Intro/ribbon drivers

rblnr

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 3, 2010
1,880
1
38
NYC/NJ
#1
I know some amp guys. I know some source guys. I know some tube guys. (insert comments about needing new friends) Me, I’m a speaker guy.

Speaker design has always fascinated me. Unlike the electronics in front of them, you can see a speaker working, breathing, huffing, and sometimes chuffing -- playing (or playing back) music. Pretty animate as far as inanimate objects go.

Also unlike electronics, you can see a lot of their design. So many shapes, sizes, types of drivers, crossover choices, materials, bass loading schemes, etc. No other component so directly interacts with the room, and by extension, the people in it. Yeah, every piece matters on the way there, but for me, the piece that turns electricity into music is where the magic finally lies.

I’ve been informally educating myself on speaker design since getting a pair of Phase Research Little –Ds in the early 80s. Ribbon tweeter, transmission line loading bracing the cabinet, time phased, front face covered with thin acoustic foam – I’ve got a better idea of what those things mean now and thought it would be fun to start a discussion on speaker design.

Caveat: I am absolutely not a speaker engineer or expert – much of what follows is my experience of certain designs and parameters, food for thought that hopefully spurs discussion. I’ll start here with ribbon drivers and add more subjects, such as crossover slopes, controlled directivity, and time phasing down the road.

Ribbon: Since those Little Ds, I’ve been a fan of ribbon drivers. Went a long time with domes and cones before returning to ribbon tweeters and mids in my VMPS RM40s, and the Sunfire CRM2s I use for surrounds. Speed, liquidity and transparency are what I find to be most notable with good ribbons – they make most domes seem to be letdowns in my experience. The appeal of ribbon technology is their extremely light weight which should translate into excellent transient performance as well as little or no resonance of consequence to muddle sound. A ribbon tweeter can be up to fifty times lighter than a dome. In relative weight, that’s a tiger versus an elephant. Which one will have an easier time cleanly starting and stopping; tracing fast-changing musical signals?

On the downside: ribbons have the reputation of being non-linear, fragile, and power hungry among other maladies. However, advances in materials and fabrication processes, such as neodynium magnets, kapton, and lamination techniques, along with lower prices for some of these have moved ribbon drivers from a niche product to the relatively commonplace. Manufacturers such as Meridian, Verity, Monitor Audio, Aerial, BG/Wisdom, Adam, Aurum Cantus, and others use ribbon drivers, and often in their top line speakers.

Now obviously, there are good speakers with both domes and ribbons. My ATC 20-2 actives have a very good-sounding dome. Having said that, a good ribbon tweeter usually sounds more right to me than a good dome. What’s your take?
 

kach22i

WBF Founding Member
#2
I agree with you about loudspeakers being the thing which interests me most. The other parts of the playback system are typically black boxes lacking the Industrial Design and mystique of speakers (tube amps excluded). Turntables come close in that you can see them spin, but you hear the speaker.

I like ribbons very much but they often don't image as well as larger panel type speakers and they have phase issues (almost always).

I'm sure with such broad statements I invite some disagreement, I mean no harm. I'm open to learning so educate me.

I have not seen nor heard of the Sunfire CRM2 before, looks like a neat little speaker.

http://www.htguide.com/forum/showthread.php4?t=26007
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
11,031
22
38
Manila, Philippines
#3
I'm a ribbon kind a guy :)

My Von Schweikert VR-9s, Unifield 3s, LSA1 Statement Monitors and Ambience Reference 1600s all have ribbons. There's just an effortlessness in conveying air that is addicting. I even have Townshend Supertweeters on hand just for play.
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#4
I am a big believer too. Wisdom has a great paper that is easy to understand about the merits of various technologies: http://www.wisdomaudio.com/pdfs/pm_white-paper.pdf

What I also like about so called line sources is that they are able to deal with room reflections better. And, in case of Wisdom, are shallow enough to put in-wall! Great way to hide the speakers from the front of the room.
 

kach22i

WBF Founding Member
#7
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#8
If I'm not mistaken a line source can reflect too, they just don't show that sequence going that far.
Yes, that is correct. The difference is that the direct sound is much stronger in planar speakers (by power of 2) due to cylindrical distribution of the waves, vs. sphere for normal speaker. So the reflections play a much smaller role.
 

rblnr

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 3, 2010
1,880
1
38
NYC/NJ
#10
Those diagrams are clever in how they ignore side wall reflections, but you still get more direct vs. reflected sound by minimizing floor and ceiling reflections. My forthcoming speakers are line arrays -- one of these days they might actually show up at my door. I reviewed some full range ribbons by Analysis Audio awhile ago -- they were excellent, but like a lot of dipoles, I struggled to get them to work right in my room. Those Sunfires are pretty amazing for their size and match well w/my VMPSs. I find them to be nearly perfect surround speakers, partly because they're so easy to place.

I'm a longtime fan of controlled directivity speakers, the design goal makes real world sense to me. The Finns have always been big on these, what with Gradient, Amphion, and Genelec to a lesser extent. I know Gradients and Amphions well -- their sound is immediately identifiable by its clear and dimensional midband.

Here's another link about the propagation pattern of line arrays: http://www.meyersound.com/support/papers/line_array_theory.htm
 

kach22i

WBF Founding Member
#11
I know his is a ribbon thread, so I'm just going to post these several links. If there is interest in talking about them I'll start some new threads.

