PMC EB1i v. Thiel CS3.7 v. Pioneer S1-EX v. ???

I'm starting to look at speakers in the $10-16K range, new. These three are high on the list, along with used Vandie 5As. Tyler D20s and the new AZ Crescendos also interest me. Anyone have the chance to compare some or all of these fine speakers?

They'll be driven by Mac MC501 amps + C2300 pre. I listen mostly to '50s &'60s jazz, with some classic rock, bluegrass, and folk. 90% of the time I listen to vinyl on this rig. The room is 28x17x8, opening into hallways at both corners along the long wall behind the speakers (so no real bass issues in those corners). It's a hard room softened with 9 acoustic panels and two bass traps.

My listening priorities for this system are macro- and micro-dynamics, nuance, tonal purity, and realistic scale. I'd like the speakers to disappear while projecting a 3D soundstage and solid low frequency pressure into the room. (The Thiels would likely need a sub.) They'll also have to serve the 60-inch plasma TV on the wall 4 feet behind them in a 2-channel, pseudo-home theater set up. Not much to ask, I know.... :)

I can get a great local price on EB1is but I don't want the deal to make the call. Of course, I'll audition all of them eventually but it's impossible to find them all in one place--or even more than one. So I'd like to draw on the experience of this knowledgeable group as I make my way.

The EB1i does not appear to have the same high quality dome as in the larger PMC speakers. It looks like the Vifa 3 inch dome which, if true, is nothing to write home about.

Personally I'd definitely go PMC and I'd go for the next model up - IB2i. Go active if you can. PMC actives are excellent.
My listening priorities for this system are macro- and micro-dynamics, nuance, tonal purity, and realistic scale. I'd like the speakers to disappear while projecting a 3D soundstage and solid low frequency pressure into the room.

You just described the Thiel 3.7s :-) If you can give them a listen, I would highly recommend them. I have not heard the other speakers on your list so I cannot say that the Thiels are better or worse on your criteria vs. the other speakers but on a stand-alone basis, they fit the bill.

(The Thiels would likely need a sub.)

Give them a listen as you may be surprised by their low frequency output. You may still decide that they do need to be supplemented by a sub but then again you may find that they deliver more than enough bass oomph. Thiel's subs are excellent by the way.

What will you be driving the next speaker with? That should be another consideration in terms of what speaker to choose.
Shadorne: You're right, I'd have to step up to the IB2i to get the better PMC mid driver. It's one of the reasons I'm not sure about the EB1i. But given the deal I've been offered, I'd end up spending more close to 3X as much to make that step. (I said I didn't want the deal to make the call, but I have to be somewhat realistic, haha.) I guess the question becomes, is the EB1i mid driver a deal breaker?

Cmalak: I definitely plan to listen to the 3.7, though my wife thinks they're odd looking.:) For driving them, I'd like to stay with the MC501 and C2300, at least for now. They reportedly have good synergy with both the Thiels and the PMCs.
I was going to post but Cmalak summed up my thoughts already. I also am not sure why thiel gets a bad rap for their bass. I have always found there bass to be exceptional but your room is pretty big.

I imagine some of the negative bass comments come from people that read reviews like they are gospel. For example the Stereophile review's room had real issues. The 3.7 is flat down to 33hz in anechoic chamber. But in the Stereophile review the bass is down 4db @ 33hz, -8db @ 40hz, and -4db @ 60hz. There is also a large spike (5db ish) @ 80hz. The review then goes on the knock the low bass of the speaker. I mean really it is just shotty reviewing. Don't blame the speakers for a crap room. He probably dropped them in the same spot he drops big ported boxes. The "sealed" 3.7 will load the room a lot different.

Stereophile review

Ok rant over...

If you are going to buy the 3.7 you should see how they are made.
3.7 production documentary

PS do you have a dealer for the Pioneer S1-Ex, there seems to be all most none of them. I was interest in hearing the next model down but it seems to be impossible.
"I definitely plan to listen to the 3.7, though my wife thinks they're odd looking.:)"

They look pretty "normal" with the grills on and have an elegant shape in person. The shape make them seem smaller than they are...
James63: I was going only on Thiel's published specs, not on reviews. I'm a fan of seal-enclosure bass and I like Thiel's system for integrating their subs, so I'd have flexibility if I need more bass. The EB1i goes to 19 Hz, however, so even if the 3.7 plays to 30, that's quite a difference. Yes, the room is big--even bigger than indicated because it's L-shaped with space off to one side--and it eats bass waves.

