-up, that was about 108-110 dB peaks at my listening chair.
Thanks for the list of suggestions. It's no wonder I left the noise of Audioasylum for this sane place.

Now to offer some of my responses, be it dead wrong or on the money or somewhere in between.

First, more background. Let's just say I'm constrained to minimonitors at this point. Room is 12' x 20' x 8' with hobby room and entertainment room combined, splitting this 20' length into two areas.

I have 3 amplifiers I can use right now. An inexpensive 100W/ch Denon receiver, a homebrew 10W/ch 300B SET amp, and a new Red Wine Audio Signature 30.2 30W/ch class T amp. Quite a spread there.

The digital source is rarely used, but is quite void of digital artifacts and is a recent model: Ayre CX-7e.

The "linestage preamp" is an Autotransformer Volume Control. That one sounds as smooth as silk domes.

The main source is phono, which includes a Teres 255 TT with a Verus rim drive motor system. The arm is a very smooth and not state-of-the-art VPI JMW-10. The cartridge is a silky smooth Koetsu Urushi. It feeds a step-up transformer into a very good homebrew tube phono stage. That feeds the AVC linestage.

The speakers are now Focal Micro Utopia Be's and a subwoofer.

It doesn't matter what amp I use, there is always that threshold where the distortion bites my ear, except in the case of the low power SET operating out of overload where it can't be too loud to make it happen. If I do overload, it happens again in the tweeter quite easily.

I only want to reach about 103 dB at 1m from the speakers, or the full range of the 30W/ch amp. I do know the difference in the sound between clipping and tweeter ringing, or break-up.

I also found that the amp with the highest current delivery capability makes the biting ringing sound at its worst. That means the SLA battery operated Red Wine amp is the worst at being capable of ringing these tweeters. They have also been found to be usually unacceptable to most horn speaker users where the looser coupling of the SET amp makes it actually sound its best, and for both situations it seems to me.

It seems if an amp can stop the cone on a dime, the cone will want to overshoot and ring more often with these amps than the wimpy SET amps. And metal cones ring more harshly than soft cones.

I have found that an engineered network can loosen the coupling between amp and speaker and make this effect less of a problem. But it does not eliminate it.

I found it interesting to read here that stress plus SPLs equal tinnitus. I also found you can make yourself stressed internally by listening to harsh distortion and learning to ignore it, or just lose feeling of it. I know the tweeters were causing me hyperacusis back then when I could hear the tweeters produce all the irritation of the hyperacusis effect and then later the tinnitus as well. For about eight years I lived with both of these symptoms and was cured by listening 16 hours/day to white noise at the proper level for a couple of years. The ENT doctor covered by my insurance was wrong when he said there was nothing that could be done, and the audiologist specializing in "TRT" that insurance wouldn't cover could and did cure me over time.

I feel as if I'm a specialist in hearing harshness in sound, mainly highs, where it still can re-ignite my hyperacusis if too loud and distorted. Just loud isn't sufficient for me to become pained with hyperacusis again. But loud and distorted in a "harsh way" as opposed to a "soft way" will bring back those hyperacusis symptoms that lowers my threshold of pain. It can only take 90 dB of harsh sound to make it hurt, and it can take more than 110 dB if it's not harsh. This is the case for me that is.

I don't know anything about Gallo Ref 3's, but I doubt that they're minimonitors. Maybe a smaller Gallo. But what do they feature that's good? I'm curious to know more.

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