Old pair of really nice (Thiel cs3.5) or new pair of decent speakers?

rchiu

Diamond Member
Jun 8, 2002
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Have a chance to buy a pair of Thiel CS3.5 for ~$700. It's pretty old, made late 1990. At the time of introduction in early 1990, it was ~$3000 speaker, and had really good review. Thiel is a premium brand for speakers, the current generation equivalent CS3.7 sells for ~$13k a pair.

Wondering if anyone has experience with older but very well made speakers and how they compare to recent generation of speakers.
 

PJABBER

Diamond Member
Feb 8, 2001
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The price is in line with their current value. The Thiel CS3.5 sold for around $2.5K a pair when they came out.

If possible, try to find out where they've been used or stored. High temps or high humidity or both could play havoc with the treated paper cones used in the drivers and the surrounds made of foam are also very subject to deterioration over time. I am not saying they have, but that its the first thing look at. I've seen mice nests in bass ports of stored speakers, so be sure to examine everything for deterioration.

They should also come with an electronic bass equalizer. If not, knock a hundred or two off. I'd expect systems like Audyssey with modern receivers will compensate better than the older equalizer and I probably would opt for using current sound shaping than the older setup, but if you will want to resell them again a purist will want what came with the speakers originally.

The company still exists so service, if required, is also a possibility though the cost will likely not be worth it and I tend to think they are not likely to have spare drivers available, but who knows?.

The Thiel CS3.5 was a very well reviewed speaker at the time it was made. They are great for most music but likely won't be ideal for modern heavy bass driven music. If everything looks good and you like the sound on audition they are likely a better value than most anything you will pick up new at the same price point.
 

richardycc

Diamond Member
Apr 29, 2001
5,719
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Thiel is high end, very revealing, it will show any weakness in one's system. I don't know what you have in the rest of your system, but you might need to upgrade part or rest of the system to take advantage of them. Jim Thiel has just passed away, so I don't know what will happen to the company in the future.
 

Muadib

Lifer
May 30, 2000
17,916
838
126
Thiel is high end, very revealing, it will show any weakness in one's system. I don't know what you have in the rest of your system, but you might need to upgrade part or rest of the system to take advantage of them.

This. Damn good speakers, but if your system sucks, these will let you know.
 

rchiu

Diamond Member
Jun 8, 2002
3,846
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The price is in line with their current value. The Thiel CS3.5 sold for around $2.5K a pair when they came out.

If possible, try to find out where they've been used or stored. High temps or high humidity or both could play havoc with the treated paper cones used in the drivers and the surrounds made of foam are also very subject to deterioration over time. I am not saying they have, but that its the first thing look at. I've seen mice nests in bass ports of stored speakers, so be sure to examine everything for deterioration.

They should also come with an electronic bass equalizer. If not, knock a hundred or two off. I'd expect systems like Audyssey with modern receivers will compensate better than the older equalizer and I probably would opt for using current sound shaping than the older setup, but if you will want to resell them again a purist will want what came with the speakers originally.

The company still exists so service, if required, is also a possibility though the cost will likely not be worth it and I tend to think they are not likely to have spare drivers available, but who knows?.

The Thiel CS3.5 was a very well reviewed speaker at the time it was made. They are great for most music but likely won't be ideal for modern heavy bass driven music. If everything looks good and you like the sound on audition they are likely a better value than most anything you will pick up new at the same price point.

Thanks for great advise. Will make sure to look at the cone.

Thiel is high end, very revealing, it will show any weakness in one's system. I don't know what you have in the rest of your system, but you might need to upgrade part or rest of the system to take advantage of them. Jim Thiel has just passed away, so I don't know what will happen to the company in the future.

Yeah the rest of my system is a concern. Have 2 receivers I can use, a pioneeer elite sc-05 and an older denon 3805. Not exactly audiophile grade, just mid/high consumer grade. Both should be able to drive the 4ohm speaker. Plus this will be just 2 a channel system. If they are not enough, I am willing to invest in separate amps.

I have a pioneer BDP-51 blue-ray which has a jitter-reduction circuit and PQLS circuit when linked up together with the sc-05. The combo gets pretty good review for audio. Hopefully that's enough to build a good music only system.
 

mshan

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2004
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I kind of suspect that the Thiel Pioneer combo is going to be ruthlessly revealing.

I would look for a speaker that has a more inherently full tonal balance, vs. trying to achieve maximal transparency.

Vandersteen 2ce series might fit the bill if you primary use is music.

Vintage Polk SDA speakers might be another option worth exploring:http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29951
 
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PJABBER

Diamond Member
Feb 8, 2001
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Yeah the rest of my system is a concern. Have 2 receivers I can use, a pioneeer elite sc-05 and an older denon 3805. Not exactly audiophile grade, just mid/high consumer grade. Both should be able to drive the 4ohm speaker. Plus this will be just 2 a channel system. If they are not enough, I am willing to invest in separate amps.

I have a pioneer BDP-51 blue-ray which has a jitter-reduction circuit and PQLS circuit when linked up together with the sc-05. The combo gets pretty good review for audio. Hopefully that's enough to build a good music only system.

Either of those receivers are going to do very well with the Thiels!

As the above comments indicate, the Thiels are known for transparency, detail and are pretty flat. I find this is a very good thing. The Pioneer will maintain that transparency, the Denon may soften it up a bit. You obviously can audition both and see which you prefer.

The Pioneer has 9 Band MCACC EQ, which should still work well with two channels as well as the 7.1 it is capable of. The Thiels will respond very well to the Class D amping.

The Denon's auto EQ, while not at the level of the Pioneer, should still allow the required bit of tightening up on the bass, which is what the Thiel electronic box was for. And you might enjoy the sonic "character" of the Denon better if you are going to use them solely for music.

While you are looking at the Thiels for a two way music setup, your receivers are obviously going to permit you to do a whole 7.1 set up. I would try to contact Thiel (really a loss to hear that the founder passed away, he was a legend!) to see if they could recommend a center channel and surrounds to sonically match the CS3.5.

One last point - I hope you will have a chance to do an audition on site or have a chance to try them out at home with a right to return if they turn out not to be what you are looking for sonically. If you are up to lugging one of those receivers along (you can weight lift with the Pioneer!) you can try an audition on the spot, though the room acoustics are going to be completely different that those in your home.
 

mmntech

Lifer
Sep 20, 2007
17,504
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0
Speaker technology hasn't changed much over the decades and won't in the foreseeable future. Quality ones made in the 90s, 80s, or even the 70s and before will sound as good as newer models. A good set of speakers will likely outlast your other audio equipment many times over.

If you can get really high end speakers for that price, go for it.
 

mshan

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2004
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Based upon what I've read (only heard Thiels at an audio show with premium chain of components), I think the Thiels would be too hot and unforgiving of anything less than stellar quality upstream components for my tastes (ymmv): http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1073353058&openfrom&1&4#1

You may not end up listening to the potential greatness of the Thiels, but rather the, relatively speaking, deficiencies of upstream components and real world, non-audiophile approved recordings you may choose to listen to.





edit: I remember reading a recommendation for a Luxman R117 receiver as excellent budget choice to drive Magneplanars. I am guessing it might be a good budget choice for the Theils, except they were made in 1980s or early 1990s (I forgot), so even if you find one used, there is always risk that it needs repairs or replacement of old parts that are now hard to find and probably expensive too.
 
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brainhulk

Diamond Member
Sep 14, 2007
9,418
454
126
Speaker technology hasn't changed much over the decades and won't in the foreseeable future. Quality ones made in the 90s, 80s, or even the 70s and before will sound as good as newer models. A good set of speakers will likely outlast your other audio equipment many times over.

If you can get really high end speakers for that price, go for it.

I'm finding this hard to believe. Doesnt that soft stuff surrounding the driver degrade over time. also what about the crossover? will the capacitors or other components in there degrade over time?
 

Tiamat

Lifer
Nov 25, 2003
14,074
5
71
You need strong electronics for Thiel. The speakers are low impedance, so they do need an amplifier that can handle the higher current demands without overheating. Luckily their phase angle doesn't sway too much due to the first order design, so as long as the amplifier has sufficient heatsink surface area and appropriate components, it should do fine.

Thiel also requires about 6-8' distance between speaker and listener in order for the drivers to be appropriately coherent due to their tilt angle and first order crossover.

I really liked the CS2.4, but I couldnt get the distance right so i ended going with my number 2 choice, B&W 804s.

If your room has a lot of exposed flat surfaces, and glass, they may be too harsh for your ears.
 

rchiu

Diamond Member
Jun 8, 2002
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Thank you guys for all the great advise. I looked at and auditioned the Thiel speaker this weekend and was wowed by it. At ~$700 (with the factory EQ), I have not seen any speakers with this build quality, and I have auditioned dynaudio, paradigm and a few good speaker brands. It is in very good shape, and sounded very good. The owner has a Magnepan (not sure the model) beside it and we were able to compare it side by side and both sounded amazing. The owner had separate amps driving the speakers, but the amp is rated less than either of my receivers and not really audiophile grade, the cd player is also just consumer grade, and the sound is already pretty amazing.

So of course I bought it and haul it back to my condo. Not an easy task with each speaker at 77lb, did I mention the solid build quality? :)

Hooked it up to my Denon as my Pioneer is already driving my HT with Onix reference 1 MK2 + SVS sub. Just tested the Thiel setup briefly to make sure the equalizer is hookup correctly with the receiver in/out loop. Will be looking for a good DVD/CD player to complete my setup, will be going to Taiwan next week, hopefully will be able to find some nice electronic there :)
 
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Tiamat

Lifer
Nov 25, 2003
14,074
5
71
Ratings don't mean much. For the Thiel, you don't need much power, you just need good quality that can handle low impedance (2-4 ohms) without shutting down due to heat generated by the current flow. If the amplifier can close to double its 8 ohm wattage rating into 4 ohms and close to double it again into 2 ohms, the amplifier will most likely be able to handle the Thiel speakers.

If there are no 4 ohm ratings (that are close to twice the wattage of the 8 ohm rating), you can forget about that choice of amplifier.

Thank you guys for all the great advise. I looked at and auditioned the Thiel speaker this weekend and was wowed by it. At ~$700 (with the factory EQ), I have not seen any speakers with this build quality, and I have auditioned dynaudio, paradigm and a few good speaker brands. It is in very good shape, and sounded very good. The owner has a Magnepan (not sure the model) beside it and we were able to compare it side by side and both sounded amazing. The owner had separate amps driving the speakers, but the amp is rated less than either of my receivers and not really audiophile grade, the cd player is also just consumer grade, and the sound is already pretty amazing.

So of course I bought it and haul it back to my condo. Not an easy task with each speaker at 77lb, did I mention the solid build quality? :)

Hooked it up to my Denon as my Pioneer is already driving my HT with Onix reference 1 MK2 + SVS sub. Just tested the Thiel setup briefly to make sure the equalizer is hookup correctly with the receiver in/out loop. Will be looking for a good DVD/CD player to complete my setup, will be going to Taiwan next week, hopefully will be able to find some nice electronic there :)
 

Rubycon

Madame President
Aug 10, 2005
17,768
485
126
Krells do nice with Thiels. They don't get sloppy and out of control on the bottom end like less regulated designs. They are not cheap though.
 

Pacfanweb

Lifer
Jan 2, 2000
13,149
57
91
An older, high-quality speaker is better than a new lower-quality speaker.

Speaker technology, despite what the manufacturers would have you believe, really hasn't improved much in the 20 or so years. Maybe more.

What was an excellent speaker in the 90's is still an excellent speaker today, if it's still in proper working condition.

I've always told people that are asking about building a system and want to know what to get first, to get the best speakers they can possibly afford. That's the one component of a sound system that won't become obsolete, even years from now.

edit: I see MMNTech essentially said the same thing earlier.