Re: Pioneer. I tracked down a local "consultant" dealer here in the SF Bay Area by calling Pioneer customer service. He has the S1-EX in one of his rooms but seems remarkably uninterested in making time for an audition appointment. Wants me to call back in the Spring.... says he's very busy. Good for him, in this economic climate!
"They look pretty 'normal' with the grills on..."

I agree, which is why I only showed her a picture with the grills on! She said, at least they don't have an eyeball on top! I concluded that meant the KEF 207/2 was out of the question. But she's pretty cooperative--she does, after all, allow four systems in a seven-room house. What a woman! (But no bathroom systems yet!) I think she'd get used to the 3.7 in time.
I would recommend the Wilson Sophia III.
I feel it's a huge risk not being able to listen to the speakers first hand and bringing them home based on recommendations on the forum. Having said that, judging from your description the Thiel CS3.7 may be a better choice than the PMC EB1i. I have listened to the EB1i couple of times and although they sound very full and controlled with exceptionally deep bass, they are not the last word in micro-dynamics, nuance and tonal purity. The PMCs have good macro-dynamics, impressive scale and can go loud though. As Shadorne mentioned, the IB2i is at another level with higher degree of transparency probably due to the quality soft dome midrange driver. Unfortunately it is out of your price range and may not be optimally driven by the Mac amps.

The Thiel CS3.7s are on the analytical side with a lot of high-end detail. A friend who's ears I trust felt that the 3.7s presentation is too forward and bright. It's probably due to the room and electronics though. Your Macintosh amps which lean more towards warmth and smoothness may combine well with the Thiels.

At the sort of price range you're looking at I urge you to consider all your options carefully. Apart from Sophia III you might want to look at the Magico as well.

Good luck.
Petesm and Ryder: Thanks for your reflections. In the PMC line up, I'm starting to think the IB2i is the way to go if I can swing the price. I've never heard the Sophias buy I'll look into them.
I have heard the Vandersteen 5a, the Thiel 3.7 and the Acoustic Zen. I preferred the Crescendos. From my experience, they would fulfill your priority list. Your room is suffciently large which would be a good fit.

Last time I was in the Bay Area (your area) I went to an audio store in Palo Alto called The New Audible Difference. They have the Thiel CS3.7 and the Thiel SS2 Sub. I have listened to that speaker about 5 hours without the Sub and 1 hour with the Sub (during the course of a few store visits). The rest of the gear was SS Classe pieces.

I decided that for my musical tastes the 3.7's did not need a sub (Pop, Rock, Reggae, etc..). I actually hated the sub with music, it gave me a headache. My previous speaker was the Revel Salon1 so I am used to fantastic low frequency sound. For my music, the Thiel was amazing without a Sub. A very exciting sounding speaker (made my feet move).

However, for Home Theatre I will get a not so expensive Sub such as the Paradigm Seismic 110. I will eventually have Thiel CS 3.7 + 3 Thiel SCS4's + a HT sub. I will get a Sub here just as a precaution against speaker damage.

Yes, I will purchase the speakers from the dealer whom I auditioned them.
Since you have PMC on your list I would suggest that you look into active speakers from ATC.
Large 3-way active PMCs (not just activated) are out of your price range, but active ATC 50/100 could be found used for that $.
Reason I am mentioning this is that I have owned and/or auditioned many of PMCs and ATCs in both active and passive version and active ones always sound considerably better, without exception.
I've lined up an in-home audition of the EB1i for a few days next week. It should give me a pretty good idea of the family sound and how it mates with my room and electronics.

Rhljazz: I'd like to hear the Crescendo. Might be hard to scare up an audition, though.

Yyz: Thanks for the dealer suggestion. Palo Alto is a drive from here but I am going to seek out the 3.7. It's received too many accolades to overlook in this price range.

