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Ultra Hi-Fi, Part 2: The Difference Made by Speaker Driver Materials

They provide the foundation for great sound.

Imagine a Hi-Fi experience like no other, where every detail is heard and you are fully engulfed in the sound of your favorite artists as if they were right there in the room with you. This is the experience that all exceptional speakers should provide. But not every speaker is built the same way. In order to create the foundation for great sound, great speaker drivers need to be made of a durable, lightweight, yet stiff material.

There are a variety of different materials that are used in speaker drivers, including paper, metal (such as aluminum or titanium), polypropylene, beryllium and Kevlar. Each impacts the sound differently, and so the choice of material is largely determined by the sonic signature the design engineers are seeking. Yamaha Soavo NS-F901 speakers, for example, incorporate A-PMD (advanced polymer-injected mica diaphragm) midrange drivers and woofer. This material is extremely lightweight yet rigid and stable, allowing for a smooth sound and fast response. By contrast, Yamaha NS-F310 Floorstanding HD Music speakers use aluminum dual cone drivers. These are designed to reproduce the full, dynamic sound of HD sources and deliver a clear, high-resolution bass sound.

Beryllium is used in many high-end speaker drivers. This material has the high-speed acoustic velocity suitable for a tweeter and mid-range dome but is too delicate to use for a woofer, making it challenging to timbre-match all the drivers. For that reason, speakers with beryllium tweeter/dome drivers usually incorporate a different material (such as aluminum or paper) for the woofer.

And then there’s ZYLON® — an ultra-strong synthetic fiber with exceptionally high acoustic velocity, double that of titanium or magnesium and comparable to that of beryllium. Lightweight and flexible, ZYLON (also known as PBO) has a tensile strength of 5.8 GPa (Gigapascals), which is 1.6 times that of Kevlar® and very stiff. Officially deemed the world’s strongest synthetic fiber by the American Chemical Society, ZYLON is used in a wide range of applications, including Formula One™ race cars, police officer body armor and NASA for high-altitude data collection balloons.

Speaker with filter cover removed and graphics indicating the 1" tweeter at top, the 3" mid-range driver in the middle and the 12" woofer at bottom.
Each NS-5000 driver uses ZYLON for a consistent look and sound.

And now it’s used for speaker drivers too! In fact, ZYLON is used in all three drivers within the new Yamaha NS-5000 speaker (part of our 5000 Series of flagship Hi-Fi components): the 1″ tweeter, 3″ mid-range and 12″ woofer. The result is an expanded frequency range with a more unified tone color across the entire frequency spectrum and a more balanced sound than would be possible if a mix of materials were used for the tweeter, mid-range dome and woofer.

The ZYLON for these diaphragms is manufactured in an ultra-precise production process, made in cooperation with Yamaha Fine Technologies, a maker of wood panels of luxury passenger cars and advanced factory automation products. And, although each driver in the NS-5000 is made of 100% ZYLON, each is woven specifically for its usage and is molded from the diaphragm to the surround (edge), with a different thread count for each. This helps the NS-5000 deliver a smooth response at all audio frequencies and allows more information to be accurately reproduced during playback.

Pair of floor speakers on stands.
Yamaha NS-5000 3-way bookshelf speakers.

Balance, power and clarity are just a few of the attributes that made ZYLON the optimal choice for the NS-5000. We encourage you to listen for yourself so you can hear just how good it sounds!


Check out our other Ultra Hi-Fi blog articles:

Part 1: The Difference a Tonearm Makes

Part 3: The Difference Made by a Balanced Signal Path

Part 4: Going Beyond Perfection


Click here for more information about Yamaha NS-5000 3-way bookshelf speakers.

Click here for more information about the Yamaha 5000 Flagship Hi-Fi Series.

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