Any Thiel CS3.6 owners?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by BossCo, Jul 31, 2015.

  1. BossCo

    BossCo New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Surf City, CA USA
    I'd like to share system setup experience with any fellow Thiel CS3.6 speaker owners here. I'm not unhappy with my B&K amplification but then not exactly ecstatic either. Have read a lot of opinions on other hardware forums, but since I'm enjoying the music & production discussions here I'm thinking hardware ideas should be good here as well.
     
  2. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    I worked for a wealthy fellow who had 3.6s and a MASSIVE Krell amps and he frequently lamented how they UNDERPOWERED the Thiels. So I think you are not alone. I think those Thiels must gobble up watts like hors d'oeuvres.
     
  3. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    I have owned most Thiel speakers in the history of the "3 series"(except the origunal O3 and later CS3): the O3a, CS3.5, CS3.6, and CS3.7.

    For all of these speakers, watts-per-channel is not the issue. The CS3.6 is indeed the least efficient of all these models, but not by much. They all play plenty loud with a moderately powerful amplifier without distortion. But they all sound compressed with the vast majority of amplifiers no matter how much power. When they sound compressed, they also sound agressive in the upper-midrange, and electronic (as opposed to natural).

    What I found is that these "favorite children" of Jim Thiel benefit rematkably from romantic amplifiers rather than accurate/analytical/sterile amplifiers. Try a good tube amp, an older Classe amp (i.e. a DR model), etc, and these will blow-away those analytical Krell amps, no matter the lower vs. higher power rating.

    Many Thiel fans won't believe me, but (in my opinion) that is because they haven't tried it.

    When Thiel used Cary, Music Reference RM-9, MFA, or Audio Research M-100 (pure tube) amps, in CES displays, these speakers sounded extremely dynamic. When they used Threshold, Krell, or Spectral amps, they sounded compressed, hard, bright and mid-fi.

    No B&K amp will make a Thiel come alive. You must experiment with amps until you hear the liveliness of real music.
     
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  4. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    By the way, I am not negative about B&K amplifiers. I owned a pair of 100Watt Sonata mono amps, used them with a pair of Aerial Acoustics 10T, which actually made a wonderful match. But, the same amplifiers with Thiel CS3.5 and Thiel CS3.6 were just bland in dynamics and agressive in tonality.

    Now, I use a pair of B&K ST-140 (their least expensive and most popular amps ever) with those same Aerial Acoustics 10T, one stereo amp per side, biamplified, and these amps are spectacular used this way with these speakers.

    Back to the Thiels, I HIGHLY recommend you try a tube amp with the CS3.6, preferably that uses EL-34 (at least 4 per channel) or 6550/KT-88 (at least 2 per channel) power tubes. The AES AE-25 (Superamp -Signature version has more power), AES SixPacs, Cary CAD-280SA (V12), Music Reference RM-9 for example. You will be astonished how really great the Thiels can sound with not much "power" but the right "complementary" sound. The Thiels need a slightly warm mid-bass and romantic highs (from the amp) to really sound their best. But, more than anything, they just favor the sound from vacuum tubes rather than transistors.
     
  5. audioguy3107

    audioguy3107 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Atlanta, Georgia
    How powerful are your B&K amplifiers? Regardless of tube or solid state, Thiel speakers need a ton of power to really sound their best. They will perform well with many power amplifiers, but if you want them to reach their potential, you really need to feed them a lot of good clean power. I used my McIntosh MC402 on my 2.4s and you'd be surprised how much power they took from that amplifier. I don't doubt that tubes would sound really sweet on 3.6s, but you'd better have some pretty powerful tube amps.

    - Buck
     
  6. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    I have heard and read many times that Thiels "need a lot of power", and that no matter how much power you give them, they need more, even with "MASSIVE Krell amps". It just doesn't make sense to me, and it does not match my experience, playing them with fine tube amps. If no matter how much power you use, they need more, I would like to understand what that sounds like. What does "not enough power" actually sound like with the Thiels, if this is in fact a defining characteristic for these speakers? (1) They don't play loud enough, but at low listening levels they sound great? (2) No matter what loudness you play, they don't sound dynamic? (3) The weight and punch in the bass don't match the detail and clarity of the mids and highs?

    In my opinion, #2 and #3 very often apply, when listening to many of the Thiel models. People attribute these to "not enough power". But, if fact, #3 is the tonal balance that Jim Thiel designed into the voicing of many of his speaker designs. To flesh these speakers out, you need to try a warm and smooth amplifier. Suddenly this supposed "very high power requirement" becomes a myth.

    The accuracy and clarity of Jim Thiel's art VERY clearly shine light on the dynamic quality (or lack thereof) of everything from the source software to the amplification that precedes any of his speaker designs. If you use an amplifier that doesn't complement the speaker's tonal balance, and play a CD that is lacking in the essential quality of "musicality" as a source, you will clearly hear a thin, dry and emotion-less quality that is uniquely "Thiel-like". But when you give a Thiel exactly what it needs (and I don't think just "power" is the necessary ingredient) suddenly the speaker comes alive.

