Soft vs Hard Dome Tweeters: Which do you prefer?

What type of tweeter do you prefer?

  • Soft dome (ie. Fabric, Silk)

    Votes: 8 17.8%
  • Hard dome (ie. Aluminum, Titanium, Beryllium, etc

    Votes: 12 26.7%
  • No preference, design execusion is more important than the material used

    Votes: 24 53.3%
  • I'm still rolling with paper

    Votes: 1 2.2%

  • Total voters
    45
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
There has always been an ongoing debate about the sonic characteristics of tweeter dome materials. Do metal dome tweeters really sound "harsh," as some claim? Do silk domes sound, well, "soft" or "silky"?

Different materials do have different physical properties as it relates to diaphragm performance and these can and do influence the audible behavior of the driver. With full knowledge that many well-respected designers and engineers have opposing views and opinions on the subject, there are a few basic generalizations that can be made about different tweeter dome materials.

Soft dome tweeters are typically made out of fabric or silk material.

Hard dome tweeters (aka. Metal domes) are typically made out of aluminum, titanium, ceramic, or the more exotics like Beryllium.

We discuss these points in our recent YouTube Video below.


Also check out our article on: Soft vs Hard Dome Tweeters

Let us know which you prefer and why.
 
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TheWarrior

TheWarrior

Audioholic Ninja
I've yet to get over to KEW's house to hear his Beryllium.

Gene must still be rolling with paper, given his 'execution.'
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
At low to medium volumes, about 70db at my listening seat, I've been happy with soft domes, but at realistic volumes playing instruments that really need a great tweeter, like cymbals, I've only been happy with Beryllium and Diamond versions. Perhaps the dome material has nothing to do with it, and the results are all about other design factors and execution, but that's my experience. Oddly, I've never met an aluminum tweeter I've liked, yet.

Ribbons and electrostatics are also nice, but in a different way than a great dome. There's an ease to the sound that is difficult to describe, and I don't hear that from domes. I've even liked the so-called leaf tweeters better than almost all soft domes.

The only soft dome I've heard that even comes close to greatness is that hyper-priced Seas thing SL used in the Orion, which I noticed TLS Guy used too. Although, I suspect TLS Guy isn't abusing his units with the crossover frequency SL chose. I haven't heard one of those new-old fangled AMT thingies yet, but if you believe subjective reviews they might be the best of all.
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
A properly designed tweeter no matter it's composition will be acoustically transparent of its composition. What I find strange about all of this is the preferences held by some that are at an age group where the loss of hearing to the upper frequency limits has already begun.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
A properly designed tweeter no matter it's composition will be acoustically transparent of its composition. What I find strange about all of this is the preferences held by some that are at an age group where the loss of hearing to the upper frequency limits has already begun.
Last I measured I was still good to 16KHz. As for composition not being a matter, you have soft domes 3db? :)
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
A properly designed tweeter no matter it's composition will be acoustically transparent of its composition. What I find strange about all of this is the preferences held by some that are at an age group where the loss of hearing to the upper frequency limits has already begun.
Huh? What? :D

The first metal domes I heard were JBL home speakers and I didn't like them- this was late-'80s. The first ones I liked were MB Quart car speakers, in about '94 and they really were good (I was doing mostly car audio at that time). The JBL sounded harsh, to me, and the MB Quart didn't- JBL was making car speakers with Titanium domes and they still sounded harsh, to me. I had found textile domes to be easier to listen to and were less fatiguing for my ears. In the '70s and '80s, a lot of manufacturers stopped, or at least reduced, their use of polycarbonate dome tweeters and that was a good thing- the tweeters of that time used a dispersion cap to prevent the beaming to be a problem and that's rare to see one that has something blocking the center of the dome, now. When I started in audio, we sold ESS and Infinity- I liked the AMT, but apparently, we didn't sell enough of the ESS, so we stopped carrying the line and picked up Infinity. The AMT were able to handle more than the EMIT tweeters, but I did like those, too.

