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Discussion Starter · #481 ·
ok, so as long as you can find a way to mount the massive things, the SA1's may be the best tweeter for a low budget sq build?
There is not much of a difference between the D3004 and D2004 when crossed at 3KHz. The D2004 is much easier to package. The Stevens soft domes are a little brighter like I mentioned prior.
 

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the d2004's seem to be about the same price? im assuming brighter to be a negative in this context based on tone?
 

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Discussion Starter · #483 ·
the d2004's seem to be about the same price? im assuming brighter to be a negative in this context based on tone?
No, brighter is not a negative. It's just a descriptive. When tuned to a flat frequency response the upper midrange seems to stick out a little more with the SASDT's than it does the ScanSpeak's. Perhaps they are a little more sensitive in this region.

This is not bad or good. It's really up to personal preference. The Scan's are my reference tweet. I consider them neutral sounding. The SASDT's play slightly above neutral in the upper midrange. Not to the point of being harsh or standing out. It's just their sonic signature. Some people prefer this, some people don't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #484 ·
Review: Xcelsus XXT30 tweeter paired with Brax ML3, Focal 3.5wm midrange, and Xcelsus XXM325 midrange.

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My initial observation. The Xcelsus XXT30’s are much alike, but a little more laid back, than the Morel Piccolo’s. They have a similar tonality but are slightly more subdued. At first I had the XXT30’s paired with the Brax ML3’s. I thought this combo was too laid back for my preference. So, I switched over to evaluating it with the Focal 3.5wm. Now this combo was nice.

The light snare brush strokes and crisp guitar notes came back on Calexico’s “Dub Latina”. The XXT30 paired with the 3.5wm also set a beautiful holographic sound stage. The same goes for Alice in Chains “Rooster”. The beginning guitar strums were pretty [email protected] lifelike. They set a fair stage depth between left / right guitar which sit up front and vocals / percussion which were centered but set back. Layne Staley’s vocals were clear and powerful. The backing guitars hummed and buzzed just as they do with the best drivers I’ve heard. Also the vocals in Patricia Barber “Too Rich for My Blood” were silky smooth. But, when she hit her ultra high dynamic notes the XXT30’s did not hesitate. They replicated her crescendos perfectly.

The XXT30 offers the almost same stage depth as the Piccolo. They cast a nice deep holographic image. But the Piccolo and TBM still have the edge by being able to place specific sounds in space vs. just creating the space.

The mariachi horns in Calexico’s “El Picadore” sounded pleasingly dynamic but just a tad harsh at high volume (loud enough to replicate sitting up front of a live performance) with the XXT30.

The XXT30’s lose a bit of dynamic range replication vs the TBM but are more dynamic than the Piccolo. In Calexico’s “Crumble” the horn solos really stood out. As did the orchestra crescendos in Saint Saens Symphony “Danse Macabre”.

The XXT30 loses out on a little detail vs. the TBM or Piccolo. This is only really noticed during intricate percussion work like cymbal rides, high hat, or clicking sticks. Also with well mic’d guitar plucks. You can hear this by listening closely to the last 2 minutes of Patricia Barber’s “Nardis” or the Arne Domnérus song “Drum Boogie”. The XXT30’s have a very similar detail signature to the Piccolo. They keep detail at bay and only bring it forward as the song requires.

The XT30’s have a wonderful tonality. They are VERY close to the Scan D3004 but a little more forward sounding. The XXT30’s are definitely much better at creating a spacious sound stage than the Scan’s.

The Rux Review song “Asphalt Yards” creates a huge / wide soundstage when played back properly. With the XXT30’s and 3.5wm’s the soundstage was contained within boundaries between speakers but was deep. I’ve found this to be a tradeoff in all speakers I’ve tested. They either cast no image, a wide image, or a deep image. I have not run across a combo yet that does both wide and deep.

Like the Piccolo’s the XXT30’s may not be my first choice when primarily listening to metal tunes. While they do just fine playing songs like Gojira “Amazonia” or the Ministries “Ass Clown” they just don’t have the dynamic range to really do these song’s justice. They are more well balanced. Whereas I believe metal tunes should be played back with a more dynamic tweeter such as the Focal Utopia M TBM or of course the Steven’s HCLD’s

The overall listening experience was tonally different when switching from the Focal 3.5wm midrange to the Xcelsus XXM325 midrange. The higher end of male vocal was accentuated a little by the XXM325's. However, I didn't hear any significant difference when going back to listen to all the same tunes again. You'll hear this in my review of the XXM325. I am quite pleased with them as well. When paired together the Xcelsus combo can make for a quite pleasant sound quality listening experience for a fraction of the cost of other solutions.

Over all the XXT30’s are a very pleasant set of tweeters to listen to. They hang in there with my favorites (Piccolo’s and TBM’s) with not much else left to be desired. They are an absolute steal for the price. I would pick them over the ScanSpeak D3004 if I had to make the choice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Xcelsus XXT30 Soft Dome Tweeter Rating

Tonality 4 of 4
Detail 3.5 of 4
Spaciousness 3.5 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 3.5 of 4
Dynamics 3 of 4
 

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Discussion Starter · #485 ·
Review: Xcelsus XXM325 midrange paired with XXT30 and Focal Utopia TBM tweeters

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Opener: It seems strange that I am publishing the review of this midrange first. I’ve done detailed reviews on at least 6 others. However, it currently has the most community buzz going on about it. I might as well satisfy the masses.

