Tweeters! Speaker Drivers and Speaker Driver Matches for the DIY Speaker Builder

Choosing speaker drivers for your speaker build can be a daunting task. This article is going to focus on tweeters. We will be taking a look at mid-range drivers, bass drivers, and then follow up by showing some of the tricks to matching them together to finish our your speaker projects.

This can save you time, whether you are going to be using a passive crossover or an active crossover as we use they will all work very well.

scanspeak revelator r2904 7000 ring radiator tweeter

Some notes of caution however, we feel that passive crossovers should be avoided for the DIY speaker building enthusiast. It’s not that they can’t be built to work fairly well, they can… But your life will be much simpler if you can tailor the response of the speaker drivers quickly by implementing DSP and the use of either a speaker controller or even a PC to correct for those response problems.

Some drivers need very little filtering, these speaker drivers are typically the more expensive units that are out of range for many builders. Other drivers will need a lot of work to get them to sound and measure as you would hope they should perform for your speaker plans.

So, when building your project; try to use the flattest response drivers and mate them with other drivers they are sure to work well with. (More on how to pick these later) But you will have a much easier time if starting out with a project that is sure to succeed than attempting to make subpar drivers do something they simply cannot do.

As I said DSP just makes fixing problem areas that much easier and simpler to manipulate quickly, opposed to experimenting with soldering and de-soldering passive components. Not only that, as you listen to your system and to other speaker systems you are likely to notice things where you may need to make a change.

DSP makes these changes very quick, simple and pain free. It’s important to be able to make changes to a system after taking some simple measurements and listening. In my personal system this can be done in less than 5 minutes with a few mouse clicks after running some test sweeps. I feel most users should take advantage of this convenience provided they know their way around a computer a little bit. It really isn’t very hard to do, or to learn for that matter.

Our speaker driver matches

We will start by outlining some good quality units on the lower end of the budget, then move up in expense from there. Generally speaking you get what you pay for, but there are exclusions to this.

There are fairly inexpensive drivers that can perform better than others costing several times more. Usher is a perfect example of this. They have some very good units such as the 8945P and 8945A midrange drivers. They can perform with the best available at nearly any cost, and do so at a reasonable price. There are others too like some SB Acoustics drivers that can be even less expensive than the fantastic Usher driver units but generally don’t perform quite as high as the 8945P, 8945A Usher units.

This will be a three or four part article series. We will start with tweeters, then midrange drivers, bass drivers, and finally start matching them up together based on their performance. (this article series is not final yet – its still in process of being written/built).

Inexpensive Tweeters under $100.00 US

For speaker drivers on-the-cheap there are few speaker drivers that can beat these units.

Bohlender Graebener Neo3 Tweeter

• Boelender Graebener Neo3 PDR or ($60) Low distortion tweeter. One of the best ribbon type tweeters available. Outperforms nearly all other types of ribbons in both sound quality and distortion tests. Excellent measured performance. Should be crossed over above 2400Hz as there’s not much output below 2kHz.

• Boelender Braebener NEO 3 (tighter dispersion than the PDR version) ($60) Same as PDR but less horizontal and vertical dispersion, and also more sensitive. Works well if mated to a 7″ driver and crossed over higher around 3Khz and above.

Vifa XT 25 TG30

• Vifa XT 25 TG30: the tweeter that started it all for ring radiators, at least for cost effective units that had great performance. Still one of the best available even competes with very expensive units like the SS 7000 units very well. Low distortion above 2000Hz. Use LR4 of 2Khz and above.

Distortion below 2Khz is pretty poor, even though the FS is very low. FS would indicate being able to crossover at 1500Hz, not so; for best results I always cross this one LR4 at 2400Hz or above.

Flange makes going much higher than 2400 crossover point difficult as its over 4″ across. I’ve had very good results using this with an Usher 8945A or 8945P midrange driver.

Vifa XT 25 BG60

• Vifa XT 25 BG60 (yes; this is the picture of the SS 2604/8330 because the two tweeters look identical)(dual magnet version has slightly lower distortion than XT25 TG30 shown above)slightly better distortion measurements and higher sensitivity than the TG30. If you have the depth for the extra magnet thickness, this is the tweeter to beat in the under $50.00 category.

Scan Speak builds one that looks identical (R2606/8330 shown below) that is slightly better for a bit more dough.

Still this one is excellent and very cheap for the performance available here. Plastic frame feels and seems cheap.

Vifa DX25TG09-04 1

• Vifa DX25TG09-04 1″ Fabric Dome Tweeter: fabric dome tweeter using the same motor and structures as above ring radiator.

Very good performance overall, especially for the price. Slightly more even off axis performance than the ring radiator version above, but slightly higher distortion too. This tweeter is a value leader.

Great performance if you want a quality dome tweeter that does it all while also costing very little. The plastic from does feel cheap though.

Scan Speak R2604/8330 tweeter dual ring radiator

• Scan Speak R2604/8330 ring radiator: this tweeter looks identical to the Vifa Ring radiator XT25’s shown above.

Has very similar performance too. Even though they look identical, they’re not quite the same.

The SS has marginally better distortion numbers, but less x-max than the XT25 Vifa.

SB-Acoustics SB29RDC-C000-4 Ring Dome Tweeter

• SB-Acoustics SB29RDC-C000-4 Ring Dome Tweeter: Very nice distortion measurements and FR measurements. Well behaved tweeter. This is a value leader too.