I started carrying ear plugs all the time after going to a couple of shows in the early-'80s, that left me with ringing for a few days and haven't been in a noisy environment without them since then. This is something that more people should think about, IMO. I can still hear well, above 15KHz. As audio hobbyists and for those who sell/install audio, I think it's necessary to know what we can and can't hear. If we don't know, searching for what we'll like is frustrating at best and futile at the worst. If we can't say what we want/need, it's harder to find it.
 
tyhjaarpa

tyhjaarpa

Audioholic Field Marshall
My speakers have hard domes as they sounded best from the speakers I auditioned. But I believe the material itself doesn't really matter if the speaker is well designed and manufactured.
 
zieglj01

zieglj01

Audioholic Spartan
I will take the MB Quart Vera titanium dome tweeter, over all/any
dome tweeter that I heard so far - however, it still comes down to
the overall design/engineering as a whole for any speaker.

My least favorites are those early famous cones and poly cheapy 1/2"
hard domes, even if some were titanium laminate (which did not help).

As posted above, JBL had some poor ones.
 
Cos

Cos

Audioholic Field Marshall
HVFR Tweeter for me:
  • Tweeter Diaphragm is a High Temperature Film
Don't think that is on the list here
 
Ponzio

Ponzio

Audioholic Field Marshall
I was a soft dome guy forever it seems until I heard the Focal 1027Be's, which I purchased, and to me it's not even a contest. The problem of course is cost, no matter who the brand is, it seems. I noticed that ribbon tweeter's weren't even addressed. Are Gene & Hugo telling us something? I personally wasn't impressed unless I was sitting in the sweet spot. I'm assuming integration/dispersion is harder to achieve.
 
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
I was a soft dome guy forever it seems until I heard the Focal 1027Be's, which I purchased, and to me it's not even a contest. The problem of course is cost, no matter who the brand is, it seems. I noticed that ribbon tweeter's weren't even addressed. Are Gene & Hugo telling us something? I personally wasn't impressed unless I was sitting in the sweet spot. I'm assuming integration/dispersion is harder to achieve.
This is just a first of several videos to come on the topic. We try to keep the videos short for easier digestibility on YouTube. I do like a few AMT's and Ribbons but most don't have the dynamic capability, sensitivity or low end extension of the best domes.
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
Are we hearing the effects of a poor crossover design rather than the dome's composition? Until one swaps out the tweeters but keeps everything else constant, one may only assume rather than knowing 100 % that it's composition rather than crossover effects.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
I have compared tweeters as follows:

The Status Acoustics soft dome tweeter in the RBH Signature 61lse vs the Al tweeter in the Paradigm Studio20. The soft dome was cleaner, but the Al offered more extension

Later compared them to the Be tweeter in the Paradigm Signature S-2 offered the extension of the Al tweeter with the clean detail of the soft dome.

Since then, I have concluded Focals Be tweeter is slightly better than the Paradigm.

The issue of extension interests me because looking at FR charts, I feel certain that the status acoustics soft-dome extends beyond my hearing, yet, there is an obvious difference in the sound of steel (triangle... and more revealing, chimes) being struck with the Be being clear and accurate and the soft-dome distant and somewhat muted.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
The issue of extension interests me because looking at FR charts, I feel certain that the status acoustics soft-dome extends beyond my hearing, yet, there is an obvious difference in the sound of steel (triangle... and more revealing, chimes) being struck with the Be being clear and accurate and the soft-dome distant and somewhat muted.
I have never heard either of those speakers, but that closely describes the effect I hear when comparing the Revel Be tweeter or the B&W Diamond tweeter to any soft dome I've heard. Either we are both imagining the same things with different speakers, or there is something measurable going on.
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
Are we hearing the effects of a poor crossover design rather than the dome's composition? Until one swaps out the tweeters but keeps everything else constant, one may only assume rather than knowing 100 % that it's composition rather than crossover effects.
If only someone could do a great blinded study... :D

Take all the great tweeters - ScanSpeak 9500, Be from Salon & Focal, 800 Diamond, some great Al & Mg tweeters, RAAL, etc.- and see if people actually prefer one tweeter over the rest when you REMOVE the BASS from the EQUATION by using subwoofers.

Also play music contents that are primarily in the treble range to further attempt removing the midrange & bass out of the equation.

