Thiel SCS2 loudspeaker Page 2

Other than this relaxed presentation, the other attribute I noticed immediately was the extent to which the center-channel speaker simply nailed the dialog and sound effects to the video screen. The Aerial CC3 and M&K S-150AC represent the finest center channels I've auditioned to date, and the SCS2 is easily as good, if not better, especially because using five of the Thiels guarantees a uniform sound throughout the system.

In theory, the surrounds don't have to be equal to the front three channels—although this will probably change when five discrete digital channels become more readily available— and I've heard some surprisingly good bandwidth-limited surrounds. However, I wonder if timbral differences between the front and surround channels have more impact on an enveloping sound-field than we think. I do know that the Thiels create a seamless sense of immersion within my home theater that rivals the very best I have previously achieved.

And since they're all equal, the center channel and surrounds can handle dynamic extremes as well as the L/R speakers. You might think that the stated frequency response of 46Hz to 18kHz implies the need for a high-quality subwoofer—which certainly wouldn't hurt—but in smaller home theaters, such as mine, five of these babies can generate a surprisingly forceful presentation.

The "fast-mover" air-strike and helicopter scenes from Forrest Gump were convincingly loud and full of impact without a subwoofer; adding a pair of M&K MX-150s made them scary. Those on a budget won't suffer for want of woof, and you can always plan to add more bottom later. Myself, I might never get around to it.

I really admired the Thiel's abilities to re-create the everyday sounds and dynamic range of real life. Throughout Gump, for example, director Robert Zemeckis uses common sounds, such as the clank of young Forrest's leg braces, the clatter of a flock of doves bursting out of a corn field, or the swish of tire upon asphalt, to anchor his fable to the world we inhabit. We know these sounds, and the SCS2s rendered them with the ring of truth.

I started to write, 'Watching film after film, I became immersed in the fictive worlds..." But the word "watching" was incomplete. The beauty of the multichannel home-theater experience is the way it engages senses other than sight, and using a quintet of SCS2s, I was totally engaged.

But can they core an apple?
When Thiel sent us the SCS2s, they were concerned that we might consider them "merely" a home-theater product. "Will you listen to music through them?" Thiel president Kathy Gornik queried.

"I always do."

"No, I mean will you listen to music through them as much as you use them for video? Will you give them the same examination you would for speakers you review for Stereophile?"

I'm pretty sure that's the first time any manufacturer has double-checked that I would be really, really critical of their product. It was obvious that the company was pretty cocky about this speaker.

As it happens, this attitude is well justified. Kathy needn't have worried; I enjoyed listening to the SCS2s as a stereo pair, which is not something I can say about many speakers directed at the home-theater market. Compared to the best "music-only" $2000/pair speaker systems, the Thiels do give up a slight sense of air. But they are rhythmically agile and not dark-sounding overall. This came as a shock, because I had decided that one reason I found them unfatiguing in my A/V setup was that they were sitting on the HF component. While I still think their tonal character is darkish, they have more sparkle than I would have thought.

While the harmonic overtones from Antonio Forcione's guitar (Dedicato, Naimcd 013) don't have quite the shimmer that they do through the ProAc 1S speakers (my $2000/pair reference), they are still portrayed with subtle expressiveness and an engaging sense of presence. The music is dancelike, delicate, sometimes forceful, and always compelling.

Like all their siblings, these littlest Thiels are clean, undistorted, and dyn amic. And if smallish monitor speakers have it all over larger enclosures when it comes to imaging, you ought to hear real point-sources. The SCS2s simply disappear into the event, throwing a huge, well-delineated, absolutely convincing soundstage. I've heard few better.

The Thiels have a top-to-bottom balance that is rare at any price point. Vocal music is alive with breath, whether it's blues-tinged like Amos Garrett's Amos-behavin' (Stony Plain Classic SPCD 1189) or massed choral like Orlando de Lassus's Moduli Quintis Vocibus, 1571 (Herreweghe/Collegium Vocale/Solistes du Knaben-chor Hannover on Astree E 7780). Voices are very special through these speakers.

One afternoon, while playing a disc with abundant out-of-phase information—okay, it was Stereophile's Sonata CD (STPH008-2), which was recorded primarily with a pair of omnidirectional mikes—I switched the processor on to engage all five channels. What a trip! It was, I imagine, like being inside the world's largest piano. Not a bit realistic, but oddly fascinating nonetheless. It got me thinking about recordings with a lot of material recorded out of phase with the primary instruments, and I went through my collection looking for likely candidates.

While many studio recordings seem to include such information unwittingly—leading to some bizarre soundstaging—I loved what the effects did with techno, jungle, and my much-beloved ambient experiments by Brian Eno. Instrumental (ENOBX 1 39110-2) has no soundstaging to speak of, since all the pieces were constructed track by track. Yet I loved the tricky location cues that Dolby Pro Logic decoding revealed. Would any speaker system have done as well? Possibly, but the subtle, seamless character of the Thiel SCS2s lent itself to this effect particularly well.

Act now and you will receive...
The SCS2s make a marvelous home-theater speaker system that ranks with the finest I've auditioned. Two-channel audio does not lack for choices at this price point. but I can't think of many high-quality monitors that offer the SCS2's flexibility in placement or use. I would certainly put this Thiel on my short-list if I were buying a stereo pair for music-only listening. although Thiel's own Model CS1.5, for one, is awfully hard to better for $2k. But I can think of only a handful of multichannel systems I've heard that can serve double duty as well as the SCS2s, and they all cost significantly more. That makes the Thiel SCS2 one helluva bargain.

Jim Thiel is to be congratulated; he has designed a speaker very different from the rest of his line, yet it preserves the qualities that make a Thiel speaker. I could certainly settle down with the SCS2 as my A/V speaker with no regrets. This Thiel gets mighty close to its goal of being the speaker for every occasion—closer than the Swiss Army Knife gets to being the tool for every occasion, and that's long since become a classic.

Thiel Audio
Company no longer in existence (2018)