Dec 302012

It is always a pleasure to hear from Jim Smith. As I said in the article I wrote for Positive Feedback Online in Issue 59 about Jim’s Get Better Sound reference 3 DVD set, “I suspect nearly everyone reading this article will already know about Jim Smith’s expertise in Hi-Fi system setup and voicing, as his reputation has become legendary. Just in case there’s a few who still don’t know about Jim, let me give you a micro-bio about his background: Jim Smith has been in the Hi-Fi business for over 35 years, has worked for manufacturers like Magnepan and Audio Research, has owned his own retail business for high-performance Hi-Fi gear, has imported exotic Hi-Fi gear from other countries to North America as a distributor, has recorded live music performances in his community, and has served as a consultant to numerous high-end marquees.” (if you haven’t yet read that article you should go back and read it)

Like quite a number of us who stop in at Jeff’s Place, Jim likes his Tannoys, and when Jim sent me an e-mail and suggested that we start a dialog here at Jeff’s Place about supertweeters and Tannoys I thought it was a great idea. Many thanks to Jim for opening up the discussion on supertweeters and Tannoys! Here’s what Jim wrote to get the discussion going: (Jim in his listening room below)

Jim in Sound Room

“You mentioned that you could create a post to discuss super-tweeters, ostensibly for Tannoys, but the info is probably applicable to others as well.

I wrote in a Quarter Notes newsletter (to Get Better Sound owners) about my experience with several different super-tweeters for the Tannoys. I thought that here I might give a bit more detail, as well as offer some relevant images.

Here is what I wrote about my experience with super-tweeters in that newsletter. I’ll omit the topic that came just before it, because it was not about super-tweeters, but technical aspects of speaker/listener placement and measurements vs. the most musically involving sound – sometimes you can have both and sometimes it appears not:

Another instance of technically correct set-up at the expense of the music. 

Again, without revealing too much about my system at this time, I decided that it might benefit from having outboard super-tweeters. The first pair I tried, simply were not a good match, mostly due to efficiency.  

So then I tried some really exotic super-tweeters. These had high efficiency (so that I could carefully turn them down in level to match my main speakers). They were 8 ohms, like mine. They used Alnico magnets like mine. I came up with a fairly sophisticated means of dialing them in. I was cutting them in at about 16,000 Hz, and they went up to somewhere way beyond what I can measure (spec’d to at least 50 kHz). 

I managed to get them time and phase aligned. When playing music, you could not detect any change in tonal balance. And yet, they defied logic, as various instruments, including voices, seemed noticeably cleaner, especially so on leading edges of transients. 

This was super exciting sound! Everyone who heard the system (including a well known industry set-up guy) said it was by far the best sound they ever heard, at any price. 

This all took place after my findings about the bass in the room. 

One night, maybe around 1 AM, I was up listening and reveling in my sound. I was skipping around, enjoying the sound of virtually every cut I played. 

Then it dawned on me. I was listening to sounds! When I voice a system, I do it with the primary aim that it will deliver the goods in a powerfully musical way.  

Certainly after my discovery with the bass, you’d think I wouldn’t fall for the same thing twice, but I did. Maybe I’ll blame it on all the meds post-surgery. Or not … 

I decided to cover up the super-tweeters with a couple of thick towels. Next thing I knew it was after three o’clock as I had once again fallen into the music. Then I disconnected the super-tweets and removed them from the room. I listened to MUSIC until almost daylight.  

I’ll never forget that awakening. We can have technically precise sound that may be exciting on the basis of its sound, but if it is at the expense of having each piece of music speak to us, what good is that?  

So I’ve decided to see what I can do to help audiophiles to think about – and to voice their systems – to strengthen that ear-to-heart connection.

In the interests of not being product specific for my readers, I didn’t mention the Tannoy Canterburys as my speakers in that issue of Quarter Notes, but they were in fact the speakers I used.

