Give up on Thiel 3.6 or try another amp again ?

These speakers sound amazing sometimes, especially on small-scale, well recorded material (regardless of genre).

I tried a PS Audio HCA-2 and an Aragon 8002, neither of which sounded particularly good. I'm now driving them with a pair of 90 wpc Quicksilver mono tube amps. I know this is against conventional wisdom, but I like them more than the previous amps as long as I keep the volume moderate.

The problem is that the speakers don't open up and bloom as I turn them up for either large-scale classical or rock music, but rather get hard sounding. It could be the small room overloading, but I suspect it's the amps running out of steam.

Ideally, I would have an unlimited budget to power these speakers with a huge, clean solid state amp. Sadly, I have pretty much no budget at all, so I'd have to sell the Quicksilvers to finance a new amp. This would leave me with $1200 or so for a good, high current, high wattage amp.

I was thinking a used Parasound A21 might fit the bill, but there aren't a whole lot of other options in this price range that seem optimum.

Truthfully, I am starting to think it would more make sense to explore other used speaker options; as nice as the Thiels sound at times, they may simply be too impractical given my financial constraints. Perhaps a pair of Vandersteen 3A signatures or a new pair of 2ce Signature Mk. II? Perhaps the Gallo 3.1s?

What would you do if you were me?

btw, the rest of the system consists of a Quicksilver linestage and a Rega Saturn CD player. Thanks!
Johnathan, I hate to say it but Thiel 3.6's will never make you happy in a small room...I guarantee it. I love these speakers have owned them for 10 years, mine are 9.5 feet apart, 5.5 feet from the front wall and over 4 feet from side walls and I sit 12 to 14 feet back from the inside edge of each speaker. This is optimum in my room, they have a huge dispersion pattern and in order to really open up they need space. Sorry, but I would not advise investing upstream and consider other speakers...just my 2 cents....good luck!
You didn't mention room treatment. That can easily make or break a speaker no matter how much it costs. Different speakers will react differently in the same room. Remember the numerous reflections you hear, more than direct sound, was NOT on the recording. The sound is mostly your room influence. Amps make a tiny difference compared to a room.

Blame it on the speaker, amps or whatever. If your acoustics suck then your system isn't operating anywhere near it's potential and blaming the equipment will get you on a merry go round.
Admittedly, the room is a bit weird--it's 13' x 13', but there is only a partial wall behind me (the hi-fi room opens up into a much larger room with a grand piano and some furniture). The speakers are around 3' out from the wall behind them, and probably a couple of feet from the side walls. I sit around 8' away. (The close proximity tends to minimize the room effects, such as they are.)

I also have a couple of framed and covered eggcrate foam panels in the room--one on the wall behind the speakers, and one on the right wall at the first reflection point. The "wall" on the other side is actually glass French doors that open onto a porch (they're covered with a sheer fabric).

All of that said, it may well be that the Thiels are not a great match for the space (as suggested by Pops, they do much better in a big room). I'm still convinced that the amps are less-than-ideally matched to the speakers, too.

So, for the sake of this discussion, I'd love some suggestions for full-range speakers that work well in smallish rooms and sound good with 90 tubed watts. I'm really not into the subwoofer and stand mount speakers thing--I've never been able to get well integrated bottom end this way (I'm also spoiled by the Thiel's bottom end, which is very nice). Budget should be under $2000 new or used.
Here's a unique one. DivaBe's by JM Lab. Fairly easy to drive, and a good match with tubes. I owned 3.5s and for everything the dealer had.. (krell, audio research, theta, Ayre) the only thing that drove them decently was a FPB300, which, come to think of it, used on audiogon might be in your ballpark.

I know a lot of people love Thiels, but they are bright speakers plain and simple. There is nothing warm or forgiving about them, and regardless of the amp you use you will not be happy if you are looking for a different sound.

There are many choices that have their own set of tradeoffs but offer a warmer sound, Vienna Acoustics and Usher are a couple that pop into mind.

Good Luck
I don't think he ever said he wanted a warmer sound.
Drubin is right. I never did say I wanted a warmer sound. Actually, I don't find the Thiels to be overly bright at all; they are revealing of the recording, though, warm, bright or otherwise.
If you like floorstanders like the Thiels, really want to keep your current amps and with your current room, perhaps you might want to consider some Meadowlarks speakers. Of course they're out of business, so you'll give up Thiel's legendary customer service. On the other hand, while they share traits with the Thiel's, they're simpler and as far as I know, use off the shelf drivers.
once you draw a line in the sand regarding whether or not you want to keep your amplifiers, the decision is going to get alot easier. thiels reveal alot of detail and throw an excellent soundstage, and are better (more accurate) speakers than vandy-2's. too bad they need extra power. if you could only drive the woofers with a separate ss amp (could even be a monoblock), the tube amps would only have to deal with the mids. when you don't have alot of money to throw around, you can still consider alternative solutions.
Thiel hasn't offered dual sets of cable inputs since the CS 3's, well over 20 years ago. The 3.6's are amongst the most demanding of Thiel's speakers to drive. While there are some less expensive amps that can do the job, one needs a real high quality powerfull amp that works well into low impedances (and that usually doesn't come cheap) to get the most out of them.
I owned a pair of 3.6's before trading up to the 6.0. Both speakers are incredibly inefficient and demanding. I've tried a variety of amps but I found it took a high power, solid state (400 watt) amp to really get them to open up and perform. If you're running them with less than 200 watts you'll get that hard, bright sound. Do you have a dealer that will loan you a high power amp? I'd give that a try if possible. Having used three different preamps and four amps with Thiels I'll tell you the answer is power, and lots of it. Good luck!
I used to own a pair of Thiel 3.6 about 10 years ago. Had it with a few combination. Aragon 4004mk2, Levinson 23.5 and Levinson 333. They all work with varying degree of success.

