Tweeter type and brightness

I presently own Martin Logan Odysseys that I purchased new in 2005. I've enjoyed them very much but I'm having to replace the power supply board in one of them as I did in the other one about 5 yrs ago and I'm thinking that it may be time to look into speakers using more recent technology.

I auditioned several new sets at Sound Advice including the Monitor Audio silver 2, 6, 8 and 10 plus a small pair of ML's. I thought all of them were very good. Additionally, I bought a pair of Jamo Concert Eights several months ago that were fantastic for my type music which is mostly solo guitar. I regret selling them but at least I learned how good quality bookshelf speakers can be.

Anyway, I've read in several posts that metal dome tweeters have a tendency toward exaggerated or tinny brightness which can be very uncomfortable for me because of a hearing issue that I have. I want to avoid this and am asking for advice regarding this experience of others and what tweeter construction, if any, is generally best to avoid what I call screechiness.

I've been told that the technologies that best avoid this are ribbon tweeters or domes of some softer material than the various metals used in many of them. In one of the forums here on Audiogon this subject was discussed in some detail and at least several participants seemed to minimize the relationship between tweeter design and this problem. They suggested that more likely potential causes would be such things as room acoustics, interconnect quality, rake, crossover problems, etc.

I agree that each of these considerations could lend to the issue but I'm looking for a good starting point to at least minimize the contribution of the speaker design to this problem.

I've heard the gold series Monitor Audio speakers which do incorporate ribbons and they seem to work perfectly with my music but they, like the larger new ESL's are substantially outside my current budget limits. I'm currently using some borrowed temporary speakers while I'm waiting for the new circuit board so I can sell my Odysseys. In the meantime I would appreciate any advice I could use to help with an approach to selecting a speaker best suited to my needs. My upstream equipment includes Shanling solid state CD player, CAL DAC and Rogue Audio Sphinx 100W hybrid amp.
You can try a pair of Spatial Computer VB1's first before moving to a new speaker. Darn near removed all the glare and harshness for the aluminum dome tweeters on my Paradigm S8 V1's. Check out their web site for more details. Money back guarantee as well.
I too have a hearing condition and am bothered by high frequencies especially from harsh digital thru metal tweeters. I have really tamed the harshness in my system with acoustic panels on the walls to absorb standing waves. I'm also using Cardas cables which seem to have a more rolled-off top end extension. But out of all my tweeks, the room treatments were the most effective and made for improved sound in every aspect. I must point out though, that good source material usually makes a metal tweeter no problem, but we can't always count on that.

I have recently auditioned Dali and Dynaudio floorstanders and been very impressed by how natural the highs and mids sound. The Dali uses a ribbon crossed over to a soft dome tweeter and the Dynaudio uses a soft dome tweeter. One of these will soon be my next speaker.
Metal tweeters aren't always bright although logically it would seem they would be. There are many factors in design and implementation that make drivers, metal or soft dome or whatever, sound the way they do.
I see you wrote a testimonial after trying out the VB1's. Any idea what the theory is behind them; like what's in the box?
I guess any type of tweeter can sound like crap if it employs crap materials, is not designed well, or if the crossover isn't implemented properly. That said, you sound like a great candidate for a ribbon tweeter. I heard a pair of Selah speakers that sounded very sweet -- detailed with no harshness. Perhaps Goldenear, Dali, or Mark & Daniel as well?

Short of ribbon tweets there are some sweet-sounding speakers from Joseph Audio, Dynaudio, and Nola (all silk dome tweets) that have a detailed, refined sound that may not offend your senses as well. There probably are some good metal tweets out there too, but in the lower price ranges they may be a little more risky than these other alternatives. Best of luck.
I have a pair of Silverline Preludes that some reviewers noted as having a sweet and well balanced high frequency tone without inherent treble harshness. I bought a pair based on reviews and the sound of a pair a friend had just bought (lucky for me a used pair popped up online). I like 'em, and they do have a sweet tone even with aluminum/magnesium tweeters. Note that I also like the fact that the tweeters have little screens over them for dispersion or something, and the screen makes them "finger poke resistant" so they stay round.
You'd probably like a folded ribbon tweeter like those found in Goldenear Aon and Triton models. Most easy on the ears.