I could sit and listen to the XXM325 midranges all day. They have wonderful tonality, lifelike presentation, and a beautiful center image. They seemed to get a little more mellow as I spent a few hours breaking them in. However, they still have a somewhat “sharp” sounding signature that lands them somewhere between the Focal 3.5wm and Dynaudio E430.

One of the first things you will notice is the drivers I compare these to. This is for a reason. I truly believe the XXm325’s are in a similar league.

The XXM325’s cast a wider stage than the Focal 3.5wm’s. But, they are a little less detailed as the 3.5wm’s or the E430’s. Also, the XXM325’s don’t sound as holographic (less depth of field) as the 3.5wm’s or the E430’s. Setting that aside they are a great sounding speaker. I enjoyed listening to them throughout songs and genres in my library.

The XXM325’s tonal signature is very similar to the Focal 3.5wm’s (meaning they are a little more forward sounding). But, they are not as harsh on less than optimal materials like film and television broadcast. The Focal 3.5wm’s might be the best for pure high definition music content. But, the XXM325’s have 90% of the performance and are a better “all purpose” solution if you will be listening to other material such as films or news casts.

The XXM325’s blend into music seamlessly like other high performance midranges. Meaning, you don’t even realize speakers are there. I can’t say this for other midranges I tried like the ScanSpeak 12M, 10F, or Dynaudio MF171. Those drivers can sound really good but they don’t disappear. You still sense you are listening to music through speakers.

Like I said earlier, the XXM325’s sacrifice stage depth and some 3D spatial cues. For instance, when the 3.5WM’s or E430’s are paired with the Piccolo’s magic happens. The soundstage becomes multi-layered and 3D due to additional depth cues. The multi-layer stage depth noticeably collapses to only a few layers when substituting the XXM325’s. You can hear various layers and depth but can’t accurately pinpoint instruments or sounds in space.

The reduced stage depth is mostly evident when listening to technical tracks that focus on depth and creating 3D space. Depth does not collapse entirely. However, some of the layering is lost. This is by no means a show stopper. It’s just different going without it once you’ve heard it. It’s a similar effect than going from the TBM to Piccolo when paired with the 3.5wm’s. The TBM’s still offered some stage depth but not as spacious as the Piccolo’s. This is what led me to pair the XXM325’s with the TBM’s. They complement each other's strong points quite well.

The XXM325’s have a very pleasing tonality. They nail Days of the New “Face of the Earth” perfectly. The guitars sound rich and detailed. Travis’s vocals sound astonishing but get a little raspy at higher volumes. But to be fair most, if not all, other speakers I am evaluating behave the same.

My biggest surprise was that the XXM325’s also nailed any Patricia Barber song I threw at them. These are among my best recordings. They are highly detailed and dynamic. The XXM325’s did not break a sweat. I went back and listened to these tracks a few times not only trying to find faults, but, because it sounded too dang good. As a matter of fact I found my first flaw in the recording of the track Nardis using these midranges. You could hear the noise gate used during recording switch in and out while Patrica's vocals hit silent patches.

I was expecting these things to puke during Patricia’s song “Too Rich for My Blood”. At 5:00 into the song she hits some extremely high and dynamic vocals causing many speakers distort. But, the XXM325’s held their composure, even at high volume.

Now I need to go back and check the same passages on the Focal’s and Dyn’s.

Moving from the 3.5WM to the XXM325 to the 3.5WM again (those two speakers sound a lot alike) I decided to go back to the E430’s.

What can you say about the E430’s? Perhaps the perfect midrange? It offers 90% of the detail of the Focal (like the XXM325) but is more mature and mellowed out about it. The E430 just blends into the atmosphere. It is not forward and jumpy like the 3.5WM. It’s the Focals bigger, more calm, brother. The 3.5WM’s can sound like an angry German when the E430’s sound as smooth as Barry White. The E430’s just have a better overall balance. They never “get in your face” like the Focals can on dicey material.

Don’t get me wrong. The Focals are a wonderful speaker. But, tend to be hot headed when the playback material is not perfect. You can’t beat them with well recorded hi-res audio. But, don’t try to listen to them while watching a football game on broadcast television where they tend to jack audio levels. The 3.5wm’s will spit that right back in your face.

E430 vocals and instruments replicated perfectly. Natural sounding with no bite. Kurt Ellings voice is replicated perfectly. Just as he sounds live.

So where does this leave the XXM325’s in my world? Somewhere in between the 3.5wm’s and the E430’s. Maybe a middle brother that not many people pay attention to?

The XXM325 is very detailed and revealing. For instance, you can hear singers parting their lips, taking a breath, etc. Spit sizzling on the reed of a saxophone or flange of a trumpet. Fingers leaving a guitar string and the amount of force / friction involved. The XXM325 does all of this without over emphasizing anything within the audible spectrum. Everything sounds well balanced and just right.

Overall another big hit for Xcelsus. The XXM325 is a midrange that can hang in there with my favorite high end devices for a fraction of the cost. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Xcelsus XXM325 midrange rating:

Tonality 4 of 4
Detail 3.5 of 4
Spaciousness 3.5 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 3.5 of 4
Dynamics 3.5 of 4
 

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Just out of curiosity, are you making any measurements to verify crossovers, phase through the crossover, response, etc.. because a lot of these staging cues might be something as simple as that.