So I agree that when you're listening to the "Tweeter", you're not just listening to the Tweeter and nothing else. You're really listening to the whole speaker. Thus, it comes down to the speaker as a whole.
 
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Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
It's always hard to talk about a tweeter's sound, by itself. One reason is that most of the tweeter's sound with instruments or voices consists of harmonic overtones, and not the primary tone. In a typical 2-way speaker, with a 6.5" woofer, the crossover is about 2 to 2.5 kHz. If you are familiar with a piano (Interactive Frequency Chart - Independent Recording Network),only the highest 2 or 3 octaves on the right side of the keyboard are above that range. In 3-way speakers, the tweeter may take over at an even higher frequency.

The other reason is simply that you never listen to a tweeter alone, without a mid-range or mid-woofer, and without a crossover. Recognizing that most of the primary tones are produced by the mid-woofer or mid-range, what I respond to when I "listen to a tweeter" is just how well a tweeter blends with the mid-range.

First, a crossover designer must avoid using a tweeter at too low a frequency – most audible tweeter distortion results because of just that. Second, the crossover must also blend tweeter sound with the mid-woofer or mid-range. With sounds in the crossover frequency range (± an octave when crossover slopes are 4th order),both drivers will produce roughly equal amounts of sound. They must be in acoustic phase with each other in that range. The tweeter's high pass curve and the woofer's low pass curve should be as symmetric as possible with each other. This is easier said than done, and is often the reason why some tweeters are said to be hard to work with, and others easy. If achieved, all this helps produce a cohesive and focused sound, and is largely responsible for good sound imaging.

A tweeter's upper frequency response (roughly 7 to 20 kHz) is not unimportant, but what makes a tweeter fail or succeed at "sounding good" is in its lower range (roughly 2 to 5 kHz). The crossover is right there. That's why I say you can't "listen to a tweeter" without noticing how well the crossover does its work.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
I once heard two DIY 2-way speakers where both were nearly identical except for the tweeters. The mid-woofers, cabinets, and crossover frequencies were identical, but there were some smaller differences in shapes of the roll off curves required by each tweeter, in order to blend well with the mid-woofer.

One tweeter was fabric and the other was aluminum. While this was not a blind comparison, no one, among the 15 or 20 DIY speaker builders present, could tell the difference.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
If only someone could do a great blinded study... :D

Take all the great tweeters - ScanSpeak 9500, Be from Salon & Focal, 800 Diamond, some great Al & Mg tweeters, RAAL, etc.- and see if people actually prefer one tweeter over the rest when you REMOVE the BASS from the EQUATION by using subwoofers.

Also play music contents that are primarily in the treble range to further attempt removing the midrange & bass out of the equation.
"Blinded study"- would they be able to see after the test?

How about this- use a timer to switch between the tweeters to create a true blind test, with random interval and assignment, which could include no change at all, but programmed to prevent more than one or two No Change events. Also, each tweeter would have its own "correct" HP filter with fixed L-pad, so they would be level-matched without needing to change any other settings. Because of the range of sensitivity, it may be necessary to have a High/Low grouping, to avoid padding the level too much and possibly affecting the sound.

Your last sentence do you mean that the test could be conducted by switching the sub on and off in addition to swapping tweeters? I agree.
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
"Blinded study"- would they be able to see after the test?

How about this- use a timer to switch between the tweeters to create a true blind test, with random interval and assignment, which could include no change at all, but programmed to prevent more than one or two No Change events. Also, each tweeter would have its own "correct" HP filter with fixed L-pad, so they would be level-matched without needing to change any other settings. Because of the range of sensitivity, it may be necessary to have a High/Low grouping, to avoid padding the level too much and possibly affecting the sound.

Your last sentence do you mean that the test could be conducted by switching the sub on and off in addition to swapping tweeters? I agree.

A "single-blinded study" means the subjects don't know which speaker they are listening to at any given moment. Double-blinded means neither the subject nor the administrator knows. They can SEE all they want.

As Swerd, 3dB, and others have said, it is difficult to just separate the tweeter. You are listening to the entire speaker. One way I think would help in the comparison is to remove the bass from the equation via subwoofers. But that would still leave you with the midrange and tweeter.

How do you remove the midrange from the equation and just compare the tweeter?
 
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