These are great speakers (remember, no bottom octave). They let me know that my "Tiny Island" SACD was recorded first to analog tape whereas my "reference speakers" (more than twice as expensive) didn't. If the rest of your system is up to them, they'll give nothing but pleasure.
I gave them an audition, and they are rather smooth. As noted, there is absolutely NO bottom end. If you listen to Diana Krall exclusively, this speaker could work. The Absolute Sound made this speaker appear to be a new standard. Not even close. Stereophile used the term "redefining the 2K, 2-way speaker", yet if you read the article, they barely had a positive word. The Triangle Celius is a far superior speaker by every possible measure, at a similar price point.
Not quite sure what the first response is supposed to indicate, but it doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, so let me try.
Properly set up Thiels are not bright - this is a myth, in my opinion, dating to back to older Thiel models, and also based on the facts that:
1) They have flat response characteristics and wide dispersion, making them more revealing of source and room imperfections than a lot of competing high-end designs, and they should be placed far away from side-walls (along the long wall firing across the room).
2) They are first-order crossed-over, phase-coherent designs, meaning that the listener will hear too bright sound at closer than optimal listening distances. Expect this if you try to listen closer than about 9', and 10'-11' is better.
3) Many Thiel models have featured loads that are pretty current-suckingly low, and will not show an amp that isn't up to the task in the best light.
4) Thiels can be, for a combination of the above reasons, particularly ruthless concerning wire when fed through mediocre speaker cables.
5) Because of their relative popularity and realistic pricing for a high-end product, a lot of them are set up out there in the real world, by non-audiophile "spec's first" types who are attracted to their impeccable engineering, without the care and feeding they require to show what they can do.
6) They are clean and transparent as hell - that is, without cabinet or driver resonances, phase hi-jinx, or subtly euphemistic roll-offs or plumped-up parts response-wise - so they are not prefered by the beauty-before-truth crowd when it comes to playing a lot of flawed recordings.
Having said my piece as a 2.2 owner about *that*, I did audition the 1.6s, and liked 'em a lot. System was: Linn Ikemi CD or Marantz 14 SACD > Bryston pre > VTL ST-85 or C-J MV-55 (mine) power > via Transparent cables, heard both with and without a subwoofer (don't remember what kind) in a pretty large main room at a dealer's, using both his and my disks. The speakers were positioned relatively widely, slightly toed-in, and I sat appropriately a little farther away than an equilateral distance.
My overall impressions, gathered from about 90 minutes of listening spread between two different visits, were:
1) It did much better in a room that was technically too big for a little floorstander this size than it had any right to, going loud without strain, and giving that elusive "fills the room with sound" liveliness even at low volumes, something my more reserved 2.2s don't do (could this have something to do with the 1.6's newfound high sensitivity?).
2) Though it can't give you the real bottom bass, you probably won't miss it much in a moderately-sized room, because what's there is extraordinarily natural and complete-sounding in every way save for extension. Amazing bass tunefulness, dynamics, and transparancy for a 6 1/2" driver, and it even gives a good impression of physicality.
3) The soundstage is huge - big huge. And totally, completely detached from the speakers. Very full images everywhere, deep & 3-D. Image height that I didn't believe from such a shrimp. The incongruity between the size of the speakers and the size of what you're hearing can be almost funny.
4) Coherence and smoothness in the extreme. No artifacts I could lay at the feet of the speakers. Very unified, refined, and convincing, which makes for low listening effort.
5) Very naturally voiced, it is as uncolored as you would expect, but not as dry or clinical as some past Thiels have tended a little towards. Versus my larger 2.2s, the 1.6s don't have quite the bass extension of course (but mated very well with a sub), and may also possess a little less sparkle and air (copacetic with the lighter-weight bottom), but the heart of the sound gets out of the box better than mine can manage. These sound quicker, too.
6) You would also expect high transparecy, and you won't be disappointed. Details pass through these things like a breeze through a screen, but nothing is uduly highlighted. Transient articulation is exceedingly clean.