Another thing, obviously this is a car audio forum and you are probably comparing these to see what you want to use in your car(s). How we use speakers in a car is with a processor and we equalize the response to correct the peaks and nulls of the environment AND the speakers themselves. I think you should be equalizing these and shaping crossovers and verifying phase cohesion JUST as we do in a car audio install so it's actually apples to apples.

Sent from my SM-G998U using Tapatalk
 
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Discussion Starter · #487 ·
Just out of curiosity, are you making any measurements to verify crossovers, phase through the crossover, response, etc.. because a lot of these staging cues might be something as simple as that.

Another thing, obviously this is a car audio forum and you are probably comparing these to see what you want to use in your car(s). How we use speakers in a car is with a processor and we equalize the response to correct the peaks and nulls of the environment AND the speakers themselves. I think you should be equalizing these and shaping crossovers and verifying phase cohesion JUST as we do in a car audio install so it's actually apples to apples.

Sent from my SM-G998U using Tapatalk
I explained my setup and listening environment back about 20 pages ago.
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Speakers are sitting on top of a 1-3/4" thick hardwood butcher block table. Plenty of glass and hard plastic surfaces around the speakers to create a bit of reflection issues. Speakers are currently driven by a spare Helix V Twelve amplifier I had laying around. I am fully utilizing the amps DSP functions just as I would in vehicle.

I measure each set of divers I hook up to test. Phase coherence is not that big of an issue in this case dues to atmosphere but I am still monitoring it.

300Hz crossover point for midrange
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3KHz crossover for tweeter
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Quick frequency response plot of the next set I have on the block for testing:

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I don't need to use as much EQ in this setup as I would a car. At least not for midrange and treble. But, midbass has some room modes I can't do much with. Like the suck out you see at 100hz. I did do some shaping in the midbass to subbass transition.
 
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Discussion Starter · #488 ·
Just out of curiosity, are you making any measurements to verify crossovers, phase through the crossover, response, etc.. because a lot of these staging cues might be something as simple as that.

Another thing, obviously this is a car audio forum and you are probably comparing these to see what you want to use in your car(s). How we use speakers in a car is with a processor and we equalize the response to correct the peaks and nulls of the environment AND the speakers themselves. I think you should be equalizing these and shaping crossovers and verifying phase cohesion JUST as we do in a car audio install so it's actually apples to apples.

Sent from my SM-G998U using Tapatalk
I also forgot to mention that all drivers under test are being tested under the exact same conditions unless there is some issue preventing me from doing so. Midrange highpass crossover point is 300Hz. Midrange to tweeter crossover point is 3000hz.

The differences I hear are attributed to the speakers themselves, not a change to the setting or environment.

So far I have not had an issue with this. All the 3" to 4" midranges I've tried can play down to 300Hz without stress. I'd like to lower this to 250Hz or even 200hz. But, I feel not all midranges will do this gracefully at higher volumes. And I like my higher volumes :).

As as far as the tweeter setpoint is concerned. That's a toss up. If testing a midrange I would like it to be higher, say 4000Hz or maybe 5000Hz. That MIGHT work if they are directly on axis. But, realistically in a car I would be listening to them off axis. So, I keep the crossover point lower to minimize the effect of beaming. 3000Hz is that sweet spot.

If testing tweeters you may want to drop the crossover point lower. But, doing so risks them sounding nasty at higher volumes. That, and I want most of the vocal range covered by one driver. In this case its the midrange. I've found that tweeters play a larger role in establishing spatial cues than they do in vocal re-enforcement so I keep the crossover point higher. Again, 3000hz seems to be the sweet spot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #489 ·
Dynaudio MF171 Midrange paired with MT171 tweeter and ScanSpeak D3004 Silk tweeter

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The MF171 is a nice mid level midrange. It did not WOW me with detail like the WM3.5 or E430. but, it held its own against the likes of my Scan 10F. Midrange sounds nice but loses its “lifelike” quality. Like the MT171 gets a little harsh at higher volumes. Nice slightly subdued tonality 2.5 out of 4 for detail. The MF171 is laid back and mellow in comparison to the Scan 10F. Given an identical tuning the Scan tends to emphasize upper midrange making it seem warmer. The MT171 stays chill letting nothing stand out. Both drivers sound pretty good once you sit and listen to them for a while. Which one you select is up to personal taste. Also, when listening to my comments please keep in mind, I am comparing them to some of the best products on the market.

The MF171’s are almost too mellow for me. This is weird since they are sold as a set with the MT171 tweeter. The MT171’s are super sensitive and very detailed. I had to boost the MF171’s 6dB to match the tweeters output level. The MF171 has a weird sonic signature where it makes vocals seem deep in the stage. However, the tweeters draw it forward. This makes for a strange split in the field of depth. Sadly, the MF171’s just seem lifeless after listening to the E430’s for a month. Perhaps I should have never bought the E430’s. It seems like nothing else is going to compare.

Vocal harshness in the song Quando Quando Quando at higher volume. Could be attributed to 700Hz +6dB boost I had set to flatten response. I backed it off to +3dB and it helped a little. At the expense of slightly dulling vocals. Vocals have a very subdued tone. They seem a little lifeless, like Michael Bubble and Nelly Furtado did not want to be signing but were just going through the motions.

