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October 30, 2012

History of Tweeter Design. . . or the Flaming Tweeter Story

Filed under: Fun around the factory — Tags: — Amie C @ 3:59 pm

A recent discussion over brunch with some Axiom friends led to talk of ‘remember this speaker’ and ‘remember that speaker’? One speaker came up that sounded so crazy I just had to Google it: the Magnat Flaming Tweeter.

“I remember that speaker!” Ian exclaimed. “I heard it – at Brent’s store! Didn’t sound too bad actually!”

A quick note to Brent had him reveling in nostalgia, and digging old literature out. “Those are relics from the past. They were available in their transpulse series or you could buy the plasma amplifier and add to your existing speaker. Gave off a very obnoxious smell especially when driven hard but incredible when you needed a light in the wee hours.”

He went on to explain that they were used in conjunction with a tweeter in order to have enough output for everyday listening.

Here’s what he dug up on Wikipedia:

Plasma or Ion tweeter
Because ionized gas is electrically charged and so can be manipulated by a variable electrical field, it is possible to use a small sphere of plasma as a tweeter. Such tweeters are called a “plasma” tweeter or “ion” tweeter. They are more complex than other tweeters (plasma generation is not required in other types), but offer the advantage that the moving mass is optimally low, and so very responsive to the signal input. These types of tweeters are not capable of high output, nor of other than very high frequency reproduction, and so are usually used at the throat of a horn structure to manage usable output levels. One disadvantage is that the plasma arc typically produces ozone, a poison gas, in small quantities as a by-product. Because of this, German-made Magnat “magnasphere” speakers were banned from import to the USA in the 1980s.


Brent went on to explain that Magnat was a German design that had its heyday in the 60s and 70s and then faded off from there. A friend of his had the speakers in a room roughly 20 x 10 and if you listened to the speakers for 90 minutes or more, you’d have a headache from the fumes.

Did you ever hear these (or other) Plasma tweeter speakers? What’s wild and wonderful speaker designs do you remember? (Or, in the case of Axiom’s friend MadBeggar, what wild and wonderful speaker designs are you cooking up in your basement right now?)

President’s wife 🙂 Defacto, that makes her an audio guinea pig, whose only request to the lab is to always run sample products in colors that blend in with the rest of her home!

She considers herself the Audiobyte’s Number 1 fan.

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1 Comment »

  • Ken.C
    November 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    That person has terrible taste in music! 😉

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