    The Thiel CS3.6 is an extremely audiophile speaker, and doesn't sound right unless everything is properly "tweeked" ahead of it. As inexpensive as the CS3.6 sells for now on the used market, and it wasn't that terribly expensive even when new, too many people have played them with whatever other equipment they happen to have. After you use these speakers to compare a VERY fine turntable/tonearm/cartridge to an all-in-one standard CD player... then a B&K amplifier to a Music Reference ampifier... then try a few different preamps in-between, you'll find that it is QUALITY and COMPATIBILITY, not POWER, that these speakers require.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2015
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    I never heard a Thiel speaker I liked. But I never heard a pair properly presented either.
     
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  8. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    I have found exactly the same story with Thiel speakers as with Audio Note speakers. People have heard them with thrown-together equipment, it sounded mediocre, so listeners complain about the speakers.

    What I have done, in both cases, is trusted the speakers, heard them sound poor (in the opposite way actually -- Thiels too thin and bright, ANs too warm and indistinct) then slowly-but-surely experimented with associated equipment and beneficial tweeks.

    In the end, the reputation among the dedicated fans (and magazine reviews) turned-out to be well-deserved; well worth the effort of giving the speakers the necessary time, energy, and money to flesh out their superiority.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
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  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Helps if you know somebody who has a clue. The few times I heard AN speakers (for example) they were set up so badly and with such weird amps that I was totally unimpressed. That changed when I finally heard a pair set up right, with the right amp (you might remember that first time at Larry's house when you set it all up for us, I was hooked instantly.)

    Sometimes that's what it takes, someone who has a clue how to present gear correctly.
     
  10. audioguy3107

    audioguy3107 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Atlanta, Georgia
    This is from the Stereophile measurements of the 3.6:

    The CS3.6's impedance magnitude and phase plot reveals a very low impedance value. The loudspeaker is under 3 ohms through most of the range, dropping to a minimum of 2.3 ohms at 3.6kHz (the cursor position). The low impedance value explains the CS3.6's need for the iron-fisted Mark Levinson No.23.5 to provide control in the bass; the CS3.6 would appear to be current-hungry. There is, however, a consistency to the impedance curve that makes the CS3.6 look much like a resistor to the amplifier, rather than an impedance that varies greatly with frequency.

    The last sentence is a good explanation of why various amplifiers such as tubes will work well with the 3.6. Underpowered solid state amplifiers won't fare too well.

    - Buck
     
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  11. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    I heard and loved the Thiel .5 with a tube amp. Relatively small presentation but deliciously detailed.
     
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  12. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    What is the technical difference between a low power solid-state ampifier vs. a similarly power-rated tube amplifier that explains this difference in speaker compatibility?

    In other words, why is a 50 wpc transistor amp so "underpowered" for an "under 3-ohm impedance" (but consistant impedance) speaker, whereas a 50 wpc tube amp works just fine?
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
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  13. audioguy3107

    audioguy3107 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Pretty good article here on some of the differences between tube and solid state:

    http://www.trueaudio.com/at_eetjlm.htm

    Watts is watts when it comes to power, so Based on what the above poster commented on about tube amps with Thiel speakers, perhaps it has to do with the "softer " distortion one can get from a tube amp vs. the harsher clipping that would get from an underpowered solid state amp with a low impedance speaker like the 3.6? Theoretically you may not need as much current swing with the 3.6 since the impedance curve is relatively stable as you would with other speakers, but I'm speculating......I don't think I've ever heard a Thiel loudspeaker driven by a tube amplifier and I've owned and heard just about all of them up to Jim's passing.

    - Buck
     
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  14. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    I'm running my Thiel 7.2's with CAT Tube Mono Blocks. I've tried Krell, Pass, McIntosh, NAD and Bryston amps with the Theils. The CAT mono blocks are MUCH better than any of the others. The CAT's are high current amps.
     
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  15. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Thank you for the link, I will read it. For now, I am not so sure the delivery of Watts is equivalent for any amplifier of a particular Watts rating. Power = (current squared) x (impedance). A Thiel speaker that dips down to 2.3 ohms will require almost 5 amps to receive 50 Watts. A typical 8 ohm speaker, that may dip down to 6 ohms, only needs less than 3 amps to receive that same 50 Watts.

    Now this is here-say from a very technical friend of mine. He says speakers respond to voltage, not current per-say. So as their impedance dips or rises, their performance responds to how well an amplifier's ability is to provide linear voltage delivery, even as the speaker's impedance varies.

    Transistor amplifiers, he says, are current providers, not voltage providers. So they provide current that is linear with the voltage that is input into them, up to their maximum current capability. Tubes are voltage providers ("which is exactly what speakers respond to linearly"), providing output voltage that is linear with the voltage that is input into them.

