On hand for my test we had the following reference tweeters:
- TBI TWEP51 (the focus of this review)
- LPG 25nfa
- SEAS 27TAFNC
- DLS Iridium1
- Hertz HT 25
It's been a while since I've purchased retail components but I must say the packing for the TBI tweeters is very complete. They supplied mounting hardware for flush, surface, and pedestal-angle mounting and even provided a crossover for those looking for a plug-and-play upgrade to their existing system. Since I am running active I grabbed the flush mount cups and put everything else back in the box for safe keeping.
For additional photos of the packaging and a complete list of what is included please check out bobditts review.
Installing these tweeters in my car was a breeze, especially since I already had sail panel pods built for the LPG 25nfa. You can see below that both tweeters use identical flush mount cups but the chamber on the back is noticeably different for the TBIs. Their shallow depth makes installation anywhere easy.
After initially connecting these, my first impression was they were very detailed in the upper range (especially for a soft dome) and produced a very clear interpretation of all the music I threw at. They were also more sensitive than my previously installed tweeters (Hertz HT 25) so it was clear that I would be lowering the gain on the amp once I was committed to installing them.
For reference, my current setup is composed of a DLS A5 powering a 12" DLS OA12 Infinite Baffle subwoofer (300w) and a pair of Hertz HV 165 midbass drivers (85w each). A DLS A8 powers a pair of tweeters (40w each) and rearfill speakers (40w - but currently turned off).
To accurately review the tweeters I removed the driver's side and used the head unit balance control to A/B test them against the other tweeters I had on hand. I listened from both driver's seat and passenger's seat to get the best idea of how each one sounded.
VS LPG 25NFA
Although these two tweeters look almost identical aside from the color of the housing, they sound very different. The LPG is soft and subtle with little to no high end detail compared to the TBI which brings out enough detail in cymbals for a veteran drummer to note the brand and model. If you enjoy the mellow sound of your LPGs and can't stand metal dome tweeters, the TBIs are not for you. However, if you feel your LPGs are lacking detail, the TBI would be a great upgrade.
VS SEAS 27TAFNC
The SEAS came the closest of all the tweeters I tested to providing the same level of detail as the TBIs. However, the sound curve I imagined in my head while listening to the two was completely different. The SEAS would emphasize the lower range (think sssssybalance) while the TBI would emphasize the upper range (think sizzling cymbal crashes). The SEAS would sound full but lacking the high end shimmer while the TBI in comparison would sound thin but very detailed. I think with a bit of tuning either tweeter could be made to sound like the other, but out of the box I am not a fan of the SEAS at any crossover point. I might be biased but I've spent many hours on it and can never get it to sound "pleasant" at moderately loud volumes. Hearing the TBI along side it was refreshing, knowing that the same detail can be achieved without ear fatigue.
VS DLS Iridium1
The TBI was so much more sensitive than the DLS tweeter that I was unable to get a fair level match between these two...mainly because my PPI DCX-730 display has conked out and I can't adjust anything. I didn't spend much time with the DLS because it was so quiet in comparison but again, the TBI had more detail while the DLS was pretty flat sounding. Nothing stood out with the DLS beyond what I usually hear while the TBI had me taping along with the high-hat on songs because I'd never heard it rendered so transparently from the other highs.
VS Hertz HT 25
The Hertz could keep up with the TBI detail but similar to the SEAS it did it in a different manor. It did a poor job of handling loud volumes in comparison to the TBI but at moderate volumes actually produced a richer sound, especially noticeable in guitar work. The TBI again had the edge on high end detail but I was surprised that Hertz mid-level line could keep up so well. I was left with a little more ear fatigue from the Hertz than the TBI due to the fuller low end but I'd be happy with either of these tweeters in my car.
After stacking them up against all the other tweeters I was eager to install both again and try out some different tracks. I have since put about 2 hours of listening on them and have been enjoying every minute of it...still with no EQ or level changes. With the windows open, they can over power wind noise with clear and detailed highs. They blend pretty well with my mids but occasionally I hear the mids breakup at loud volumes and I'm itching to change the crossover point to see how low the TBIs will go. Rock music sounds fabulous, jazz sounds natural, and classical sounds soothing.
The question I keep asking myself is, are these worth the $200 price tag? In comparison to the SEAS ($62) and LPG ($86) I find it hard to answer. Yes they sound better and more detailed, but the SEAS comes pretty close for 1/3 the price. If the option was running the TBI with no processing or running the SEAS + purchasing an EQ for $150, I'd probably pick the TBI...but that's an easy answer since I already have a $300 EQ (albeit the display is broken). But I must say, these are the best sounding tweeters I have personally listened to out of the box. I want to put them up against the DLS on another day but I don't think the DLS will provide the same detail...otherwise I would have heard it by now.