I've heard the GE Aon3's. Very big and good sound for a speaker their size and price!
There are many factors in design and implementation that make drivers, metal or soft dome or whatever, sound the way they do.

I agree with you Wolf, but when somebody has a hearing condition where high frequencies can cause discomfort or even pain, any tweeter can be an issue. I've also found that true with cables.
The better(more resolving) your tweeters and cables are; the more they will reveal shortcomings upstream(elsewhere in the system and recordings).
I've always gravitated toward silk dome but even some of those can be bright. I hate to say it but you usually get what you pay for.
There are many factors that can make a metal/soft dome tweeter sound harsh and the most common are the series cap used in the crossover to the tweeter, the internal wiring along with magnet composition and the internal vibration modulation of the crossover if implemented in a perfunctory manner.

I have the unique ability to swap out magnets on my dome tweeter drivers in a matter of minutes. These tweeters are the latest aluminum/magnesium composition and the difference between ceramic and AlNiCo is certainly NOT subtle with the ceramic sounding harsh, forward, shouty and somewhat confused compared to the AlNiCo magnets which sound smooth and natural with an expanded dynamic range and frequency range along with an improved top to bottom coherency.

At first the AlNiCo magnets sound dull but with further listening the whole sound field is solidified with real high frequency energy being reproduced with full weight, linearity and soundstage depth.

I wish I had the ability to swap in Neodymium magnets to asses their attributes but at this time that is not an option. Bottom line is to ensure you have the most high quality series cap in the tweeter feed and ensure the internal crossover is not being modulated by the internal vibrations of the woofer, an external crossover would be ideal.
Somehow I don't think magnet type has anything to do with frequency reproduction, and I agree that it can be painful to stick cables in your ears.
Many metal tweeters are harsh and particular major speaker manufacturer has been an example for years.

But, some metal tweeters have their resonances very well controlled, the Revel Salons being a great example: smooth, sweet, low distortion, non-irritating highs. Go for a low distortion speaker like that.
You may like the Brodmann VC 2 or VC7 depending on budget, worth trying if there is a possibility near you.. They are quite natural in the upper registers, and I'd imagine would suit acoustic guitar very well..

Best Regards,
Thanks, all of you for your responses; they've been helpful but I jumped the gun a bit. To have speakers in the system while I'm trying to decide what to do about the Odysseys, I ordered a used pair of Monitor Audio Silver eights from eBay. They actually sounded quite good in the showroom.

Going back to what I said earlier though, speakers that incorporated ribbon tweeters sounded best to me but, based on what I am reminded of on this forum, it could be for reasons not necessarily related to speaker construction. I say this because, in the store, the silver series Monitor Audio speakers are in a demo area where an A/V receiver with a speaker switching device is used to demonstrate speakers. On the other hand, the speakers with the ribbons are demonstrated in another room using more expensive separates with direct connections between the speakers done manually.

Anyway, it crossed my mind that, if one is very satisfied with a speaker except for the HF harshness, how reasonable might it be to consider replacement of its domed tweeter with a ribbon tweeter? I know that the considerations are many, the most obvious being redesign of crossover frequency points and slopes and physical modification of the cabinet to accommodate the different shape and size tweeter frame.

This may seem an outrageous concept but in my very early years I did do some of my own cabinet and x-over design and construction but that goes back to my youth when sound systems were monaural and relatively unsophisticated. Because I've been retired for a long time, though, my monetary resources are more limited than in the past but I do have more time to devote to interesting projects.

I know this sounds like little more than mental calisthenics but I really do want some input on this. I can no longer justify spending a lot of money on audio components but I haven't lost any desire for quality sound.