Sashaw: I'm probably going to stick with passives. Did you own or listen much to the EB1i and/or the IB2i? If so, what are your impressions vis a vis each other and ATC passives? I'll see how the EB1i moves me but I might try to hold out until I can afford the IB21 and get the great PMC mid driver. Consensus seems to be it makes quite a difference in both warmth and transparency.
I have owned IB2S and a number of smaller PMCs, and extensively auditioned MB2S, EB1, EB1i, IB2i, PB1i. There was a whole range of other speakers as well, bunch of models from well known manufacturers such as Wilsons (Max 2, W/P 7 and 8, Sasha, Sophia 1 and 2), Revels (Salon 2), Harbeth (Monitor 40.1), B&W (804s, 802d), Energy (almost entire range), PSB, JBL, the list is quite long, as well as some less known but promising manufacturers.
The PMC own midrange driver in IB2 and upper models is certainly better than what appears to be Vifa in lower models.
Each pair of speakers had some issues however.
I found that passive PMCs do sound better to me than passive ATCs, passive cross-over in PMC appears to be better design as it produces less integration issues, but active ATCs sound better than anything passive from PMC or ATC in corresponding range.
I have left the world of passive speakers, benefits are substantial.
So my order of preference in passive PMC arena is MB2S, IB2S, IB2i, EB1i, PB1i.
You will notice that I placed IB2S (the “professional” model) above IB2i (the “consumer” model), reason being that I consider PMC midrange driver the main benefit in lineup, much more so than the new SEAS tweeter found in “i” series, and I pay no attention to finish.
In other words, I would rather go up in “professional” lineup for the same money than going into “consumer” lineup, if you catch my drift.
This does not mean that SEAS tweeter is not different or would not be “better” to you, you would have to decide.
Sashav, may I ask how do you compare the active PMCs with active ATCs in their respective classes? The passive IB2i sounded pretty incredible to me. I can't imagine how much more the active models(PMC or ATC) would bring to the table when compared to the passive IB2i. Do you find the active PMCs or ATCs to be overall better speakers than the Wilson Sasha and Revel Salon2? A friend of mine owns both these speakers -Salon2 in his main system and Sashas in his bedroom.

I am also familiar with the Harbeth M40.1s. As good as this top of the range Harbeth can be, the philosophy in the design of this speaker is different from the equivalent range from PMC and ATC. The bigger PMC and ATC passives or actives are made from robust heavy duty drivers built in heavy cabinets whereas the cabinet of the 40.1s are made from "thin-wall" panels. I believe the bigger PMC and ATCs possess a much larger scale with higher SPL capabilities than the 40.1s(or any other speaker for that matter). The result is a highly controlled and composed sound with high degree of transparency and the ability to play at crazy volume levels(probably in the excess of 120dB in a large space) without losing control.
Sashav: You have a wonderful breadth of experience with fine speakers. Thank you very much for the detailed descriptions; they're quite helpful. Like Ryder, I'm also interested in your thoughts comparing the Wilsons and Revels to the PMCs, especially the IB2S/IB2i.
I cannot offer at this time a meaningful comparison of active PMC to active ATC, but I will be able to do so in a month or so when I will have them side by side.
I owned IB2S and have auditioned IB2i, and I agree that IB2i sounds incredible, but active ATC50 is overall more incredible to me, considering that there is no perfect speaker and all have some shortcomings.
So far my preference has been passive PMC over passive ATC, and active ATC over passive PMC, overall, based on models I have heard.
I find active ATC to be better than Wilson Sasha and Revel Salon 2, I also prefer passive IB2S or IB2i over these two, but I must say that Revel Salon 2 is also extremely well made speaker with very good integration of drivers, and I prefer Revel Salon 2 over Sasha considerably. About the only thing I find objectionable with Revel Salon 2 is a slight metallic coloration which I guess is the consequence of materials used. And I prefer Revel Salon 2 over lower PMC models.
I agree with Ryder’s assessment of Harbeth in comparison to PMC.
Finally, you will notice that I speak of my preferences, your ears should ultimately guide you.
hi Bill
First off,good luck with your speaker hunt and have fun.
Going by your room size,17x28,you would have no problems with MB2 or IB2.And depending on your average maximum volumes(110-120db??)the midrange would play a big part.If your max. volume does not "ever" exceed 110-112db,the vifa mid will work.Dont get to caught up in the "i" tweeter as it is not worth the extra thousands of dollars they ask for it.You can find a good used pair of non "i" MB2/IB2 for the $7-$8000 range with stands.
Sashav, you have a good pair of ears and we probably share the same listening preference. I have listened to the Revel Salon2 couple of times last year. They were driven by Mark Levinson monoblocks and Wyred4Sound amps later through the year when my friend upgraded the electronics. Similarly I find the Salon2 to exhibit a hard and metallic sound especially in the high frequency region. Of course my benchmark is the Harbeth which possesses an organic, rounded and natural sound that sounded totally different from the Revels. In contrast, people may argue that the Harbeth lacks the transparency of the Revels and are rolled off in the highs. After becoming accustomed to the sound of the Harbeth, I find the presentation of the Salon2 to be artificial and unnatural.

