I would like to pass some summarizing observations and some generalizations regarding the entire “Water Drop” project.
The idea of trying to find a tweeter to compliment Macondo was a good idea. Many of you know that I was proudly declaring over the years that Macondo does not do a lot above 12.5kHz and I so no problem with it. Surely is sounded perfect fine but not because “12.5kHz was enough” as I thought but because I did not have a proper tweeter that would not screw Vitavox. Sure, I used many tweeters and I always, acknowledging their benefits, was returning to the conclusion that with all Vitavox’s upper edge idiosyncrasies it sounds more musical without being contaminated by a bad tweeter. Now I understand that the tweeters that I used where the problem.
Then the idea of ribbons came to me.
The move to the ribbons was extremely productive direction to go and I pretty much realized that the ribbons “should do” since I tried the TAD PT-R9. The PT-R9 was wonderful but with 91dB sensitively what was the purpose!!? All that I needed since then was the PT-R9’s Sound with much thinner/lighter ribbon more optimized for HF and with 20dB more sensitivity. Since I played with my filed-coli I learned how the amount of flux in the gap affect HF:
For MF and LF the highest flux is not necessary a benefit but for HF it is the absolute key. So, I concluded that I need maximum flux/ highest frequency (highest possible amount of Teslas in the gap) and minimum moving mass. Tthe reach was on….
When I approached RAAL I had no expectations. What immediately pleased me was that the RAAL’s Alexander instantaneously understood exactly what I would like to accomplish. Te began to explain to me the details of my project as it was his own project as he was working on the details of my project for a while. It was educational and persuasive. Alex, proposed a number of different solutions how he could accomplish the targeted specifications. They vary in price and level of compromises. He also mentioned that there is another more expansive and less compromising way to do what I wanted if he goes for building a completely different magnetic circuit. I expressed an interest and he told that he know exactly how to calculate and to manufacture a “different” magnetic circuit assuring the minimums size, maximum cost-efficientcy, haveing the maximum amount of Teslas in the gap, the most evenly distributed flux, the minimum stray magnetic leakage. He also named to me the ribbon thickness of a few ribbon manufactures that I knew off and told that he might use for this HF-Only project a way thinner ribbon then is being used for any typical ribbon tweeter. He also informed me how he can tune the back camber to optimize the frequencies where I need my tweeter to operate. With my BS-detector is fully activated at maximum sensitivity I did not detected in what Alex proposed any BS. He as well mentioned that he developed his own unique ways to hang ribbons and to damp ribbons that make according to him it makes lot of difference. Sure he assured me that he intends to fully employ his techniques on my tweeter if I wiling to go for it. Well, I sound very nice and very reasonable, although I never in my life ever heard any of RAALs’ ribbons. I needed to make a decision. I figured that since this project mostly about a magnetic circuit with a maximum amount of Teslas and since the Nicola Tesla was a Serb then I need to have a Serb engineer to do what his cousin started a hundred years ago. The pan was very much was intended and I turned a green light for the “no compromise tweeter”…
It took something about 2-3 moths. I prepaid a half of the project cost upfront. Alex sent me the progress reports, design images, incremental photos, measurements and etc…. We exchange emails. We spoke on phone many times. Alex speaks perfect English and any time he or I need anything we just picked a phone and called. The enter experience was very positive and I had no doubt that Alex was serious to finish the project at max level of seriousness. There was only one caveat – I had no idea what kind Sound I will be getting out the tweeter when I will be done. Let me to explain. Over the years I have a number of different manufactures who agree to do for me custom jobs. Quite a number of these projects were not successful despite that the manufactures did the best job they know of. The reasons why the projects went unsuccessful because the manufactures had no idea (or did not what to know) with what level of reference points they will be dealing with. I know! I know! it sounds like an ego trip into the depth of my arrogant narcissism but let go beyond it and to deal not with the simplistic accusations but with facts. The facts are piled up in my storage; represent the best efforts the some people spent but at the same time those “facts” are completely unusable from sonic point of view. I never blame the people who did the projects and I recognize the failures as the “casualties of being me”. So, despite of very positive experiences with RAAL and knowing the Alex will do his best I had no idea what RAAL’s the best would mean in term of sound.
All that I knew about RAAL was what I have see in their web site: “after 11 years of small, handmade quantities, the company have started a serial production…. extensive use of FEM analysis methods, complex acoustic measurement methods, laser and water-jet cutting, CNC machining…” etc, etc, etc…. I hardly took all of that seriously unit I actually received the tweeter. I’m a certified American White Trash I feel similar to the most of the American morons do: everything that is on East of New England is the “Edge of the Earth”. So, how big my surprise was when I unpacked the Tweeter and saw a perfectly manufactured and finished mashie-made product. The “Water Drops” looked no different as if they just jumped off a conveyer of “Booing Helicopters”. It was very pleasant to see the love and respect to own labor that Alex put into his RAALs….
