Thiel’s New SCS4T Loudspeaker

On Friday, John Atkinson and I visited the lovely home of WIRC Media’s Micah Sheveloff, press representative for Thiel and Bryston.

I first met Micah in January 2005 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. You can read about that experience here. It was my first time in Vegas, my first time attending a CES, and my first-ever press demo. Jim Thiel was discussing his CS3.7. All at once, and just off a plane, I was being introduced to Jim Thiel, Kathy Gornik, and the latest iteration of a classic loudspeaker design. Jim Thiel was vibrating with an incredible kind of energy. I watched, sort of in awe, as Thiel drew pictures and made wild hand motions, attempting to describe his latest driver technology. And still, I could not comprehend the magnitude of the situation. Though I was a complete newbie, Micah made me feel very comfortable. On Friday, Micah again did a wonderful job of making us feel at home.

We sat down in Micah's living room to listen to Thiel Audio’s latest model, the SCS4T, which carries on the memory of the company's energetic designer. The SCS4T is a compact, floorstander derivative of Thiel’s popular SCS4 bookshelf model.

The SCS4T is the product of popular demand from dealers and customers longing for a speaker that incorporated all of the sound quality from the bookshelf model, while eliminating any troublesome variables caused by the necessary stands. It employs Thiel’s coaxial Power Driver unit, and has the same cabinet volume and crossover network as the bookshelf model. In fact, it looks identical to the bookshelf speaker in every way, but for that new extended cabinet, which has been sealed from the rest of the speaker. That base cavity, Micah told us, has been well-braced to prevent cabinet resonances, and the speaker has been carefully re-voiced to accommodate the new cabinet geometry.

The SCS4T is available in natural cherry, dark cherry, and black finishes, and I was immediately impressed by its looks and build quality. The speaker very nicely complemented Micah’s attractive furnishings.

In Micah’s living room, the Thiels were being driven by a Bryston 14B-SST2 power amplifier; preamp was Bryston’s BP6, the source was Bryston’s BCD-1 CD player, and cables were from Goertz. The first track Micah played for us was Johnny Hartman’s “Almost Like A Song.” The music bloomed into the room and immediately put a smile on my face. Just like a song, indeed, the system had a great sense of ease, painting an extremely detailed picture with tons of air. Next up was the Beach Boys’ “Disney Girl” from Surf’s Up, another album with which I was unfamiliar. I was touched by the lines, “I’ve got my love to give / And a place to live / Guess I’m gonna stay / It’d be a peaceful life / With a forever wife / and a kid someday,” and I mentioned to John and Micah that I’d never heard the album.

They were both fairly shocked.

“You’ve never heard it?” asked Micah.

“No,” I confessed.

“Would you like to borrow a copy? I’ve got three.”

I happily accepted. Before we left, but only after a delicious lunch and dessert, Micah wrapped up one of his vinyl copies for me.

A track from jazz guitarist Adrian Legg, another artist completely new to me, highlighted the system’s speed and clarity. Both the guitarist’s technical performance and the system’s hyper-detailed, forward overall presentation were impressive. A piano piece by composer Josh Rifkin, a colleague of Micah’s dad, showed beautiful tone and placed the tightly focused piano in a fine soundstage. This was followed by a track from the Tony Purrone Trio’s Electric Poetry, showcasing the system’s ability to unravel complex arrangements. Everything in the mix sounded clear, tight, and controlled, with powerful impact and awesome jump. And the system also loved drums and voices: Prince sounded larger than life on “Strollin,’” while a track from the Ginger Baker Trio with Bill Frisell, produced by former Stereophile contributor Chip Stern, had a superbly taut, round drum sound. The Thiel SCS4Ts seemed to have no problem filling the room with sound.

“These speakers really are doing well for having just a single 6" driver,” commented John Atkinson.

Micah nodded, stood up, and lifted a tablecloth: “No subwoofer under here,” he said.

The price of the new SCS4T hasn’t been determined yet, but Thiel is targeting $3500/pair–$4000/pair. The company hopes to have units shipping to dealers this fall.

***

After lunch (during which I confessed my ignorance of 10cc’s classic hit, “I’m Not In Love”), Micah invited me and John into his big listening room, where he keeps his beloved CS6s, a badass, old-school VPI turntable, and tons of vinyl LPs. I sat down and listened and immediately recognized the track. I had actually heard “I’m Not In Love” millions of times before, but it never—really, never—sounded like this. It was enormous and awesome and thrilling. I pretty much fell in love with Micah’s listening room and gear, and I could’ve stayed all day, exploring Micah’s wonderful library, but John and I had to get back on the road.

***

For more on Jim Thiel, read this interview with John Atkinson.

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COMMENTS
John Atkinson's picture

Micah offers some thoughts on our visit at http://micahmadness.com/ .

Trey's picture

Sounds like a great time. Too bad you had to listen to Hall and Oates though (shudders)

Stephen Mejias's picture

Dude, seriously, Hall and Oates kick ass! Rich Girl? She's Gone? Kiss On My List? Private Eyes?! I Can't Go For That?! MANEATER?!!?! Even "Jingle Bell Rock" kicks Christmas butt.