Basically, I heard them do nothing wrong. It goes, therefore, without saying that I heard them in a particularly good set-up. But it is surprising to go into a shop and hear a $2,000 speaker, and not think to yourself, well, I can hear this or that going on or being lost. They won't give you the slam or startle of a bigger speaker, but they apparently can give you just about all of the other really important stuff, including what some smaller stand-mounted's can in the get-out-of-the-way department. Compared to my 2.2s, the 1.6s sound more open and enthusiastic, and just as honest. At their low price, it's possible some dealers won't take the time or effort to set them up or show them properly, but treated like the thoroughbreds I think they are, it's hard to imagine a speaker of their type sounding much more accomplished than these little monsters. Definitely worth checking out, and a great value, it seems to me.
i'm going to make a point to get to Baton Rouge to verify what Cbucki is saying. Yes the D. Krall recording will make just about any speaker sound "nice", but what we're after here is a performer on just about any cd. Good of you to point out "absolute sound"'s kooky statements. Hyperbole (ie. exceeding the truth), did i spell that right, 'toiletbowl", that's better. Zaik, i don't doubt its a nice speaker, but lets keep this 6.5 inch midwoofer + tweeter in perspective. It's a book-shelf in an oversized cabinet. And are they boosting the price for the floor-standing cabinet?? I fully understand what Jab is saying. Red flag goes up when salesman gets over enthusiastic, never buy on first listen, walk. The speaker will be there tommorrow.
I went to the dealer to audition the Thiels 1.6's and was disappointed. No bottom end, not even a hint of one. They also carried the Joseph and Totem speakers. Both of these brands blew away the 1.6's for around the same or less money. I ended up purchasing the Totem 1's for my music room (with the REL Strata III sub) and the Totem Arro's for my den. The Arro's have more bottom end than the 1.6's and the Arro's have a 4" woofer. I also liked the Joseph speakers and probably would have purchased them if not for the Totems. Best thing to do is go audition them for yourself, only you can tell what sounds good to you.
Apparently, JA's review was based more on measurements than his hearing. He spoke a lot about frequency anomolies which can be measured. I still find it odd how he loved the Revel M20's - maybe due to good measured performance. But if he listened with his ears he would find ringing, harmonic problems, and some boxiness. None of which the Thiels have.
Frankly, this speaker (and probably the Wilson Audio Sophia) are two of the most overhyped speakers of the year. There are so many great speakers for the same or less money that it is irresponsible and irrational to hype these as new standards. One thing I've learned is to never bye into the hype, just trust your own ears. More times than not, hype is just that --- hype.
Ironically, if you strip away some of the sugar-coating, JA's review in Stereophile contradicted the hype on his own magazine cover.
I haven't heard the Arro's, so this is strictly a guess, but a woofer that small in a cabinet that small couldn't possibly really have more bottom end (and the reviews I remember reading of it - which were positive - unsurprisingly acknowledged it didn't do bass). What most speaker designers will do with a model too small to make real bass, and what I'm conjecturing the Arro's designer probably did, is to plump up the region in the upper bass that contains the harmonics of the missing low bass. This is a proven technique to make a small speaker sound as if it had big bass, and one that Jim Thiel will simply not practice, for better or for worse. I am not saying there are not competitors for the 1.6 in its price range (it is definitely possible to get more bass, for instance, and I certainly don't buy into the hyperbole of cover-copy writers), but I am saying that it is absolutely capable of outstanding performance, and if someone doesn't hear that from it when they audition it, suspect the set up first.
$2,000 is a lot for a 2-way but look at Pro-Ac Response 2.5's which are $4000 or something. Merlin VSM-M are $8,000 for a 2-way. Joseph 25's have more bass than Thiel 1.6? Not in the Arcam system I heard. Zaiksman has a good point. Levison Rosebud's do the undamped bass thing in a big way. Otherwise nice speaker that sort of puts a lot of questions to other types of speakers
Rbsteno and Labtec are hitting on a exceedingly important issue, The Hype Factor. Since most of us do not have access to hear alot of brands, we count on honest opinions. I'm not going to blast the Thiels, let the above opinions stand, and everyone can make up his own mind. I appreciate Rbsteno and Labtec for voicing their experience with a fair evaluation. Could Mr.Thiel put the same midwoofer and tweeter in a smaller cabinet and charge a realistic figure???
