Supertweers get a mixed reaction whenever they are brought up in polite audiophile conversation. Daniel Worth tries out a pair of the Townshend Audio Engineering Maximus Supertweeters costing £899.

A supertweeter is often considered as an unnecessary addition to any loudspeaker design, but these comments are often put forward by the same people who have very strong feelings on the benefits of expensive cabling. However, there is a logical argument to be made – the human ear can only hear up to a maximum of 20khz and even this is at a push and infrequently measured, with most testing of healthy adults actually coming out at 18khz max.

In my opnion both supertweeters and cables can be very beneficial to a high-end rig and it’s down to their implementation and construction as to how their benefits can really be appreciated. Unfortunately like many other products in the world of high fidelity, one needs to trawl through the crap and snake-oil and rely on well regarded and established companies for a truly well produced product, that is actually worth its weight in currency and Townshend Audio have long since established themselves as a brand one can trust.

I’ve personally used many supertweeters in my years of audio and have really only ever heard results which have made me appreciate their worth in integrated designs – where the designer has took them into consideration with the entire build in mind. Adding a supertweeter thereafter often accentuates the lower treble frequencies too much giving an overpowering doubling of the db levels of the existing tweeter, rather than extending its abilities due to mismatching in crossover points.

The extension of the 20khz potential maximum audible by the human ear is what is often debated by many as unnecessary. Why would we even require a tweeter to reach beyond this threshold of measurable human hearing limits? And if it isn’t measurable by the human ear then what’s the point?

What we actually hear varies significantly, the younger we are the more we can hear in and around 20khz, the older we get the more these higher frequencies are rolled off (many of us also suffer significantly from peaks and drops right across the frequency range. A good friend of mine has a terrible peak at 8khz and he has to tune this into his system for complete pleasure). However our brain can still recognise these higher frequencies, often referred to as ‘spatial awareness’. Spatial awareness is a quality that any audiophile strives to achieve from his or her system.

Being able to ascertain events, acoustic cues, reverbs, along with instrument and vocal placement is so important in creating a more realistic performance from our home setups. Granted, a substantial amount of the information presented to us isn’t contained in the upper regions of frequency reproduction but the atmospheric noise, decays and interactions within the acoustic arena is. These frequencies are just as important to the overall complexion of the music as they add that last layer of realism and that ‘being there’ feeling, just like sub sonic bass from a subwoofer recreating the feel of an organ as opposed to what can be heard from an organ.

Correct implementation comes down to many key factors. The topology of the tweeter itself, whether a soft dome, ribbon, planar, diamond etc etc, but most often a well regarded supertweeter will be of the ribbon type. They can lack a little less dispersion than a dome but their sonic signature  being a little sweeter and incredibly articulate tends to integrate very well with more integrated tweeters. Quality of internal components just like any crossover is crucial for transparency. Chassis cooling and db level controls to integrate to the main speaker are also essential for an after market design.

The Maximum from Townshend has six db levels simply numbered from 1-6 which I appreciate, it takes out any preconceived ideas of what sensitivity and level the tweeter should be set at in conjunction with the associated loudspeakers. I myself didn’t expect a 1-6 level and was already considering options on leveling them to my Ayons, taking this away simply allowed me to trust my ears and integrate the Maximum Supertweeters in the most sensible way – by playing music!

Presentation, Fit and Finish 

Packed very well in a suitably snug box and in outer sleeved styled box with nice graphics, the Maximum Supertweeters are presented nicely to the customer. Inside each tweeter has its own pocket of foam to sit in during transit, with a nice thick plastic wrap over each. Included also is a 1.5m copper cable for each supertweeter. The cable has bananas on both ends, personally spades at one end would probably make more sense for connecting to existing binding posts as I’d assume the majority of people would be using bananas on a single set of binding posts already fitted to the main speaker. If bi- wired, spades would still work. On the other hand, the fact that a starter cable is included is a thoughtful touch.

The supertweeters themselves came in a Matt black finish which was ideal to match my speakers and quality of the finish couldn’t be better. To the rear there are two flush mounted 4mm binding posts, the type that Naim, Exposure and Cyrus use, although I hate this style as it limits the type of connectivity so much, on the Maximums it makes absolute sense and keeps a nice clean overall look to the supertweeters.

To the front is a sturdy and stylish metal grill to protect the ribbon and just to the sides are cooling vents. The underside has four small and shallow rubber feet, which I was again pleased with as they are massively grippy, allowing for some weightier cables to be installed.

Installation 

Simply put – a breeze.

There are two main options in connecting these to the speakers. The most obvious is to piggyback them off the main speaker’s binding posts, the other, which I chose was to run another set of speaker cables back to the amplifier. I opted for this configuration as I use Studio Connections Black Star speaker cables and having a same length pair of their Reference Plus model, which essentially is a lesser amount of conductor version of the latter, plus, there are less connections in the chain driving amplifier direct.

