Recommended amp for Thiel 3.6 -- newbie

Hello all. As a newbie to this, I’ve read a number of the forum posts, and have gotten some wonderful information and education. And, as this particulary question, Thiel 3.6 recommended amps, was pretty old, thought I’d post my own specific questions. I know so little about this, I’m sure to make some idiotic mistakes, but I’ll learn.

I just purchased a set of the Thiel 3.6s, and then read that they’re significantly hungry for both power and quality components. Although my budget is not unlimited, I have no buyer’s regret, as these seem to be a wonderful speaker set to grow into, with advancing upgrades as time goes on.

My room is about 27’x40’x9’, rug floor, combined living room, dining room; with the entertainment center in the right half of that space. My listening area is about 14’ back, and I generally expect to listen at mostly low to moderate levels. I like accurate, but I don’t like loud. I confess the system I was looking at was Denon AVR-x7200, rated at 150wpc -- but even that is confusing to me: One place says 150wpc, another 260w. The specs seem to be high at 0.05% THD, but the boards seem to reflect that many aren’t a fan of the Japanese disclosures. On all the boards I’ve read, no one recommended that system, in favor of, say, Theta, McCormack, Adcom and others. And the crickets were pretty deafening.

My prime use is for music from those speakers; but I would love to plug in HT application as well, with ultimate 4k passthrough, Network Attached Storage, Internet Radio, and Airplay and/or AppleTV -- those are the things that led me to the Denon in the first place. And even though the boards were critically silent (only one reference, and a negative one at that), I wondered if it was simply because those threads were old.

So for now, I’m kind of looking at Theta -- almost certainly in the used market. I saw a Dreadnaught unit go off recently, so perhaps with enough patience a similar thing might come around again. And see also (currently) a Casablanca unit. --But this is confusing. The Casablanca seems to return some of the HT features that I’d like, and while I’d like to think this is a solution, read the term "pre-amp", which suggests to me that this alone would never be a solution to power those Thiels. Perhaps this AND Dreadnaught. Or something similar. Or something else. --And for that matter, might the Denon 7200 itself, if not an ideal system, be used as a "starter system" -- acceptable for now -- and then morphed in pre-amp type of deal later, using it's connective controls, with some sort of quality amp downstream?

Thanks much for the consideration to this question and long post.

I love Thiel speakers as well. These things crave high-current and there are loads of info here on the 'Gon.  Get out there and listen, listen, listen to all power amps before any purchase.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!

donzi Hi.

Your Thiels are a very heavy load for an amp, very similar to the 3.7's This is the same type of amp I would also recommend to you.

Here is your 3.6 load graph, almost identical. Compare the 1st graph of both, impedance v -phase angle of both

Cheers George

Thanks! for sharing- George.
Thanks much George. I had seen that page, and frankly, don't completely understand it. (And I'm a graph info type of guy.) What I got out of that piece was that the 3.6s tend to operate at pretty low ohms. And that consistent draw on low ohms would be a stress to the amplifier. But how much was much, was still a puzzle to me. And, honestly, I'm still not sure how the whole system should be set up: If I go with something of higher quality (ML, Bryston, etc.) These have no volume control, which implies to me that these are downstream from a pre-amp or controller of sorts. What type of solution might bring me CD, DVD, NAS, Internet Radio, perhaps HT? A pre-amp, plus one of the commonly recommended solutions? 

Or is this unit, then plus an amplifier, something toward what I'm looking for? Or for that matter, is that unit standalone enough? (I suspect not, as I saw no power ratings.) 

And if anyone can answer, I'm still confused over the power ratings. Many have said here that the 3.6s should have 200 watts, plus, at a minimum. The Denon I had been looking at was rated 9 channel, at 150wpc. Or something like 260 overall. Is that sufficient? Or is it 150 per channel toward the recommended >200? Or is it two channels, 300 toward the >200? Forgive me for this most basic question.

And, if it's that per-channel number in quest of that >200, might it be possible to somehow bi-amp two of the nine channels to achieve an effective 300w? I'm surely not using the overhead speakers anytime soon. 
And if I may re-ask the question, Might that Denon AVR-x7200 unit be an acceptable start to this system (with the 3.6s)? And might that be used as a pre-amp or controller to a future upgrade where a more powerful amp is connected in line later? 