Current components are Shanling solid state CD player, CAL DAC, Rogue Audio 100W Sphinx hybrid stereo amp and 10 year old ML Odyssey speakers, one needing a power supply circuit board. These speakers will probably be sold after I install a new board.
Electrostats and ML in general will be hard to better for your purposes I suspect.

I'd give careful scrutiny to the digital source, the DAC, and any potential issues iwth higher levels of jitter than might be possible otherwise.

JItter is usually the prime culprit when modern digital becomes outright irritating. High frequencies are where most of the nastiness occurs!

How old is the CAL DAC?

DAC technology has improved significantly over the last 10 years or so. I do not know for sure but you might be able to improve their.

AN inexpensive test would be to try a good quality used tube DAC with the current MLs, if still needed once they are in good working order.

I'd like an mhdt Paradisea DAC for your application. Very musical and no harshness ever that I have experienced over several years and various system configurations. It uses a single inexpensive tube that can be rolled to tweak the sound to your hearts content. I'd recommmend any mhdt DAC you can land though. They are inexpensive and quite top notch from my experience. I also have a SS Constantine which is also top notch but delivers a more typical SS presentation albeit not harsh at all in a good setup.

If that fails and you can attribute any treble issues to the MLs (I find that hard to accept) then perhaps try a change there, even newer MLs perhaps. Treble in modern MLs I have heard in good working order in a good setup are absolute top notch as one would expect with a good quality ES speaker.

IF a good ML based system causes listening fatigue, that might be an indicator of very sensitive hearing. Best solution might be a speaker that has limited high end extension period. Or maybe some kind of low pass filter in teh circuit somewhere, although most audiophiles would probably scoff at such a thing. Each of us hear differently though so hard to say what works best in each case.

When I was younger and could hear clearly up to 20Khz, my ears were very easily offended, even with good sound reproduction. Not as much anymore at age 50+.

Another thing: do what you can to physically and electronically isolate components from each other. More distance between components and from external devices that emit EM fields usually helps keep noise that may be irritating even at a subconscious level to a minimum. Also power conditioning to help clean the electricity up at the source for any digital source gear and also pre-amp (not power amp) could probably only help. A good power conditioner/supply strip for that application should not cost more than a few hundred max. That could be a good insurance policy at a minimum, depending on how "clean" your wall power is (varies greatly case to case).
This is a very informative article from Enjoy the Music:
The World Beyond 20kHz.

Best regards,
Roy Johnson
Mapman makes a good point regarding the DAC being the cause of troublesome high frequencies. If the harshness persists with the new spkrs, try a different CDP/DAC as a test.
A BEnchmark DAC is widely regarded as fairly reference quality in regards to jitter and in fact would make a good "benchmark" for that.

There are also reclocking devices out there designed to minimize jitter that that can be inserted between source and DAC, which might also be a good reference test. Audioengr, who posts frequently here, makes such a device for modest cost.
Link I just gave must not have been typed in quite right.

Here it is again:

The World Beyond 20kHz
Interesting article, but of course it is marketing and not sure I'm buying the value of the pitch completely.

THere is no distinction between the hearing of young and old, which is generally considered to not be the same in regards to hearing high frequencies. I suppose the target demographic ain't the young folk. :^)
It is not difficult to overlook the few paragraphs donated to what this man's company produces and how there, they all like the results of engineering and design that far exceed the 20kHz bandwidth.

He presents the findings of many other scientists of why extra-wide bandwidth and low phase-shift reproduction are important. These are facts and science evidence of which any advanced audiophile should at least be made aware.

Such as the concept of a coherent cylinder of radiation from original OHM speakers is a useful concept to know and more fun to hear.

Definitely no BS in this article.