Also to a large extent (not 100%, I know), JT seems to be reaching for the goal of engineering and manufacturing separate, application-specific drivers for each of his different speaker designs. Not inexpensive, to be sure, but probably the most valid approach if you can do it.
Tweek, I happen to think that $2,000 is very realistic for a speaker that, while it doesn't do everything (what does?), goes about what it *does* do with what sounds to me like fewer errors overall than many other designs that may do one or two things better for the price.
Cdc, JA has known and acknowledged for a long time that he isn't properly equipped to take the true measure of first-order designs like Thiel or Dunlavy, which makes it all the more curious why he often *does* seem to "hear his measurements" when it comes to these speakers (and I guess you might say his own Revels too, for that matter, but I wouldn't know about that one). Also odd, then, that he used to own a pair of my own CS2 2's as references, especially since I thought I heard the smaller 1.6 do certain things better, and came away with the impression that it might well be the more successful design overall, figuring in size and (adjusted) price.
Zaik, One purpose of this web site is to help guide us products that are real performers. I find your posts perceptive and entertaining. So speaking in a general sense, not to you... No amount of well!, expertly!!, talently!!! written hype by the "hi-fi" mags will get me to buy any product. The products i'm most interested in are not advertized in the mags. This is an open forum, but hopefully we can learn how to decipher firm opinions from airy hype.
Well, I'm aware that there will always be audiophiles who won't consider anything from a brand that has 'hit the bigtime', so to speak. Even if they are still an exclusively audiophile brand. But there are sometimes *reasons* why a certain brand may be known to everyone, get good reviews (not that JA's is very much that, but Tom Miiller's was), and have a respectable advertising budget. Thiel's own ads, in particular, could never be fairly accused of getting by on 'hype' - to the contrary, their ads tend to be some of the most informative concerning their products (remember those things?) of any in the industry. Sure, they run the reviewer's quotes for a while, but you pretty much have to do that in this game, and today's 'underground' brands will do the same, when/if they can.
Tweek, I thank you for your complement about my posts. I'm glad no amount of magazine writing, however glowing, will get you to buy a product. I myself have disagreed with the mag 'consensus' many times. But I have to say, I do think I detect an air of reverse-snobbery in your statements. You have often on this site advocated (sound unheard) products you have only seen on an obscure (to me, anyway) manufacturer's web page. Is that 'hype'? Will it get you to buy a product? My friend, I suspect the main reason you chose to play devil's advocate in this thread was because of the presence of the name 'Thiel'. But as ever, let us know what you think if you actually get a chance to hear these.
This is a reply to Zaikesman comments above. This is the last paragraph from a "Soundstage" review of the Totem Arro speaker: In all, another superb speaker from Totem, one that delivers on all that you would expect from looking at it and that also has some surprises as well. In fact, so much bass comes from these little cabinets that I have to wonder if the laws of physics are different in Canada. I bet youll be surprised too.
...Todd Warnke firstname.lastname@example.org
The best thing to do is go out and listen to them or any speaker system before making judgement or purchases. I agree with you that it is hard to believe that Totem, Audio Physics, Proac can make a wonderfull sounding full range small speaker.
RB, I don't know what you think I said for you to "agree with" regarding your last sentence above, because I made no such comments. For the record, I do not find it any harder to believe that those brands should accomplish what you state than I do Thiel.
I looked up Todd's review, and no measurements were included, so I can't speculate on his ability to ascertain anything when he says that the Arros got 'below 50Hz' in his room when placed near a boundary, but I do not doubt this is possible, it's just a question of balancing roll-off, dynamic capability, and room reinforcement. He also campared the Arros to another, slightly larger small speaker, and though he preferred the Arros overall, he noted that the other speaker could provide more bass dynamics, as you would expect.
So while the health care system in Canada may indeed be different, the laws of physics are comfortingly the same. I think his subjective impression of satisfying bass for such a tiny speaker basically serves to illustrate my point from the above post, and indicates the skills of the speakers' designer. Since I've never auditioned the Arro (any Totem product, for that matter), and never made any claims concerning their sound quality, there's nothing here for you to be defending them from. I'm sure it's as fine a speaker as you obviously feel it is.