If that's the case, it may be a viable path forward as it gives me the various features I would like (CD, DVD, Internet radio, Airplay, etc.) and still stay within my budget, while a later upgrade would be a further enhancement. 

Any thoughts, recommendations from this community on this?  Thanks!
I would dream to have 27'...30' Donzi center console with powerful twin Japanese outboards like Yamaha 250   more than any Thiel 3.6 or Denon AVR-X7200 :-)
donzi If I go with something of higher quality (ML, Bryston, etc.) These have no volume control, which implies to me that these are downstream from a pre-amp or controller of sorts.

Right then, sorry only read your title, if you need an integrated type amp with volume control then the same applies you need an amp that can deliver current Look at one s that can almost double their specified 8ohm wattage eg: 100w and then make sure the 4ohm wattage almost doubles (200w) and if you can get it the 2ohm should rise again.

One integrated amp I know that can come close is the Parasound Halo Integrated, this may suit your needs and has a dac inside as well.

If you need surround sound amp then you should look at Krell, ML, Theta, maybe Parasound. 

Cheers George

I concur w/ George- you will need 200W minimum to really make the Thiels sing!  Keep me posted and Happy Listening!

Sorry jafant this is no so correct either, they are 86db efficient, not so inefficient, so wattage is not the issue.

A pair of 25w (yes that’s not a misprint) Mark Levinson ML2 monoblocks will drive them nicely, though not to party levels. They can drive them nicely because they can do 25w into 8ohms, 50w into 4ohms, 100w into 2ohms and 200w into 1ohm, some say it can even do 400w into .5ohm. This is an amp that can do big current, even though it’s only rated at 25w at 8ohms. So current is what’s needed not so much wattage.

A pair of say 400w otl tubes still have no chance to drive them correctly, because they cannot do current, same goes for tube amps with transformers (unless they have a 1ohm or 2ohm transformer speaker terminals) which I’ve never seen, and Mosfet, and ClassD are in the same boat..

Cheers George

200W w/ high-current would be optimal for certain. Re-read all of my posts. Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
I agree with George, the speakers need an amp that can deliver high current into a low impedance load, and NO a/v receiver will do this, not even a flagship model. Also donzi, if you are going to look at wattage specs, make sure you consider the entire specification. You are only looking at 150w or 260w, so here are the complete specs,

150w (8 ohm, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 0.05% 2ch Drive)
260w (6 ohm, 1 kHz, 10% 1ch Drive)

IMHO, any spec with extremely high distortion, using limited bandwidth and only one channel is meaningless.

As far as current, think about this, a 12v lantern battery will not crank your car, not enough current.

I think your best setup would be to get an 2 channel integrated or pre/power that has HT pass through. Then add a lesser expensive a/v receiver for the HT capability.
Thanks all! I'm getting a great understanding of all of this! And for that, I'm very grateful. And thanks, Tis, I was wondering about that 6 ohm (not 4, or even 2) 10% THD.

I'm curious for your thoughts on this: One of the possibilities is to use the Denon 7200, but employ the preamp outs on the two fronts for a more powerful, matched amp to the Thiel. (I'm looking at either a vintage Mark Levinson 23, or a current Krell KAV250a). 

I understand the weak link to the chain for ultimate quality of output would be the Denon, but perhaps with a quality secondary amp, this might be minimized. Plus it would give me the ability to at least have some music and functionality while I saved up for the rest of it (provided that underpower didn't destroy either speakers or amp in the meantime.)

And georgelofi, I've just re-read your graph from the third post at the top. And I understand it now. Wow, these things are like under 4 ohms almost the whole listening frequency! FWIW, I spoke with someone at Theta today who felt that the decision to go with such a low impedance on these was one error on Jim Thiel's part. Now, I know nothing about speaker-making, and surely defer to whatever decisions he made, which is why I got these speakers. So I would suspect that there is a quality choice in the mix there. More difficult to drive, for sure; but with that being addressed (hopefully in one of the scenarios I've described above) it's an ideal match.
Donzi, in some cases, and only a very few, with an average under powered speaker, adding an amplifier to an a/v receiver can help. However, your speakers need a quality front end driving that high current amp to the speaker. The a/v receiver will just limit the performance capability of the amp. Remember, the a/v receiver is in front of the amp, so garbage in, garbage out. As I said, you should spend the majority of your budget on a quality 2 channel integrated or preamp/power amp that has a HT pass through option. Then just add a lesser expensive a/v receiver that has front pre outs to do home theater.

