Thiel CS3 loudspeaker Larry Archibald Comments
JGH has not discussed the question of equipment compatibility, which is particularly important with the CS3s. I had a bit of experience in this area.
The CS3 goes both lower and higher than most other speaker systems, and will show up problems in those areas (eg, below 40Hz and above 16kHz) that aren't apparent on other systems. A tube preamp, for instance, that worked very well with the Spica TC-50 sounded terrible with the CS3; low bass such as kickdrum was simply unlistenable. Another place to watch out for is the high end. The CS3 is quite flat from 16kHz to 22kHz. If you have a moving-coil cartridge that starts to rise at 12 or 14kHz, it may be listenable on systems with a rolloff above 14kHz but you won't be able to tolerate that rise on the CS3. Even f it doesn't actually sound sizzly, the extra high-frequency content will soon wear you out.
In amplification, a little high-end softness might be in order, similar to what you get from many tube amps—but it should be a tube amp with little or no brightness. I was surprised to find that the Conrad-Johnson MV75A proved to be an excellent match for the CS3, albeit at somewhat limited output levels (96dB if there's a lot of low-frequency content; 98–100dB otherwise). Some other amps weren't nearly as good: the BEL 2002, which has very extended high end, was just a bit unrelenting (too much HF content); the VSP Labs 150 was murky in the upper bass and a little too rolled-off at the high end. My experience was enough to convince me that it's essential with the CS3 to find the proper match in amplification; I don't think I've found the perfect match yet, but I'm still trying.—Larry Archibald