I tried a number of super-tweeters. I don’t see the need to name them here, as I found that my general observation applies to most of them. They were the usual suspects. 🙂

The thing is that I now wonder if I could have made a mistake in my thinking regarding their installation. So I thought that maybe someone can point out something that I did that was incorrect.

One of my early concerns was related to the diameter of these super-tweeter diaphragms and their frequencies as related to dispersion.

For example, any driver that plays frequencies whose wavelength is smaller than the diameter of the driver will beam all of the frequencies above that wavelength straight ahead (no dispersion at all). Another way to look at it is that with a 1 inch diameter tweeter, all frequencies above 15 kHz will be beamed straight ahead.

If I put the super tweeter on top of my Canterburys (which are off axis 14.5 degrees from my seat), then what good would the super tweeter be? I certainly would not get any supersonic effects as they are all being beamed away from me!

So I listened to and calibrated the super tweeters three ways:

(1) Standard – off axis. (as viewed from the listening position)

Super Tweeter Positioning as seen from seat

(2) Aimed directly at each ear’s horizontal axis.

S Tweeter Straight Tilted

(3) – Tilted down to aim directly at each ear.

S Tweeter toe in tilted

I have attached some images that should go with each type of set-up.

I should note that before I ever got around to super-tweeterrs, I determined the correct toe-in for the Canterburys in my room.

At 15 degrees, the sound was a shade too laid back.

At 14 degrees, the sound was a shade too aggressive.

I settled on 14.5 degrees. How do I know? I built my own protractor for my Canterburys, so I could measure the setting that I finally chose.

Tannoy protractor



She Who Must Be Obeyed in the center seat

And so when I added the super-tweeters, I was NOT going to change the toe-in for the Canterburys.

FWIW – only when I aimed the tweeter at my ear did I finally hear an interesting effect, once I got the drivers time-and-phase aligned.

The effect was an increase in heading edge detail, all the way down into the upper bass! Note that this was with the tweeters toed in and aimed at ear level. With the tweeters set up, the tonal balance was exactly the same once I finally got the super-tweeters dialed in.

And interestingly enough, the benefit of putting my home-made felt mat on top of the Canterburys, in front of the super-tweeter was not just audible, but measurable (about 1 dB down with the felt mat at 12 kHz).

S Tweeter w Felt

S Tweeter w L-pad

Anyway, as I mentioned in the Quarter Notes letter, in spite of having the super-tweeters dialed in so that there was no difference in tonal balance on music, I ended up feeling the musical impact suffered. I want to give a shout-out to Ron Williams for lending me his Fostex Super-Tweeters for the images – thanks Ron!

So what did I do wrong?”

Ok everyone, let us know your thoughts!

 Posted by at 7:26 pm

  36 Responses to “Jim Smith Checking In: Supertweeters and Tannoys”

  1. Hi Jim,

    I ended to the same conclusion like you, when I tried to use the Tannoy’s supper tweeters on my Westminster Royals.

    Same conclusion exactly: the musical impact suffered.

    Anyway. The speakers without the supper tweeters sounded so good, after some component upgrade on the crossovers, that I did not feel I have had to deal any further with the supper tweeters issue.

    For a strange reason only a friend who uses a solid state transistor based amp, prefers the Westminsters with the supper tweeters on. All others I know who are using tube amps, prefer the sound of their Tannoys (three with Westminsters and two with Canterburys) without the supper tweeters on.

    • Maybe because the tube amp is unable to manage well the combination of the speakers + additional tweeter? 😉

      • I also used the ST200′ with my Westminster Royals. My conclusion was that it ruined the point source which is one of the Tannoys great strengths and wrongly positioned they played havoc with timing They also seemed to give a beautiful but artificial emphasis to treble sounds was ‘not correct’

        My other observation was that the presence of the supertweeters deluded me into thinking that all was well with the set up of the speakers which in my case it was not. I discarded the supertweeterscand and put all my efforts into improving the performance of the main speakers. I am a great believer in keeping things simple and in my opinion the supertweeters add a further unnecessary element of complexity which must be controlled.

