True high-end Speakers need a midrange

To be clear, I don’t mean expensive, I mean high performing.

I recently built a new center speaker for my home theater and as I was comparing/contrasting design alternatives between a variety of designs, everything from expensive DIY designs to Wilson, Legacy, ATC and Focal and others the thing that stood out the most was this:

  • You can’t get high output AND low distortion without a midrange driver.

I say this as a person who has had pretty good success with 2-way speakers and really admire 2-ways from Fritz and others, but when push came to shove, there was no way to make a 2-way with very high output AND low distortion AND excellent off-axis performance without a midrange driver.

You can push many tweeters down to 2kHz or even a tad below but it is very hard to find a tweeter that will do so with low distortion at high volume. On the other hand there are many 1" domes which will perform excellently when crossed over at 3 kHz or higher even when driven hard, things you don’t see from a frequency response plot, or really any measurements from Stereophile which never plots dynamic range charts. It’s not just about the frequency response and imaging, sometimes it is about doing all of that under pressure that matters.

Similar, complementary issues are true for the woofer in a 2-way design.  First, good mid-woofers with good frequency responses through 2-4kHz are expensive, but as you push the crossover up 7" drivers and larger have to beam, right in the middle of the midrange.  Instead of a wide open sound stage you can hear anywhere they restrict where you can sit.

In a large, full range speaker you can push your design for high output even further by going with a 5" midrange for instance.  Not quite as wide as the 4" counterparts but lots of power handling and plenty of overlap with the tweeter and woofers. 



Does this tweeter that was mentioned by @ricevs as the tweeter crossing at 1khz on the new Clayton Shaw Caladan resolve your concern?  In theory, using this tweeter would now allow many woofers/midwoofers to now operate in their sound quality/sound output comfort zone?



All drivers (from tweeters to subwoofers) have a distortion profile which gets worse the lower in frequency and higher in amplitude you get, the question is whether you can keep it out of your operating range so for any given device it depends on how low the distortion remains when the output levels are increased and when you plan on crossing over.

This is where a midrange can really come in handy.  By raising the crossover frequency from say 1.8kHz to 3kHz the high distortion area of the tweeter is avoided and the very low distortion area of the midrange is used, but as we know, no two parts are the same, and we don't all hear distortion in the same way.  If you want to minimize distortion, maximize dispersion and output levels, then going from a 2-way to 3-way design is often the solution.

There are a number of ring or dome tweeters between 1" and 1 1/2" which have a claimed sub 2 kHz operating range they are still limited in output. Often these models have unusually large rear chambers or like the legendary Scanspeak R2604 (Peerless had a very similar model) the bottom end of the tweeter will show increased distortion with output.

Perhaps the secret lies in the crossover though. I’ve read commentary that says you can get fabulous output from a tweeter if you use high order (i.e. 4th or higher) high pass filters, something I personally am loathe to attempt without an active crossover.


I don't own any Dynaudio, but they do a really good job with 2 way designs. 

It is true you cannot get low distortion at low frequencies with a normal tweeter.....unless you waveguide it, cross it over very steeply or use multiples like Tekton does. However, if you use a planar midrange/tweeter and you cross it over at 400hz using a steep crossover using a dsp crossover, then you get incredible low distortion sound with a two way. The 10 inch Radian driver is one such driver that can do this. A single one will play at least 105db......use multiples of them in a line array and you can hit 120+db. A two way, mounted on an open baffle using 2 12 inch Beyma woofs and a single Radian is easy to build. What you do not get with using one 10 inch long planar is vertical dispersion. You would have to sit directly in front of the driver to get the flat frequency response to 20K.....stand up and the upper highs will go away. If you use 4 of them in a line array then when you stand up you will still have one in front of you. Here is link to someone who is going to sell a bi-amped speaker using 6 radians and also 6 12 inch servo woofers.......pretty big two way....he he. However, even 2 non servo 12s and one Radian on a single baffle would blow your mind. You could also make a very tall single baffle and have the two 12s at the bottom and 4 Radians right above them.

Here is some info and pics of the same guy who used one Radian and 3 servo woofs per side at the Lone Star Audio show.


  1. Power Demands: SET tube amplifiers, especially those with lower power output like your 8-watt Decware 300b, may struggle to drive lower efficiency speakers to high volumes without distortion. While you may be satisfied with the volume at your listening position, pushing the amp too hard could result in clipping and distortion, affecting the overall sound quality.

  2. Impedance Matching: While your Sonus Faber Electa Amator speakers are 6 ohms, which is within the typical range for tube amplifiers, the lower efficiency (88db) means the amplifier needs to work harder to produce the same volume level compared to your higher efficiency Klipsch Forte IV speakers (99db). This can potentially stress the amplifier.

  3. Dynamic Range and Headroom: Lower efficiency speakers may have a reduced dynamic range, and they may not handle transients as well as higher efficiency speakers. This can affect the overall clarity and impact of the music, especially in complex passages or when playing music with wide dynamic range.

  4. Volume Control Position: If you find that you need to turn up the volume controls (preamp, tube amp, and Roon) close to their maximum settings, you might be operating at the limits of the system's capabilities. This can introduce more noise and potentially impact the linearity of the amplifier, leading to a loss of fidelity.

  5. Matching Components: Not all amplifiers are well-suited for all speakers. While your SET tube amp may pair well with high-efficiency speakers, it might not be the optimal choice for lower efficiency models. Matching components in a system is crucial for achieving the best sound quality.