DLKG's picture

Stephen, Speaking of Hall and Oats. Have you heard the new Bird and The Bee CD of Hall and Oats cover songs? They're updated with some really great electronics (But not too much) but the vocal melody lines pretty much sound like the original except they are sung by the very sexy vocals of Inara George.

John Atkinson's picture

Check out this piece on the making of "I'm Not In Love" and how they created the ethereal vocal backing at http://www.boingboing.net/2010/07/13/the-making-of-10ccs.html .

Chris Sauer's picture

Great piece. I have a pair of SCS4, and, while not as room filling as my old CS3, they do a good job filling my largish room with a SAF friendly foot print. The Thiel house coherence is still present.That's the same old VPI turntable I have, too!I'm thinking next house, CS 3.7.

Trey's picture

Sorry Stephen, I cannot go there with you. I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere!

Trey's picture

Stephen, I can't go there with you pal. I would not hear them on a boat, I would not like them on a goat. I would attack them like a stoat, I do not like this Hall and Oat.Cool video regarding 10cc John! George, you are the blog equivalent of post nasal drip or a bad case of the clap. I am not sure what gets you off about appearing so venal and small.

Trey's picture

Well, at least we agree about you being a case of the clap. So that is a start. Now where is the penicillen?

jmsent's picture

So, $1200-$1700 more for a pair of SCS 4's mounted in an oversized cabinet? Sorry if I'm not impressed. Why didn't Thiel just use the extra volume to design a small subwoofer into the bottom of the cabinet, and cross out the coaxial unit at 50Hz or so? They could have improved dynamic range and bass extension while retaining all the positive attributes of the concentric driver design. Seems like a missed opportunity.

_A_F _'s picture

It's quite obviously for me that subwoofer in the main cabinet have some disadvantages:  

1. It have more main cabinet vibrations because great part of power spectrum density lies in low frequencies;

2. Less freedom in sub positioning compared to standalone subs - it's quite simple to put whole speaker in places where 1st room mode wouldl be amplified.

First disadvantage can be fixed  with much more heavy cabinets with thick walls, sometimes complex sandwich walls, second disadvantage can be partially fixed with electronic correction of amplitude & response of sub, but resulted perfectly flat inroom response can only be achieved with digital room correction systems - it's another $2000 just for DRC system. 

If all of this will be done - it would be completely different  design from completely different price range, much higher - you can themself check prices for such designs.

And I must say - such designs develops from the scratch, mostly with midwoofers in quite small closed box subenclosures, not vented (which is typically bigger in volume twice or more). I've seen this year some DIY project with 6.5 'inch non-custom build paper-cone midwoofer, also with integrated sub - enclosed midwoofer has rather big distortion peak at the his Fb, while  the midwoofer themself not have this peak during it was measured at the test baffle with much bigger back-volume.

In any case, for $1200 you only can design&build 2 subs by themself or buy quite simple models. Just a pair of decent small longthrow & low distortion 8-10 inch subwoofer drivers from Seas or ScanSpeak would be cost to you about few hundreds $$ (up to 7-8 hundreds for pair of 8 inch longthrow Scans subs, for example), without amps, electronics, enclosures and finishing.

Colin Robertson's picture

Musical arguments aside, I have to agree with jmsent; this seems like a rather lazily "upgraded" SCS4, and a far too expensive one as well. The SCS4's are what? $2000/pr. and they may charge double for more cabinet and a tweaked crossover?! What happened to the usual gorgeous Thiel cabinet designs? I hope this isn't a sign of things to come from a Jim Thiel-less Thiel Audio! I'll reserve judgement until I get a listen myself, and see what the final product looks like and how it's priced, but until then color me disappointed. I I were in the market for a entry-level Theil floorstander, I would be looking at the CS1.6... which isn't on the website anymore... FUCK.

Scott S's picture

The CS1.6 is discontinued to replaced at some point by the CS1.7.The SCS4s are now $2380pr.

Nick's picture

I so love that VPI table, simple, easily upgradable and sounds lovely and quiet. What a great bargain the jr is.

Micah Sheveloff's picture

Regarding the upgraded VPI clamp, I didn't even know it existed. I am one to keep gear a long time and although I have the upgraded platter and suspension, I was unaware of the clamp and thus cannot comment on any possible advantages. I'll look into it!

Jamespblues's picture

This is the dumbest upgrade! Sorry Thiel I have loved your speakers for years but this is not even a sound upgrade really more like a stand upgrade! I am getting change for a $380 stand if the price is set too $2,380! I am not liking the road Thiel Audio is going on without Thiel! I will stick with the CS1.6's thanks. If the 1.7's are a dumb upgrade like this I will start looking for a new speaker company too upgrade too! I am guessing the 1.7 will be the same speaker with the new tweeter mid range design and a crossover tweak and the price will be crazy! I would think if Thiel wanted too show they still have it without Jim then build a great priced speaker and do something Thiel has never done. Build a 1.6 version (1.7) as a 3way at a good lower price!!! Jim always WOWed use not just give use something new too buy!

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