        My Westminster’s have now gone and been replaced by Canterbury GR’s which are a bit less onerous to move around. The GR driver has a usable response to 27khz which eliminates much of the theoretical benefit anyway. Interestingly in my room I get better sound from the Canterburys which suspect is because they match the room better.

  2. Hi Jim
    Thanks for your information on the supertweeters. Just want to know a few things . Whats the distance between your speakers at the closest points and the distance to your seat , also are you thinking of up grading your crossover for the Canterbury’s

    cheers Lance

  3. Hi Jim,

    Big gratulations with your system. Looks great and I am sure it will sound great. About supertweeters. I do prefer supertweeters on my Westminster SE. Although I use the ASR Emitter 2 I still prefer the sound with the ST. But he, who ever heard an Emitter must confess that he/she listened to a very nice tube amp. And then in the meaning of a warm human and organic sound with an enormous space and nicely integrated high tones. Also the high notes of an Emitter sounds warm and organic. Mmmm is that possible. I do believe it can.

    I am a big fan of TANNOY Supertweeters on TANNOY speakers. But only strictly on the following conditions. I use the ST 200 from Tannoy and it is EXACTLY positioned confirming the guidelines from Tannoy (position in the cabinet). From the front of the cabinet to the golden iron RING = 37,2 cm. Also do I use the advised settings (95 db/14 kHz). I have the ST connected with the Westminster with a pure solid core silver cable. I have pointed them out on my listening seat, but not directly on ear level. Just above. Although I must say the differences are not so big. Like you Jim, I used an laser. At this point I must state that my room is all wood with dick furniture and chairs so my room leans to a soft acoustic. I have friends with an more open spacy kind of acoustics, they prefer to use a felt mat (in the way you have it).

    Friends of my also experimented with the same supertweeter from FOSTEX. And excellent product. No doubt. The fact is only that it doesn’t match with Tannoy. The tried on the 15 DMT mk2. With different amps (tubes/solid state). In general was the problem that you could hear the fostex playing. At that time they did not succeed in bringing the output down of the foster. An super tweeter must never be heard, than it can integrate fluently in the rest of the sound.

    My aim is also to listening to music instead a system. A sound that is organic, warm, full of details, very precise focused, lifelike dynamics, with a powerful bass and…….with an 100% integrated treble (high notes). I have very sensitive ears for hard edge sounds. Some friends say I am to sensitive in this area. This means that I also choose audiogear that follows this route. That I am such a big fan of Tannoy make sense, isn’t it! I am telling this trying to explain that I am sure in my setup the ST 200 supertweeters fits nicely in the sound of the Westminster.

    So Jim, you said: “the thing is that I now wonder if I could have made a mistake in my thinking regarding their installation. So I thought that maybe someone can point out something that I did that was incorrect.” I think you made no mistakes. I only can say, in the case you haven’t tried the TANNOY ST200 at your beautiful Canterburys, try this!

    I hope that I brought in some help in de super tweeter debate.

    I wish everyone for 2013 the best wishes and lots of audio pleasure!

    Nice greetings,


  4. Hey Jim,

    Now you’ve got me curious about supertweeters. I’ve asked the nice folks at Tannoy if I could write up their ST200 supertweeters for Positive Feedback Online.

    Happy New Year!


  5. Jeff – When I did my test (lasted about 4-6 weeks) I asked Tannoy about a pair of ST-200s. Tannoy USA replied that the tweeters were discontinued and they had no more in stock. This was last year. I assumed that they didn’t want to steal the new Kingdom Royal’s thunder.

    Siedy, Thanks for your note. My question is pretty simple (maybe too simple so I am missing something). If the Tannoy tweeter beams all frequencies above 15 kHz straight ahead in a narrow 1″ diameter beam, how do you hear its effects if you do not aim it at you?

    Lance – Don’t know if you have my book or CDs. I talk about the most important thing in any system set-up is finding the place to sit in your room where the bass is smoothest. Since everything depends on that, I do not supply measurements re my set up since it would be totally meaningless in any other room. There is already way too much misinformation on the Internet without me adding further to it. 🙂

    • Hi Jim,

      I haven’t heard back yet from Tannoy about my ST-200 request, so that may very well be the situation. I’ll let you know what I find out.