The MF171 midranges start to sound better as they break in. I hooked them up new from the box. They still are not super detailed but they are very musical sounding. Nice lush male vocals on Nirvana Unplugged. Still feel like I am listening to speakers. Not spooky realistic. But nice pleasant sound.

Days of the New “Face of Earth” - laid back nature of the midrange tends to push Travis’s voice deeper in the stage. However, guitars on left and right channels get pulled forward due to the lively nature of the MT171 tweeter. That and percussion crashes in center are also pulled forward due to the tweets. Travis’s voice is not well focused in center. Presentation is a little wide compared to other midranges.

Harry Conick’s voice sounded smooth and mellow during “Nowhere with Love” (which is acceptable for his voice).. However, the piano solo sounded dull. Also, the wailing horns did not have any pop during musical crescendos. I would prefer a more lively midrange for this song.

The MT171’s really carried the MF171’s through Dave Brubeck's “Time Out” album. They produced nice and crisp percussion that balanced out the smooth and laid back midrange playing back Paul’s sax and Dave’s piano. Some detail in standup bass string plucking was missing. However, the album was still very enjoyable listening to with this duo.

Joshua Redman's sax sounded a little dull during “Invocation”. Almost like his reed was too wet and worn out. Rich overtones of his instrument were just missing. Definitely laid back. However, the piano in the left hand corner sounded great. The pianists fingers were just floating off the keys. If you listen in the background detailed percussion is there. It’s just not brought forward as much as other drivers I prefer.

Alice In Chains song “Brother” the guitars lacked a lot of the overtones that other midranges can replicate. The guitars sounded nice but seemed too lifeless. Likewise, Lane and Jerry’s voices sound good with nothing that stands out. But, they are a little dull.

Opening guitars on Pantera’s “This Love” sounded awesome. The MF171’s took some edge off Philips' growing voice but did an awesome job doing him justice. His vocals sounded great through these midranges. The wailing metal guitar came through clean as well but did miss some of the crisp bite you would expect it to have. This is a song I consider to have too much upper midrange mix. The MF171’s tamed that nicely. Everything with the exception of Philips growl at 4:40 was pretty spot on. However, this growl was kind of suppressed.

Pairing the MF171 with the MT171 does help things a little. The MT171’s are more sensitive than the Scan D3004 and a little more forward. This helps compensate for the dull tonality of the midrange. The tweeter helps bring some balance back. However, does get a little harsh at high volume like what you must listen to Pantera at. Not the best, but not a bad sounding experience at all.

The MF171 / MT171 combo did a great job playing back songs I find difficult to replicate without being harsh. PJ Harvey “Rub It Until It Bleeds” and both Chris Cornell songs sounded great played back through this combo. A majority of the sibilance and hash was gone. Just great tonality.

Chris Isaak's voice was a little laid back (I know, really?) on the MF171 / MT171 but overall the song sounded awesome. The MF171’s make his voice smooth as silk.

Calexico’s song “Crumble” was mellower than I prefer. The horns blended in too much and lacked the “pop” other midrange / tweeter combos can offer.

The Dyn duo absolutely nailed the Beastie Boys “B for My Name”. The only thing missing was the airy holographic image that the E430’s or 3.5wm’s project. Tonality was spot on. The duo hit all the song's dynamics without a problem.

The beginning of Patrica Barber's song “Nardis” is laid back and subdued. The piano solo just rolled off the pianist's fingers and flowed nicely. The duo played this back beautifully. As good as the E430’s do. However, the second half of the song becomes very detailed and dynamic. The MT171’s could keep up but I fear the midranges fell a little short on many of the high impact percussion hits. The cymbal rides that start at minute marker 7:00 were spot on and almost as engaging as they are with the E430 / D3004 combo.

Chevelle’s “Face to the Floor” absolutely rocked on this combo. Again, another song that can come off harsh. The MF171 / MT171 smoothed it right out and played it back to blistering volumes without a sweat. The tone of the opening guitar was as crisp and clear as I have heard.

GoJira’s song “Love” was also replicated near perfectly. However, you could tell a little detail was missing. With the wm3.5’s you can hear distinct crowd member cheers in the background as the music is playing. The MF171 let you know a crowd was there but it was not well defined. The drum strikes and kick bass were replicated well. You could hear Joe’s growling voice clearly. Mario’s cymbal strikes were pretty harsh at high volume. The metal guitars hummed along just as they should. Mario’s drum clicks at the end sounded OK but lacked the realism other speakers offered.

Igorrr’s song “Camel Dancefloor” is a fun EDM tune that is mostly synthesized. The MF171 / MT171 duo replicated this song loud and clear with great balance. Again, a little detail was lacking but that is not as important with this type of Song.

Patricia Barber’s Bye Bye Blackbird is a laid back song to begin with. It was replicated very well with the MF171 / MT171 duo. Aain, the only thing missing was the holographic airiness that the top tier E430 and 3.5wm offer. But tonally and image wise these speakers were spot on.

Would I use these drivers in my car? Probably, if I were on a budget. Or, if I liked a more laid back musical representation.