Zaik, You are correct about some of my posts about particular drivers. I spoke on assumptions. I just took a $2200 hit on a 3 way DIYer design, built by a Madisound member. So i'm learing the..hard way. You're an ol'audiophilie, and have "heard it all". I'm learning, and respect your reviews. I'll call Art Colley's in Baton Rouge to see if i can audition the 1.6's. Sorry about a tad of sarcasm in previous post. Cheers. Rbstehno, i'm not sure what's up with the Totem review?? What's your thought about this statement? So its got bass. Clean? Just as important is the upper bass response. It is the combination of bass+midbass in a woofer that makes the driver have the exceptional quality of Musicality. Which is rare and not easy to design. If you get a chance take a look at the Seas Excel series of mid/woofers.
FWIW, I've heard the Totem Arro on a couple of occasions and was pleasantly surprised by the bass response. In almost all respects, I remember it being better than the Thiel 1.6.
Totem's whole product line seems very impressive for the price. Lots of speakers use Dynaudio drivers, but I believe Totem is one of a few for whom Dynaudio makes custom drivers. They are also easy to drive and not finicky with room placement or associated equipment.
Don't get me wrong, Thiel also makes some nice speakers, but they seem a little more demanding about proper setup and amp matching.
Personally, I like less of an in-your-face type sound than either Thiel or Totem. If that is also your preference, then I would highly recommend checking out the Spendors. I have the S9, but I believe the S8 sells for near the same as the 1.6 and absolutely crushes it.
Crushes it how? You'll certainly get more warmth and more apparent bass from most Spendors, but you'll never get as much detail and resolution and image specificity as the 1.6 delivers. Nor will you ever hear a cymbal, for example, reproduced with as much fidelity as you will from the Thiel. IMHO.
Tweek - Haven't "heard it all"; haven't heard even a fraction of it. You're probably well on your way to being a much better audiophile than I'll ever be, because you aspire to it. Happy listening, Z.
Rbstenho, Labtec - I'll try to make a point of listening to a Totem speaker sometime when the opportunity presents itself. I confess I've been turned off paying attention to them in the past based almost entirely on some interviews I've read with their designer - he seemed pretty flakey to me - and the fact that they market those machined aluminum "beak" thingamajigs for $100 a pop, which is just plain silly at best and highly questionable at worst, from what I can see (no, I haven't 'heard' them either - there are already enough small miscellaneous objects around my listening room without me buying beaks and wooden disks and such; there are still some things I just will not do as long as I've got a brain remaining between my ears, sorry!). But it's true none of that means their speakers ain't good.
For clarification, they're not $2K...unless, of course, you're fond of painted black wood. The 1.6 is $2,400 and that puts them into the ranks of some VERY stiff competition.
I've heard them and they sounded fantastic. Very UN-Thiel-like inasmuch as there was not hint of brightness or grain. Definitely not "in-your-face".
That said, there are a LOT of great speakers in this price range and you really have to cut through the hyperbole and listen for yourself to see if they're for you. I should also say that I heard them with some VERY high-end associated equipment, so it's hard to say what they'd sound like in the real world. The system was ARC CD-3, ARC Reference 2, ARC VT-200s. Cabling was all Nordost Valhalla.
Finally, I have to agree with Zaikesman about the bass. It's definitely there, just not exaggerated and not very extended. What's there, however, is very tuneful and accurate. They can definitely boogie with no sign of compression or strain.
Fair enough about the price, Dan, I had assumed only the premium wood finishes raised the price, not all of them. And I believe the outrigger supports add even more (my audition was done without them). They do give you a 10-year warranty, however, and I can vouch for their outstanding customer service.
But what's this about lacking "Thiel-like" treble grain? I haven't heard that from any of the smaller Thiel designs of the past ten years (including my 2.2's). And as far as not being "in-your-face", while it's true Thiels don't feature a 'pleasantly distant-sounding' type of upper midrange recession, they have always been noted for their ability to deliver a truly deep soundstage, so no surprise there. I think it says a lot about this speaker's abilities that it was able to shine in the system you heard it with, and I wouldn't be shocked if a lot of Thiel's products are justifiably used in chains where they are the most economically priced component, but the system I heard them with was definitely 'real-world', and they still sounded great.