I would suggest playing with placement before spending more money. Things like reducing rear reflection by arranging the apex of the speakers/listener position toward the opening of the room. That will create a larger room than 13x13.

Simple toe-in will change speaker tremedeously as well. I know it's a lot of work to move heavy speakers, but it would be quite rewarding I think.

BTW, has anyone tried a digital class-D amp on Thiel 3.6?
Thiels are great speakers that are not only power hungry but also quality hungry of all upstream components. I loved my thiels run with Mark Levinson amplification and direct from the Audio Aero Capitole CDP (no preamp).

Based on your statements, room size, budget I think you will be better of switching speakers instead of trying to find the right amp within your budget for the existing Thiels. You may find that after you get a better amp for these speakers, you will then be forced to upgrade your source and cables.

Jonathon, the Thiels are not bright by themselves, but they will magnify synergy issues upstream that with lesser quality equipment. This will make many former owners of them (Thiels) believe the weekness was in the speakers (which of course it wasn't).

Why not figure out what you want in a pair of speakers, offer the rest of your components up and inquiry what will produce the desired results you are seeking.
I currently own 3.6's and also do not find them bright but very detailed and accurate. I drive mine with all conrad johnson electronics. My previous amp a cj2500a did a very good job of driving them. They run around 1500-1900 used so not sure you can stretch your budget that far.

I too initially used a 70wpc tubed amp a cj premier 11a. But just as you experienced it simply is not enough to get the thiels to sing. My cj premier 350(ss) on the other hand does a great job.

Have you considered or can you swing thiel 1.6's? Same sonic signiture but much smaller foot print and far easier to drive.

This whole thread is kind of bumming me out. I have an HCA-2 and the 3.6's were next on my list. Two days ago I emailed jonbee who had reviewed the combo on Audio Asylum four years ago. Asked if he still stood by it. He no longer has either but still thinks they work well together.

So I'm gonna hope it's your room.
The thread should not bum anybody out if it helps them to become aware of synergy issues and upstream equipment importance. Perhaps those on a slightly lower budget should consider the Thiel 2.2s over the 3.6s. They require less power (lower budget) and are very close to the 3.6s in my opinion. Some people even say that the 2.2s were among the best of the Thiel speakers in terms of cost to performance. I would have to agree that there is a degree of truth to this. One can find the 2.2s at a real bargain (I sold a pair not too long ago for about $500, I don't recall exactly). I played these in a small room with nearfield lisening and loved these speakers (other speakers I have owned in the past year = Von Schweikert VR 4 JR, Totem Arro and Forrest, B&W, Wilson Duettes, Wilson Watt Puppies). Behind the Wilson's these lowly $500-600 Thiel 2.2 speakers were the best of the bunch (in that small room 14X14X8, nearfield listening, 125 watt Levinson amp).
Ckoffend- Not to worry. I'm a lot more open to advice than I let on in that post. It was just a strange coincidence that I have the HCA and had just started researching the 3.6's two days ago.

The even stranger coincidence is that I'm the guy that bought Jonathan1257's HCA-2! (Which I didn't know until just now) So now I'm pretty sure he knows what he's talking about...

I have CS1s and wanted to go bigger to fill my space, but maybe I should take another look at those 2.2's...
I still believe, your better off knowing your budget, your room, and choosing speakers before your amp.
This has been an interesting thread, and I thank you guys for participating. I'm still in a quandary, mostly because I feel like the same $2000 (or so) that I'd have to spend out of pocket for new speakers could get me much closer to an appropriate power amp for the Thiels as well. Unfortunately, as a soon to be graduating student, it'll be a while before I can put together that kind of spending cash.

More as more develops...
Get a Mark Levinson 331 or 331.5. A friend of mine had the 3.6's and when he got the Levinson they started to sing. THe ML is a really good match for these speakers trust me.