The Sound 

Firstly I only connected the left Maximum Supertweeter and set the level to ‘3’, recommended by Max Townshend as a suitable starting point before dialling in. I went over and sat down…for about three seconds, noticed a real lean to the left hand side of the soundstage and instantly connected the right supertweeter and sat down this time for a proper listen.

I played Bliss’ ‘Quiet Letters’ album first through the Melco and an instant further layer of detail filled the soundstage, allowing for extra perception of air and space. I even felt that I had more midrange depth as the three dimensionality of the top end carved more structure to the presentation leading down into the upper mids. Triangles had a longer lasting and more discernible decay with plenty less smearing as the music got busier.

The lower cross-in point of the Maximums is around 6khz, something I was a little wary about before installation as I didn’t want to double up on what my tweeters already give, but I couldn’t say that I was hearing any overblown lower treble frequencies at level ‘3’.

I played some Joss Stone and Jeff Beck next, which can sound a little tragic through lossless Tidal with the direct rip sounding far better. I didn’t notice any peaks or nasties in Joss’ tones and Beck’s guitar really made use of what the supertweeters were able to add down into the midrange by supporting better separation between the instruments, vocals and venue – until I had the audacity to turn the supertweeters up to level ‘4’. Then I could hear exactly what the Maximums were adding to the entire picture and that the level was too great for overall balance.

The Townshend Maximum Supertweeters being so well constructed and doing what they are supposed to do so well, will feed back to the listener when he/she adjusts to an unsuitable level.

They need to be treated like adding a subwoofer to a 2-channel system, they need to be dialled in so that the listener cannot hear them singularly, you don’t need to hear the individuality of the addition, just how the additional abilities integrate gently with the whole. I went backwards and forwards many times throughout many different genres of music and although every now and then level ‘4’ would be better if I was absolutely critical, level ‘3’ was on the money at least 95% of the time with my 90db speakers.

I especially love how the Maximums invite the listener into the recording arena or venue more. For instance when listening to Fink’s live albums a real sense of being there is located by the inclusion of the supertweeters, everything sounds larger and more lifelike and at night time with the lights down or off, it’s very easy to be transported into the audience when their applause can be ascertained as bouncing off the walls and the airiness of the venue becoming more lifelike.

Micro details and micro dynamics also receive a helping hand. Intricate tempo driven micro details flow wonderfully well and there is that cliché of being able to re-explore your music collection in more detail. Pleasantly so, with the correct level dialed in, there is no adverse brightness to be reported by correctly installing the Maximums, rather, an extension of what the main speaker is capable of is clearly delivered and not just only within the top end, the frequency extension also aids lower frequencies within the midrange especially to enhance image separation and layering whilst remaining completely musical and palpable.

There’s no doubt in my mind that frequencies past the 20khz human threshold of hearing make a perceived difference to the overall presentation of the music and what can’t be heard can be understood and appreciated.

Conclusion

If you have any doubts in whether a supertweeter can make a difference to the sound of your hifi system and all the reading you undertake leaves you with mixed opinions as to whether it’s even humanly possible to be able to cognitively notice differences, i’ll just say one thing – stop reading people’s opinions and make your own mind up by demoing a pair.

Every dealer of Townshends Maximus Supertweeters, should have a demo set in constant use for customers to hear and also a loan set on a sale or return basis to allow customers to be able to try on a risk free basis.

My biggest concern was the overlap of frequencies between my tweeter and the supertweeter.

I would have liked the ability to dial in my own crossover point as well as db levels or sensitivity as the Townshend Maximus’ are so worthwhile that I feel I could in fact obtain even more performance by being able to fettle them even further. As a consumer unit they work as they are but for any hardcore audiophile the shred of doubt in their mind as to how much better could these even be will show its ugly head.

All in all I consider these an asset which would be dearly missed if it wasn’t for the fact that they now have a permanent home with me and Townshend are a little richer!

Adding a Townshend Maximum Supertweeter, along with some of their Seismic Isolation to the speakers REVIEW HERE will transform any listening experience considerably by adding more resolution, better control, added layers of musical bliss and a natural tonality that many of us strive for but without the correct guidance leaves pursuers of audio satisfaction spending pockets full of cash in the completely wrong areas as opposed to a single calculated purchase which promises great things and proves to be worth every penny.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality – very nice construction and finish, great looking

Sound Quality – exceptional, a real extension to any quality loudspeaker

Value For Money – again, to compliment a high-end loudspeaker worth every penny

Pros 

Fantastic ability to integrate with main speakers

Lovely build quality

Well packaged and presented

Great anti-slip feet

Adds a new dimension to the sound

Cons 

No shiny finishes available

No dial for crossover frequency

Price: £899

Daniel Worth

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