All right, that's enough pimping from me in this thread! Happy auditioning, everyone! :-)
I heard the 1.6's on a trip to Boston a month or so ago. It was driven by a Krell integrated and a Krell CD player.
As someone mentioned above, when you first crank a song you look around the room trying to figure out which of the larger speakers is playing. It just does throw out a big sound. But whatever makes it sound so large at first made it seem for me a little too in your face after listening for a while.
I think by now it is safe to say that there are all sorts of music lovers here. I have read a lot of people like to listen intensely for short periods of time. I prefer long term listening without fatigue which I believe does require a somewhat more laid back voiced speaker.
I'll pipe in here, I've got a pair of the 1.6s, and I've listened to them in several setups. I've had them for 6 months.
1. They're extremely sensitive to sources, amplification and cables. This can't be overstated. I've heard good things with spectral equipment, with NAIM and McCormack. The worst setup I heard was a Levinson integrated with an Arcam FMJ 23 CD player - the soundstage collapsed. There was no texture - basically it was like listening to a very expensive clock radio. I'm currently using them with an Arcam Alpha 7 CD player, McCormack DNA 0.5 power Amp, Spectral DMC 12 preamp, MITerminator 2 cables, and some cat 5e solid core copper phone wire for speaker cables. The cat 5e is smoother than the MIT cables I was using. The MIT's might not be the best, but they just might be the brightest!
2. There's a good chance they'll sound harsh if you just set 'em up with any equipment. But I find this true of many other speakers, in particular some that are touted to "love tubes". I also find this true of live music.
3. They fill a room, at least a medium room, as well as anything I've heard, and better than other speakers I like.
4. They are extremely detailed and really allow me to hear the beginning middle and end of notes and the nuances of notes with no loss of pace.
5. They are very sensitive to placement.
6. The bass that's there is incredibly natural, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.
If you don't want to fiddle with equipment matching or messing around with placement, stay away, cause these speakers can reveal alot of upper mid nasties. If you're willing to stick it out, though, I think you'll be rewarded with very natural, detailed, involving performance.
I don't know what to tell you Drubin. We must have as opposite tastes as they come. Spendors are some of the most neutral, accurate and coherent speakers made. In particular, their midrange, soundstaging and vocals have few peers. You will rarely find anyone on these boards having to make excuses for the sound of a Spendor.
Again, I don't own the S8, but I've heard it and it just about smokes everything. As you may know, the British mags are much tougher and honest with their reviews. I remember seeing one that reviewed the S8 and when it came time to detail the negatives the quote was something like "absolutely nothing for that price." Again, we're not talking the old Stereo Review or current Stereophile or TAS.
As for the Thiel 1.6, I found it mediocre at best. Besides the obvious and dreadful lack of mid to low bass, I remember thinking of adjectives like hollow, thin, shallow to describe the sound - particularly the midrange. You're right, the best part of the speaker is the tweeter and it did produce a detailed top-end. However, it probably seems to be more focused or detailed than other speakers because that's all your getting, hence the bright overall balance. It imaged ok, but I didn't find the soundstage particularly large or deep.
The worst thing (and the primary criteria I use for judging equipment) is that it just didn't make my feet tap to the music. If it did for you, then that's all that matters. Enjoy.
The feet tapping is certainly a good criterion for judging.
Regarding the Spendors, I only want to add that I owned SP1/2's for a couple of years and a friend of mine had the FL9, so I wasn't shooting from the hip. Except that my experience with the Thiels has been limited. But my experience has been that they are champs when it comes to image specificity, which I never found to be true of Spendor (or many other speakers).
I'm sorry to say that I never really "got" what all the fuss is about Spendor. And I owned original Quads for 15 years, so it's not like I'm coming from a Cerwin-Vega heritage or anything. And I do know the sound of live music. I guess my musical priorities are different from the legions of audiphiles who admire Spendor.
Totem beaks - don't know how good they really are but Spendor dealer put them on the 1/2's. Obviously he was aware of the cabinet design - I think it's called "lossy". They sure didn't solve the problems of the Spendors as I heard colorations on vocals and think it was due to box resonances. Spendors seemed like analog / vinyl type of sound. Detailed but soft.