The link I posted above once again failed to function just now as I tried it. However, I did finally find the issue with my typing, so once again: Enjoy the Music Article

In previous forums I've commented on my hearing issues and questioned whether a good equalizer would help with my sensitivity to upper frequencies. Although I didn't comment on it, though, I've always felt that frequencies beyond audible range added, through some mechanics of harmonics I guess, to what I believe is referred to as timbre. I still think that to be the case so using an equalizer to merely minimize the offending frequencies would also diminish overall sound quality through elimination of frequencies beyond audible limits. For that reason I've abandoned this approach. The article referred to by Royj, (the world above 20kHz) even though I had difficulty understanding much of it, seems to address what I'm referring to.

All of that being said, although I will look into issues that relate to my CD player and DAC as suggested by Mapman, I'm still concentrating on tweeter choices as at least one element toward potential improvement. I didn't have the problems I've discussed when I was using Magnepan or Focal speakers but, then, that was when my hearing was 15+ years younger. BTW, I borrowed a pair of small inexpensive floor standing Infinity speakers for temporary use while my Odysseys are out of commission. Although overall sound quality is only O.K., they are quite easy to listen to with very little high frequency harshness, and the reproduction of violin and cello is quite realistic and pleasing.

My current thinking, based on my internet research, is that most quality tweeters are capable well above 20kHz regardless of design so there remains the question of why some speakers (and maybe it's not the tweeters at all) sound harsh in the upper frequencies.

A speaker's frequency response in the presence range can contribute to brightness and fatigue. Two soft-dome speakers that I've owned (and that are widely referred to as warm) I found very fatiguing in the treble and soon sold: the Spendor S3/5 (check out the Stereophile response graph), and though these were much more enjoyable, the Dynaudio Focus 110. You might look for a speaker with the "Gundry dip" in the presence range.

My two favorite speakers I've owned both have metal tweeters and zero listening fatigue: Vandersteen 2CE Sig II and Vandie 1Ci, which I'm happily listening to right now.
Broadstone .... your question is reasonable but difficult to answer because there are so many variables involved. Ergo the various suggestions above.

What I'm about to say may be a bit heretical, but if you like your ML ESLs, why not fix them and keep them. I don't recall reading that you are experiencing compatibility issues with your MLs and your amp. And to start fiddling with separate components ... oiy. You may take one step forward and two steps back.

As to your concern about metal domed tweeters, I've read many posts that go both ways. Someone mentioned the Revel Salons and Studios. These speakers use beryllium dome tweeters. Same re the higher-end Focals, Paradigms and Ushers. Beryllium is a very light and brittle metal that has a higher resonant frequency than other types of metal tweeters, like aluminum and titanium.

But even these exotics can sound bad if there is system incompatibility with the gear and the room. That's why I suggested that if you're happy, consider sticking with what you have. Just a cheaper and easy alternative option to think about.

The entire system setup from power cabling to components largely dictates the sonic characteristics of the tweeter, as well as other drivers. Each tweeter technology has its own inherent characteristics in terms of dispersion and dynamics, but it is too broad a sweeping generalization to count out certain ones simply based on tweeter cone material.

I do very much enjoy the performance of true ribbon tweets. A panel speaker will disperse the soundstage wider generally and the treble will be more atmospheric, less localized. You will have a sharper imaging and tighter localization within the soundstage with a dynamic tweeter.

As to the nuances of the tweeter you will have to work with cabling to adjust to preference.
Bifwynne, your suggestion makes a lot of sense and is a direction that I'm seriously starting to lean toward. I've enjoyed the Odysseys for many years and what seems to have happened is that when I thought my equipment was failing it was actually a gradual age related hearing loss causing my problem. I agree with you that I may have been a bit hasty looking for ways to abandon the Odysseys and will repair them even if I decide to sell them.

I'm not that well versed in current design or conversant with much of the modern technical language but am not a newcomer to the hobby. I assembled my first monaural Heathkit amp and built the "Sweet Sixteen" speaker array when I was a teenager about 50 years ago. I also turned my parents' attic into an infinite woofer baffle because high volume and big bass were the kings in those early days of hi fi. Now, detail is what good listening is about for me and this seems in many ways associated with the upper frequencies. Because my hearing begins dropping off just below 5kHz I've experienced loss in this detail and I was finally fitted with hearing aids which, btw, I only use when listening to music.