Dynaudio MF171 Esotan 3.5” midrange rating:

Tonality 3 of 4
Detail 2 of 4
Spaciousness 2 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 3.5 of 4
Dynamics 2.5 of 4
 

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Discussion Starter · #490 ·
Dyn MT171 paired with Focal 3.5wm and Xcelsus XXM325 midranges
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This is going to be a short writeup since I said a lot about these tweeters in my MF171 writeup. I will add to this if folks have specific questions.

What a pleasant surprise! This lower tier Dynaudio tweeter sounds fantastic. I like it better than its older brother the MD102. It’s little on the bright side compared to my reference ScanSpeak D3004. The MT171 can get a little harsh at higher volume but nothing that is unpleasant or distracting. They also get a tad bit sibilant at higher volume. But, a solid 3 out of 4 for normal listening levels.

I like these because I am one of the few folks who think the MD102 tweeter is too laid back. The new MT171 on the other hand is just as good sounding. However, it offers more detail than the MD102. Similar to a ScanSpeak D3004 but not quite THAT detailed. The MT171 is a good balance between the D3004 and MD102.

The MT171 does not have the -4dB droop in the upper midrange that the MD102 has. They are easy to tune. If you ever get a chance to try the MT171's you should. They are a gem that not too many folks talk about. They don’t get the justice they deserve. They very closely compare to the ScanSpeak D3004 with a slightly more bright voicing.

Dynaudio MT171 1” soft dome tweeter rating:

Tonality 4 of 4
Detail 3 of 4
Spaciousness 2.5 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 3 of 4
Dynamics 3 of 4
 

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Discussion Starter · #491 ·
REVIEW: Stevens Audio Soft Dome Tweeter paired with Focal Utopia 3.5wm midranges

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My first thought the second I heard the Steve’s Audio Soft Dome Tweeter was “man do these sound like the Scan D2004 / D3004 silks”. They have excellent tonality. They also seem to be highly detailed. The SASDT does provide a touch of spaciousness. But not nearly the 3D image the TBM’s or Piccolo’s can project.

Thurman Green “Minor Blue” and “Dance of the Night Creatures” offered a sense of depth. But it was difficult to distinguish various fields of depth of the instruments. Trombone should be center or left center (but set back a bit) depending on the track. Baritone sax should be to the right along with the trumpet. The bass should be planted left center behind the trombone. The piano is also center but planted further back than the bass. Percussion to the right but set back a bit. These positions were hard to make out with the SASDT’s. It’s like there were only 2 layers of sound. In comparison, the Xcelsus XXT30’s succeeded in establishing a more spatial presence. You could sense the layers of depth more accurately although instrument positioning was a little vague. Finally, the TBM’s took the crown by not only offering a more natural sounding playback, but helped pinpoint each instrument solid in 3D space around the sound stage.

The Maggie Koernerr songs “Cayute Woman” and “Trees in a Line” are studio recordings that don’t contain spatial cues. These songs focus more on tone and detail. The SASDT’s nailed them. They captured the recording session as accurately as any other tweet I’ve evaluated these songs with. The percussion is not closely mic’d and seems a little muted. But Maggie’s voice comes through soft yet powerful.

Dave Bruebeck’s “Three to Get Ready” and “Pick up Sticks” are part of my percussion test set. Again, the SASDT’s nailed these songs. Each cymbal strike was crisp and clear. Paul’s alto sax remained warm and rich in tone. The percussion lacked a ever so minor amount of detail when compared to the best of the best. But, the song was very enjoyable to listen to.

Dynamic enough throughout GoJira’s ballad “Love”. The tweets did not lose their composure at volumes MUCH higher than conversation level. They didn’t get noticeably harsh either. This is hard to do through Mario’s cymbal crashes at minute marker 3:00 through 3:19. Win win…

My acoustic set with Alice in Chains, Days of the New, and Nirvana. The SASDT’s were a little harsh on the cymbal crashes. However, so are the SacanSpeak D3004’s. The SASDT’s are a little brighter and detailed than the Scan’s. The Focal TBXP’s beat the SASDT’s by a small margin by offering a more natural / neutral sound. The TBXP’s do not get harsh while playing back the Days of the New song “Now”. The Xcelsus XXT30’s performed on par with the TBXP’s. The XXT30’s beat the TBXP’s only by setting a more real sounding spatial ambience. All tweets played Alice in Chains and Nirvana tunes with their own unique character. But, nothing stood out.

Terry Clark’s tune “Molten Swing” sets a huge big band backdrop. The stage is deep as it is wide. It has a larger than usual dynamic range when the short horn solos come in at 1:30, 2:30, 3:24, and 4:00. The SASDT’s do an acceptable but not excellent job setting spatial ambience. However, they are pleasing tonally. They also hit the transients with no strain at all. This further backs my opinion that they are in the same league as the Scan D3004’s. They just have a little hotter “voicing” to them vs. the Scan’s. The Scan’s are a little more laid back. In comparison, the XXT30’s fill in the 3D stage nicely. They also suck up any dynamic transient thrown at them. Finally, they pick up every little nuance occurring with the percussion in the background. Some detail the SASDT’s did not.

I don’t see it published anywhere (not even on Steven’s Facebook page) but rumor has it these tweets go for around $200 a set. At this price point I can highly recommend Steven’s Audio Soft Dome Tweeters. I recommend them for someone who wants a high performance tweeter on a budget and thinks the Scan D3004’s may be a little too laid back.

