Good Amp/Preamp for "bright " Thiel 3.6 speakers ?

I have a pair of Thiel 3.6 speakers that I am quiet fond of. I bought them a few years ago after listening to them on some very expensive equipment at a stereo store. They have been great at home with clean tight bass and exceptional detail. I am finally ready to get a decent amp and preamp to compliment these speakers and I am looking for a recommendation.

The two things that I have learned about these speakers is that they are considered to be Bright and power hungrey. The minumum power required to drive these monsters is 250 watts. I personally would say that they are extremely revealing of any flaws in a system and not "bright". And when paired with the right equipment they are beautiful, clear, and present a remarkable soundstage which is what I love.

So what I am looking for is an Amp / Preamp combo that provides beautiful detail and imaging but no Brightness or Harshness. I need a combo that with amaze me with detail and presentation but will also let me listen for hours without exhausting my ears. The ultimate complement to these speakers.

I have browsed around this site for a few days and have stumbled across the following mainstream equipment but have not been able to make a decision about a single item let alone a pairing.

Bryston amp 4b-st 250w $1,100.00
Rotel amp rb-1090 380w $1,200.00
Krell amp kav-250a 250w $1,350.00
CJ amp mf-250 250w $1,750.00
Bryston amp 4b-sst 300w $1,800.00
Musical Fidelity amp a-308cr 250w $1,900.00
Krell amp kav-2250 250w $2,000.00
Musical Fidelity int nu-vista 300 300w $3,000.00
Musical Fidelity int tri-vista 300 350w $4,200.00
Krell int kav500i $1,700.00

Krell pre kav-280p $1,800.00
Krell pre kav-250p $800.00

I know there are other great pieces out there and I haven't really gotten a feel for the available preamps yet but the conrad johnson preamps have caught my eyes a few times.

I am hoping to spend less that $4000 total and would be happy if I could keep it under $3000.

I haven't decided on a cd player but may end up with a high quality DAC later. For now I just want to get the amp and preamp and then start auditioning cd players.

Thanks for any help you can give me.
I am using a Classe CA 200 with my Thiel 2.2's and they sound great. I have owned and used Bryston 4B,4NRB and 4BST
and the Classe balanced out the highs.I love my Bryston
amps with my Maggies!

You might try the Classe CA 300 if you feel you need more power for your 3.6"s.
I have been through a fairly similar experience, so perhaps I can be of some help. First off, I tend to agree that the 3.6's (and Thiels in general) are not "bright" or overly forward in and of themselves. However, they will certainly reveal every flaw (and gem!) in your associated equipment, so you are smart to look for a good pre/pro combination. I started off with a Rotel RSP-1066 pre/pro (more on that later) combined with Adcom amps (a GFA-555II in bridged mono on each 3.6). The more I read, the more I decided that it wasn't a good idea to be using the Adcoms bridged into such a difficult load (whihc would sometimes present a 1 ohm load to them in bridged mono). Plus, it's always nice to have an excuse to upgrade, so I listened to numerous amps with my 3.6's. You may have seen my thread on the topic. If not, check out "Best affordable amp for Thiel CS3.6."

None of the amps that you have listed made my short list, although the MF amps would probably work well, and the Rotel is capable, though not ideal, with the 3.6's. It is my understanding that the 3.6's are some of the most difficult speakers to drive, and with a 4 ohm nominal load, they spend a lot of their time at 2 ohm. Because of this, I was recommended to stick with the 7B's or 14B if I went the Bryston route. With regard to Krells, I was told by many people (including the folks at Thiel) that the KAV series would not be a good match, but that the FPB series is a very good match. FWIW, I have been very pleased with all of the Krell preamps that I have heard, and this is an area where I predict that Krell will have much success.

My choice of amp was Theta, and I really think that you can't go wrong with ANY Theta amp. I am picking up a pair of Enterprises to power my 3.6's (which are well out of your price range), but I also picked up an Intrepid 5-channel and have been using it to power my 3.6's until I get the Enterprises. Even though it is only 100wpc and it's a 5-channel amp, it drives the Thiels stunningly well. In fact, at $460/channel ($2,300 for the amp, demo), it sounded equally as good with my system as the tricked out Edge NL-10 ($6,500/channel) which I auditioned in my home. Of course, the remainder of my system is not up to such a level as to hear every nuance, but still, you'd expect to hear some difference. Certainly, the Theta and Edge could both be heard to be a noticeable improvement over the Adcom (which all in all is still not bad for the money). Certainly, the Intrepid is in your price range, although you may not need 5 channels. A used 2-channel Dreadnaught (or Dread II) might be within your price range, and would be a killer match. I debated for quite a while between a 2-channel Dreadnaught II and two Enterprises.

Back to preamps. I am not sure if you are after a multi-channel or 2-channel preamp, but I have found Rotel to be pretty darn good at their price point in both regards. However, after I purchased my 1066, Rotel came out with the RSP-1068, which in addition to better DACs (same as the 1098, I hear), offers an analog bypass in 2-channel mode, which is nice. So, I think that I am going to upgrade to the 1068. Most of my preamp shopping has been geared at a multichannel pre/pro that also allows for a great 2-channel experience, though. The Krell Showcase is pretty good, but their HTS 7.1 currently tops my wish list. Again, though, Rotel is very good for the money. However, if you are sticking with 2-channel, though, I have heard that Thiels work well with a tube pre and SS power, so I'd at least audition some tube preamps. Their seem to be scads of great 2-channel preamps here for sale on Audiogon, so I think that you can pick up something nice.

