The best tweeter design

Been giving some thought on the best tweeter design and I came up with the following list:

1) Plasma
2) Ribbon
3) Horn-loaded
4) Diamond dome
5) Ring radiator
6) Inverted dome

But since 1-3 are hard to implement or expensive most speakers start at #4, at best.

It is my own experience that implementation is at least as important as tweeter type. I have used Ionic, ribbon, and many different types of domes. The first two have many virtues but are hard to match with standard cone speakers. I have tried titanium domes and find I prefer soft domes to them; this is a personal choice, not "better" or "worse". As I like Scanspeak I decided to try some speakers with the "Revelator" tweeters, I have purchased some but not yet received them.
I LOVE the Raven ribbon tweeter in my Alon apeakers mated with the Seas Excel Magnesium drivers
So far one of the best I have seen is the new tweeter made by High Emotion Audio

It is high efficiency, very fast but smooth without brightness and extremely wide dispersion angles (120 degrees). It is also rear-firing and crosses over at about 2KHz. It surpasses any ribbon I've heard (for example the Raal) and ESLs. They have at least two patents on it as far as I know.

The only other tweeter that I have heard that is as fast (but much more limited dispersion angle) is the field-coil powered tweeter made by Classic Audio Loudspeakers.
Much cricism has been made about the dispersion of ribbon tweeters. I have a pair of inexpensive 5" monitors with "isodynamic" ribbon tweeters. They are placed about 8' apart, with they're backs on the same plane as the widescreen that is between them. Listening to video in stereo, the sound stretches well the the outside of the speakers, but dialog is rock solid, sounds like it is coming from the TV.
These hivi tweeters do have a sort of shallow waveguide(?) that is gently rounded to the sides, which may help.
A well known DIYer tested ribbons and concluded that, at least on the bench, they didn't fair very well compared to good domes. I have had speakers with soft and metal domes, horns and these ribbons, and the inexpensive hivi ribbons have always been a favorite.
Realistic Lineaum Tweeter
That High Emotion unit sure looks interesting. I'd love to give those a listen. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but, aren't compression drivers limited in power handling?
The High Emotion tweeter sure looks like the now defunct Linaeum.
There is no best. Only best choice for design. But of all the hi frequency transducers Ive heard used and this incs $5k diamond domes, plasma and the better ribbons was fostex t500amk2 but then only with matching horns.
I can see that you already concluded that Diamond dome has to be superior to Beryllium dome. Steve Mowry says in the article "The Whole Truth About Beryllium Diaphragms: -

"For a given geometry the first bending (break-up) frequency is proportional to the material Speed Of Sound, where the speed of sound within a material is defined as the square root of the Young’s Modulus divided by the Mass Density, (m/s); the higher the better. However, the Mass of the diaphragm must also be considered. Then the ratio of the Speed Of Sound to the Mass Density can be used as the materials’ acoustic figure of merit, (m4/kg/s); the higher the better."

After that he shows values of "Acoustic Figure of Merit" for different material (higher the better)in m4/kg/s

Berillum - 6.97
Diamond - 4.92
Aluminum - 1.86
Titanium - 1.13
Steel - 0.63
It is hard to beat a Ionovac plasma tweeter, and a horn at that. But, they need to be rebuilt, and are expensive. I also like the Magnepan tweeter/Ribbons, very detailed and natural, big open space, the Legacy Heil tweeters are wonderful, (Bill Duddleston reportedly has every significant tweeter made, and he chose these...I would trust his ears) and the Aerial tweeters on the 20T are wonderful. Domes just donn't open up for me as well. But I do like the top end of the Cremona M by Sonus Faber. Domes can do things like efficency, but many hurt my ears. Personal preference I guess.....
There is no real answer to this question. Asking for the best tweeter without reference to other drivers in the design is like asking what is the best tire without asking what application it would be used in - track, draf racing, off road, wet weather, etc. Like many of you I have heard tweeters utilizing ion, diamond, beryllium, ribbon, silk, paper, aluminum, titanium, etc. I couldn't tell you which is best unless you tell me the type of speaker design it will be implemented in. For example, the Maggie ribbon tweeter, although fast and airy, doesn't integrate well withe planar magnetic driver so I find it difficult to enjoy the music sometimes. However, the ribbon tweeter in an Apogee Diva integrate very well with the midrange ribbon, so in this implentation sound is coherent and example of excellent tweeter implementation. I like prefer the sound of silk domes in most cone designs because they integrate well and sound NATURAL, unlike some ceramic or beryllium tweeters I've heard.
Easy! Plasma tweeters are the best - period. But I am biased :)