    • I just heard back from Tannoy on the ST-200 super tweeters. It turns out the reason they’re not available at present is due to parts provider issues. Once that is resolved they will be available again.



  6. Hi Jim,

    I am not quite sure if I understand your question. But, he I give it a try!

    Your question is: If the Tannoy tweeter beams all frequencies above 15 kHz straight ahead in a narrow 1″ diameter beam, how do you hear its effects if you do not aim it at you?

    Mmmmm, it doesn’t matter how I point the supertweeter (ST). The effect is always there. The Westminster are toed in. Almost the same as your Canterbury’s. The ST follows the same line to my listening position. I must be honest. On second thought I can see that I have them slightly pointing downwards at me. The ST is placed on a gold-iron circle with tiptoes. The tiptoe at the back is slightly screwed up. But again, the effect is not so great. It is on level of ‘finetuning’,

    You are talking about a narrow 1`’ diameter. I am thinking about this. You mean something with it, I cannot put the finger on. What I can say is that the ST has an large area of spreading his sound.

    I do believe strongly that without an ST on top of the Westminster the sound is great. With an ST 200 the sound is gorgeous. The ST openes up the whole sound + nicer bass.

    I hope strongly for you and Jeff that it will be possible to lend the ST 200! The ST 200 is a masterpiece that belongs to every Tannoy prestige line speaker! I could use so many words to point out the immense effect these supertweeters have on the Westminster. But the issue is you must hear it yourself. As with all audio gear, of course.

    Best regards,


  7. Hi Guys,

    fascinating thread – I recently emailed Tannoy about the ST200’s and was told they were discontinued but have subsequently been reintroduced – just need to save for them now but be fascinated to know what you think of them when they arrive.

    Jim, notice from your website you are based in Cumming, GA – I am London based but my aunt lives in Cumming GA – cool – a lovely place is Georgia – godda love the Kudzu.

  8. I am not blaming anyone using the ST supper tweeter or any other supper tweeter.

    Anyone enjoying more his prestige speaker from Tannoy with a supper tweeter ON , shall continue using it.

    Best judge for everyone it’s his/her own ears or even eyes! Because the ST looks beautiful on top of any prestige series Tannoy loudspeaker.

    I am not using it, because even if it adds something (I tried it) it is deducting from purity/musicality of the dual concentric.

    The dual concentric driver acts almost as a full range driver. This is the whole idea of choosing this speaker among others.

    In my opinion there are other very good loudspeakers like the Tannoy Kingdom but none like the Westminster Royals.

    Personally I prefer the Westminster more than the Kingdom. Personal taste of course.

    If I was going to use the ST on Westminsters why not to add a sub-woofer also next to it?

    Or even buy the Kingdom instead of the Westminster. Which already has build in the supper tweeter and the sub-woofer. Kingdom would be the choice of an Audiophile, Westminster for a music lover or a purist.

    Again, personal opinion, personal taste . Like I prefer the Bordeaux red wine than the Burgundy. Others the opposite.


  9. No blame from me either.

    I only wonder if the tweeter somehow energizes the room in a way that I cannot understand.

    Something like the Acoustic Revive RR-77 operating at 7.83 Hz without any obvious mechanism to reproduce such a low frequency acoustically.

    For sure the tweeter radiates all of the ultra high frequencies in a very narrow beam. It’s quite measurable. But only DIRECTLY on axis. Yet so many love super tweeters that I wonder if anyone knows how they might work if not aimed directly at you?

  10. Hello from Paris , (F)
    Instead of a protractor I use an App on my iPad called SpeakerAngle , so easy to use it’s magic !

    PS : my Kensington sounded much more musical when I took off the ST200 after 6 month

  11. Jim,

    May I ask what brand is the big tube amp in the background of the Tannoys, as it appears in the picture of your audio room?

