Decades ago, car audio professionals were adamant about the statement that tweeters needed to be installed right beside the midrange speakers in your car audio system. Is this accurate? The answer is that it depends on a few variables. Keeping them close can’t hurt, but it might come at the expense of improving the soundstage location in your audio system.
Why Did Tweeters Need To Be Installed Beside Midrange Speakers?
Decades ago, almost everyone used passive crossover networks to divide the audio signals from the source unit or amplifier in car audio systems between the tweeter and midrange drivers. Passive crossover design is much more complex than most people understand. The values of the components need to be altered based on proximity, distance and even the direction the midrange and tweeters are facing.
Most crossover networks were designed to provide a smooth transition from the woofer to the tweeter when both are installed beside the other on the same plane. Imagine what you see in a car audio display at your local specialist retailer as this reference. The reality is, this isn’t how many of these systems are installed in a vehicle. A few companies caught on to this and designed their networks to deliver smooth response in typical installation situations.
Back in 2005, our friends at Of Sound Mind Labs were reviewing a set of car audio speakers for a car audio magazine. As part of the process, they took frequency response measurements with the tweeter mounted on the same plane as the 6.5-inch woofer from the set.
The large dips around 1,000 and 5,500 hertz certainly aren’t ideal. Worse, boosting around 5.5 kHz with an equalizer will dramatically increase the work the tweeter needs to do and could cause damage at high volume levels.
After a discussing the measurements with the engineering team that designed the speaker set, it was revealed that the intended application was for the listener to be about 45 degrees off-axis to the midrange, and the tweeter was to be angled toward the listening position and installed beside the midrange using the included surface-mounting installation kit. The reviewer added the tweeter mount and measured the system off-axis as described.
As you can clearly see, the response is now amazingly flat through the 1 kHz and 5 kHz ranges. There was no equalization applied – the crossovers were optimized to deliver a smooth response in configuration. Frustratingly, this information wasn’t in the owner’s manual.
Adjustable Passive Crossover Networks
Over the years, a few companies have offered adjustable passive crossover networks. The intent was to allow your technician to fine-tune each speaker’s output around the crossover frequency for different installation locations. Alpine and Focal were good examples of this crossover-configured flexibility. This solution wasn’t perfect but was much better than not having any adjustment at all.
Modern Audio Installations
In the last few years, car audio digital signal processors have become popular and much more affordable. Aside from equalizing each speaker’s output in the audio system, a significant benefit of a DSP is that your installer can adjust the crossover points and apply signal delay to each speaker to ensure that the output of each arrives at the listening position in-phase. What does all this gobbledygook mean? Your tweeters don’t have to be installed right beside the midrange speaker, so long as the technician working on your car or truck knows how to use the DSP features to produce a smooth response in the vehicle.
Let the Experts Design and Install Your Car Stereo System
More often than not, information about the proper application of passive crossover networks is only shared with authorized retailers. The staff at these facilities invests a significant amount of time and money in attending manufacturer and industry training events in order to glean this sort of information and deliver the best possible solutions for clients. Likewise, the training offered by DSP manufacturers allows experienced retailers to configure and calibrate your audio system efficiently and accurately.
Too Long; Didn’t Read – Do Tweeters Need To Be Installed Near Midrange Speakers?
The short and sweet answer to the question about installing tweeters near midrange speakers in a car audio system is that it depends on the crossovers. The improvement in stage height afforded by having the tweeters in the sail panels or A-pillars instead of low in the doors is just one small reason modern car audio systems should be designed and calibrated with a digital signal processor. Drop by your local specialty mobile enhancement retailer today and audition one of their demo vehicles. Based on your feedback about what you hear and enjoy, they can design an audio system that will deliver the performance you want in your car or truck.