Plasma tweeters excite air movement directly, with no mass. The sound is the purest you have ever heard. The only downside is cost.
Diamond cones , ribbons are also fast but directional and dont have the same snap /impact in my opinion .
I would suggest to use diamond cones also for lower freq ,as low as one can go for accurate (freq) response they have very lineair response and very low distortion , but at a cost.
The berylium cones i have not yet had much expirience with
Plasma tweeters excite air movement directly, with no mass. The sound is the purest you have ever heard. The only downside is cost.
Don't forget the health hazards too. :D
Face; "a tweeter to die for"?
The new plasma tweeters have catalysts that convert Ozone back to Oxygen - so no need for Helium tanks or gas masks :)

Is that a field coil tweeter? seems like they use the very same principle as the tweeters sold by radio shack some years ago..

Lineaum I believe was the name....


Have you heard a plasma tweeter before? Who has one selling commercially...


Plus 10.... The Maggies suffer from poor x-over design, apogee did a much better job...

Weseixas, yes that is true. But a guy over at audioasylum who does extensive mods with Maggies (Peter Gunn), including entirely new crossover and new frame, still doesn't like the Maggies with the true ribbon tweeters because of integration issue. When I owned the Maggie IIIs, I was impressed by the high freq detail, but the kinda wore on me over time. Still, very fine speakers to this day. To me, proper integration of high freq with the rest of the lower freq is more important than a highly detailed airy tweeter that sings its own tune.

It's funny with all the new tweeter designs using the latest diamond, beryllium, ion, and ribbon materials, I still find a simple silk dome tweeter to be more natural and more enjoyable. We, as audiophiles, tend to jump on the "latest and greatest" band wagons as the only way to achieve high end sound (I'm also guilty sometimes), but experience has shown me (and like Stanwal and Johnk) over and over again implemenation trumps choice of the individual part.
Wesexias I have the Acapella plasma tweeter in my system, and a friend has a Lansche Corona plasma tweeter. IOW - I have heard both plasma tweeters which are currently in production.

If I had to pick a second best, I would nominate the Heil AMT (as used in Adam Tensor speakers) as a superb tweeter. Extended, uncoloured, free of any metallic sound, and natural.
I greatly enjoy speakers with paper cone tweeters.
Electrostat is the best form of tweeters I have ever heard. Better than ribbon or any such planar design.

Among the conventional tweeters, Esotar is the most revealing yet natural sounding tweeters I have come across.
I used to agree with Amfibius about plasma tweeters. I have since bought Tidal speakers with a 1" diamond tweeter. I clearly is better and also expensive, however.

