Music and audio consist of a range of frequencies and multiple speakers are needed to enjoy the full range of these sounds. A tweeter is a smaller speaker that delivers higher frequencies. These high frequencies, often referred to as treble, are an integral part of most music and a quality tweeter is essential in order to appreciate the full quality of the audio.
We take a look at what are tweeters and explain the speakers in more detail.
Where do tweeters fit into the mix?
The main speaker is the woofer. This tends to be fairly large and can deliver a range of frequencies. Alone, it cannot deliver the full range of frequencies, particularly the high-pitched treble. This is where the tweeter comes in.
You will probably recognize them as the smaller speakers often positioned near the top of the speaker box.
The tweeters are drivers that can reach higher frequencies. They deliver the upper notes (treble) and are smaller in size. Alone they are not effective but in combination with woofers and other speakers, they help to round off the sound.
It is best if they are directed towards the listener but they complete the range of frequencies for quality sound on better speaker systems.
Tweeter frequency range
We use the term kilohertz to define the frequency of sound the human ear can hear. The average human can hear frequencies from 20 Hz to 20kHz.
The term refers to the number of cycles an audio waveform creates per second. As we have explained tweeters deliver the higher frequencies which are the smaller waves.
The average tweeters operate in the 2 kHz to 20 kHz range although certain specialty models deliver frequencies as high as 100 kHz.
Certain musical instruments, synthetic effects, and keyboard music, cymbals, and other audio devices benefit more from quality tweeters. They are essential in delivering a complete rounded sound as it was originally recorded and engineered. This applies to music as well as TV or movie soundtracks.
2-Way and 3-Way Speakers
Some basic speakers consist of only a woofer and a tweeter. These are 2-way speakers. This is not to say that they are sub-standard and it is possible to enjoy quality sound from a good 2-way speaker.
A 3-way speaker includes a mid-range speaker as well as the woofer and tweeter. This will give the sound more depth.
On some systems, a subwoofer is added for that rich deep bass.
Each speaker is designed to operate at a specific frequency range. A crossover is needed to direct the frequencies to the appropriate speaker. It is an electronic circuit that directs different frequencies according to the speaker frequency range.
Without it, you would have tweeters trying to deliver bass notes and subwoofers trying to play high frequencies. As you can imagine, this simply would not work and defeats the point of the different speakers. It would cause distortion, poor sound quality, and possibly damage the speakers.
Tweeter impedance explained
All speakers have an impedance rating and this is expressed in Ohms. It refers to the speaker’s resistance to electrical current.
A tweeter has a voice coil consisting of wire. This has electrical resistance. What is important is that the impedance works with the crossover and is in line with the impedance of the other speakers in the system, particularly the woofer.
The power of the speakers is determined by the Ohms and a mismatch will result in poor sound quality. Essentially, some speakers will work harder (and be louder) than others. They all need to be in balance for quality sound that is true to the original recording.
The average home system has an 8 Ohm rating while most car systems operate at 4 ohms. It is important to check the rating and get it right. The incorrect rating can not only deliver poor quality audio but also cause damage to the amplifier.
Another important rating is the power rating, measured in watts. A tweeter does not have to nor needs as much power as the woofer or other speakers. The average speaker system has tweeters rated at 25 to 50 watts but many have a rating as low as 15 watts.
Tweeter materials and designs
As with most speakers, tweeters come in a range of designs.
Soft and hard dome tweeters
These are the most common. Hard domes are generally made from titanium, aluminum, or alloys. Ceramic is also used on some models. Soft dome tweeters are made from silk or other durable textiles. Both styles work well provided the specifications are correct for the system.
Horn or Super Tweeters
This design is often used at concerts and outdoor events. Horn tweeters generally use a Piezo driver while super tweeters use a magnet driver. They are louder than the average tweeter but the sound quality is often not as good.
Compression horn drivers
These manage to deliver louder volumes without a reduction in quality. They are found in many top-of-the-range home and commercial systems.
This style of the tweeter has a ribbon-styled diaphragm that is thin and responsive. They tend to be more expensive and found on high-end equipment.
There is little doubt that tweeters are important to appreciate the full range of sound in movies and music. They are small but make a remarkable difference to the quality of the sound that the speakers deliver.
Ensure you get the right tweeters to work with the amplifier and other speakers so that you can enjoy a crisp clear sound including the more high-pitched frequencies.
This article was last updated on September 8, 2021 .