What Are Tweeters And What Do Tweeters Do?

You sit in your car, and almost immediately your hand reaches for the radio to play some music. Though the speakers are located near your feet and at the front and back of your car, somehow the sound fills up the space like it’s coming from all around you, but how is that possible?

It is actually quite incredible when you think about how a speaker works.

A magnetic field produces precise back and forth movements of a few parts made of plastic and metal which reproduce the exact sound that your favorite artist recorded in a studio far away; that’s a pretty neat trick.

Designers ensure that when a speaker is put together, you are getting the best sound that can be provided. To do that, the speaker will be made up of multiple different components which must work together in unison to give you the best sound quality. These components include magnets, cones, voice coils and many other intricate parts.

In this article I will be focusing on how tweeters work and what they do. These small speakers are responsible for the crisp, clear, treble sounds in your car sound system.

Tweeters work on the opposite side of the frequency range to woofers. Woofers create low frequency sounds and are much larger, while tweeters create high frequency sounds and are smaller in size.

What Are Tweeters?

A tweeter is a particular type of loud speaker driver that has been uniquely designed to produce high frequency sounds from 2000 to 20,000 Hz. Sometimes these sounds are even above human hearing capacity, but not above human sensation which we feel through vibratation. 

Tweeters work much in the same way as woofers; a speaker that people generally have more knowledge on. Woofers produce low frequency sounds like bass, and are much larger than tweeters. 

A speaker converts electrical signals sent by the stereo amplifier into mechanical back and forth movements created by the magnet and cone of the speaker. The back and forth movements create pressure waves or vibrations in the air which we hear as sound.

When a tweeter is designed, many factors are taken into account to produce the best sound quality and dispersion at the lowest cost. Different materials are used to ensure that the tweeter remains light, yet sturdy enough to hold its shape when the volume is turned up high; they don’t want the shape to warp if there is a lot of movement and vibration.

To create different sounds and quality, manufacturers utilize a range of tweeter shapes and materials when making tweeters. Understanding the characteristics of these will help you make a better decision about what kind of tweeters you require for your speakers.

What Do Tweeters Do?

Tweeters are used to create the higher frequency sounds we can hear and feel in music. The upper frequency range of sound is referred to as treble; this sound cannot be produced by any other type of speaker.

Tweeters are also essential for proper sound staging and stereo separation. This means that they are responsible for making it sound like the music is filling the space (surround sound) and existing all around you rather than from the exact location of the speaker, which could be a corner of a room or near your feet in a car.

Tweeters produce sound when an electrical signal for the music is amplified and sent to a tweeter. The voice coil creates a magnetic field inside the magnet’s permanent magnetic field area. The magnetic field causes the coil and dome of the tweeter to move back and forth rapidly, according to the music’s signal and thus the sound is produced.

Another capacity that tweeters possess is called damping. Damping is the ability to quickly stop moving when the sound being played through the speakers stops; either when a song ends or when the volume is turned down. This is an important feature for creating accurate sound.

What Are Tweeters Good For?

Tweeters are used for supplying a range of sound that speakers don’t typically produce on their own. They are used in conjunction with preexisting speakers to produce high frequency sounds/treble for added quality and effect.

Usually, what happens is that larger speakers cannot produce high frequency sounds and vice versa for small speakers; they cannot produce low frequency sounds. This is where the use of speakers and woofers come into play. With the use of these additions in speakers, you are able to get high quality sound that is crisper and cleaner with a larger range of frequency. 

Are Tweeters Important?

If you want good quality, crisp sound, you need to be able to hear the treble and for that, you need tweeters. Treble is the sound in music that is produced by vocals, guitars, synthetic keyboards, cymbals, drum effects and horns.

NOTE: If you listen to music without a tweeter, you are missing out on the magic of the detail tweeters provide . Tweeters can fill in the missing pieces of music by giving your speaker the ability to produce those intricate sounds which makes for a better audio experience. This is why the sound produced from car sound systems which use the full range of speakers – tweeters, mid-range and woofers is such an amazing, natural, full sound.

Let’s say your speaker could produce high frequency sounds without the use of a tweeter, you would still not be able to get the same experience as you do with a tweeter. The reason for this is that high frequency sounds tend to be extremely directional. They follow narrow paths, giving the listener limited options for where they will get optimal sound. Tweeters are designed in a way that they disperse the sound optimally within a room, or vehicle, with a certain sense of direction.

Tweeters also provide stereo imaging. Stereo imaging is a term used to describe how music gives a listener spatial cues of where instruments were placed during the recording process. When you’re listening to music on a speaker with a tweeter, you are likely to understand whether an instrument was placed on the left, right or center during the recording process. By reproducing a high range of audio frequencies, tweeters can create a sort of image, helping the listener’s brain decipher where the sound is coming from within a speaker.