    And more importantly to me, what are the big tubes on top of it?

    Are they EML 300B XLS ?


  12. Pambos – you have sharp eyes!

    Yes, they are EML 300BXLS, in the 36 watt/ch TheLARS Type 2 mono-blocks.

  13. Thanks Jim.

    I never heard of them, but I visited their web page after your reply !

    EML 300b XLS are the tubes I am using on my parallel single ended 300b Audionote Kegon.

    I wish I could compare them next to each other on my Westminster Royals.

    It would be very interesting!

  14. I was hoping to see/hear an explanation as to how a super tweeter, when not aimed directly at the listener, could affect the sound at all.

    Any facts – or theories?

  15. For example, in order for a super-tweeter to have any sort of dispersion off-axis (as when the speakers are cross-firing behind you), at 27 kHz it would call for a tweeter whose diameter is about one half-inch, and at 55,000 Hz, it’d require a diameter of one quarter inch.

    Even a 1 inch tweeter is going to beam straight ahead above 14 kHz.

    So when I see super-tweeters set up firing off-axis, I don’t understand how that works.

    Looks like everyone has been there and done that for this thread, but I did want to clarify my original query a bit more.

  16. Jim,

    I like your persistence with the supper tweeters..!

    It seems that none has an answer for you. Why don’t you trust your ears like all the others?

    If you like the music better when S. T. are ON keep them ON.

    If not, Keep them OFF. Isn’t is simple?

    But if you are really after an upgrade of your high frequencies, my advice is to replace the Hovland 5.6uF cap with a better one. If you would like to upgrade even more, replace the 2,2uF cap also. This will definitely work.

    And if you would like to upgrade even more, replace the resistors in the crossover. You will be so satisfied that you shall no longer need to find out about s-tweeters!

    BTW I ordered your book and DVD set a few days ago. I am looking forward to read and try your proposed tweaks on my system.

  17. Hi Pambos,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I love my music system as is. And so does everyone who comes in to hear it from around North America.

    I persisted on the super-tweeter question because a number of audiophiles claim to hear an improvement. And I wonder how this is so. So it’s curiosity.

    When I tried them, as described above, I could notice a difference, but only when I pointed the super-tweeter DIRECTLY at my ears. But every installation that I see has the super tweeters pointed off-axis with the main speakers. ???

    Regarding my Canterburys, I am sure your suggestions would be great! I look forward to doing them.

    However, I use my system for RoomPlay Reference sessions, and can’t afford for the system to be down.

    I’m thinking that when I retire I will definitely try those mods. 🙂

  18. Hi JIm,

    When I upgraded my customers pair of Canterburys it took me totally 4 hours. And I upgraded everything except the autoformer. ( Everything includes Inductors from iron core to air core, caps to Duelund VSF everywhere and resistors to Duelund everywhere).

    The crossover stayed inboard. Not outboard as in my case.

    The customer also used to have the ST 200 supper tweeters on, which he removed and sold to audiogon after the upgrade.

    He is using Wavac MD- 805 amplifiers, Audionote Turntable and Audionote CD player.

    He is in Paradise with his system.

    • Hi Pambos
      Do you have a detailed list or drawing ( or photo’s ) as to what was done to the canterbury’s . Also what year are they.
      Did he upgrade the speaker binding posts ?

      cheers Lance

      • Hi Lance,

        Unfortunately I did not keep pictures and although the customer with the Canterbury’s lives only 5 miles from my house, It is not easy to get pictures as the upgrade was not outboard but inboard.

        What you should do it is to open the cabinet, find the crossover, write down the values of everything and then you can order them from Duelund or any other manufacturer you like.

        Those speakers were the SE version. The last upgrade from Tannoy. Around 3-4 years old now.

        From what I recall the iron core inductors are 2.1mH and the big high frequencies capacitors 5.6uF.

        For these I am sure. For the rest you need to open the cabinets.

  19. Hi Jim,

    For the EMS 300b XLS you must try the Duende Rings on them.