To give you all an idea of how far I had gone to resolve my problem, a couple of months ago I listened to a pair of Canalis Anima's which are fantastic and unbelievably detailed but a bit expensive to experiment with. I then purchased used Jamo Concert Eights in an attempt to duplicate the Animas and it was a close comparison but some of the high frequency harshness was still there at higher volumes. Trying to identify which speakers best suited my needs I installed a speaker switcher in order to A/B between the Odysseys and the Concert Eights. I found that for critical music listening at lower volumes the Jamos shined but for TV and DVD the Odysseys were best. After I bought hearing aids, though, I started hearing more detail from the MLs and sold the Jamos.

Anyway, until the new circuit boards arrive so I can put the ML's back in service and can work on approaches to keeping them, I'm suspending pursuit of potential fixes based on choosing alternative speakers. I'll probably be asking for more advice during this process and will report on how this goes.
Broadstone -- my compliments on your sage approach. Another suggestion is contacting ML to see if they rehab their older gear.

I seem to recall reading that some ESL/planar companies refurbish their older products. I can't seem to recall the ESL companies that do this, but perhaps other folks will chime in. But I'm pretty sure Magnepan refurbishes its older planars.

Frankly, I see no reason to fix what ain't broke, especially if you're happy with its performance.

Here are my bitches with the most popular tweeter types:

Metal domes have resonant frequencies around 25-30 Khz. One can argue that
this is above the limits of human hearing, but the resonant spike is so strong
(sometimes 10-20 dB) that I'd think that when excited it throws off the tweeter's
ability to smoothly render the audible frequencies.

Textile domes are smoother, but are often not as fast, let alone rigid, as metal
domes, and most of them roll off quickly above 10 Khz.

Ribbon tweeters are usually very fast and linear to 30Khz or more, but must be
crossed over at 3Khz or higher, which can cause a dispersion suckout around the
crossover point unless a midrange is used or the mid/woofer is 4"
diameter or less.

On the other hand:
Ring radiators don't have a resonant spike and are reasonably linear out to
around 30Khz. It's the tweeter of choice in many Sonus Faber and other high end
speaker companies.

Now, however, there is an emerging tweeter type based on a textile dome
wherein the tip of the dome is "pinned" in place. This converts the
tweeter from a traditional dome tweeter to a ring radiator. I first saw it on
Internet-Direct speaker vendor Aperion's website in their top href=
line, but I see where Sonus Faber has implemented a very
similar thing in their new href=
line. Such
a tweeter would be less susceptible to overshoot and beaming, and SF claims
such a tweeter can handle a lower crossover point than for the same tweeter
without the pin.

I thought this tweeter type was a clever concept when I first saw it on the
Aperion, but the Sonus Faber version sort of validates the concept for me. The
grand-bookshelf-loudspeaker-measurements>Stereophile review
show the Aperion tweeter to peak by 5 dB at 10Khz, drop 5
db by 20 Khz, and then rise 5 dB again to 30 Khz, more like a Vifa ring radiator.
Similarly, Sonus Faber claims response out to 30 Khz in its Olympica line.

That said, my current favorite tweeter is the quasi-ribbon in my new
Magneplanar 1.7s. Fast, smooth, extended, good dispersion, and nary a hint of
beaming, overshoot, noticeable dips or peaks, or ringing.
Johnnyb53, I think the resonant point of beryllium dome tweeters is somewhat further out than most other metal domes tweets. My fronts are Paradigm Signature 8s (v3), which as I mentioned above use beryllium tweeters. My speakers are very fast and detailed, but not bright and harsh.