In my mind the better PMCs and ATCs offer the most neutral sound without the artifact contributed by the *presumably* exotic materials in the tweeters and woofers.

To each his own.

I would be interested to hear your impressions on the active PMCs vs ATCs.
Sashav: I appreciate your elaboration. While something of a vicarious information sponge, I'm also an empiricist and, in the end, will be led by my ears. As I said, I should get the EB1i in-house next week. I've also been invited to pop down to San Diego for a day to audition the Acoustic Zen Crescendo at the factory with a local dealer-friend who's thinking about carrying it. I'll see if I can make the time. It's another interesting transmission line contender that has received excellent if limited press.

Mclsound: Thanks for the well-wishes and the tip on the "non-i" PMCs. You may be right: at the SPLs I generally use, the Vifa, which is supposedly modified substantially in-house, might be okay. I'll see.

Thanks again to all. I'll post my findings as I realize them.

Sashav, what type of active ATC that you think comparable with PMC IB2S performance?
Thank You.
I prefer ATC SCM50ASL and larger models to passive IB2S.
Some may prefer an apparent low end extension of IB2S, but that comes at price. Active ATCs give you better window into the recording, the line of hearing things never heard before is what comes to mind, but not through hyped up presence region or higher frequencies, there is a clear separation of instruments, even when they occupy space near each other, individual drivers never calling attention to themselves, I am convinced all being the product of superb integration of drivers not being possible with passive cross-over. On passive speakers you simply do not hear what you do on active ones or on headphones.
I have owned both PB1i's and EB1i's but thanks to the advice from Sashav and others on earlier Audiogon discussions I took the leap over 1 year ago to the IB2i's. It was the best decision I have made. The real test for me was an Alison Krauss track. At one point in the song she really lets it out. With every other speaker I have owned I feel like turning down the volume with that passage. The IB2i with the PMC mid made the difference. It is just so overbuilt. Absolutley magnificant. I also purchased (since sold) a pair of PMC AML1 active monitors to experience an active design. I was impressed and can only imagine that the active version of the IB2i is equally impressive. PMC is a true believer in active designs. There is an interesting write up in HIFI Critic VOL 3 NUM 4 by PMC's Peter Thomas on the benefits of active speaker designs. Sashav, could you please elaborate on the IB2S active as compared to the passive IB2i? I might be interested in selling my IB2i's if someone is interested....
Ssolman, what you described with the track from Alison Krauss is what I found generally with all good recordings, you keep increasing volume and it makes you want more of it.
I have not yet received active IB2S-a, they are on their way.
Note that I will have them side by side with active ATCs, not passive IB2S or IB2i, but I am very familiar with passive ones since I owned them.
Sashav, I understand these IB2S-a's are brand new and will be Class D digital amplification? I'm curious as to why Class D? It is also interesting that the transmission line path terminates in the upper portion of the cabinet. There is also an oval shaped grill placed on the side of the mid and tweeter. Any idea what this is? Lastly, have you found the ATC actives (50/100's) to be comparable to PMC actives. PMC actives almost never show up on the used market, but ATC does. I look forward to your comments.
Yes, amplification is Class D, I am not certain but I believe it is Hypex. The choice was probably driven by space, low heat generation and power consumption. It is quite possible that digital cross-over is also Hypex job, but it is only my somewhat educated guess. I believe it is beneficial to have TL on the opposite side of LF driver and this was part of the redesign. The oval shaped grill is there to minimize diffraction. All in all it seems well thought out design.
In regard to active PMCs not showing up on used market while ATCs do, it is understandable, truly active PMCs are huge and very expensive beasts, this new active IB2S is PMCs smallest and first 3 way truly active (not just powered, or “activated” as they call them) in domestically manageable size. On the other hand ATC has quite a nice lineup of actives, from domestically manageable sizes up to their beasties. So I am not surprised you see more of active ATCs on Audiogon. On the other hand you have many more passive PMCs for sale for obvious reasons.
In a remotely related matter, I had the opportunity to hear the PB-1 yesterday at a presentation in Rochester, NY.