    They really work and they are suggested by the manufacturer of the particular tubes. I have them on and the improvement is well worth the modest price!.

  20. Hi Jim,

    After the recent reading of your book “Get better sound” I would like to know your opinion on this:

    Will a pair of Westminster Royals benefited from a good pair of subs?

    If yes, what are the available options for subs that can do the job properly for the given loudspeakers?

    Shall it be sealed or ported sub?

    Shall it be 12 or 15 inches driver?

    Shall it be connected to the pre amps outputs or to the speakers outs of the power amp?

    Any thoughts from anyone are welcome.

    Looking forward for replies !

  21. Jim;
    I’m looking for some advice before contacting Jim Smith. I noticed that some of the photographs of Jim’s speakers have supports under their plinths, to get them off the floor. Upon reading some of Jims written material he states that the modification only applies to concrete floors. He also states the support recommendations do not apply to “sprung wooden floors”. I have a sprung wooden floor with heavy carpet overlay and am thinking of getting my Churchills up off the floor, approx. 4-5in. similar to the above the picture. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Dick.

  22. Interesting discussion here – I have !5″ Golds in Tannoy GRF-R cabinets but decided to use ribbon super tweeters in combination rather than a cone type super tweeter – started with a pair of Decca ribbon super tweeters but they were not quite efficient enough for the Tannoys – switched to more efficient 96 db/watt Aurum Cantus ribbons good to approx. 40Khz – find the ribbons do not beam like cone super tweeters and seem to have more dispersion, be more articulated and “airy”. Of course with all thinks – it’s in the ears of the listener.


  23. I read all of the above and receiving some Tannoy st100’s next week. I listened some st50’s on loan for a week. Even my wife was blown away listening from the kitchen. Toe tapping very fun live sounding music was our common experience. Regarding the speaker mod suggestion I wholly support. The modder sprayed the speaker box interiors with the Rhino coating used on pick-up truck beds and polyfil. Dueland resistors, oil V-caps, high end hook-up wire, noise blackout paint, gold standard C-37 liquid, WBT low mass binding posts and silver solder yielded the best sounded I’ve ever heard. It is as if I passed through after-life blackness into the Light with heavenly Tones of Beauty. When I hook up the st100’s for a first listen, I’ll be wearing some Depends, just in case …

  24. I personally like ribbon tweeters and aluminium tweeters (foe example, like Herbath use).
    Modern material tweeters don’t sound right for me.

    I listened Tannoy Kingdom Royal in Montreal show this year.
    I totally dislike st100 tweeters. They sound scratchy and unnatural.
    The same scratchy sound has new Spendors D series with LPZ tweeter. I think Spendors D series is a shame for such respectable company that built a lot of great speakers in the past.
    I don’t like Focal beryllium tweeter as well, but LPZ tweeter even worse.

    • Hi Alex,

      Some people like adding on super-tweeters, some don’t.

      I’m in the latter category, I suppose, as I’ve never heard a system supplemented with a super-tweeter that I thought provided an improvement from a musical perspective.

      Every added on super-tweeter I’ve heard gives a somewhat unnatural presentation that puts me off, but I haven’t heard everything, so maybe there’s an exception out there that I would like.

      Kind regards,


      • Hi Jeff,

        At least Tannoy users have choice. They can listen new Tannoys with or without super-tweeters.

        I listened my Altec 604E for a long period of time with Dick Sequerra Pyramid T9 ribbon super-tweeters.
        I use them with original 1500N Altec crossovers and with Werner Jagush crossovers.
        Despite this tweeters has 7-10dB less sensitivity compared to 604E I can listen influence of these tweeters on sound of my system. Sequerra tweeters make sound of Altecs more focused and detailed and IMHO not less musical.

        Now, after upgrade HF capacitors to Duelund RS + Duelund Cu-Sn bypass, I need to listen my speakers with and without Sequerra super-tweeters again.

        I also want to try high sensitivity ribbon super-tweeters like Fountek NeoCd2.0M too.


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