That's not to say that I didn't have configuration issues relating to amp/speaker compatibility. But I think I wrestled that bad boy down by using the 4 ohm taps on my new amp and moving the speakers around a little.

Interestingly, I think the reason the use of the 4 ohm taps calmed the S8s down had more to do with an impedance hump at the 2.2K Hz X-over point. I don't think tweeter ringing was at issue at all.

In fact, speaker impedance in the "power" range (say 30 Hz through 700 Hz) was 4 ohms. So ... using the amp's higher output impedance tap (8 ohms -- about 1 ohm)) flavored (for lack of a better term) the acoustic presentation by reducing output voltage in the power range by almost a full db and increased the output voltage by almost a full db in the upper midrange/low treble spectrum. The 2 db difference had the effect of brightening the acoustic presentation, which I found fatiguing.

So, by using the 4 ohm tap (output impedance about .55 ohms), output voltage regulation was tighter (about +/- .4 db) reducing the coloration by over 1 db. Ergo the speakers sound very sweet.

I'm not familiar with ring radiator tweeters. Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

I think woofer type is more likely to result in brightness than tweeter type, very few of us in the audio hobby can hear above 20KHz anyway which is where the breakup mode is for most tweeters.
As it turns out, it may have nothing or very little to do with tweeter design or construction material at all, in my case. Recently, I bought a pair of Monitor Audio S8's and had a tweeter failure in one (open circuit). It took me an hour or so to pin down the reason that the sound was unbalanced and sounded so generally bad.

Because it will be at least 3 weeks to get the tweeter replacement, and even though there is a significant loss of quality, I decided to remove the tweeter from the other speaker because listening with one tweeter out was very fatiguing and annoying. The resulting sound quality was, of course, bad, having lost detail and timbre.

Now, the rest of the news; even in the absence of tweeters, the sounds that caused me discomfort because of what I call shrillness, were pretty much still there so the tweeters, in my case at least, are not the culprits. To test this I used the CD "jazz at the Pawnshop" which has a pretty good range of frequencies and sharp volume rises. With no tweeters, this music lost its personality but retained harshness in those areas that bothered me with the tweeters in place. So.....where do I go from here? BTW, the upstream equipment is Shanling Digital CD player, CAL Sigma DAC and Rogue Audio 100 WPC hybrid amp.

Clipping could be another factor that affects all sound, not just high frequencies.

Also noise resulting from power source, nearby EM fields, etc.

Do you know if your setup might be clipping, even subtly/slightly when the problem occurs?

Once clipping and avoidable sources of noise are out of the equation, sound quality of good quality gear should be fairly optimal. THen it comes down more to personal preferences regarding the "flavor" of sound, which often no two people will ever agree upon exactly.
..and also lets not forget the potential issue with jitter in digital audio specifically.

Noise/jitter/clipping....minimize those three and be in a good position to judge all the rest.
I really like titanium tweeters, but magnesium and beryllium even better. Aluminum tweeters are kind of rough, imo. And I will say that ATC has amazing soft dome tweeters in their speakers. Very detailed and not harsh at all.
Byfwynne, once again you suggest a logical approach to one of my several questions. I will repair the ML's whether or not I decide to continue with them. At this point it's very likely that I will put them back into service and keep them; after all, after 14 years of listening to them Im, at least, used to them and there really doesn't appear to be much of a market for them anyway.

I'm going to suspend further searching for the "perfect" solution at least until I get the power supply board from ML, so I can reevaluate them in my system.
Although in general the harder the cone material, the more we have to do deal with frequency break up or frequency rise in speaker design, today, you can no longer make the broad statement about any specific tweeter design based on material used. Todays speakers have been designed with a multitude of damping materials and most of the phenomenon thought of in specific cone materials don't apply if a tweeter is well thought out in the design phase. Next, the minor problems that are not corrected in the tweeter design, can certainly be handled in the crossover. Any well thought out speaker today, should be fairly accurate with a minimum swing in frequency across its bandwidth.