Tweeters come in different types, brands, and sizes. If you’re looking for the best pick between ribbon tweeter vs dome tweeter, you’ve come to the right place.
Many people don’t really care much about the individual components of their stereos. As long as music sounds great and they get good quality audio, they’re easily satisfied. But if you really love music, even the healthiest audio system is not enough to stop you from trying different amps, subs, crossovers, and other components to get the best performance. One way to upgrade your system is by finding the best tweeter speakers available.
Currently, there are several types of tweeters, including horn tweeters, cone tweeters, piezo tweeters, electrostatic tweeters, planar tweeters, plasma, and AMT tweeters. In this article, we take a look into two of the most common tweeters – dome tweeters and ribbon tweeters – to unveil what they’re made of and how they can serve your needs.
What is a Tweeter
Tweeters are small speakers designed to capture the high frequencies in music. They have small diaphragms, small voice coils, and some have small enclosures too.
Being an all-time music lover, you need to look at the audio output from both ends of the spectrum. On one end, you have the low-frequency signals and on the other end, you have the high frequencies. The middle is known to mid-range frequencies, which are neither bass or treble.
Stereos are good at blending all these frequencies into soothing music. However, smaller speakers are not designed to handle the low frequencies. In fact, passing a low frequency signal through the tweeter might damage it. On the other hand, larger speakers are not designed to handle the low-frequencies.
That is why we have subwoofers, mid-range drivers, and tweeters. Tweeters play high frequencies and other highly instruments in music. High-frequencies are not hard to produce because first of all, they don’t summon much power from the amp. Secondly, the small voice coils and cones in tweeters move faster than the massive sum of the moving parts on subwoofers.
Ribbon Tweeter Speaker
You must have come across a ribbon tweeter in your search for the best ribbon tweeter replacement. Ribbon tweeters are high-performance tweeters that came into existence decades ago. Their optimum performance alongside their unique design made them a popular choice for tweeter hunters around the world.
How Do Ribbon Tweeters Work?
Ribbon tweeters might seem complex, but have a rather simplified working mechanism. As you can see in the image, an ultra thin aluminum strip (ribbon) runs from the top to bottom between two pole plates (magnets). The ribbon is fastened at the top and bottom and left to move freely in its edges.
Depending on the manufacturer’s original design, the thin aluminum foil can be either folded, pleated or a straight strip. Powerful magnets surround the aluminum strip, which is then wired to the transformer. An electric current comes in from the amplifier or the head unit, through the wires, and into the ribbon. Once the signal reaches the aluminum ribbon, the ribbon develops a magnetic field, moves in response to the input signal, and then creates sound waves.
Not all ribbon tweeters are designed like this, but they all work is pretty much the same. In fact, there are several categories of ribbon tweeters which include:
- True ribbon tweeters – A true ribbon tweeter is a pleated or flat aluminum strip suspended in the magnet gap.
- Magnetostatic ribbon tweeters – Unlike true ribbon tweeters, these tweeters have their aluminum strip placed directly above the powerful magnets.
- Air motion transformers – They’re similar to ribbon tweeters but how they work is entirely different. Instead of vibrating back and forth, the aluminum strip expands and contracts in response to an audio signal.
Ribbon Tweeter Dispersion
Ribbon tweeters experience what experts call a lateral dispersion. Thanks to their long, narrow ribbon shape, the best ribbon speakers exhibit excellent dispersion over a wide area. This means that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your music without worrying too much about the ideal placement angle for your ribbon tweeters.
Ribbon Tweeter Pros
Ribbon tweeters are used for high-resolution highs such as the ones found in DVD audio formats. These tweeters are incredibly light and are more capable of dealing with ultra-fast transient response in a better manner than other types of tweeters. Basically speaking, ribbon tweeters are much more responsive to the highest frequencies; even those above 50kHz
Ribbon tweeters are also lighter than dome and cone tweeters. They are not bulky. The lack of a physical suspension means that ribbon tweeters can vibrate without all the weight pulling down their movement; a property that makes them more efficient at handling high frequencies with high precision.
