A few years back I was in touch with a gentleman from La Jolla, California that was nuts about his super tweeters. Although we never managed to get together for a demonstration, he insisted that his listening was transformed by simply adding a couple of super tweeters to his playback system. In light of the fact that my revered B&W 801 Series III speakers do not deliver the ultrasonic frequencies that I discuss so often in these posts, it might be interesting to acquire a set of super tweeters and put them to the test.
According to Wikipedia, “a super tweeter is a speaker driver intended to produce ultra high frequencies in a multi-driver loudspeaker system. Its purpose is to recreate a more realistic sound field, often characterized as ‘airiness’.”
This is a fair enough definition. But there is an aspect of “super tweeters” that isn’t discussed on any of the sites that I referenced during my limited research. Just what source media and components upstream from the speakers are producing the “ultra high frequencies”? They certainly aren’t coming from a piece of vinyl or a compact disc. Those few audiophiles that have a very good analog tape machine and some great master tapes might be able to get additional “airiness” out of their systems but in general the need for a super tweeter has been minimal…until now.
I found it very interesting that the Wiki article also included the following:
“A super tweeter is generally intended to respond well into ultrasonic frequencies over 20 kHz, the commonly accepted upper frequency limit of human hearing. Super tweeters have been designed…for extended-range digital audio such as Super Audio CD intended for audiophiles…”
I can pretty much guess that a DSD fan contributed to this Wiki article. That’s probably why there is a warning at the top of the page that warns that the information needs some additional citations and that the information is unverified. An SACD using standard DSD 64 encoding is the one “high-resolution audio” format that wouldn’t benefit from using super tweeters…unless you wanted to deliver all of the ultra high frequency noise to them and risk blowing them up!
Where a super tweeter would be of benefit is in a room like mine. The B&Ws do a spectacular job of delivering the “traditional audio band” to the sweet spot of my mixing room. But my DVD-Audio or Blu-ray discs contain ultrasonics across the entire next octave of the spectrum and if I want to have any chance of reproducing them in my room, I have only two choices…well maybe three.
I could go out and get a new set of speakers with extended frequency response (like the Harmon studio reference monitors that I heard recently), listen exclusively through the new Oppo Headphones (which include the additional octave) or add a set of high quality super tweeters to my setup. Clearly, the most cost effective way to proceed would be to augment my current setup with 5 super tweeters.
I can’t say that I know much about they would be mounted (phase and directional dispersion will be critical), how they might be powered or even wired up. But as “ultra high frequencies” become recognized as a necessary part of a great listening system, super tweeters might start getting another look by audiophiles everywhere.