I know it doesn't seem to make any sense that a tweeter with mass would sound better than one with none, but I do find this. I think it may be the power supply that is needed with all plasma tweeters.
I've been speaker building for 32 years. The best tweeter that I've ever heard is the old Hill Plasmatronics.
I've had great success with ribbons, but they can be beamy and one that can cross low is expensive.
Horn loads: (you can hear the horn)
Diamond dome:(Accuton) Haven't tried them... I'm always on a budget
Ring Radiator: (old advents) ok
Inverted Dome: (Focal) Fast, Detailed, can sound etched & grainy easily with some electronics, wonderful with others.
Soft Domes: I currently use a Scan Speak with excellent results. Alot of variations with very different outcomes.
Bottom Line, use a technology correctly and you can come up with a very nice sounding speaker.
Weseixas, Blkadr, yes the HEA tweeter *does* look like the old Linaeum, but if you have a closer look they have little in common except that they are both tweeters. The HEA tweeter is sort of like a ribbon tweeter in a horn configuration- That diaphragm you see in the photos is a flexible film, and curved in such a way that it is very efficient. I understand that the tweeter has to be padded down so the other drivers can keep up; its about 107-109db 1 watt.

Unlike a ribbon, its not beamy, and even though its really fast, its not bright. They will be at RMAF...
Dracule ,

I do a agree with you about the big Maggies and find that a modded 1.6/ 1.7 sounds better than the big ribbon ones....

Amfibius :

I was not aware the acapella had plasma tweeters .......
Yea, I was going to try out the Peter Gunn modded 1.7 but change in finances prevents me at this moment.
Hello Atmasphere,

Interesting and i do believe i know the design of what you speak, just 4 times the size of the one presented.

Funny the comments about ribbons being Beamy, IMO it's very dependent on application and not necessarily a reflection of ribbon topology.

They ( ribbons) have issues ( eff/load ) but beamy is not one of them and I'm not saying you are incorrect, as i have heard such myself, also from ESL's and IMO sounding "Beamy" has more to do with poor integration and design than Ribbon topology.....

(Defining ribbon tweeter as a vertically suspended diaphragm suspended in a magnetic field,open freely front/ back and tensioned only at it's vertical ends...)
As far as ribbons being beamy. In my experience, not all ribbons are beamy. It does have more to do with ribbon design (dispersion pattern) but not all ribbons are beamy. Also, some of this can be overcome, by crossover frequency & slopes. I've seen open back and sealed back ribbons and one where the ribbon was mounted horizontally. Hopefully everyone has sat in front of a good set of ribbons, what they do, they do very well. Again, I've always been a budget builder. I've tried a few sets of HiVi's, theirs are a mixed bag and some of their ribbons have an extensive rise on the high end that bothers me, One in particular was quite good. I've played with Bolender Graebner and an old Fostex. Some of the Fountek look promising and I've seen great results with RAAL. Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to just look at a ribbon and tell if it will be beamy. I know none of this is really a help, but to say, there is alot out there, some of it is very good.
Why is an inverted (concave) dome on this list if a conventional (convex) dome is not unless made of diamond or horn-loaded, and leaving out 'soft' domes unless configured as a "ring radiator"? Too arbitrary to be meaningful IMO.

[I'm deleting the rest that originally followed the above and reposting it in a new thread.]
I'll take the Lansche plasma tweeters. Zero mass, no ozone production (as it is converted into pure Oxygen). The sound is incredible.
a tweeter is only as good as the capacitor in front of it! a few years ago I have change the stock mundorf silver/gold caps in my avantgarde omega duos against teflon v-caps. the improvement was dramatic. a costly upgrade though.
really amazing how much music "gets lost" in even a good mundorf cap!!
duomike :
a tweeter is only as good as the capacitor in front of it!

I guarantee that if I were to swap your capacitors out and put in generic poly film capacitors you would not hear a difference - it is the knowing that changes your perception rather than the actual sound changing.

My friend did this experiment, a customer sent fancy "gold" capacitors to be used in multiple sets of speakers - he used those as requested except one pair of speakers was made with generic film capacitors.  If he could compare the speakers and hear which ones didn't have the gold capacitors he could have another pair of the speakers free, and the one set of gold capacitors would be installed in the next order regardless - the customer replied : don't bother using the gold capacitors anymore, there is no discernible difference no matter how try I hard to hear it (because he didn't know which one had the "regular" caps, and there was no actual difference in sound, he could not detect by listening).