Hope this helps, Tom.
I am driving my 3.6's with all Conrad Johnson electronics Premier 16lsII tubed pre with a MF2500A ss amp. I love the combination very much, huge soundstage with great depth and no harshness but substantial detail; especiall after the "A" upgrade to my amp. My front end is a Sony SCD-1(stock) and cables are all Audioquest (Anaconda for interconnects and Volcano for the Thiels). I agree with you concerning the Thiels that when they are matched with the correct electronics they are great speakers. Good luck in your decision making.

The above advice is excellent. Adding to Tom's post, if you can't afford the Krell FPB series, you could try an older KSA model (either the 150 or 250 would work well) rather than the KAV models, which I agree won't be nearly as good. You have excellent speakers there, feed them well.
Great advice thus far. I'd stay away from the Bryston amps UNLESS you also go to MIT cabling. I had several Bryston/Thiel combos and enjoyed them, but the MIT was a mandatory element but greatly added to the cost of the system. Friends have also recommended that I stay away from the Krells in combo with Thiels (could be the KAV issue -- I can't recall). Of the options you have listed, the Musical Fidelity or CJ would be good choices. Yes, Thiels are power hungry so, whatever your choice, high current capability (i.e., linear, double wattage into 4 ohm loads -- such as 400w into 8 ohms, 800 watts into 4 ohms -- is a big plus and more is better). Try before you buy (or buy used at a good price and be ready to quickly resell at a small to no loss). Good luck.
Thanks for everyone's feedback. I really appreciate it. I have started a new thread called " Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 300 with Thiel CS3.6? " to continue this discussion.

Montana Rane
Use Cardas Golden Cross speaker cables, at a minimum, perhaps also the interconnects, and a tube preamp. Cardas and Thiels have a magical synergy. Tube preamp seems to add a palpability, and of course you need severe amounts of power to make 3.6 really really sing. Check out Rowlands new small monoblocks. They sound AMAZING on my friends 2.4's.
Good point about matching up Cardas cables with Thiel. I am going for Cardas Neutral Reference speaker cables, myself. I have heard that they are a bit more detailed than the Golden Cross, and that they are certainly more neutral. However, I have an arrangement whereby if the Neutral Ref's don't do it for me, I can upgrade w/i 90 days to either Golden Cross or Golden Reference. I may try some Golden Cross IC's, though.

A great combo I used for many years was a Audio Research sp11 ( pre ) and Threshold s/300 ( amp ) .Great combo exc bass with warm midrange and smooth highs. These peices may be old but still work great and are built to last a lifetime...
Audio Research tube pre, Classe SS amps and MIT interconnects/speaker cable. If at all possible, try NOT to toe the speakers in.
Ok. A lot of brand recommendations and one specific vote for the Conrad Johnson MF-2500A / Premier 16ls mkII or 17LS paring.

Any thoughts from other listeners about selecting this Conrad Johnson equipment to complement the Thiel CS3.6 speakers?

If anyone has a specific Classe combination that they are sure sounds great with the Thiel CS3.6 and still meets my $4K budget that would also be helpful.

I am strongly considering the Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 300 integrated but have some reservations after reading

"02-27-04: Mahandave
I hate to say something bad about these two products because I like both very much! (love Thiel) I have however listened to this combo at a local dealer and was very un-immpressed to say the least. It was the second most boring and dull system I have ever heard at this price level. And any system including Thiel and boring/dull is saying something. Tone was good to very good, musicality was non existant and dynamics were conjested to the extreme. The trivista SACD was the source in an acousticlly good, medium sized room. Every thing was set up very well by a great tech. guy. I think the problem lies in the thinking behind the designers. They are on opposite sides of the world. Thiel needs lively sound fed into them to show what they can do while Musical Fidelity wants to go easy and smooth- this is just a case of miss match and not poor products I believe. I had to take two of my friends to listen to this set up because I wanted there oppinoin to see if I was nuts but they aggreed with me totally. Sorry- again, get those Thiels but look at different electronics or vice-versa."