Ribbon Tweeter Cons
Ribbon tweeters sound incredibly good and are highly efficient. But all this comes at a cost. Despite being a couple times lighter than dome tweeters, ribbon tweeters are quite expensive. The unnatural sound production technique derived from the flat ribbon is one good reason why they add a fine touch to your audio. It is also another reason why they are more costly than dome tweeters.
Secondly, ribbon tweeters’ lightweight nature means that they can move more freely. Unfortunately, this makes them bad at working with mids since they were not designed for sounds from the lower end of the spectrum. In short, the lower the frequency, the worse your ribbon tweeters will sound. For this reason, manufacturers have found it better to make most of the ribbon tweeter-bearing systems into 3-way systems with an added mid-range driver.
Finally, the low impedance in ribbon tweeters is also an issue. And if you own an amp that does not have the capacity to drive them, you’ll need to buy another amplifier with enough juice to drive your ribbon tweeters.
Dome tweeters have set the standard for the best tweeters for a long time. That’s why they’re everywhere. You’ve dome tweeters in car speakers, home entertainment systems, and almost every other speaker system in the market.
A good reason why dome tweeters are popular is that they are not as complicated to manufacture as compared to the ribbon tweeters. With just the right materials, including a voice coil, a ring magnet, some treated cloth, and other materials, manufacturers can mass produce them and sell to the surplus demand markets worldwide.
The most common types of dome tweeters are classified into metal dome tweeters and soft dome tweeters.
- Soft dome tweeters, as the name implies, are dome tweeters made from soft materials e.g. textile or silk. They do not produce harsh highs as seen in the metal dome tweeters because of their soft nature. The soft material is highly dampened, hence it provides soft highs and more headroom for higher sound pressure.
- Metal dome tweeters on the other hand are completely different and as the name suggests, they are made of metallic materials e.g. aluminum, titanium, or beryllium. Metal dome tweeters are not as well dampened as soft dome tweeters, hence they tend to ring especially at high volumes. They tend to have sharp dips and peaks in music and how you perceive (either good or bad) is entirely up to you.
Dome Tweeter Dispersion
Dome tweeters have a wide dispersion at high frequencies, thanks to the small-sized diaphragm. However, as you step further and further away off-axis, you’ll notice that only lower notes come out as clearly as they were intended.
High frequencies tend to be more focused in an axis unlike the lower frequencies. The diameter of the diaphragm may not have much to play in the overall dispersion. However, it is safe to say that smaller dome tweeters are not good with high power output due to their smaller voice coils.
Dome Tweeter Pros
The average dome tweeter works in the frequency range that can be heard by perfectly healthy ears. In addition, dome tweeters exhibit great dispersion, good damping, and stiffening. With good stiffening, dome tweeters are not easily susceptible to distortion at high volume. The stiffness ensures that the compressions when an electric current passess through does not change the shape of the dome material.
Dome tweeters are also great at handling high frequencies between 2.5kHz – 20kHz. Their low mass allows the speaker elements to move fast and produce great sounding high frequencies with minimal distortion.
Finally, dome tweeters are not that pricey and you can get a good quality piece for a small price. However, if you’re willing to spend more on a high performance tweeter, you can check out what the big boys like JBL and Hertz have to offer.
Dome Tweeter Cons
Although dome tweeters exhibit great dispersion at high frequencies, their small “radiating area” does a terrible job when trying to produce a higher power output in the frequencies at the lower end of the spectrum.
Soft dome tweeters are easily damaged. Some manufacturers install metal grilles to prevent physical damage to the diaphragm and voice coil. But other tweeters have no protective enclosures, and the plastic dome easily gets damaged. And unfortunately, most people have no idea how to repair the damage.
Are Ribbon Tweeters Better Than Dome Tweeters?
Ribbon tweeter vs dome tweeter is a never ending debate. Both dome tweeters and ribbon tweeters are great but the extent of their greatness is limited by your system and how much money you’re willing to spend.
Ribbon tweeters produce excellent sounds but at a high cost. On the other hand, dome tweeters are easily mass-produced and you can find them wherever you look. They are relatively cheaper and there are tons of options to choose from.
Tweeters are special speakers. Without them, the high and mid frequencies would not be possible to hear clearly. Although tweeters have become part of every music system out there, the question on the better choice between a ribbon tweeter vs dome tweeter depends on what you want to achieve and how much you’re willing to pay.