Podium Sound
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/podium/1_2.html

................more Podium Sound:
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/podium/1.html


Manger Sound Transducer
http://www.manger-msw.de/index.php?pid=FjWUD3Egf3Tbj5Gnug3O4WkstMW9vjOb&language=en&country=


RAAL ribbon tweeter to stay on topic.............
http://www.raalribbon.com/

Article/dissection:
http://www.goodsoundclub.com/Forums/ShowPost.aspx?postID=3766#3766

Tonian Ribbon Tweeter
http://6moons.com/audioreviews/tonian2/tweeter.html
 

soundofvoid

WBF Founding Member
Apr 22, 2010
173
0
0
Athens/Greece
#12
Been into ribbons since i've first heard the Emit K on my Kappa 8s and then 9As.No other type of tweeter can come close (to my ears-you can have all the beryllium and diamond dust of the world onto your domes-i don't care).Then the sickness progressed when i had my first encounters with Maggies and big Infinities.Soon i understood that the placing of a dipole speaker is a pain in the ...,so i turned to speakers that have tamed the rear
sound wave.I now own a fine speaker that has a cult following in central Europe which i have modded with double panar mids and ribbons. DSC05043..jpg
This way i could lower the mid cross point to the TL loaded woofer at 300Hz and gain more body/presence all the way up.
My next speaker will be completely diy with arrays for planar mids (LFT-10s)and ribbons (also LFT new neodymium long tweeters),plus double symmetrical TL woofers...I will have the time of my life making it!
 

soundofvoid

WBF Founding Member
Apr 22, 2010
173
0
0
Athens/Greece
#14
George,as you have probably figured out by now,"i don't run stock".And it's fun fun fun all the time!
The speaker is the QUADRAL VULKAN MKV which ended it's commercial life at the start of this decade.
It can be obtained second hand from Germany/Austria/Holland/Denmark/Belgium from 2000 euro to
as high as 4500 euro depending on condition and finish(7000+depending of finish).You can't have new mids and tweeters from the factory
(neodymium magnets) but they will repair existing ones for life (at a cost).Think of it as a top Piega with guts!It's a speaker to live with,unless you can find this one(500 pairs):http://www.titanstory.de/titan/titan5 which i persuaded a wealthier friend to buy (6500 to 10000 euro, used) or this one http://www.sac.de/sac/Files/Download/Tests/anthaeus_stp0189.pdf. which is a very limited speaker of the 90's (55 pairs) and it's price starts at around 15000 euro_OR if you are crazy like me,nothing is enough,and you start your own "cost no object" project.
All these are designed as planars with subs :mine gets to 20Hz (-3db), the Titan gets to 16Hz (-3db)
and the Anthaeus gets down to 15Hz (-3db).Mine is passive,the Titan has an active 12"woofer with an incorporated 400Watts amp while you could have the Anthaeus either as passive,with active 2X12" woofers, or all active with 6 individual amplifiers for each speaker-INSIDE the speaker...
And to finish this, there was also the top of the line Pegasus with three towers of 2,20m
each one reserved for bass/mid/tremble,all active with 12 amplifiers for each speaker,weighing
about a ton each channel and costing four times the price of the Porsche 911 turbo of the time...
Only three made and sold to tycoons...Remained as absolute reference in the german (very strict)
Stereoplay for about a decade...I think i have a photo in my other computer.
 
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soundofvoid

WBF Founding Member
Apr 22, 2010
173
0
0
Athens/Greece
#15
And here is a photo with the Titans MKV (original price 25000 euro)
with me standing besides them (i am 1,85 meters tall)
and here is a mag photo of the Pegasus (original price ~160000 euro)
 

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MylesBAstor

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
11,221
0
0
#16
And here is a photo with the Titans MKV (original price 14000-15000euro)
with me standing besides them (i am 1,85 meters tall)
and here is a mag photo of the Pegasus (original price ~160000euro)
Interesting to see what doesn't make it across the big pond!
 

soundofvoid

WBF Founding Member
Apr 22, 2010
173
0
0
Athens/Greece
#18
You got them George!Actually this pair belongs to a friend.It not the SE version of the Power-3s and at the time i had only one GTA SE-100.I was thinking about getting me a pair too!
Provided that you weren't asking for the 200Watt+ power that the Power-3s could pump -sonic wise it was a tie!
The SF was more neutral but the GTA had a more electrifying sound with the spectrum extremes more pronounced.
So i decided to bite the bullet,get another one (ahem ...and then another and another and another) modify them extensively,use them as monos and be happy ever after.
Right now the same friend admits that my set up is way better...
For the record I have to admit that for the initial purchase amount for the SE-100s plus the money spent on upgrades (remember that i did all the labour!) could probably get me the SE version of the Power-3s ...with a margin.
But i have no regrets.I made them as i wanted them and learned a heck about tube gear.
Just the same with the speakers:at first the factory support told me that i was crazy but then understood that there was devotion in my craziness...
 
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muralman1

New Member
Jul 7, 2010
479
0
0
Sacramento Ca
#19
The Apogee Scintilla has double naked corrugated aluminum ribbons that run up the five foot speaker and then down the other side giving a bit less that 20' of tweeter per speaker. The tweeter ribbons are .25" wide. There is a 1.5" wide mid range ribbon that runs in the middle of the four runs of tweeter. It takes a mighty amp to make noise, but what a magical noise it is, totally captivating. These ribbons are so fast, there is absolutely no movement noticed at maximum volume. This is with ceramic magnets.

 

rblnr

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 3, 2010
1,880
1
38
NYC/NJ
#20
Have always wanted to hear those. Did a review of some Analysis Audio ribbons that is as close as I've gotten to that type of design.
 

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