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Speaker Asylum: REVIEW: Thiel Audio CS3.6 Speakers by jonbee

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REVIEW: Thiel Audio CS3.6 Speakers

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Model: CS3.6
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $4400
Description: 3 way floorstanding speaker
Manufacturer URL: Thiel Audio
Model Picture: View

Review by jonbee ( A ) on May 18, 2004 at 11:05:25
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for the CS3.6

These are one of the best reviewed speakers of the last 10 years or so, but their reputation is that they needed very expensive big amps to drive them properly. I saw a review recently of the PS Audio HCA2 in Positive Feedback that raved about this combination, noting that the HCA2 is very comfortable with 2 ohm loads. I own the HCA2 and am very happy with it, so when a local seller offered a pair of 3.6s for a great price, I gave it a shot. My wife has been lobbying for less sprawl from my equipment as well. My existing speakers were modded VMPS 626Rs and a VMPS NOS sub.
In a nutshell, the PF review was spot on. The soundstage is expansive and detailed, with powerful, controlled bass (with proper positioning) and a smooth, integrated sound very similar to that of panel speakers (without the rear radiation, of course). The reproduction of phase information can be startling at times. If the producer has played around with the phasing of instruments, the positioning of instruments in the soundstage is more clear and sometimes extreme than anything I've heard.
The top end is quite smooth, and rolls off above 10k, so while the detail is good and clean, the very top end is a bit subdued.
Vocals and large brass instrument have just the right amount of heft and body, something that many speakers don't seem to get right.
These speakers are a very tough load- almost all the range is below 4 ohms, and much of the range is 3 ohms or less, dropping to 2.3 ohms. It is important not only that an amp will drive them, but that it will sound good while doing it. That leaves out about 98% of all amps, and most that will do it well cost more than these speakers. The PS does the trick easily. It will play these loudly without any strain or hardness.
A couple more points- a listener must be at least 8 feet from these for the drivers to mesh properly, and there should be 2 feet or more behind the speakers. These will easily overload a small room, as the bass is full and powerful, but very tight and tuneful if you get it right.
Other than the issues of amplifier and room matching, which are problematical and critical, there are a couple of things that some speakers do better. My VMPS 626Rs have a bit faster transients, and more extension and feathery detail at the top end. The NOS sub extends further into the deepest bass (below 27 hz. or so). The 3.6s also put the performers behind the speakers, whereas the 626s put them in front. The VMPS is more immediate and transparent.
I think the VMPS are not alone in these qualities, and I think the later Thiels also may be faster.
In summary, for me (and my wife), these have a very comfortable, easy, full sound, but with excellent detail, and a very large, integrated image. The cabinetry fits well with our quality furnishings.
For $4400, I think I'd look at some other speakers (the larger VMPS would be on the list if I had more space) first, but because these have been successfully on the market for 12 years, there are lots of used pairs available for under $2k (sometimes way under). If you have the space and the amp to feed them, they are a steal at that price, IMO. Their classic status is well founded.

Product Weakness: Requires an amp that sounds good at 2-3 ohms, needs lots of space. Not quite as quick as better ribbons, etc.
Product Strengths: Extremely well balanced and integrated overall, harmonically accurate, large soundstage, with nice looking, well built cabinetry.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: see review
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): CJ PFR
Sources (CDP/Turntable): ModWright Sig.Truth Sony 999ES SACD/dvd/cdp
Speakers: see review
Cables/Interconnects: .99999 braided silver/teflon, Goertz TQ(silver)
Music Used (Genre/Selections): lots
Room Size (LxWxH): 19 x 17 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: 2 wall of glass/kind of bright
Time Period/Length of Audition: 2 weeks
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): monster 2000 on inputs only
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Thiel Audio CS3.6 Speakers - jonbee 11:05:25 05/18/04 ( 3)