Donzi, "usually" the better speakers "less coloured" are the harder ones to drive, brands like Wilson and many others even worse than Thiel. 

Cheers George 

Look at the  Sanders Sound Systems Magtech amplifier .  He makes very high current amps.  The suggestion for a Krell was good but probably better if you get an older Krell that has been restored.  Use a newer processer as a pre amp that can accept  all of those sources.  Simple answer and watts are not the issue as you have found out.  Look for a high current amp like the Magtech with a fast slew rate and stability down to 1 ohm.
I agree with tls49. You need an integrated amp  or pre/amp separates with the current capabilities to drive the 3.6s and a pass through for the addition of HT processing. The advice from Jafant and George regarding current needs should be headed.
Donzi, I'm a bit late on this post so I'll try not to just repeat all of the good comments of others regarding the need for a high current power amp. But I would add that high power is not necessarily all that important unless you are actually going to listen to this at  high levels (you indicated that you don't do this). The difference between 50 amps and 200 amps is only 6db, not all that much.

I bought my Thiels when they first came out and consumer information  then was minimal. I went through a lot of high power amps but had no success until I bought a 50W Class A amp made by Threshold, the  SA3. Not only did it drive the Thiels adequately but is was very smooth and truly neutral tonally, not really emphasizing any part of the spectrum, well maybe a bit warm especially by todays standards. What made this important was that many of the amps I tried were not really smooth thru the upper mids and highs and the resulting sound was etched/harsh/bright. So if at all possible you should listen to any amp you might buy in your home with these speakers or you risk wasting your time and money.  On the subject of 'recommendations', I'd place more value on those from folks who have actually had these speakers in their own homes and went thru the set up drill. Generic recomendations don't mean much with Thiels. 

The Thiels you have, and most of the other Thiels as well, are fine speakers, but they all demand not only high quality matching amps but upstream components as well. Garbage in - garbage out. Really!

BTW, you could use your Denon as you suggest and replace it with a quality pre-amp when you get some funds. I replaced my pre-amp with a then SOTA tubed pre-amp (huge difference!). If such a possibility is on your horizon be sure that any amp you purchase has the high input impedance to match the often high(er) output impedance of tubed pre-amps.

Good luck with this adventure.
Thanks all. So I’m focusing on a good, current or vintage two channel amp. (Used, lower price and I’ll take my chance on repair need.) There are several choices including the great ones you’ve all suggested here. Current focus for this purpose is perhaps Mark Levinson 23, or Bryston 4bst -- or one of the others. Now for the pre-amp question -- quality in! (I now get that.) But before I move off into the two-channel pre-world, like perhaps Casablanca, is there a solution such as this Marantz pre that would not overly color the signal in? (Or perhaps if it leaves the signal unmolested, this lesser version.) Or am I understanding the hard truth that this is going to crap up the system even though it’s not having an amping function?

And even so, tis, you spoke of the full quality two channel (end-to-end) system, with alternative, cheaper HT passthrough. Would that linked system above accomplish that? Or when you talk about pass through, is there a system that allows this to do so far more unmolested?

In all cases, is there any chance that a system such as that can be combined such that (with those features) it can be the "turn-on-and-control-all" system including the quality two-channel system? Or in all cases, am I going to be looking at a tradeoff choice of those features vs. quality? If so, I’m a little puzzled, tis, by what you’re suggesting in terms of integration, as it seemed to imply that there was a solution that would fit what I was looking for. In other words, I'm suspecting that if I ultimately want any HT, I might have to hit multiple on switches for multiple systems to get both quality AND HT. (Although I’m sure I have that pretty muddied up at this point.)