He graduated to the 7.0's but the ML still drove those well.
Samzx12, I agree with your statement on the ML amps. I ran my Thiel 2.2s with the Mark Levinson 331.5 which I felt was a terrific match. This amp had no issues driving the 2.2s and as you state, can also drive the 3.6 (though I cannot say from experience). Another good amp would be the 23.5 from Levinson, though I am not sure it would be any cheaper than the 331.5 (which I liked better than the 331, but that would also be a good choice).
I believe the ML 331 is 100wpc and while being barely adequate I do not believe with all due respect that is enough horsepower to drive the Thiels in a manner for which the poster is seeking. The 333 or 332 would obviously be a much better choice. But in all cases quality over quantity is paramount.

I had the 331.5 in my system for a weekend and it is a VERY nice amp. I was amazed at how it drove the 3.6's. It is 80% a 334. Also at the time I had a ML 29 at 50wpc. We compared the 2 amps. The little ML held its own but the 331.5 was clearly better. They both had the same house sound even though both are designed very differently. The ML 29 is one sweet amp.
I'm driving my 3.6's with a pair of Rowland 201 monoblocks, and I'm very happy with the combination. Speaker cables are 3-foot Analysis Plus Oval 8's. I listen to classical music exclusively, including solo, chamber, and orchestral; the sound is clean, transparent, and focused. The system is very unforgiving but accurate -- the better the recording, the better the system sounds.

My room is 13 feet wide by 21 feet long; the speakers are 8 feet apart, about 5 feet from the back wall, and about 2.5 feet from the side walls. I have them toed-in slightly, and my listening position is about 11 feet away. I found when I first set the speakers up that placement was very important. Having them too close to the back wall robbed them of impact, made them sound muffled and anemic, and prevented them from "opening up". Pulling them out to 5 feet made a huge difference.

Try experimenting with placement; you might be surprised. Good luck!
Knowing this thread is old and I had moved on from my 2.2s a long while back (referencing the dates herein). Low and behold, I am back again with Thiels and levinson.

I got the CS6 (which may actually be moderately easier to drive than the 3.6s???) and now have a Levinson 334 amp. Normally, I would say this is under powered, but I can tell you this amp is driving these speakers in my much larger room than the OPs with great results.

A poster above asked about Class D amps. I happen to have a pair of Bel Canto Ref. 1000s - no, they don't mate well with the Thiel speakers (at least the 6s).

Funny thing, in comparison to the much lower powered ML 334 at 250 watts @ 4 ohms, the 1,000 watts at 4 ohms of the Bel Cantos is not nearly powerful enough to drive these speakers. They get harder sounding in a hurry and the soundstage congests. No where near the same level of performance on these speakers - an not even close to an emotional impact with the Bel Cantos on the Thiels.

The Bel Cantos do sound very good on my Maggies though!
If you want warmth and drive capability, Krell FPB amps 300cx or higher will solve all perceived drive problems with Thiels. I've used a 400cx with CS6s for the past 9 years without any issues and I am very happy with this combo.
Steve, I love the FPB Series amps. I owned a 300C for a few years and mistakenly sold it when I decided to try a SET based system. Well after listening to a fraction of the musical production via a SET system, I quickly and happily moved away from that avenue.

The 300C is one of my favorite amps. I like the C versions better than the CX versions (because I think the sound is pretty much unchanged and they the C version can be had for less). I sort of felt that the 300C was replaced by the 400CX (not the 300CX, which is what would have made sense to me).

I am actually considering getting some FPB monos - my preference would be the 350MC amps. I love the Krell amps (though not as crazy about the original Evo series which no longer operate in all Class A).
I have the 3.6s also. I originally tried driving them with a Sony TA-N80ES. They sounded OK but there was still obviously room for more.

I picked up a second TA-N80ES. The owners' manual does not seem to recommend bridging the amp for low impedance speakers - the 3.6 is a nominal 4 ohm design.

But, I tried it anyway and they work fine. While bridged, they seem like 500 wpc amps for a one kiloWatt system!

Best of all, both of the power amps were purchased at $100 each! While I'm confident that a pair of Parasound monoblocs or Mark Levinsons would do a better job, for $200 I'm VERY pleased.
Ckoffend and Warnerwh have very valid points justifying careful consideration. Thiels are revealing not only of all electronics and cabling "upstream" but of program material as well. Room placement and sound dampening have a clear influence. I have a lesser pair of vintage CS 2's. I know I could improve the sound by having them in a larger room, with optimal placement away from walls, other furnishings and adding sound dampening where needed. It is true they can throw a vast soundstage and accurately represent program material.
I actually went a completely different route. I live 100 miles from Lexington, and travel each week to visit my daughter.

After getting a set of 3.6's, I stopped by Thiel and asked if bi-amping was possible.

The reply was two fold,

1. They didn't recommend it, nor would they hold to the warranty if a change like this was made for speakers still under warranty.

2. Then they told me exactly how to do it.

Google the phrase;

Bi amp, Thiel CS 3.6

and My Audiokarma posts should be on the first page.

The change was very easy for me, and I am enjoying the best of tubes along with the best of Krell.
Hi all ! If it were me I would treat the room 1st , GIK Acoustics are good to work with . If the same problem persisted I would go with smaller Thiels . Matching the speakers to the amp is important , matching the speakers to the room is paramount .