Stevens Audio soft dome tweeter rating

Tonality 4 of 4
Detail 3.5 of 4
Spaciousness 2.5 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 3 of 4
Dynamics 3.5 of 4
 
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Discussion Starter · #492 · (Edited)
Review: Focal Utopia M TBM Beryllium dome tweeter paired with 3.5wm midrange - Revision 2

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I am not going to write a full report on TBM performance like I did the TBXP and Piccolo. Rather, this review will focus on the differences I found between the three devices.

The Focal TBM is almost a direct split between the Focal TBXP and Morel Supremo Piccolo. As a matter of fact I had a hard time determining the difference between the TBM and Piccolo until I went searching for alternate music. I explored 6 years of AVA, EMMA, and IASCA competition discs. Finally I found the tie breaker lies specifically in depth of field and dynamics.

The TBXP is an excellent tweeter in its own right. What it really boils down to is your personal preference. The TBXP is similar in tonality to both the TBM and Piccolo. However, it has a different presentation that makes it seem more forward. It has almost no depth of field but can cast a wider soundstage. It is also the most dynamic of the bunch. When a drummer whacks his snare or an orchestra suddenly crescendo’s this tweeter will really make this stand out. The TBXP is slightly less detailed than the other two options. When I say slightly I mean slightly. It took me several tracks to make this determination. The only fault I could find with the TBXP is that it becomes a little harsh sometime at high volume.

To some the TBM may be the perfect trade off. It loses some of the dynamic impact and stage width of the TBXP in exchange for depth of field. In many tracks I auditioned I could sense not only a frontal sound stage, but a second layer behind that when appropriate. It is also slightly more detailed (and I mean slightly). The TBM is as smooth and polished as the Piccolo. I could not get it to sound harsh even at volumes beyond my listening comfort. To me the TBM sounds identical to the Piccolo in many aspects with a few exceptions. It has more dynamic impact than the Piccolo. The Piccolo can become a little “soft” with high energy impact such as drum whacks, bass slaps, and horn solos. The TBM can project better stage width than the Piccolo. However, the TBM can’t touch the Piccolo when it comes to depth of field.

The Piccolo is a device that just disappears and blends into the sound field. You never notice it’s there because nothing stands out. It projects a sound field depth many layers deep. It excels on EMMA test tracks that explore room boundaries. They can locate musicians on recordings that project many layers of musicians. Or, in other words they can create a 3 dimensional sound field. In comparison, the TBM offers soundstage depth and can place instruments and sounds in 3D space but not as detailed as the Piccolo. On the flip side the TBM can replicate dynamic passages the Piccolo can’t. The Piccolo seems to “Peter out” whereas the TBM just nails it.

For those who complain that the TBXP or TBM’s sound harsh. Well, it’s all in the tuning. If you take care to tune them flat, or with a slight controlled roll off, they are as smooth and detailed as anything else. If you leave any peaks in response they will sound harsh and can bite.

I’ve spent many hours now listening to the TBXP’s, TBM’s, and Piccolo’s. It’s difficult to choose a favorite. The TBM’s are the best overall of the bunch. The Piccolo’s come in a very close 2nd. They present a better 3D soundstage with tight spatial cues. But, the Piccolo’s are not as dynamic. They fall behind both the Focal’s. The TBXP is 3rd. The only reason is it falls behind both the TBM and Piccolo in producing 3D spatial cues and may lose a bit of detail to the other two.

Focal TBM Beryllium dome tweeter rating

Tonality 4 of 4
Detail 4 of 4
Spaciousness / Depth 3.5 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 4 of 4
Dynamics 3.5 of 4
 
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I'm very curious how this would turn out if you equalized them to the same response, just as we would in a car.

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Discussion Starter · #494 · (Edited)
I'm very curious how this would turn out if you equalized them to the same response, just as we would in a car.

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Nick,

I'm not sure what you are searching for here. I have a pretty solid test bed and have been deriving some pretty interesting results based on my SUBJECTIVE opinion.

I've already done what you suggested. My target is +/- 1dB variation throughout the midrange and treble passband. The only difference to most response curves is that I no longer tapper off the upper end as much. I'm older and my high frequency hearing response is tapering off. I posted a typical response plot above. Bass response rises 6dB 300Hz to 100Hz. Then the slope increases from 100Hz down to 20Hz.

I even used a little bit of time alignment left to right to compensate for my off center seating position and to align the sub which is sitting on the floor.
 
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I feel the same way about the 3.5wm as it can get like an angry German at times - same with the Xcelsus mids

I swapped out the ML3’s and Xcelsus a few times as what I didn’t like about the Xcelsus I liked in the ML3’s and what I didn’t like about the ML3’s I liked in the Xcelsus - if you know what I mean

If the Brax had a little more detail it would be an easy winner...

However paired with the ML1’s the Brax setup is actually very nice - it may not present itself like that outside a car as in my tests the ML3’s where easily the worst sounding speakers vs the utopias and Xcelsus speakers and the utopias the clear winner out of all of them.

But in a car they seem to work very nicely if you set them up properly.

The utopias have more detail and are clearer outside the car and you don’t get that bite on them but in the car they seem to have a bite on them that’s not really suited to all music genres or recordings - I have always maintained that with the utopias (mids) you can almost scrap half your music library because they can sound horrible on not so good recordings. However put a great recording and they really shine.

