THE ULTIMATE BATTLE: Ribbon Speakers VS. Cone Speakers

Apr 6, 2002

Popular Products in Home Theater Speakers and Subwoofers
The Bottom Line Read my review to find out about the differences between ribbon and cone driven speakers.

Acoustics is a very scientific field. Different speakers all perform differently. Today, a majority of all speakers are cone speakers. That means that they use woofers and tweeters to drive the different sound frequencies. These speakers can cost as little as $10, or as much as $100,000. There are different aspects of quality. However, there is another type of technology used in acoustics, it is called magneplanar technology. Anyway, here is are the differences between the technologies.


*How They Work -- Cone woofers move at very high rates of speed and release air this way. This is how the actual sound is produced. The fastest moving driver in a traditional speaker is the tweeter, then the midrange, and the midbass woofers and subwoofers move much slower because they push out dramatically more air which produces the bass response.

*Sound Positioning -- The sound will be shot directly forward out of the woofer. Then when the sound is in the environment, it will reflect off objects which will actually fill them room. However, to get the best response from woofer-driven speakers, it's usually best to sit directly in front. Regarding imaging, some sound very transparent, but those do come at higher prices usually because the speakers with the best imaging usually come from upper-end brands. Some speakers offer drivers that fire off into different directions. This is used by brands like Bose and Cambridge Soundworks. To some listeners, the sound may be more unrealistic, but the sound stage is made larger and more emotional by using multi-directional firing speakers.

*Overall Sound -- The sound can be extremely terrible if these speakers cost like $10 a piece or cheaper. The cheapest speakers built are cone speakers, but then again, if you're a true die-hard audiophile, you can buy cone driven speakers for $100,000 a pair. Different materials and other components are sued in these speakers, so they all sound different. However, a majority of speakers used are cone speakers... So you'll find a different sound to each type of speaker.


*How They Work -- Ribbon speakers are usually tall, and have numerous ribbons that create the sound. The construction of these speakers follows a certain pattern. There is a ribbon strip, then a magnet, then another ribbon, and so on... These ribbons are very thin sheets, but the theeory is that if the sound frequency is produced from the top of the ribbon to the bottom, then the sound that comes out should be pretty good.

*Sound Positioning -- I have actually found Magneplanar speakers to have some of the greatest possible imaging. This means that they sounded very transparent. The most popular magneplanar speakers are made by Magnepan, and the ribbons also fire directly backwards causing a very wide range of sound dispersal.

*Overall Sound -- I have found some magneplanar speakers to have some of the most unique and crispest sound on the market. I have heard a lot of music in only stereo mode using Magnepan speakers, and the instrumentals and vocals were by far the most realistic that I've ever heard. However, because the ribbons don't push air like many large woofer cones do, the bass response is much lower. Some large floor standing cone speakers use 10" or 12" woofers and they create ample bass. If you use magneplanar speakers, you should accompany them with a subwoofer. The best magneplanar speakers in the world are Magnepan. They can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, and the high-end Magnepan MG20.1 speakers cost $10,000 a pair. Other great brands include Monsoon, but int heir home theater speakers, Monsoon does add woofers which add to the bass response. The highest end Monsoons cost $1,899 a pair, and they are great... But I do prefer Magnepan overall. Magneplanar speakers offer some of the most unique and clear sounding vocals and instrumentals offered by any kind of speaker, so if you have a high appreciation for music, then you should buy magneplanar ribbon-driven speakers.

*--The Verdict--*

*So Which One Should You Buy? -- It's really up to you as to which kind of speaker you might want to buy. For example, if you're looking at a pair of speakers at $10,000 a pair, you should try out cone-driven B&W Nautilus 801 speakers and then try them out against something like the Magnepan MG20.1 ribbon-driven speakers. Then YOU must decide which speakers you like better. They all have different sounds to them. But just one thing for people who have never heard the true beauty of magneplanar speakers... Don't be fooled by the ribbons, the sound that is created is phenominal, and the build quality is pretty good. So remember, it's only up to yourself to decide which kind of speaker you like better? So who is better, cones or ribbons? Only your ear can tell!

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