NHT 2.9 vs. Thiel 1.5 (or other?)

Hi, I own a pair of NHT 1.5. I am looking to upgrade to a more full-range pair of speakers and still to have some room left for me in the apartment after that. The electronics I use is a Sony 333(?) ES receiver and it's 24/96 built-in dac which I find superior to the DAC in my CD player Sony CDP9 ES. I listen mostly to acoustical instrumental/vocal music (classical, jazz, alternative and the like). My room is approx. 14 by 26 (with dining area in it, so effectively 14x20) and I can only position the speakers along the long side of it. Could give them up to 2-3 feet from the back/side walls. I recently auditioned the Thiel .5 and 1.5 side by side with Vienna Acoustics Bach and Magies 1.6. To my liking the Thiel 1.5 gave me most satisfaction (Vienna had boomy base, Magies had somewhat less precise high end and very narrow height of the sweet spot and also very low efficiency plus the bipolarity may be a problem). The NHT 2.9 has supposedly lower low-end (29 Hz) compared to the Thiels (42 Hz). The problem I have with my NHT 1.5s is that, even though they are exceptionally clear and accurate, they sound fatiguing to me and I suspect the larger 2.9s may be similar. I understand that this may be due to the electronics I have, but that’s the $$ situation right now. Can anyone provide advice primarily on the choice between NHT 2.9 and Thiel 1.5? Other suggestions will be appreciated too but should not exceed $1500. Thanks, Mihail
I wish I could provide some real help for you, but it's my opinion that speaker placement (and lack of acoustic treatment) in your listening room will hinder the performance potential of any speaker you buy...even more so than your electronics. That said, I feel that good soft dome tweeters are better than any metal dome tweeter, and you might want to give some of those a listen sometime. Companies like Dynaudio, Nova, PBN, Meadowlark, Merlin, all have smaller speakers in your price range. If you'd ever consider buying used speakers, you can get a hell of a lot of speaker for $1500. My Paragon Acoustics Radiants are perhaps the best speaker value anywhere, especially if bought used, like I did. Let me stress again, an untreated room is NOT a listening room! Good luck.
I agree with most of Carl's suggestions, and i would like to add. that placing speakers, along the "long side" is correct placement. I am not familiar with potential, of your amp, but i would try fallowing speakers: Meadowlark shearwater (used), Legacy "classic"(used)Celestion A2, and Linn "Keosa" (new).
I'll share some experiences as a NHT 2.9 owner: 1) 2.9s go very, very low - enough to clear your sinuses, enough to freak out small animals...way fun! 2) Placement is EXTREMELY critical with the 2.9s as well as the listener's distance from the speakers. Check the owner's manual on speaker placement at www.nhthifi.com before buying. You want to be at least 9' away from the front of the speakers. 3) You cannot satisfactorily drive the 2.9 with a receiver or even with an entry level high-end amp, you must get premium amplification if you don't want to be fatigued - remember, the NHTs put out what's put into them and they are unforgiving about it. I tried the Adcom 555. 555II, and 5500, and none of them worked with the 2.9s. Tubes are key - I'm now using a Counterpoint SA-220 with good results - all day listening sessions without fatigue. If you are willing to spend some more dough on audio equipment and play with speaker placement then the 2.9s are magic, but I think you should go for the Thiels as their more 'traditional' design allows for some placement flexibility. Good luck!
Woodmann is absolutely right. The NHT's require the best amplification. I am with him on their use with tubes. I am using all ARC tube amplification with the 2.5i's which are very similar to the 2.9's but lacking somewhat to the 2.9's ease in the midrange and the low bass though you won't be unsatisfied with the 2.5i's bass (29hz at -3db) It is clean, well defined and better than anything I have heard in their price range (1300.00 retail). Warning! Do not go with the 2.9's if you aren't committed to better amplification. Ultimately you will be unsatisfied. If you are willing to spend the money, you will be hard pressed to find any dynamic system that offers better transparency, dynamics, low end performance and unfatiguing music. They mimic the recording good or bad. To me they offer the most that you can ask for in a speaker system PROVIDING everything upstream is excellent.
Thanks! When you mention good amplification, at how much $$$ do you think it starts at (perhaps used) to be good enough? Could I reuse the pre-amp section of my receiver (it has pre-amp outputs for all channels)? Or perhaps use the receiver for the one half of a bi-amp setup? I appreciate your responses. Mihail
I recently purchased a pair of 2.9s trading in my Thiel 2.2's. I have biamped the speakers using NHT's SA-3 subwoofer amp and an Ayre V-3 on the top end. My dealer sold me the SA-3 for $300 and I bought the Ayre used. It is a great combination but you definitely want something smooth (tubes or tube sound sounding solid state). These speakers are incredibly dynamic with really extended bass and I think are one of the great unknown bargains in high end. Like the comments before me, yoy would have to upgrade your system to work well with these speakers
From my experience, I would say that Thiels can be as UNforgiving as NHT's. If your current system is a little fatiguing with the NHT 1.5's, I would predict the same or higher level of fatigue with EITHER the NHT 2.9 or the Thiel 1.5. I am wondering if your audition of the Thiels wasn't with some considerably different equipment than your system? If ask me, the Sony receiver is the real weak link in the system. I have generally found Sony ES receivers to be a bit on the bright side to start with. So, you might consider and NHT sub for the extra lows you want, and maybe a tube integrated for the 1.5's to get a more rounded and easy to listen to sound. The NHT subs are actually quite good, and there's a BIG bonus for your situation - the sub is easier to place in an ideal spot, plus it has more spots that might be ideal. The one thing I can tell you for sure is that both the 2.9's and the Thiel 1.5's are placement picky, which may be a concern given your room. Oh yeah, stay away from the maggies if you don't want to have to replace the receive immediately - they will not be happy with that receiver at all. The other two speakers have a better chance of coping with the Sony.
Thanks again. I'm getting convinced to upgrade my electronics and use the NHT 2.9 ... It is unfortunate that there are so few Thiel dealers to let me audition at home.
I have 2.9's. They are great speakers you have to be care full with amps. I found these to be too bright with a Bryston 4bst. I now use a Classe ca200 and it is a really nice match. The dynamics of the 2.9's make up for the sleepy nature of the Classe and vice versa. These speakers will sound really bad with Sony.