The bottom end extension was terrific, far beyond what I expected to hear from such a relatively small speaker. The mids and highs were also both superb. Considering the room was totally untreated they were very impressive.

I was hoping to hear the IB-1s IB-2, or IB-2s but they did not display anything larger than the PB-1. :-((
Audiofeil, I purchased my IB2i's from Audioclassics in Vestal, NY. I'm pretty sure they have the IB2 (non-i version) and EB1i's available for demo if you ever are in that area.
I auditioned the IB2i in my system for several days last week. Very impressive speakers, especially the midrange, which is perhaps the best I've heard. The mid driver's combination of clarity and warmth without coloration is truly excellent, and the main reason to own this speaker, IMO. Bass foundation and texture were also top-notch. I wasn't as impressed with the HF dispersion, as the soundstage seemed a little shortened. But overall the speaker is incredibly accurate and detailed without becoming sterile, and the drivers are very well-integrated. Ultimately, it might be a bit too analytical for my taste, in the sense that it is more oriented toward presenting everything in the grooves than the overall gestalt of the musical experience. But it is a very impressive speaker. I'll add that I thought it did not mate well with McIntosh MC501 amps, which made for a surprisingly boring sound. However, my pure class A Reference Line Silver Sig amp and Bent AVC passive preamp brought the sound very much to life.
Wrm57, Did you find the bass in the IB2i more controlled versus the EB1i? I found the Eb1i's were too bassy for my modest sized listening room. I've always used McIntosh amplification (currently MC352 with c2300) so I have no reference for comparison, but you have sparked my curiousity regarding Class A amplification!
I haven't auditioned the EB1i yet. I might next week, but I might just pass it up. The IB2i midrange driver is what I'd want in the PMC brand, I can tell that already.
I do not own the EB1i but have listened to it couple of times. Similarly I find the bass to be too much, feels a bit bloated. The bass on the IB2i should be more controlled and at a higher level.
I've heard another person (an owner) that about the EB1i bass, too, in his modest-sized room.
I've been able to keep the IB2i at home for another week and I'm starting to think this is the speaker for me. I'm just amazed at its honesty, composure, and dynamic ease and high and low volumes. Nothing hidden, nothing exaggerated, and absolutely no listener-fatigue during long sessions.

Now I'm thinking about it's slightly larger sibling, the MB2i. Would those who've heard the two please comment on their differences? I know the MB drops down 5 db lower to 20 Hz via that scary-looking bass driver with the exoskeleton. Anything else different in their tonal balances, presentation, or HF dispersion?

I've never listened to the MB2i but the size of your listening room would obviously be a consideration. I recently had a conversation with a PMC aficiondo who has owned and demoed a wide variety of PMC's. He indicated to me that his preference is the IB2i primarily due to the flat carbon piston driver versus the radial design used in the MB2i. The carbon piston driver is a real winner in his opinion creating very realistic well tuned bass.
20 Hz via that scary-looking bass driver with the exoskeleton.

That is a kind of external heat sink to dissipate heat from the voice coil. The benefits are probably negligible but it looks way cool.
The carbon piston driver is a real winner in his opinion creating very realistic well tuned bass.

Like the heat sink on the outside, the flat looking driver is largely a cosmetic effect which helps sell the speaker ("technology" one can "see" helps people to "hear"). Decades of research have proven that conical shaped drivers are the best shape for woofers - being both light and and having increased rigidity due to the shape.

Not to say that the PMC driver is not good because it is very good but overall it is striking visual effect more than anything else.
The striking visual effect of the flat bass driver is certainly more to the liking of my wife. And the bass it produces through the ATL really fills my room, which isn't easily done; it's quick and tuneful and digs down. I've come to really like these speakers. In fact, I just ordered a pair in cherry to beat the price increase that goes into effect on Friday. I'm excited! Thanks to all for your help.

Congratulations on the new speakers. The IB2i will most likely last you a lifetime. Great accomplished speakers.


ps. similarly I am intimidated by the scary looking drivers of the MB2i.