Montana Rane
I would suggest Pass Aleph series. These amps are extremely detailed, yet extremely smooth and never bright. They are class A biased and, dare I say, would beat anything that you were contemplating. I would particularly be concerned with the Krell's and to a less extent with the Bryston's. The one problem is that the biggest Pass Aleph is the 1.2 which is rated at only 200 watts/channel. However, class A biased amps tend to sound like many more watts than their class AB cousins. If you can, I would arrange some sort of in-home audition of the 1.2 with your Thiel's. Of course, if you are a smart buyer on Audiogon, you could pick up a pair of 1.2's here at a good price and resell them at no loss or a small profit. They have an excellent resale value as they are recognized as one of the best amps ever made. Even though they may cost more than you are contemplating, these are amps which you may never sell and which may cure the upgrade "itch" insofar as amplifiers are concerned
Alot of 3.6 threads lately, I've had a CJ premier 14 and Classe 200 combo for 3 years, all MIT cabling with my 3.6's. I like it alot. Haven't had tons of gear through here for comparison sake but I can listen for hours to this system.
i would agree with mrderrick and some others.

your thiels are not bright- they are just revealing of what is there ( non forgiving speakers). there is a tradeoff here that works to your benefit.

though it requires more tweaking and synergy to build your system, it will also sound incredible once you get everything dialed in. a more forgiving speaker like the vandersteen will be easier to work with but wont achieve the level of resolution.

a solid state amp and tube preamp would give you the best of both worlds with minimal maintaince. the thiels like the current and can beneift from tubes in the line ( i think a system should have tubes somewhere in the line wether it be dac, pre, or amp).

some amp reccomendations -

classe cam mono's 200 @ $2200 pair
pse studio 5 signature - $1200 pair
muse monos - $1200 to $1800 pair

tube pre - ( i assume you would like a remote)
btw, i would personally avoid any pre that requires 4 or more 6922/7308's. they are too $$$ and to hard to come by.the 6h30 models are nice but minimal tube rolling with these.

pse hl-1 $1100 ( really hard to find- compares againest $3k to $5k )

audible L2 - $1600 -trying to find a used one will be hard

bat ( this is a hard one to reccomend due to the shortage of premium 6922/7308's - see aove comment.

herron - very, very nice but no remote

audio research - ls 16mkii $1600

hope that helps...dont forget to budget in for upgraded interconnects & speaker cable.

Sorry for my "short" post, I was short on time. I've owned a pair of SCS's, 2.2's and still listen to a pair of CS5i's. I used a ARC LS15 and Classe CA100 along with MIT 330 interconnects and MIT 750 speaker cables with great results Now I have a ARC REF1 with a Classe CA400, MIT 350 Ref interconnects and MIT Twin 770 CVT speaker cables. I don't recall the installation instructions from the 2.2's, but the 5i's suggest pointing the speakers straight ahead. This may create a problem with first reflections depending on your room. This can lead to listener fatigue to the point that stabbing an ice pick into your ear would hurt less than listening. Toe in can help a bit, but now those tweeters are angled more toward your ears. I've had the best results firing forward and treating the first reflection points on the floor and walls. I have a sloped ceiling, so I don't treat it. Many people feel that Thiels are bright and fatiguing(?). It just takes more effort to dial them in. The extra effort will pay off. Best of luck to you!
Amps I can afford that may drive my Thiel CS3.6 speakers:

Classe CA-301 300W ~$2200
Classe CA-300 300W ~$1700
Bryston 4B-SST 300W ~$1700
Conrad Johnson MF 240W ~$1800
Musical Fidelity A308CR 250W ~$1850
Krell KSA 300 300W ~$2500
Krell KSA 250 250W ~$2100

Of those amps I am getting the feeling that the Classe and CJ are probably going to work out well. It was nice to hear from people who are actually using this combination and are happy with it.

The other suggestions so far were either lower power than I want to try or too expensive.

I will try to audition some of the above equipment this weekend to get a feel for it.

Thanks for all your help and advice so far.

Montana Rane
I had a pair of Thiel 3.6 quite a while ago. Older Levinson 23.5, Levinson 332 or 333, Aragon 4004mk2, older Rowland all are excellent match.

I think Pass Aleph series would be a mistake. Single ended amp tend not to do well with low impedance speakers. At least that's my short experience with Pass Aleph 3. As soon as you hit a bass note and it's clipping.

Not sure about X series though.
I am enjoying tremendously the Classe combination with transparent wave 2 speaker cables. Can’t say enough about he cam200 with my 2.3's.
You should try out some Mac gear. I heard a set of Thiel CS 3.6's with a McIntosh MC352 power amp and C2200 (tube) preamp and to say the least I was blown away. Mac gear seems to work well with thiel as it is warmer sounding and eliminates the thiel's brightness. McIntosh gear is also the most unfatigueing equipment I have heard, it simply sounds like music and not hifi. I am in the process of putting this system together for myself. I have heard Mark Levinson, Classe, Bryston and many others and none of them as good as they are impressed me more then the Mac.
Having owned Thiel speakers (2.2s not the 3.6s) my experience was that these speakers sounded very good with my Mark Levinson 331.5, this was with an Audio Aero Capitole running direct to the amp. I also found the Thiel speakers good with my Krell FPB 200 via a BAT VK 5i preamp. On the otherhand, I found that with my (long since sold) Theta Dreadnaught II I found these and all other speaker combinations completely unenjoyable for 2-channel performance. I kept this amp for 2 weeks and sold it, with my impression that it was the worst 2-channel performing amp I have ever owned. On a similar note, having owned several multi-channel amps, I have yet to find one that has done an admirable job in 2-channel operation. If you are combining a 2-channel and multi-channel system, get a two channel amp (or monos) for the main speakers, a 5 channel amp is fine for HT, but I have yet to hear one that is suitable for high quality 2-channel (after listening to many).