The setup of those drivers was a bitch. It took for me 3 days to figure out that that damn driver with for a first order need to invert the phase. After that everything was if not simple but none-problematic. The setup and arrangement of the driver’s crossover in context on Macondo is quite complicated and there are many variables that participate in the game. A couple weeks after staring using the Tweeter I still have many open options, I am not settled yet with my crossover solution. However, it is a matter of minor tuning already. The import thing that I have witnessed that is few settings I have tried the driver demonstrate VERY competent results and my worries that in RAAL’s case the manufacturer’s ability would not much my anticipations was not warranted. So, in context of Macondo is easy to make the “Water Drop” to sound “good” but there is a lot of more then juts make it to “sound good”. So, I keep playing with my crossover arrangement; keep discovering new ways how the RAAL tweeter might interact with my MF channel. It probably says more about my anal retentiveness then about the tweeter….. but I do not the write about the “Water Drop” but rather about my journey…
At this point I have nothing to say about the tweeter’s sound. It did hit all my objectives and in some areas it surpassed them. Nicola Tesla might be proud… I got what I needed, even more, and since the “Water Drop” does what it should I do not see any positive or negative comments that I might pass about the tweeter sound. Stop typing and listen the Sound of the Room in which you are you’re now. Can you hear any high frequencies? I do not think so. The Water Dropped Macondo when it plays has ALSO NO HIGH FREQUENCIES, however if I had a virtual perfect equalizer then I would not feel that I need to add any high frequencies to the existing sound.
The concept of complimenting a compression driver with good ribbon turned out to be a sensational success. You see, the compression drivers are like a diesel engine – they have no brain or sensibility – they hit a wall and keep running like nothing happen. When a compression driver has a dynamic stress it runs ahead like a wounded in ass animal, spiting all its dynamic craziness right in your face. If in a MF driver it is extremely beneficial but at HF it might be annoying. Here is where ribbons can help.
The ribbons have sound quality almost according a “logarithmic scale of quality” – a drop in frequency lead to un-proportional large sonic compression. With lowering of frequency ribbon begin sucking all juice out of sound. However the closer ribbon goes to it max HF the less problem it has. I do not know what is the reason is but I feel that it might be because a VC of compression driver is underhanded and at each single moment of the VC’s excursion the coil moves within completely homogeneous magnetic filed, with magnetic lines perfectly perpendicular to the VC. A ribbon, being placed in it magnetic filed, present a perfect transducer …. but only when it is stationary. What a ribbon begins to radiate frequencies it swings and bends effectively removing itself form “the perfect spot” and begin to pick some “curved” magnetic lines. Sure, it is juts my hypnotizes and it might be a foolishness but it explains to me why a ribbon with frequency going down begin to compress. However, the ribbon higher frequencies equal fewer excursions and therefore more operation it is default “stationary”, underhanded state.
So, a ribbon is not a good MF driver but a perfect HF driver. It has some softness and that softness is a VERY wonderful compliment to the sonic brutal barbarianism of compression drivers. Combining a good compression driver (good luck to find one) with a good ribbon, using ribbon juts at very top might allow a very-fine-tine the final dynamic punch-line of playback, enabling a playback very convincingly and very accurately and very neutrally to play the harsh and cold brutality of London symphony and at the same time the satin lush of Philadelphia Orchestra. I very strongly devise to anyone who uses compression drivers to look at the ribbon direction and the final strike of brash within a canvas of your playback sound.
Was the “Water Drop” is justifiable driver? I when for highest sensitively and I know how sensitively “works” within the world of compression drivers. RAAL’s Alex do not necessary believes that in high sensitively of ribbons there are any benefits. The “Water Drop” does perform more interesting then very few other ribbons that I tried but I do not know if it is because the sensitivity or because many other factors. I burn 8dB in my Macondo in L-Pad, so 102db of sensitivity would be enough to EQ the level of the tweeter and MF channel. Would the same driver with less flux and 102db of sensitive to sound the same? I do not know. I still hope that in ribbons at more sensitivity output higher maximum dynamic range….
Alex said in one of his email:“As for Water Drop [sound], it's pretty much the same thing that I could say about it, but your way of expressing the events is much more poetic. It's not really a proprietary behavior of your tweeter only. All three production models that I make, express the same manners. Your tweeter is more specialized in HF and high efficiency, but I think it wouldn't loose any of it's behavior if I made it with wider ribbon.”