Stereo imaging is important to get the feel of how musicians intend their music to be heard. The range of sounds that music has covers almost the entire frequency range of the human ear. The various tones and signals within music need to be heard to give cues to your brain about what you’re hearing as well as where it is coming from.

Do You Need A Crossover For A Tweeter?

To know if a tweeter requires a crossover, you first need to know what speaker crossovers are.

What Are Speaker Crossovers?

Speaker crossovers are electronic components which are fitted between the amp and speaker or before the amp which direct the correct frequency of sound to the correct speaker.

This means low frequency or bass sounds will be directed to the woofer while high frequency or treble sounds will be directed to the tweeter.

They take a single electrical signal of sound and create two or three output signals of varying frequencies and send them to the appropriate driver. Without a crossover, the speaker would put out a strange mishmash of sounds from the wrong drivers. Woofers and subwoofers would waste time trying to output higher frequency sounds, while tweeters would distort the lower frequency sounds.

Crossovers for Tweeters

Since tweeters are not capable of producing low frequency sounds, if the signal for such a sound is given, it will produce a distorted sound rather than what was intended. Crossovers make sure that the intended high frequency signals are the only ones reaching the tweeter. Another reason why crossovers are important is that if large quantities of low frequency signals are sent to a tweeter, it can damage it.  If crossovers are not used, the power applied in producing bass sounds can overdrive the tweeter, which will make it malfunction or ruin it.

Where To Mount Tweeters In Your Car

Tweeter speaker on car door pillar

Since tweeters only produce high frequency sounds, they are used as an addition to a whole speaker system in cars. These speaker systems usually consist of a woofer, one or more crossovers, and a separate tweeter. Since woofers produce bass, which is a lower frequency, the sound waves are large; this means that their location isn’t of much concern. However, lower frequency sounds like the ones produced by tweeters have narrow sound waves, so they need to be placed so they are pointed toward the listener’s ear for the best sound.

Most car manufacturers don’t focus on sound, so tweeter placement is not their top priority when designing a car. Usually, custom car stereos or luxury car systems produce the best sound because they don’t skimp on space for tweeters, but you can install your own tweeter in your car in one of the standard locations mentioned below.

Tip:

Tweeters work best when they are at or near shoulder level, placed at the front of the car, and far apart from each other. This allows them to create a raised sound stage with plenty of stereo separation.

Before getting into the common locations for tweeters in cars, there are various mounting methods that need to be understood; namely, surface mount, flush mount and bottom mount.

Mounting Methods

Surface Mount

A surface mount is when the tweeter sits on top of the speaker at the chosen location. A small hole is drilled through which the speaker wire is passed and secured to the tweeter.

Flush Mount

A flush mount is used when the tweeter is required to sit flat on the surface. A hole as large as the tweeter needs to be drilled and then install the tweeter there.

Bottom Mount

A bottom mount does not require any additional drilling. The tweeter simply presses up against an existing grill.

Common Mounting Locations

Upper Door

This type of installation works best for cars that aren’t already equipped with tweeters. The tweeter will be located on the upper area of the car door, toward the inner corner. A flush mount works best with this location.

Sail Panel

The sail is located in the corner of your door window. Some factory-installed tweeters come in this location. Generally, a flush mount works best if you are installing your own tweeters in this location. However, a bottom mount is what you will find if it came with factory-installed tweeters.

Dashboard

Preinstalled tweeters also come in the dash. A bottom mount makes the most sense here, though if you are installing it yourself, you might have to build a bracket to secure the tweeter.

“A” Pillar

The “A” pillar sits between your windshield and front door window. This location is often very shallow, so a tweeter cannot fit into it. Instead, use a surface mount to secure it at this location.

Do Tweeters Need An Enclosure?

A speaker’s enclosure is a box-shaped cabinet in which the drivers are housed. It is a crucial part of your speaker that makes sure that all the moving parts i.e. the tweeters and woofers don’t make a lot of noise or fall apart. They need to be made of a sturdy material to be able to withstand the vibrations of the drivers, while making sure that they are making as little sound of their own as possible.

Having said that, most tweeters these days come with sealed back chambers; hence, the surface mount position is available. They don’t need to be in a separate enclose unless specifically stated by the manufacturer.

Open back designed tweeters need to be in their own enclosure as the movement and vibration from woofers and subwoofers can damage it, and will most likely distort the sound. The tweeters need to be sealed in the enclosure to protect them from any damage.  

What Is Tweeter Impedance?

Impedance is the load a speaker puts on an amplifier. It is the resistance, rated in Ohms, which a speaker offers to the current supplied to it. Impedance, unlike resistance, changes with frequency. Since frequency in music is constantly changing, so is the impedance of a speaker.

