Many home audio enthusiasts mention the ribbon tweeters (RT), how amazing they are. Yet in car audio, this tweeters are still not widely used, Some car audio enthusiast and professional don’t recommend RT because they are relative hard to install and adjust. From many articles i read about RT usage in car audio and my experience in using this tweeters in my car, i will try to elaborate the advantages, disadvantages and some notes for these tweeters application.
First off, what is a ribbon tweeter and how are they different from regular tweeters? Here’s a look at my VRT18 ribbon tweeter with the factory passive crossover:
Imagine your regular old dome tweeter and voice coil. With a ribbon tweeter, there is no separate dome and voice coil. The aluminum ribbon element acts as both the radiating element (the dome) and the voice coil together. Also, the ribbon element is much thinner, lighter, and faster to respond than your typical coupled voice coil and dome tweeter.
So what are the advantages of a ribbon over a regular dome?
- High sensitivity and superb dynamics. Less than few watts are needed to yield high spl levels.
- Great horizontal off-axis response resulting more detailed frequency and wider soundstage.
- Limited vertical dispersion resulting in reduced car reflections effect.
- Limited vertical dispersion. While this can be advantage, it can also be a disadvantage. Tweeter must be aimed directly to listening vertical position, otherwise the spl will drop off. Can be a pain to work with if there are 2 people of different height sitting in the car.
- Fragile ribbon element. You do not want to blow directly on them, and they require steep crossovers usually 18db (3rd order) or above to protect them from over excursion.
- Size. Tweeter is pretty big and deep.
This is an example of vertical dispersion of 3.8 ribbon tweeter:
Some tips for using ribbons in cars
- Kick panel mounting is generally best because these tweeters are big. But if this placement is not available for your car, like mine, you can try head level A-pillar for placement and you can experiment for the angling. I recommend to try a windshield toward angle or listener toward angle. Just make sure you get the best stereo imaging and sound stage.
- 1-5 watts is plenty of power, and will easily play at painful listening levels.
- Always use the factory crossover or an inline capacitor to protect the ribbon. A Solen 27uF poly cap works fine.
- Make sure to vertically aim the tweeter at your head level.
- Use a steep 18db (3rd order) or higher highpass crossover, if you want to use active crossover.