Thiel CS1.2 loudspeaker Sam Tellig Returns
If this were a beauty contest, the $1090/pair Thiels ($1120/pair on the West Coast) would win hands down. The look is clean and elegant, as is the sound. Cabinet finish is exquisite. "Thiel puts their money into cabinets," sniffed one speaker manufacturer. (Guess who.)
I may have been a little too tough on the Thiels last June, in retrospect. In fact, if this were my personal choice, I'd probably take the Thiels over the Vandersteens. I can live without deep, full, rich bass. I can't live with a lack of midrange and treble transparency.
From JA's "Followup" in the November '89 issue, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is some sharp disagreement between JA and LA on the one hand and yours truly on the other. Not so.
JA and I agree about the soundstage: somewhat shallow, closed in at the extreme sides, slightly forward. As for the bass, it's not that deep bass is totally lacking, it's just that the speakers are subjectively thin in the bass—compared, say, with the Vandersteen 2Ci's, which are much richer, fuller, more ample in the bass (wouldn't you say so, John?). [Yes.—JA]
The difference between the Thiels and Vandersteens is tonal balance. The Vandersteens sound slightly tilted toward the bass, the Thiels slightly tilted toward the treble—this because of their admirably clean, clear, crisp treble extension.
Which is the "better" overall speaker? I can't say—it should be a matter of personal preference. Your preference, not mine. I do recommend the Thiel CS1.2s. They're fine speakers and good values. I love the way they look. To me, they just sound a bit small—small soundstage, light in overall tonal balance. But, hell—these speakers are small. If you want more bass, if you want a bigger soundstage, and you also want midrange clarity and treble definition, you should probably opt for a bigger pair of speakers: a larger set of Thiels, perhaps.
How about Thiels vs Spicas—1.2s vs Angeluses? Too bad I didn't have both pairs on hand at the same time. I can say this: the Thiels are more crisply articulated in the treble. There's more life at the top. But the Spicas seem to have a wider soundstage. Take your choice. You can't have everything at this price point.
In the bass, both the Thiels and the Spicas are somewhat lacking, I feel. Not that the low notes aren't there; the bass is just not quite as rich or as full as with the Vandersteen 2Ci's.
As for cabinet finish, the Thiels win, hands down. The overall finish of the Spicas is somewhat crude by comparison. Moreover, the walnut veneer of my samples has a somewhat uneven character—not evenly dark. Spica could do better.
I'm keeping the Angeluses. While I can recommend all three speakers—Thiels, Spicas, Vandersteens—it's the Spica Angeluses (Angeli?) that I most adore—for their detail, delicacy, smoothness, neutrality, and most of all for their wide, deep, natural soundstaging. The Angeli are close to the Quad ESL-63 US Monitors in tonal balance, but they image better: more precise, more of a sense of layering. Transients via the Spicas aren't as quick as with the Quads, though. That a $1275 pair of Spicas could be in the same league, sonically, as the $3950/pair Quads is nothing short of amazing. And the Vandersteen 2ci's sound relatively muddy, muffled, overripe, and slightly crude by comparison with the light, delicate, finely textured sound of the Angeli. I am quite taken with these speakers—to the point where I have to question why a classical or jazz fan would want to spend more.—Sam Tellig