The reason why knowing impedance is important is that crossovers are designed for specific impedance ratings for speakers. Impedance ratings on speakers are stated at the nominal state or lowest average values of 4Ω, 6Ω, 8Ω or 16Ω, rather than stating the impedance of every frequency.

If speaker impedance is not properly calibrated, the speakers will play sounds at mismatched volumes; the power supplied will vary, resulting in the playback flaw. This is because you want to keep the impedance in proportion with what your speaker can handle. Simply put, lower impedance means more current resulting in a greater load with increased power. It is vice versa for raised impedance.  

Tweeter Power Ratings

Power ratings for tweeters and speakers are also important to know because if they do not match, they can result in overheated amplifiers and can ruin your speakers. Most tweeters cannot handle the same large amount of power that large speakers can. This is because speakers, and even woofers, can disperse large amounts of heat that is produced through electrical currents with the large voice coils. Voice coils are made up of a long wire that is wound up that has electrical resistance.

Tweeters tend to have smaller voice coils, thus, not offering as much resistance to the large amounts of power. Check the power ratings on your tweeter before purchasing it; 25W to 50W tweeters are available fairly easily in the mid-priced range.

What Is Tweeter Impedance?

Tweeter Efficiency (SPL Rating)

The efficiency of a speaker is how loud it will play in decibels (dB). This volume is determined when a speaker is fed one watt of power and measured from a microphone positioned one meter away. To clarify, if one speaker is 10dB higher in efficiency than another, it will play twice as loud with the same amount of power supplied.

Though efficiency calculates how loud a speaker can play, it does not necessarily mean that sound is of quality; high efficiency speakers can have low quality sound. Many good speakers, like in luxury cars, have low efficiency ratings.

Just like other speakers, tweeters also offer an efficiency rating. This rating is stated on the tweeter under SPL; you will know how loud your tweeter can be when supplied a certain amount of power.  On average, tweeter efficiency lies between 89dB to 901dB at 1W.

Types of Tweeters

Different types of tweeters are available at various price ranges for all types of speakers and their requirements, discussed in detail below:

Cone 

The cone tweeter is the most common design in cars. It is a smaller version of a standard speaker, and is relatively inexpensive to produce. Cone tweeters have the same basic design as a woofer, only that they produce higher frequencies. The cones are light, so they can produce rapid movement and usually made of cheap materials so they do a poor job of accurately reproducing sound.

Dome 

A dome shape is used to disperse sound in a wider space. Since high frequency sound waves are very directional, a wider dispersion of the sound waves will give you a larger space for optimal sound when you are setting up your speaker. A dome tweeter will likely have a higher power rating than its semi-done or cone counterparts.

Piezo 

Instead of a voice coil and cone or dome, an electrical connection is applied to a piezoelectric crystal, which, in turn, vibrates a diaphragm. A signal for the sound is applied to the crystal, which converts the electrical energy into mechanical. 

Ribbon 

Ribbon tweeters use a unique design in order to produce sound. Instead of a traditional diaphragm, a magnetic force is applied to a thin ribbon to create the sound. The ribbon moves back and forth in a linear fashion. These often create the highest quality of sound for music.

Electrostatic 

A thin diaphragm is suspended between two perforated metal screens. The screens react to an electrical signal, which makes them alternately attract and repel the suspended diaphragm, creating a vibration that makes sound waves.

Horn

A horn tweeter is any of the above tweeters coupled with a horned structure. The horn is used to control the dispersion of sound and to create higher efficiency. These types of tweeters can also produce higher quality sounds.

Concentric

This type of tweeter consists of rings and a center plug that are part of a moving surface. These tweeters deliver the most detail for sound, but they are not very commonly available. However, they do not offer the best dispersion. They are best suited for speakers that directly face the listener.

Plasma

These complex tweeters use a small sphere of plasma, or ion that is electrically charged to produce sound. These are not common tweeters, but they are advantageous because they are very responsive to signal input. Plasma tweeters are most commonly paired with horns to produce viable output levels.

Super Tweeters

These types of tweeters are designed to have higher power ratings. They produce higher volumes and are used in situations where very loud speakers are needed. These types of tweeters are not usually found in home stereo systems as they do not produce high quality and detailed sound. 

Final Thoughts – What Are Tweeters And What Do They Do?

Tweeters are small specialized speakers that are used to produce high frequency sounds that regular speakers are not capable of handling. They work in conjunction with other parts of a sound system to create the highest quality and most detailed sound you can get.

If you are looking to listen to music, how it was intended by musicians, try introducing a tweeter to your sound system to experience the range of frequencies.

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