The Vifa TC9 is a great driver regardless of price. It’s claim to fame is neutrality and flat measuring frequency response. As a full range driver it ranks highly among the current crop of competitors. As well received as it is, on an open baffle and in my system, I feel the Vifa could use some help in the treble so I opted to add a helper tweeter and see if it satisfies my 49 year old ears even more.
My system consists of:
- Amp: SMSL SA50 (digital)
- Bass: H-frame (Eminence Alpha 15 powered by Dayton 100 watt subwoofer amp)
- Source: iPad 2 streaming iTunes Radio @ 256kbps
- Room: 24′ x 12′ (moderately furnished, two couches, tv, etc.)
I’ve already listened critically to the Vifa TC9 and enjoyed it very much, but to my ears the high frequencies are a bit recessed.
I have lots of unused drivers in my collection and decided to rummage thru my colleciton. Over the years I’ve purchased drivers from Parts Express and Madisound that I never use. After initially examining them many stay boxed in the closet. But I label the boxes and one said “Jamo tweeters”. I believe I purchased these for $5 each from PE. They were wrapped in cardboard, face to face. I removed them hoping their European flavor would suit the little Vifa well. I wasn’t wrong.
I’m not really a fan of dome tweeters. I think it’s because many commercial designs using them (most) allow the dome tweeter to play too hot. Domes have a fizzly, chuffy sound I find artificial. I was able to easily reproduce this. Determined to treat the Vifa TC9 like all of the other full range drivers I’ve used over the years I connected a .47uf capacitor on the positive terminal of the Jamo dome tweeter. Placing the baffle on top of the H-frame and firing up iTunes Radio I knew immediately I was on the right track. The treble of the Vifa filled in and I no longer had to listen for it. So I sat down for some critical listening and heard that fizzly dome sound. A steeper slope on the crossover first came to mind, “Where are my coils?”, I thought.
The fix was even simpler. A .33uf cap replaced the .47uf. At first, my ears strained to hear the tweeter at all, but covering it up with my hand then removing it revealed its lovely contribution to the overall sound. To my ears, the blend was seamless.
One of my favorite full range drivers is the Dayton PS95-8. It’s frequency response is balanced from about 200Hz to 10kHz where it peaks in the treble. Several strategies can be used to reduce or eliminate this peak.
- Reduce the peak with a circuit
- Add a crossover and a tweeter
- Angle the driver away from the listener
- Don’t use this driver
I chose to angle the driver away from the listener and this works well. I tilt it upwards at approximately 30 degrees. But the overall performance of the driver is never perfectly flat – it’s flattish. It also has a bit of sibilance which, for me, is its only flaw. My two teenage sons disagree on which driver is better. My older son claims the Dayton PS95-8 has a ’rounder, larger and more lively sound’ whereas my younger son feels the Vifa PC9 sounds more lifelike. Personally, I’m torn. The Dayton is great at filling a room with lively sound but with a touch of sibilance while the Vifa sounds more natural to me on vocals. The image the Dayton throws is larger than the Vifa which is probably why my older son prefers it. Both drivers are top notch – sound different – and worth hearing if you are seriously considering them for your main system.
The Vifa TC9 is similarly sized but does not have the treble peak. This lack of treble energy is this driver’s downfall. The dome tweeter fixes this beautifully.
Note: The Jamo gels with the Vifa like no other tweeter. I tried two dozen dome tweeters from various manufacturers. None approached the synergy with the Vifa as the Jamo. Just kidding of course! I believe any dome tweeter can be used successfully with the Vifa TC9. If you have some lying around, try them. Perhaps the best match would be one by Vifa? Perhaps a ribbon tweeter would sound even better? I leave that up to you.
Once I decided on a .33uf capacitor (that’s it) coming off the positive terminal of the dome tweeter I sat back in an Ikea Poang and marveled at the sound. This speaker was reminiscent of the sound I heard in Hi-End audio salons like Lyric Audio, Park Avenue Audio and the used Hi-End dealer I used to frequent on Long Island. I’d describe the sound as pristine, detailed, full, rich and neutral. Vocals float in space – I attribute this to the Vifa TC9 being on an open baffle. Bass is awesome – I attribute this to the H-frame. Treble is perfectly acceptable, especially when compared without using a tweeter at all. The tweeter enhances the TC9’s treble without overpowering or calling attention to itself. Treble sounds like it’s coming from a nice dome tweeter – this I attribute to the Jamo. The overall presentation from top to bottom is great!
My setup allows switching new baffles in and out easily. The baffle with the Vifa / Jamo is probably the most refined, accurate and neutral sounding speaker in my collection. I consider it a reference because of the Vifa’s known, and excellent, measurements. Only the Vifa’s extremes are ‘enhanced’ making this fine sounding “full range” driver a critical part of one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard.