Thiel CS2 2 loudspeaker John Atkinson Again
The natural comparison for the MartinLogan Aerius is the Thiel CS2 2, which I reviewed at the beginning of the year, and now suffers a slight price disadvantage since its recent price hike to $2750/pair. The beautifully engineered 2 2 is ST's other favorite speaker (when he can be torn away from his Advent Cheapskate Specials, that is).
Listening to the two pairs of speakers head to head, the Thiel's midbass is a bit fatter than that of the Aerius, which adds a pleasing bloom to the sound of bass guitar. It sounds rather "boxy" beside the Logan, however, with a more congested lower midrange (this is at least partly due to a strong enclosure resonance affecting the speaker's front baffle—see graph above), and the sound doesn't float quite so clear of the speakers. Though the 2 2's mid-treble is slightly more sibilant, its top octaves sound more airy and spacious. Its imaging is even better focused, and the soundstage thrown by a pair of Thiels is as deep and wide as that produced by the Martin-Logans. Both are champions at ambience retrieval; both excel at lunging for ultimate transparency.
The Aerius's midrange character is more ethereal, the Thiel's more robust. Neither sounds lean, though the 2 2's balance is richer overall. Both make demands on the upstream equipment they'll be partnered with; neither is a rock-the-house-down party speaker. Asked to choose between them...I wouldn't.—John Atkinson
Thomas J. Norton wrote about the Thiel in April 1995 (Vol.18 No.4):
Since the original Vandersteen Model 3 wasn't available to me for comparisons, it would be a dicey proposition for me to comment on how great an improvement the new Vandersteen 3A is—especially since it's been nearly two years since I last heard the Model 3, and in a different room. Vandersteen's track records on improvements in their other models—particularly the Model 2—has been consistently good, however, which at the least would seem to make an audition of the new model mandatory for owners of the original design.
What I did do, however, was compare the Vandersteen Model 3A with one of its most popular competitors, the $2750/pair Thiel CS2 2. In most respects, the two were different in the expected ways. Vandersteens have always struck me as sounding warmer and richer than Thiels, and so it was with the 2 2 vs the 3A. The midrange of the Thiel was a little more laid-back. Its top end was crisper and more tightly focused, but also less forgiving of mediocre program material.
While the Thiel's bass was tighter than that of the Vandersteen, it also appeared less extended. The bass drum on Enya's Watermark didn't energize the room in the same shuddery fashion as it had on the Vandersteen. But it was hardly anemic, and, at the same time, was subjectively "faster" than that of the Vandersteen. The Thiel also had similar problems reproducing the bass track from the Jurassic Park soundtrack.
Which loudspeaker did I prefer? Don't pin me down. I liked the bass and the relaxed, forgiving nature of the Vandersteen, but also the crisper, tighter focus of the Thiel (I like detail as long as it isn't thrown at me with a shovel). Both are superior performers, but even in this price range you have to choose your compromises. And if size is a consideration in your listening room, the Vandersteen is considerably larger and more visually dominant.—Thomas J. Norton