It actually scores very similar to the Vifa XT25 units too. Its built similar even though it looks completely different to the Vifa XT25’s

ScanSpeak Discovery D2604/833000, 1

• ScanSpeak Discovery D2604/833000, 1″ Dome Tweeter: nice dome tweeter using similar motor structure to XT25 also.

Good off axis performance. Excellent distortion measurements. Crappy cheap plastic flange. Why do they put these frames on such fantastic drivers, I will never know.

They deserve so much better. They do get the job done though, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. Its just that on performance such as available here you would think it wouldn’t be too much to ask to get a metal frame, I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for them too…

 

Want another source to confirm these results? See Zaph Audio site; John does a nice job with his distortion measurements, cumulative spectral decay and other data; it’s a good resource for the beginning DIY audiophile enthusiast. Low distortion drivers do make a noticeable difference to overall quality of a speaker system. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Midrange Tweeters under $200.00 US

As we are getting into more expensive territory here I thought I should explain some things about how frequency works. This is the price point you may be looking into a 3-way or 4-way speaker system. I’m not saying this is the way it has to be done, this is just something to consider when planning your project.

Small flange tweeters are often used for placing very close to the midrange driver; there are benefits to placing a driver close to the midrange as possible. This has to do with wavelength; you should calculate where your crossover point will be not only based on the driver capabilities of both the midrange and tweeter (distortion plots, FS, and decay plots).

But also by the distance between units; use the calculator and the flange widths of your chosen drivers to determine where the maximum crossover point should be placed (based on wavelength).After doing this you may notice lots of (even very expensive) retail speakers on the market that pay no heed to proper wavelength in their speaker designs. Providing yet another reason that you can do better building speakers DIY.

Does the crossover point coincide with the speaker measurement data?

Meaning; does the tweeter still have very low distortion at the lowest crossover point?

Speaker driver distortion is almost never linear; a tweeter may have rising distortion at lower frequencies or upper frequencies or both (same for the midrange or bass drivers), so you need to be sure the crossover is not asking too much of either drive unit above and below, or at the crossover point.

Generally, you should stay at least twice as high as the tweeters FS to stay out of trouble, but this is not always enough…

The same is true for the midrange; distortion can increase at either end of the pass band (the part of the frequency that the driver plays) for that driver, so use drivers that will mate well playing where they need to – based on the other drivers being used, the crossover point, and the distance from one another.

There’s no need to use a midrange driver that has low distortion down to 50Hz if you plan to crossover to the bass unit at 350Hz. Just make sure it has low distortion down to about 200-250Hz so it’s well below the crossover point. See the Midrange Speaker-Drivers we like too!

The speaker drivers dispersion is another factor, but we won’t get into that here in detail. In general though; it is better to go from a 1” tweeter to a 4” midrange and then to a 7” midrange than it is going straight from the 1” tweeter to a 7” midrange.

For example: 4” speaker drivers have wider dispersion up to a typical crossover point (say 3500Hz) than a 7” driver will. And a 4” drive unit will more closely model the dispersion character of the 1” tweeter from the crossover point up to the max frequencies as well.

You can break these rules and get excellent results, but it’s good to know why you made these compromises instead of blindly throwing drivers into a baffle and not knowing why you chose them.

The same theories apply to the bass driver units if you plan to use those in your speaker plans.

Okay; finally here are the mid-priced tweeters I like to use (it’s a short list):

ScanSpeak Discovery D2604/83300 deep chamber small flange tweeter

• Scan-Speak 602010 ($199) small flange tweeter could be used to place close to a larger driver like a 7″. Curiously, distortion below 2200Hz is too high to crossover very low, so uses would be limited.

But its still a nice tweeter that should sound very good if crossover is up around 2500+.

ScanSpeak Illuminator D3004/6600 AirCirc tweeter textile dome tweeter

• Scan-Speak 6600 ($220): one of the finest dome tweeters in production.

This tweeter is the dome to rule all domes (south of the beryllium prices anyway. Very nice response, low distortion, unit, lots to be happy about on this tweeter.

If you can afford it, the Be version is worth stepping up to, if not, you won’t be disappointed with the 6600 SS.

Seas Millenium tweeter gold flange ring dome tweeter

• Seas Millennium ($224): Can’t really compete with the ScanSpeak 6600 dome tweet but its still not bad. Distortion is okay, but not great.

A nice looking tweeter, its built very well. Looks like quality too; but the SS tweeters mentioned are probably a better buy overall.

More to come in this category .

High Quality (and expensive) Tweeters

ScanSpeak Revelator R2904/7000 ring radiator tweeter

• ScanSpeak Revelator R2904/7000-05 Tweeter, Black Face, Silver Plug:

Best of performance among the ring radiator crowd. This is the one to beat. If you can afford them and want ring radiators, here’s your tweeter. These pretty much rule the high end for ring radiators now.

ScanSpeak Illuminator D3004/6640 1 inch Beryllium dome tweeter

• Scanspeak Illuminator D3004/6640-00 1″ Tweeter Beryllium Dome: for those that can afford them these tweeters leave little to be improved upon. Low distortion. Flat response. Good sensitivity. High quality throughout. But noticeably very expensive. I’m not sure you can do better at any price though.

I have to admit here that the difference between this tweeter; while excellent on all accounts, is not much higher in quality than a Vifa XT25 tweeter. Do they sound different? Yes, and this tweeter is better, but the XT25 is still very, very good.

I think for those that care about the last 10% of a design its worth the extra money.

If not, get one of the double magnet Discovery SS ring radiator versions, the XT25 Ring radiator, or the Vifa DX 25 dome tweet, 90% of the performance for 10% of the price.

See the Midrange Speaker Drivers we like too!

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