Paper cone drivers/natural materials

I’ve been think recently about some post I read somewhere in which the OP complains about Wilson Audio’s use of doped paper pulp drivers for the cone material, saying that that’s not an acceptable material by today’s standards. Thinking about how meticulous is the design and execution of this company’s  offerings, this criticism just doesn’t seem valid. I’m sure if they found a better material, they’d use it. I’m sure they are designing for linear excursion within the pass band. I remember visiting an ex audio dealer’s house near Binghamton, NY, back in the early 80s when I was just a teenager. I remember him extolling the virtues of paper cones, and that way back then many manufacturers had experimented with others but kept coming back to paper. My opinion now is that many materials can be good candidates if executed well. Wilson is also using silk dome tweeters. My dad had very smooth and detailed sounding Philips silk dome tweeters back in the ‘70s in his homemade speakers. I say natural materials tend to hold their own and often prove superior. I have a cactus spine for my cartridge cantilever- my excellent Soundsmith Hyperion. Vandersteen uses extremely stiff and light balsa wood and carbon fiber in its top offerings. I can vouch for the excellent midrange in my 5A Carbon.

How much does driver material influence you purchasing decisions?



"How much does driver material influence you purchasing decisions?"

It has nominal influence on my purchasing decisions.  Frankly, in the real world, every material represents a series of trade-offs -- this advantage versus that disadvantage. And don't forget that cost, availability, and durability are also part of the equation along with the range of performance variables.  

But, that's what speaker designers do -- they set a goal and then see what choices get them closest to their desired endpoint. And then you, as a customer, pick from the hundreds of options available on the market, hopefully selecting the speaker that gets you closest, within your budget, to what you're after. 


According to Herb (Stereophile), and I’m sure a few others, a speaker sounds from which it is made, meaning the cone material ..

Absolutely zero influence. The main drivers in my Sonus Faber are paper cones. This does not mean they rolled up a piece copy paper to make the cones. They are highly sophisticated with bonding agents very unlike what we think of as paper and sandwiched with other materials. They reproduce sound like you would expect a $32K speaker would. 

 The main drivers in my Sonus Faber are paper cones. They reproduce sound like you would expect a $32K speaker would. 

Nonsense. Paper is the cheapest material on earth! For that price, I want solid diamond cones!



You’ll probably like a Rolex then… beautiful and made out of the finest materials and keeps terrible time. 

Sorry I want great sound…

I recall seeing a video on YouTube that demonstrated paper cones are prone to flex and compromise shape.

Speaker Cone Material: Best Performance?

This should be a pinned topic, we go over it often enough. :D

The ScanSpeak sliced paper cones are among the best I've ever heard in the 6" low power range.

Nonsense. Paper is the cheapest material on earth! For that price, I want solid diamond cones!

kenjit is giving trolls a bad name.

How many people reading this have a paper based subwoofer cone and think they are exceptionally quick and musical?  I know @bdp24 and I agree

No complaints on my Fritz Monitors with the ScanSpeak Revelator Drivers.  Paper seems very very good to me.


I have a few Rolexes, Submariner types.  They all keep good time.  The best at 2s/day and not serviced for 15 years.

My dad's old Rolex has outlasted many other timepieces and keeps excellent time, and the crystal hasn't scratch despite daily wear and abuse (on building sites). Only downside service costs every 5 years when it occasionally needs a gentle tap to start then good as new.

If precision in time keeping is the foremost goal one might as well buy a cheap quartz watch. Mechanical watches are imprecise by nature, so buying them for thousands of $$ is about something else.

Re: cone material in woofer/mids and its sonic influence, I tend to prefer paper variants. They’re just slightly more vibrant and naturally(?)/texturally warm sounding to my ears - very generally speaking. Never quite warmed to plastic cones like polypropylene, nor metal or ceramic variants, but there are exceptions, so whether it’s really more due to the overall nature of implementation of the design, I couldn’t say. For large diameter, not least high efficiency woofer/mids and sub-woofer cones (typically 12" on up) there’s no doubt in my mind: paper variants all day long.

Wrt. cone material of compression drivers, I’ve heard and owned polyamide, paper composite and metal variants, and largely I believe it comes down to implementation vs. the specific cone material used here. More important is the size of the diaphragms where I prefer them at 3," or - depending on the specific design parameters - bigger. This has to do with lowering distortion at their lower usage range and bettering overall physicality here crossing over to the woofer/mids (at an effectively lower XO point). If however a 2-way design with a large horn coupled to large woofer/mids is intended (like my own main speakers), both polyamide and paper composite diaphragms are moot - certainly at 3" on up - being they don’t extend high enough into HF-territory. Here metal variants like titanium, aluminum, magnesium and beryllium as stiffer materials are the obvious choice.