That indicates that he feels that what I like in my “Water Drop” is not the unique properly of my “Water Drop” tweeter but rather a common characteristic if all his ribbons. It does hurt my ego as I would like to stupidly feel that my ribbon is “the most ribboniest of all ribbons”. I have my suspicion that what Alex said is not exactly accurate as he I presumably did not use MF channels that go high and with no transient limitations. I feel that my pressure for narrowing ribbon, lightening the ribbon‘s mass, increasing flux, decreasing LF in tweeter do make sense. However, there is one thing that kind of saves Alex’s ass: so far he did not tell me anything the turned out to be a BS. So, with all my desire to disagree with him I would like to leave the subject of the “Water Drop” rationalization opened for future clarifications…
WORDS TO FOLLOWERS
If you use a compression driver and the driver does not sits in a foolishly-deep 150Hz horn and trying to shot all the way up then you are not a Moron and you might consider a ribbon. I still would advise for high sensitively and smaller moving mass but it all depends what kind MF driver you use and HOW you use it. You might try ribbons tweeter from RAAL or for any other ribbon maker. I am not pushing the RAAL agenda. Forget any loyally or prejudices. Just honor what YOUR MF CHANNEL NEEDS and find a producer that serves YOUR benefits and benefits of your Sound. This is exactly how high-end should be. If you have a MF channel that dies at 6-7kHz (like some BMS or JBL drivers) then you need very different ribbons then the Water Drop. (I do not personally believe in those MF-able ribbons but it is your system not mine – do whatever serves your expectations). Alsom be advised that Ribbons are line source they propagate “further” then a point source of your compression driver. If you have a long and deep listening room, if your installation is across short wall and if your ribbons care a lot of MF then you might experiences some issues with sound balance at different distance
In my case when my ribbon is crossed relatively high I have no problems combining sound of line source with…. Well, my entire Macondo is in an away a line-sources as it’s tall, first order and use a heavy “channel penetration” (look for entire two pages of the thread)
Still if you have a lot of distance to cover, tend to listen from different distance and would like to cross too low into MF then put a motorized L-pad on your ribbon and a motion-detectors in your room. You can set 2-3 zones that would set 2-3 settings on your ribbon L-pad. The biggest question would be how you make your motion-detector do not react to your Cat if she decided to walk on her back paws. If you do not have a Cat then you do not need any tweeter and all that you need a gun. Buy a guy and then shoot yourself as your cat-less life should not be continued. If you insist to live then stop reading about the damn tweeters, run right now in a shelter for homeless Cats and bring to your life the nobler creature that ever blessed your listening room with her presence.
Another word of wisdoms, if you ribbon is over 105dB sensitive and is has “opened gap” (it is how all HF ribbons should be) then consider to negotiate with your ribbons maker an… insurance. I have a number of “near death experiences” with my “Water Drop” and purely accidentally it survived so far. If you do move your systems around, or if you your still work on your playback, or if your tweeter will be at a location that is ease accessible then I do see a rational to pay a few dosen bucks per year to mange the risk that you will damage the driver.
I went for ordering from RAAL one more identical tweeter, just to make sure that I have a spare “in case”, because I know that as sloppy as I am - I will screw up my current “Water Drop” eventually.
Another a VERY interesting observation to the smart Cats that use capable compression drivers and DSETs . A properly performing and sounding HF ribbon would unload the HF stress from you MF compression driver and would allow you to play with loading. With Vitavox I have very good experiences by loading the output stage inhumanely, even as low as 200R. It is not how I will be operating my MF channel but with disconcern to HF it is possible to load MF with any harmonic stricture you wish … it is a VERY powerful tool. For instance, now I would love to try the old metal-suspension cones in Vitavox or to try to balance the TAD 4001’s tackiness with ultra low plate loading. Or perhaps it would be fun to jack up the “speed” of JBL 375/2440 via loading…. Indeed a good tweet opens up some doors….
Think what frequency you need, think what horizontal dissipation you need and try good ribbons. There are a near a dozen of ribbon tweeters producers and some of them do more or less high sensitively ribbons. Interview them and see what they can do for you. One thing that I should mention as a warning: I hate the ribbon’s tone. I mean as soon ribbon begin to operate in the region where sound demands any tonal qualities then ribbons begin to screw up. A ribbon has no tone and ribbon is disabled to reflect the colorful essence of tone. It has nothing to do with RAAL ribbons - it is what ALL ribbons do. The ribbons have tone of distill water and color of fresh show. It is great for HF nose but it deadly for musical nuances and for musical beauty. So, do not let ribbons to run very low and you will be on save side. If you feel that you need to go with your ribbon tweeter to the regions where sound begin to pick some tonal inflection then do yours a favor… do not lower a ribbon crossover point but change you MF driver….Rgs, Romy the Cat
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche