Well, I picked up my Thiel 3.7s on the weekend and have been dialing them in for the last several days.
First, they the Morado red finish is beautiful, it's a dark color which I wanted, though if I keep these long term I may still re-finish them.
So I was sort of rolling the dice in several ways: I have a smallish room - 13' X 15', somewhat limited ability to position the speakers (due to existing speakers that have to stay where they are, and a very large sofa intruding into the space of the room). I wanted them to work in a fairly nearfield-like position. I had what many would presume is an underpowered amp - the Conrad Johnson Premier 12 tube amps, at 140W side. Also, I have very sensitive ears - and the Thiel brand has the reputation of being in the "ruthlessly revealing" and "bright" camp of speakers. So in a way, it's almost all strikes against the Thiels working out.
Did it work?
First of all, when I got them into my listening room and set them up, I played some music for a couple of hours through them before serious listning.
(I'm actually something of a skeptic about speaker break in, but I didn't know how long it had been since they had been used, so I thought loosening up the works would be a good precaution). Standing near them it sounded like they had NO bass at all. I literally wondered if both woofers had come loose in transit. But I came back later, did a quick set up with them just over 8 feet away, just over 2 feet from the back wall, and everything was fine, bass was there. Whew.
Though I could hear some room resonances, and a not quite coherent sound yet from them.
I have had to play with positioning quite a bit, and as usual in my room the closer I move the speakers to me, the smoother and more even the sound, and it's been true of the Thiel 3.7s. Each day I've edged them closer a bit more, re-listening to tons of tracks.
The first observation is: these speakers are NOT bright. They are just super clear and incredibly smooth, as in low of hash and distortion. This actually makes them much less fatiguing to listen to than many other speakers, IMO. Obviously rooms and different set ups will come into play.
A smallish room like mine could make for close reflections and a bright sound, but my room is quite dampened by a plush rug, a fabric ceiling treatment, big sofa, and curtains in the room. So obviously that helps. As does the "Conrad Johnson Sound" no doubt. I've been using my CJ 140W/side tube amps, with an older locally built tube preamp, and my newly purchased CJ Premier 16LS2 tube pre-amp. The sound is smoooth and fatigue free. And it's also driving the Thiels quite well. The bass re-sponse, while I'm sure it could be deeper with more slam with a hefty solid state amp, nonetheless is rich, and very well controlled. The pitch dilineation in the bass region, something that I've always loved about Thiels, is superb, making bass intruments richly differentiated, and with that tonal density Thiel's do so well. It's beutifully integrated, so that the bass is as holographic as the mids - that is a stand up bass in the far corner of a studio is reconstructed whole, so it all sounds floating free of the speaker, bass included, focused top to bottom in one spot.
I'm getting what I'd hoped for, similar to what I'd experienced with the big CS6 Thiels and my CJ amps years ago in the same room: I'm getting that amazing clarity and detail, with an organic richness and smoothness (helped by the CJ amps IMO), and I'm getting that "X factor" that I was craving, the Thiel sound: the added sense of organized sound, the focus of the instruments in the soundfield, the exceptional density to the imagine, and the liveliness of dynamic shading.
I'm a fanatic about timbral realism. A speaker has to produce organic/acoustic sources as sounding "right" to my ears, or I'm just not interested in listening. I can hear all the imaging, slam and detail in the world and wish to turn on the TV instead, if I'm not getting the tonal rightness - and that means to me wood sounding "woody," brass sounding "brassy," acoustic guitar sounding sparkly yet warm just as when I play one, etc.
I've played with different ways of feeding my CJs (from my old tube preamp, my new CJ preamp, and direct into the amps from my Benchmark Dac out), and with moving in and toeing in and out of the speakers, I've been able to get a variety of tonal balances, all smooth and clear and mostly convincing. Last night in particular using my CJ premap and adding a teeny bit of toe-in on the speakers, the tonal balance clicked into an astonishingly believable, coherent "rightness." Trumpets sounded just RIGHT in the warm brassiness, reed instruments so recognizably organic (I grew up listening to my Dad, a jazz musician/teacher, playing every instrument in the house, and I played sax, guitar, piano etc). Drum snares and bongos had that papery warmth, hand claps had the "right color" of flesh-hitting-flesh etc. Whenever this happens in a system I compare it to my own hand claps and "playing drums" on my legs and sofa, which usually reveals the difference in realism between the reproduced and real sounds.
But in this case, it was all bang on, like my own sounds could be part of the recording, and the musicians were there with me. I played a recording of me playing my acoustic guitar, and damn if it didn't nail the sound of that guitar that I play every day - and the image was utterly holographic, like my doppelganger had just appeared in the back corner of my room, speakers not even playing a part in the sound.
What about the detail to the sound? The 3.7s were regarded as an exceptionally detailed and revealing speaker. Yes, they are very detailed, but I wasn't initially knocked out by the detail. I attribute this to a couple things: 1. They do not push detail in your face by hyping detail; they just lower the noise floor so you can hear more of it if you listen. There's no added sibilance to singers etc. Just a super clear window upon very smoothly detailed voices and instruments. 2. While I often listen my Hales and Waveform monitor speakers, I'm also used to the performance of my MBL Radialstrahler omnis (121, monitor version). They still have to my ears just about the most insanely effortless detail and the most realistic tweeter I've ever heard. So I'm sort of spoiled in that way. That the Thiels come as close as they do is fantastic in of itself.
The main quality of the Thiels that stand out are just the ones noted in almost every review: it's not simply that they are "more detailed" in various ways than competing speakers, as there are many high end speakers that show you a lot of sonic detail. It's the particular character of the Thiel sound: the way it seems to ORGANIZE all the elements of a recording to perfection. All the timbral information, dynamic information, spatial information of any one instrument or voice that in other speakers can sound diffuse, are coalesced into a convincing whole. A wood block being hit SOUNDs like a solid wood object you could almost reach out and knock on yourself. A saxophone SOUNDS like a present, dense, vibrating column of air and and brass, right in front of you. The result of this "re-organization" of the sound so precisely is to clarify what is actually going on in mixes "Oh, I don't know THAT sound had always been coming from THIS instrument exactly right there, now I know what's happening more." But the result takes that step further to reality: where the air moving presence, and the dynamic intentions of the musicians becomes more notable - the liveliness just mimicks the senseation of listening to "musicians playing instruments" in front of you, rather than a hi fi system. And in this way I find myself always sucked into the PERFORMANCE of the musicians routinely, vs just "the sound." My foot is always tapping.
I actually have to watch out because the sound is so addictive, so smooth and low in distortion, that it's easy to crank up, and listening sessions of 5 hours a night have been all too easy! (Yes, I'm tired).
So, in all the important ways the 3.7s have been a hit.
Anything not amazing? My quibbles so far would be: an occasional sense of leanness to the sound. Though I'm not sure "lean" is exactly the word. I've always found the Thiel sound be to slightly reductive, though dense and satisfying. It's sort of like the double-edged sword of a speaker that adds so little to the sound - when there's deep bass in a track, it's THERE with the Thiels, but you find out lots of tracks have less bass warmth than you may be used to. Hence the 3.7s can sound more lightweight and mini-monitorish than floorstanders some times, depending on the recording. And yet can bloom with a realistic size when the recording changes. This can also be due somewhat to my going more nearfield, and taking some room bass-lift out of the equation. But I have only just begun playing with their positioning, so I'm sure I've more to discover. (BTW, I'm now at about 7' 1" away from the 3.7s, and it's working very well).
So, sonically, they have been great. There are some tracks that I still have liked somewhat better on my other set ups, but mostly the Thiels are deeply satisfying.
I still have issues to work out due to my idiosyncratic situation, though. My plan has been to store the 3.7s in another nearby room, have them on wheels, and wheel them in when I want to listen to them (I'm keeping the current Hales speakers in their position for home theater duties). But now I'm a bit afraid that raising them significantly higher will put me too far below the midrange, making for perhaps a too mellow sound. So I'll have to experiment with solutions for that. I hope I can come up with a way to keep these things :-)
Over 'n out.
Last edited by R Harkness; 04-23-2015 at 03:54 PM.