The best tweeter design

Been giving some thought on the best tweeter design and I came up with the following list:

1) Plasma
2) Ribbon
3) Horn-loaded
4) Diamond dome
5) Ring radiator
6) Inverted dome

But since 1-3 are hard to implement or expensive most speakers start at #4, at best.


1: Plasma way (out in front)
2: ESL (dedicated tweeter)
3: Planar (Mylar with voice coil etched into it)
4: Metalic Ribbon (Decca Kelly)
The rest are also ran's compared to the above.

Cheers George

In your opinion, where does an HVFR (High Velocity Folded Ribbon) rank in the pecking order? To my understanding, second (to the Plasma at #1).

In your opinion, where does an HVFR (High Velocity Folded Ribbon) rank in the pecking order? To my understanding, second (to the Plasma at #1).
Depending on lightness of the diaphragm, and the motor that drives it, I would perhaps rate it at No4.

Cheers George 
One utilizing the voice box of an actual small bird. Creepy but effective.
The plasma is very fine tweeter, the Lansche Speakers don't feel emotionally engaging to me, i find them very accurate and would love to put them in a studio.
Well, just my opinion of course but...

The best tweeter/high end I’ve ever heard is still the MBL radialstrahler
omni design.

I still distinctly remember first encountering them at CES in 2000, wandering the grounds I suddenly heard for the first time what really sounded like live music coming from a room. I entered and the MBL 101Ds were playing some jazz. Aside from the obvious imaging and clarity, what struck me was the realism of the drum cymbals - they were actually full, big, round, dimensional and shimmered in the air like real drum cymbals. In contrast, every other speaker at that show, or that I’d ever heard before, sounded squeezed, like "tweeters."

Subsequently I heard various iterations of the 101s in better conditions and that aspect of their sound reproduction always impressed me. I finally got hold of a pair of MBL 121 monitors several years ago, which I keep around even as I go through other high end full range speakers. Every time I play the MBLs they just embarrass just about everything I’ve heard in terms of natural high frequencies - the most effortless, natural detail I’ve ever heard.  I know Jonathan Valin of AS touted the MBL tweeter as the best he'd heard for quite a long time (though I think he's described some new speakers as even better).

(I recently auditioned Raidho speakers, thinking of buying a pair, and their high end was indeed smooth, but overall they didn’t impress me as much as the MBLs).
Implementation is everything.

Integration with the speaker and the room second.

The material of the tweeter, or technology, a close 3rd.

And I like the best AMT's over the best ribbons, and certainly over the plasma tweets. 

True horns.... in the right place. There are real trade-offs when you go that route, including the size of the best makes them harder to live with.


I should also point out, some of the very WORST tweeters I've heard were AMT's as well. Cheaply made, horrible measuring, horrible sound. Making some people rich, so what do I know??

@prof    100% agree about the MBL.  Piano reproduction is especially stunning.   I've heard them only at shows driven by MBL electronics.   How much minimum power is needed to drive the 121 monitors?

The best tweeter is the one that best matches the rest of the system.  I've heard a lot of really clean and fast ribbon tweeters that simply did not sound right with the rest of the system.  Integration is the key.

Also, the right choice has a lot to do with how much of the frequency range the tweeter is expected to cover.  In some applications the tweeter is providing significant output down to 1,000 hz or even lower, in others, the tweeter may be crossed in to provide frequency coverage at MUCH higher frequencies.  I don't know about what specific type is inherently better than others, nor can I really take the measure of the sound of a particular tweeter absent consideration of the sound of the rest of the system.  I've heard good high frequency sound from systems using all kinds of tweeters. 

For most convention box systems, I almost always like the high frequency reproduction of pleated ribbons (AMT-type); they sound clean and seem to integrate well with dynamic woofers in two-way systems.  I've heard regular ribbons work well, but, they can sound disconnected and too different in sound with the rest of the system in most applications using dynamic woofers. 