The Xcelsus is an awesome speaker for the money and really worthwhile to guys who don’t want to spend on the top dogs.

I have the Xcelsus mids and Utopia mids and tweeters and Brax mids spare for my next car build so I’ll decide on the combination and I’ll leave the Brax setup in the other car (mainly because it’s built and I am not going to change them)

I’ll be interested in your thoughts on the ML3’s maybe they should be paired with the piccolo or the TBM’s...

The ML1’s turned out to be a great tweeter pity you don’t have one set to test...


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Discussion Starter · #496 ·
Review: Dayton Audio RS100 midrange paired with ScanSpeak D3004 silk dome tweeter

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Dayton RS100-4: Switching from the E430’s to the RS100’s I immediately noticed the RS100’s were not nearly as sensitive. However, they sound nearly as open and airy as the E430’s. They still offer a fairly lifelike image. Strange??? Hmm. I’m impressed. The biggest difference was the RS100’s center image seemed wider and less defined.

In Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" Paul Desmond's sax seemed a little too relaxed and positioned in the background vs. the E430. The sax sounds open and airy similar to the E430’s but has a difficult to explain “ring” to it. This may be attributed to the different cone materials used. The E430 is plastic whereas the RS100 is aluminum. This makes playback a little more lively or jumpy. Not as smooth as a presentation but still kicks @ss for a $40 driver.

The RS100’s seem a little active or edgy like the 3.5WM’s with an ever so slight bit of harshness. But, not to the point of being annoying or fatiguing.

The RS100’s nailed the high vocal transients on Patricia Barber's Mourning Grace and Too Rich For My Blood off the Cafe Blue album. Even though they were well behaved and relaxed enough on the song Bye Bye Blackbird, they just don’t sound as soft as I feel a driver should on this song. Even the 3.5WM’s soften up on this track. The RS100’s were a little sibilant and had a sharp edge to them.

The RS100 midrange drivers are not my top choice due to their slight edginess. However, a metalhead would love them. They can get loud as hell and not stress it. I listened to some Igorrr, Pantera, and Gojira at elevated volume (cranked that sh!t up) and was pleased with how loud and clear the RS100’s could get. They absolutely shredded on Tools Chocolate chip trip.

All the Calexico songs in my lineup sounded a little too hot / bright with the RS100’s. The songs range from blaring trumpets to soft subdued vocals.

Chris Cornell's voice sounded a bit hollow and buzzy with the RS100’s. Albeit the recordings themselves are kind of HOT to emphasize his voice. In comparison the E430’s present his voice more musical than technical. But again, We are talking about drivers which are several hundred dollars apart. The RS100’s were a little harsh and thin but definitely listenable and for the most part enjoyable.

Chris Isaak's Wicked game was way hot and not as smooth as it should be. The upper midrange / lower treble seems too active even though it is EQ’d flat. Chris’s voice should be smooth and velvety. It was a tad harsh. Also, the fine percussion seemed to be saturated / overly active. I have a 24dB/octave lowpass set on this driver at 3KHz. However, it appears even though this filter is set it still wants to fight / boost the tweeter.

If I had to classify the RS100’s I would say they throw a very nice image, they are very technical, and they are a bit edgy / sharp. Even though EQ’d flat within +/-2dB they tend to lack in lower midrange and emphasize upper midrange. Which leads me to repeat, it is strange how different speakers can sound even though they are all tuned the same.

he RS100’s are classified as a full range speaker. I tried them full range briefly and was not very impressed with their treble presentation. It just didn’t sound as natural and detailed as a dedicated tweeter. I won’t go into much more detail here. High frequency could probably improve with heavy EQ but why force them to do something I don’t feel they are cut out for.

If you are on a very tight budget try the RS100's out. They are not the perfect midrange. But, could be tamed to work well in a system with a modest amount of EQ and sound treatments. I doubt you will find something that even comes close to these in performance for the price.

For instance, pair these with a set of eBay Alpine SPX Pro tweets and Peerless SLS6 midbasses and you'll have yourself a fairly competent 3way component set for under $250.

Dayton Audio RS100 rating

Tonality 2.5 of 4
Detail 3 of 4
Spaciousness 3 of 4
Harshness (lack of) 2 of 4
Dynamics 3 of 4
 

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I felt the same way between the MD102 vs MT171. MT171 has a little more detail. Expected more out of the MD102 based on the hype. Both weren’t my cup of tea though.
 

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Nick,

I'm not sure what you are searching for here. I have a pretty solid test bed and have been deriving some pretty interesting results based on my SUBJECTIVE opinion.

I've already done what you suggested. My target is +/- 1dB variation throughout the midrange and treble passband. The only difference to most response curves is that I no longer tapper off the upper end as much. I'm older and my high frequency hearing response is tapering off. I posted a typical response plot above. Bass response rises 6dB 300Hz to 100Hz. Then the slope increases from 100Hz down to 20Hz.

I even used a little bit of time alignment left to right to compensate for my off center seating position and to align the sub which is sitting on the floor.
It was very literally just a statement

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Discussion Starter · #499 ·
Review: Focal Utopia M 3.5WM paired with TBXP, TBM, and Morel Supremo Piccolo.