    Well, after I read the link you sent to me, maybe I will understand this concept better.

    Very few Thiel owners own tubes, which I think is unfortunate. They often claim thier amps don't provide enough "power". But with the CS3.6 I have heard little Luxman mono tube amps (only 35 wpc) and a AES/Cary SET-1 amp, single ended with one 300B per channel, only about 5 wpc. Both of these amps had enough power to my ears, and sounded really fantastic with these speakers. You really MUST try a low power tube amp with the Thiels before you claim "high power is required".
     
  16. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Next time I go to Boston, I would LOVE to invite myself to hear "Songs from the Wood" on this system. I am crazy about CAT amps, and have never heard big Thiels sound great, with the big solid-state amps Thiel that used at the CES shows (most often Krell and non-tube ARC).

    I imagine the CAT amps with the big Thiel speakers must really sound wonderful.

    I had the same experience as you, with my smaller Thiels. I tried Krell, Levinson, Motif (solid-state Conrad Johnson), Bryston, Adcom (wow these sounded bad), B&K, and a few other transistor amps. All of them sounded compressed, lacking in weight, harsh, and analytical with these speakers. As soon as I tried low power tube amps (Luxman and AES/CARY), the transformation was amazing. I ended up buying 100 wpc (4 6550s per channel) and 120 wpc (6 EL34s per channel) tube amps, and still have those combinations today. I have CS 3.5 and CS 3.6 in two different systems, with big MFA mono tube amps.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
  17. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    How often to you get into Boston? Maybe we can set something up.

    I don't know the technical aspects of amplifier design. You can get that from Ken Stevens.
     
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  18. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    I listened to Thiels long ago and ended up going with Vandersteen. They gave me an alternative presentation of the time/phase coherent implementation, but seemed more upfront in their presentation.
     
  19. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    My experience is that Thiels are very finicky speakers, whereas Vandersteens are not. Vandersteens sound just subtly different as you experiment with amplifiers. A Thiel CS3.6 can sound much worse than a Vandersteen 2 or 3 with one amp... and much better with a different amp. In the end, for me, after the careful tweeking and choice of associated equipment, the Thiels opened-up for me far beyond any Vandersteen that I have ever heard.

    The important lesson here is that when someone chooses a speaker, choose carefully, then stick with them, experiment with equipment, and find the right match. When a system doesn't sound great, don't blame the speakers. Blame the synergy.

    Back to the original question. From my experience, a B&K amp will make a Thiel CS3.6 sound compressed, unemotional, analytical, bright, aggressive, and hard. Try other amplifiers, don't worry about power rating. Just listen, and try different amplifiers, until the magic of Jim Thiel's voicing (and imaging) comes through to you. Then buy an amplifier like that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
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  20. timind

    timind Bushy

    Location:
    Brownsburg, IN USA
    I was using the small Thiel 1.6s about a year ago. The best sound I got from them was with a pair of Dared VP20 mono amps. The Dareds use two 6L6 tubes to produce 18 watts. The Thiels though are 90db efficient and went as loud as I cared to go.
     
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  21. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    If you don't have "Songs from the Wood" on LP, and a MC cartridge, it may be a long time. Actually, I have no plans for Boston in the foreseeable future. But, eventually, I would like to hear your system... particularly if you have a CAT preamp, too.

    Steve and I share a great respect for the sound through CAT preamps, even though he doesn't "get" Jim Thiel's speakers (yet).
     
  22. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    I love this advise. I think the small won battles, cumulatively, are part of what make it all interesting. I partly attribute my Vandy purchase to the little tube integrated I listened to them with.
     
  23. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    OK, maybe I over-emphasized the MC cartridge (looking at your profile). You would need a good step-up between a low-output MC and your W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L CAT Signature.

    But Dave Magnan is local for me, been to his a home a few times, and I respect those cables.
     
  24. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    I am happy with my Soundsmith Zephyr. My CAT preamp likes the high output signal of the Zephyr and my uni-pivot tonearm works well with it. My lp of "Songs From the Woods" sounds great with my system.

    It would be nice if I could see a list of your equipment in kind.
     
  25. FWIW. I bought used Theil 3's back in the day and they were my first "high end" speakers. I loved them and thought they sounded pretty good at home with various amplifiers I tried, but they never came close to what I knew they were capable of. I had listened to these same speakers at a dealership that I "hung out" in while going through College. They were matched with a fairly wide variety of amps through that period of time, but I fell in love with them when they were matched with a large Threshold Stereo amp (can't remember which one).

    FF many years and I lusted through the 3.5's, 3.6's, and finally 3.7's. I heard each of them at at least a couple of different dealers as well as various Audio shows. They never really impressed me.

    Then I heard the 3.7's with Hegel Amps at one of the shows. Very impressive. Give them a shot if you have an opportunity.
     

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