I saw that paper cone video. It was distorting really bad. Made me skeptical of paper cones even if they do sound good. 

Cones?  I don't need no stinking cones.  I have had Magnepans for 25 years and there is no going back.

I’ve built speakers using just about every design principle and driver material available. For cone type dynamic drivers there are many choices of material and driver construction. Many are outstanding if used correctly. You just have to understand and design around the trade offs of each. This includes cost in most cases. Extremely stiff materials have good and bad traits. I bet diamond cones would have trade offs as well. I have used treated paper cones that don’t look like paper. That might cause people to think a shinny or strangely textured or colored cone they see is not paper based, when it might be. If you like the sound then driver material is unimportant. 

Every speaker I have liked had paper cones. Few I have liked had other materials.

Been basically married to Tannoys with paper / pulp cones for over 15 years. I like some other speakers with modern materials, but love my Tannoys.

Speakers have been around for long enough that if there was something better and cheaper than the dope/paper combo, we wouldn’t have paper woofers anymore.  Having said this, The biggest difference’s I’ve ever heard was in tweeters, not mids or base design. A silk tweeter sounds different than a medal tweeter, that sounds different from a ribbon tweeter.

Back in the day, I replaced the tweeters on my DQ-10’s with some Decca ribbon tweeters and man was that the best money I ever spent at the time!


The midrange of my loudspeakers uses a beryllium dome diaphragm and has no breakups in the audio passband. Beryllium is an element and thus natural. Paper is man-made so isn't :) Guitar speakers use paper because it breaks up in a certain fashion that's nice if you play blues.

Just ribbing of course...


I agree with those who have cited the importance of implementation regardless of the driver material. I’ve heard many varieties of speakers throughout the years.

In my opinion more often than not, high quality well implemented speakers utilizing paper cone drivers consistently sound the most “natural “ in presentation. Paper has withstood the test of time for very good reasons.


My Submariner was plenty accurate for me for 9-10 years. It slowed a little and I sent it to Rolex for service. Just got it back and it looks like a new watch. Also has a two year warranty.  

At this time, I can sell it for more than I paid for it new. Not too shabby!

Keep in mind unless ancient the paper cones today are not really all made of paper. And there are also many types of paper used Fostex for example uses a banana pulp some Fostex cones are hyperbolic paraboloidal shaped others use Washi or hemp-based many other types exist. So one can not generalize to many variables. And I see far more complaints of ceramics and metal having tonal issues and I would disagree that if properly implemented that there is a consensus on that being true. Materials mater design maters implementation and build mater. Would say the overall design is one of the most important aspects. One plays to strengths mitigates issues when designing audio products. 


I'd agree that most cone design and construction is far advanced these days. A good designer can use the driver of his/her choice and produce a world class speaker if talented and with the right budget.

I've not really been concerned about cone types in the dynamic coned boxed speakers I've had over the years. The sound produced was the first concern. That said, over time I realized I like soft domes, silk, etc, far more than metal-domed or diamond tweeters. Some are good but still too tiring, so I shy away and now I love the sealed ribbon tweeters I have more than anything else.

I laugh at those who disparage paper cones. Please understand and believe that 'this paper isn't the same paper of years past'.  That is for sure.  :-)    Again, a great designer can do a lot...




I have been told speaker cones should be lightweight and stiff.  I believe this relates to the amount of mass a driver has to move.  This, I would imagine lighter weight cone material that reduces flexibility might improve musicality.  Just a thought.  I am certainly not as knowledgeable as members in this group.

All speaker designs are compromises, like pretty much everything else in engineering. As regards Wilson, the company could use any material under the sun  for its drive units, so it uses the materials it does because within its design philosophy, they are the best fit for purpose.

One thing I will never forget is a slide from Focal sales and marketing discussing how they decide on new products and how they sell them.

One term stood out for me.  "Appearance of modernity." 




And I have no problem with Focal making their speakers desirable, at all.  That's their job.  But we as consumers also have to be aware that the appearance of modernity is an important selling factor that is not actually related to performance.  I can invent a speaker driver out of self-assembled graphite nano particles with heat sensitive carbon bubbles ... it is more modern.  Is it better?  Not necessarily related.