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In many musical passages I was wondering if there was somebody or some instrument actually in the room with me. THAT’S how realistic and detailed the 3.5wm midranges are. Other speakers play a sound. These envelope you in that sound. You forget you are listening to speakers. If you get distracted they can take you by surprise.

The Utopia M 3.5wm opens up another and perhaps final layer of detail out of a recording that you didn’t even know existed. Take your favorite recording on your favorite speakers. Then compare that recording played back on the 3.5wm. You will discover new characteristics about that recording that you may have never heard before.

The 3.5wm is very detailed and revealing. For instance, you can hear singers parting their lips, taking a breath, etc. Spit sizzling on the reed of a saxophone or flange of a trumpet. Fingers leaving a guitar string and the amount of force / friction involved. The 3.5wm does all of this without over emphasizing anything within the audible spectrum. Everything sounds well balanced and just right.

Another instance, some of my favorite EDM recordings really groove. A cool sonic experience. There is a lot of misc. sound going on in the background. However, you don’t focus on that because it's not relevant. You focus on the main beat. Play that same tune over on the 3.5wm’s and you realize those background sounds are actually something. A chair scooting across a hardwood floor, a goat chewing on pellets, a vacuum cleaner starting up. You hear EVERYTHING the artist intended no matter how strange.

A good example is the Song Centipede by Knife party. At the end of the song you hear some slithering, sloshing, and crunching on the Dynaudio MD102 and ScanSpeak 12m. However, listening through the Focal 3.5wm paired with the Morel Piccolo tweeter you hear insects crawling over skin while taking bites then chewing it up. A gruesome example but an accurate representation of the difference in detail.

Another example is the song Rooster by Alice In Chains (MTV Unplugged). With most systems you can hear a loose guitar string. But, with the 3.5wm you not only hear that loose string. You can hear what direction it is bouncing around. The difference is actually quite spooky. The Focal 3.5wm's can resolve that much detail.

The 3.5wm’s are awesome at imaging / staging. They are one of the few midranges I’ve heard that can create a holographic soundstage. Paired with a good set of tweeters the 3.5wm’s can position instruments and sounds in 3D space around the soundstage. Referencing Turman Green’s “Minor Blue” is a good example. Not only is that baritone sax right center, but it is about 6ft back from the trombone at left center. The piano is about 20 ft back of center. In Terry Clark’s “Molten Swing” a majority of the swing band sits back about 20ft in a large concert hall. Various soloists step forward about 10ft to play throughout the song. The big trumpet solo is the only one that comes close to true center by moving forward about 15ft.

You need to be careful with the 3.5wm’s. They are not just pick and play. If not applied properly they can sound harsh and unpleasant. You really need to take care to iron out peaks in response or they will bite. Get them as flat as possible. Also, try to feed them the best quality recordings you can. They bring out every detail. But, they also bring out every flaw and spit it back at you.

For instance, I didn’t have the frequency response of the 3.5wm’s dialed in perfectly. Listening to Monday Night Football on broadcast television was horrible with these things. The television networks jack audio levels up so their broadcast will sound OK even on cheap TV speakers. The 3.5wm’s didn’t care too much for this and let me know. After going back and tuning them flat as possible, TV broadcasts started to sound better. But, the 3.5wm’s still like to point out every flaw in audio content.

I don’t go into much song by song detail in this review. Truth be told everything I threw at these drivers that was in my listening lineup sounded fantastic. Live performances sound live. Studio recordings sound as good as you’ll ever hear them. Bad recordings. Well, they tend to sound even worse :).

This is for those of you who read through this entire review and did not get your question answered. Yes, the 3.5wm’s can get [email protected] loud without too much hesitation. During my testing my Dynaudio MW162 midbass showed signs of distress before the midranges. The 3.5wm’s are not in the same league as a horn as far as being dynamic but do hold their own for a little 3” driver.

If you like a super detailed and slightly forward sounding midrange then these are most definitely for you. Even if you said “I prefer a more laid back midrange” you should try these. Perhaps your preference was stemmed from distortion heard from a more active / forward set of midranges in the past. Give the 3.5wm’s a shot if you can. You will not be disappointed.

Focal Utopia M 3.5wm rating:

Tonality 4 of 4
Detail 4 of 4
Spaciousness 4 of 4
Harshness ( lack of ) 3.5* of 4
Dynamics 3.5 of 4

* I rated the 3.5wm's 3.5 not because of the name :) but for the fact that they are so finicky to dial in. If you can do tune / tame them just right then they are an easy 4.
 

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Interesting notes on the Dayton RS100. I ran the paper cone version for awhile in my last car and found them to be fairly smooth, but a bit grainy (assuming due to their distortion characteristics). I felt the Peerless TC9 was overall much better than the RS100 Paper (and I actually liked it better than the Scanspeak 10F 8 ohm midrange as well, which had weak lower mids and very harsh upper mids). The TC9 would be a damn-near perfect mid for me if not for its low sensitivity, regardless of the low price. They do lean towards the Dynaudio smooth/dark/warm character though, which isn't for everybody (even though the M series are excellent, I'm really not a fan of the Focal sound, to each their own). The 10F was a bit cleaner, more sensitive and dynamic.

Seems like the alu version of the RS100 is a much better performer than the paper version (though I generally prefer paper cones, probably due to their 2nd order distortion characteristics).
 
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