Thiel CS3.6 loudspeaker Page 4

Previous Thiel models have, in my opinion, been overly bright, aggressive, and analytical, particularly in the treble. When mated with most solid-state electronics, this resulted in a less than musical presentation. This trait, however, has been greatly ameliorated in the CS3.6. Although the CS3.6 couldn't be described as sweet, laid-back, or soft, its treble presentation was vastly superior to that of previous Thiel models, particularly the CS3.5. A manufacturer visiting my listening room—and who has never liked Thiels, for the reasons cited—was surprised by the CS3.6's degree of improvement over the CS3.5 in this area.

The CS3.6's uncolored presentation, transparency, and image focus combined to reveal a remarkable feeling of palpability, particularly in the midrange. The CS3.6's ability to reveal slight differences in tonal shadings and inner detail made the music more lifelike, less canned. There was a greater sense of "guitarness" to recorded guitar, a more palpable impression of "pianoness" with piano. This degree of resolution and accuracy would be outstanding in any loudspeaker, never mind one as relatively affordable as the CS3.6.

The feeling of precision provided by the CS3.6es extended beyond their tonal balance to their spatial presentation. There was a superb sense of soundstage focus and tight image delineation. Instruments and voice occupied specific points in space rather than sounding spread over the soundstage. This characteristic contributed in part to my earlier observations about "seeing into" the recording chain and original acoustic environment. The ability to place the musicians in the acoustic was exceptional. There was a stunning sense of the loudspeakers disappearing, leaving only the music.

Further, the presentation wasn't confined between the loudspeakers, instead extending well beyond their lateral boundaries. This was true only on recordings that called for it; the CS3.6es' spatial presentation varied greatly depending on the recording—as it should. In addition, the CS3.6es threw a very strong, stable, and tightly focused center image.

The sense of depth was superb, but didn't have the last degree of distance between the front and rear of the soundstage heard from some other loudspeakers, including the Hales Signature Twos. This is perhaps due to the CS3.6es' more upfront midrange presentation (by comparison), a trait that seems to reduce the sense of depth. Nevertheless, the CS3.6es' space and depth were more than adequate.

Dynamics were exceptional by any measure. There was a suddenness to the music that made many other dynamic loudspeakers sound slow and compressed. Playing the drum track from the second Stereophile Test CD revealed the CS3.6's superb dynamic capabilities. There was an immediacy of the impact that accurately conveyed what the live drums sounded like. Incidentally, the CS3.6 was excellent at revealing the tonal differences between the lower toms, something that very few loudspeakers can claim (footnote 4).

The entire spectrum was quick and clean, but what most impressed me about the CS3.6's dynamics was the bass punch. Many fast loudspeakers are lean; others with a full bass tend to sound slow and fat. The CS3.6, however, combined bass weight with transient snap. This is perhaps the quality that most endeared me to the CS3.6—the weighty bass presentation, combined with a fast attack and decay of bass drum, infused music with rhythmic energy and drive. Music in which the drummer uses two bass drums (the Dixie Dregs' Rod Morgenstein, for example) was particularly revealing of the CS3.6's ability to present each bass drum's attack and keep the two instruments from converging into a sloppy mess.

Some products under evaluation make it easy for the reviewer to find fault with them; their shortcomings are readily and continuously apparent throughout the auditioning. With the CS3.6, however, I had to look hard to come up with criticisms. The CS3.6 is not only exceptional in all the specific areas described, but the overall musical experience it provided was powerful, expressive, and immensely involving.

I can say without reservation that the Thiel CS3.6 is a remarkable loudspeaker. It is extraordinarily uncolored, providing a transparent picture-window view into the music. Its exemplary tonal balance, superb spatial presentation, and excellent dynamics combine to produce a compelling musical experience. Moreover, it is significantly more musical than earlier Thiel products, with a smoother treble balance and less aggressive presentation. The CS3.6 is a loudspeaker I could easily live with on a long-term basis. Not all listeners, however, will like the CS3.6's immediacy and high resolving power. This definitely isn't a loudspeaker for those who prefer a softer-than-life, or unfocused, perspective.

The CS3.6's primary shortcoming is a tendency to be ruthlessly revealing of imperfections in source and upstream electronics. The loudspeaker's high resolving power works as well on musical information as it does on such electronic artifacts as glare, grain, and hash. Careful selection of the highest-quality associated components is required to get the best out of the CS3.6. My only other caveat is that the prospective buyer should be aware of the CS3.6's potential for midbass fatness in some rooms and systems. Overall, however, I found little to criticize in the CS3.6.

The CS3.6 is not only a great loudspeaker, but a terrific bargain at $3900. It does many things well, and has no serious flaws. If I had $4000 to spend on loudspeakers, the CS3.6 would easily be my first choice. Indeed, it should be considered by those considering spending twice this amount—the CS3.6 is that good. What more can one say?

Footnote 4: JA blew up one of the CS3.6es' midrange drivers while playing this track at a very high level in an attempt to unmask the errors introduced by DCC's PASC encoding. The first few production units—including the review samples—used a different glue on the midrange driver that could cause failure at high playback levels. Fortunately, Thiel had included a spare driver with our review samples.
1026 Nandino Blvd.
Lexington, KY 40511-1207
(606) 254-9427

DaveinSM's picture

Love mine!