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Speaker Asylum: REVIEW: Thiel Audio CS 2.4 Speakers by TKwolek

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REVIEW: Thiel Audio CS 2.4 Speakers

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Model: CS 2.4
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $3900
Description: 3 way floorstander
Manufacturer URL: Thiel Audio
Manufacturer URL: Thiel Audio

Review by TKwolek ( A ) on February 01, 2004 at 11:20:28
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for the CS 2.4

The reason for this review is due to the overwhelming amount of enthusiastic reviews for this speaker on many audio websites and in many audio magazines. I just wanted to check them out and hear how they stack up against Dynaudio’s Contour S3.4 speakers, which have been helping me to enjoy music (and life) since last May (my review is also here on Audio Asylum). I visited my local dealer with my son, and found the Thiel CS2.4’s set up with a Sony DVP-NS999ES SACD player, Krell KAV-280p preamp, Krell KAV-2250 power amp, and a host of big Monster cables. My dealer told me that they were fully broken in. We auditioned them with a Sony SACD sampler that consisted of some light jazz and classical. The sound was very dry and missing the midrange and lower treble. But what we most noticed, to our surprise, was a very strong pain (like from needles) in our ears. I suspect this is attributed to their high level of ultrasonic ringing. Disappointed, we left, but decided to go back another time.

We went back the following Saturday with our favorite CD selection: Hugh Masekela’s Hope, Billy Cobham’s A Funky Thide of Sings, and Dave Grusin’s Discovered Again. The sound was pretty much the same, but the ultrasonic ringing was no longer present, meaning that the Thiel has serious problems with the high frequencies present on a SACD. But this is not the worst problem with these speakers. While playing the percussion music on Hope, the attack and dynamics of the midrange were completely missing. The presentation was completely lifeless. The Contours make the Masekela drums explode just like they would during a live concert. In addition, the Thiel’s bass was boomy and very resonant, almost like a Bose; just one frequency was present.

But, as I said, the major problems lie in the midrange. I think that the surface area of the midrange part of the coincidential driver is way too small to provide a decent SPL. And the mid-driver doesn’t have any motor! The tweeter’s voice coil excites it in a highly resonant way. It is ridiculous to rely on a rubber surround to transfer the energy from the tweeter voice coil. Rubber surrounds are normally used to damp the energy, not to transfer it. No wonder the Thiel’s midrange lacks any attack. The energy is initially absorbed by the surround and after a while, when it sustains, it starts to excite the midrange diaphragm. This thing just can’t work and the proof is in the listening. How is it possible to transfer impulses using a soft rubber (or similar) material? Every other speaker maker is trying to make the voice coil to diaphragm connection as rigid as possible for good energy transfers. Thiel is doing the opposite. In my opinion this driver should be called “tweeter-reflex.” I remember that Electro Voice was trying to make a mid-reflex during the 1970’s and abandoned it.

Some of you may be interested to know why the frequency response of these speakers looks so good on paper. Measurement equipment uses slow sine waves to feed the speakers. These graphs, however, don’t show what is happening during transients. That’s why these speakers sound so horrible with dynamic music. Because of the lack of energy transfer, the actual frequency response of the midrange would look shelved down by some 10dB, which is utterly unacceptable. Remember the THD wars? This is another example of why we can’t rely entirely on measurements. Measurements are good, of course, but it is also very important how we measure and what we measure.

I think I can explain why these speakers are so “picky” about amplifiers. If you use a good amp with a flat response such as the Krell, the results will be all bad. You need to use a tube amp with its bass and treble rolled off to give the Thiel more midrange. In other words, you will need an equalizer. And that still won’t improve the poor transient response. Plus this will be all fake, trying to make up and fix a poor design. For $4,000, this speaker doesn’t make any sense. Why not go out and buy the Dynaudio Audience 82’s for $2,200? In any regard every high-end speaker I’ve heard, even below $1,000, is better than the Thiel CS2.4. The concept of a coincidental driver is completely faulty, and Thiel should stop fooling people. In my opinion the Thiel CS2.4 belongs to the worst speakers in the High End World. By the way, I checked the Thiel CS6 in the same room, and the sound was just about the same, only bigger. No wonder, it too has a coincidental driver. I would like to find out why these speakers are getting such good reviews, and why I’ve repeatedly heard these things called neutral. Are you guy’s deaf? I welcome everybody to discuss this issue, including professionals.

Factory Specifications:
General: 3(2)? way, floor-standing, passive radiator, coincidental high-mid driver with tweeter voice coil only
Frequency response: 33 - 37,000 Hz -3 dB
Sensitivity: 87dB 2.38V/1m
Impedance: 4 Ohm
Weight: 70 lbs
Dimensions: 11”W x 41.5”H x 14”D
Drivers: (1) woofer 8”, (1) passive radiator 7.5x11”, (1) tweeter 1”, (1) midrange diaphragm 3.5”

Product Weakness: Sound
Product Strengths: Thiel name

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Krell KAV-2250
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Krell KAV-280p
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony DVP-NS999ES SACD
Speakers: Thiel CS6
Cables/Interconnects: Monster
Music Used (Genre/Selections): See review
Room Size (LxWxH): About 18' x 15' x 9'
Room Comments/Treatments: Carpet floor, wall treatments
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 hour
Type of Audition/Review: Dealer Demo

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Topic - REVIEW: Thiel Audio CS 2.4 Speakers - TKwolek 11:20:28 02/1/04 ( 18)