The exotic plasma tweeters I've heard in very expensive systems were quite impressive--very clean, clear and open sounding.  But, the rest of the system was also quite fast and clear AND VERY EXPENSIVE, so I don't know how they would work in more conventional systems. 

As for more conventional dome types, I don't know if I have noticed any particular types standing out as either consistently good or bad.  If I had to guess, the majority of the systems I liked had fabric domes. 

Great topic!   I have found that often, the best tweeter is the one that most closely matches the rest of the drivers sonically, and perhaps, in material type as well.   Ribbon tweeters definitely have a certain wide dispersion magic.  

To my ear, I have found a lot of tweeters "ring" - especially the earlier beryllium tweeters.   It's that ringing that can cause real problems for someone with sensitive hearing or tinnitus.  

I like a properly designed horn tweeter myself.   I also like the diamond tweeters, but my understanding is that they are "heavy" and cause the speaker to be less efficient. 

I would like to hear the Lansche speakers with the plasma tweeter again. That's an interesting design for sure.

re amps and MBL 121s.

I'd had concerns that I would have to use more powerful amps than my Conrad Johnson Premier 12 tube amps (140W side).   But before I bought the MBL 121s I read that reviewer Peter Breuninger had used the tiny 14W classic Eico amp to briefly drive the much larger MBL 116 speakers, so that gave me some hope.  (I also own the Eico amp).
I'd also heard the bigger MBL 101s on tube amps before and they had never sounded better to me.

As it turned out I had nothing to worry about.  My Conrad Johnson tube amps drove the 121s beautifully - they have dense, punchy drive to the sound as well as finesse.    But what amazed me more was the little 14W Eico HF-81 amp on the MBLs!   The Eico's are simply magic in that they produce such a big rich midrange, with tons of "sparkle" and don't sound "slow."  But they do have a bit of an overripe bottom end on most speakers - the sound down there just gets bigger and deeper.

The Eico was an incredible combo with the 121s because it makes them sound lush and gorgeous, though not slow, and it gives the sense of deeper richer bass - the overall sensation is like it made the speaker "bigger" than it is. 

Ya never know until you try....

I"ve heard them all in one form or another.  It's all about implementation.  Plenty of threads on here about best 'mid', tweeter, woofer etc...

I personally feel that the reason speakers sound better now days is due to the better quality materials designers have to use.  The problem is that too many of the designers (my opinion only) don't think past what they know and just make the same mistakes with a better quality material.  Again, it's all about implementation.

The best speaker I've ever heard is the Vandersteen 7 Mk 2.  He has figured out a way to marry the right carbon fiber cloth with an in house made balsa wood core that the carbon fiber sandwiches with.  It's an expensive process, just like using other materials, but he gets the strength to weight ratio down just right and has married these carbon fiber drivers to produce the most coherent speakers "I've ever heard using multiple drivers.  I wonder why so many folks over look such a great design as his drivers are rarely mentioned when talking about 'best drivers'.

Again, there are plenty of outstanding speakers for all ears out there, but for me, Vandersteen has just nailed it with his carbon fiber (he auditioned a lot of different cloths before selecting what he's using) with the balsa wood (CNC machined) core.  Give near perfect pistonic movement that is a must when reproducing sound. JMHO
As the facts unravel I’ve found this to be true: Tweeters don’t tweet by themselves as the design of the crossovers and any element the designer utilizes to make ’em work seems to trump (sorry, I hate that word) the physical material…I’ve had ribbons, horns, soft domes, magnesium/aluminum, etc., and some are bright, others not so much…some more coherant than others, and all having seemingly zero to do with the material they’re made from.
You know everyone who is lauding the MBL tweeters, I wonder how much of it is really the tweeters. I mean, if you turned them off, you'd still hear most of the piano notes. :)

Perhaps there is more to the MBL sound than _just_ the tweeters?