I did go listen to the Denon today, and INSTANTLY dropped it from consideration. Heard a lesser powered Marantz amp (which arguably is the same quality realm) but had nicer sound -- which then led me to the question of the possibility of using Marantz simply as a pre system, hoping to bring me even closer to a full picture, including quality. But again, outside of an expensive pre system, I understand I may not have an option.

In all cases, budget will probably have me piece a system together in steps, starting with two channel music, adding streaming audio and the like, and perhaps TV somehow, down the road.
I've re-read these posts again several times. Thanks all. I'm getting a very good (well, better) understanding.

And tis49, I am focused on your solution as what I really need, and think I misunderstood it. 

I think your best setup would be to get an 2 channel integrated or pre/power that has HT pass through. Then add a lesser expensive a/v receiver for the HT capability.

By my post above this one, I was attempting to shoehorn the quality part into the HT part. But you're talking about a very different thing, right? Not the passing of signal from, say, Marantz pre-amp to quality amp; but the passing of HT ITSELF through a quality system -- thus combining them, but leaving the ultimate Thiel signal unmolested by bad quality, right? I can't imagine (or don't know) of any system that might pass through, say, into the Marantz. Can you give me an example or two? Thanks much.
Right Donzi, and to use your words, you might say my suggestion sort of shoehorns the HT part into the quality part. This feature called HT pass through, HT bypass, or HT direct has been added to integrateds and preamps for the purpose to add HT to a 2 channel system without compromising the 2 channel quality. Here is a simple diagram showing how it’s done,

This is using a preamp (XDA-1) and a power amp. When using an integrated amp, a single box replaces those two. The front pre outs of the AVR connect to the HT bypass input on the preamp or integrated. When selected, the preamp or integrated volume control is bypassed and volume is controlled by the AVR. Also, depending on the capabilities of preamp or integrated, input from CD could be either digital or analog.

It’s like having 2 separate systems that just share the main amp and speakers.
Thanks Tis,

That's sort of what I was guessing. I appreciate the clarity. In this setup, you're talking about a unit like this, right? Where channels one and two stand alone, and the occasional DVD use goes through for full set of speaker usage. But in that picture wouldn't most AVRs process the signal before such a unit, putting in their own flavor to channels one and two? Or is it a case that, yes they would, but for DVD, it doesn't matter? 
And if I may ask a completely subjective opinion, if I went through a unit such as this one (where I DIDN'T segregate the quality of signal, what percent of quality do you think I might lose for the pure music? 10% or more like 20-30% or more? (You see, I don't know the degree to which those kinds of units put in their own flavor on a passthrough.) If it's 5%, I might go with it; if it's 30% I wouldn't. Opinion?
The Bryston is a 2 channel preamp, but it does not have a HT bypass input. It could work in a setup like the diagram, however, with no HT bypass input it will be awkward to use.

The Marantz would be good if your main use was home theater with an occasional casual use for music, however you originally said, "My prime use is for music from those speakers." With music being the main goal, IMHO, I would not use that Marantz piece. It's difficult to put a number on it like you are asking, but I would think it could be quiet high.

Sorry, but I must stay with my original recommendation.

What sources will you use for music? and for home theater?
--CD to sit and listen to.
--I'd like to stream some lossless stuff from Network attached storage.
--Apple Airplay for TIDAL streaming or the like. 
--AppleTV music Internet radio -- these two Apple choices for simply walking around the house, background music.
--Then TV's DVD function

After much thought (and guidance) I think I'm beginning to see a path forward for a Bryston amp, and even that two channel Bryston preamp. Creatively, I think I can do most everything listed above thanks to AppleTV streaming. And would envision this plugged into the preamp via some HDMI-to-RCA converter. The only challenge might be the Network attached storage, but that might be streamable via the network and Airplay. I might lose some sonic quality via those over-the-air methods (even the NAS, which otherwise would have been important), but perhaps close enough for now. --Or would that be fairly lossless transfer?

It would be nice ultimately to have multiple speakers surrounding a DVD movie, and to have the ability to select multiple rooms to port sound into other speakers. But I think I'd be fairly content with the above for years. And a good budget price point.

Thanks all for your help and counsel with all of this -- all of you. Might you have an opinion on the Mark Levinson 23, vs. Bryston 4B?
Donzi, am I understanding correctly from your last post that you will only use the pair of Thiel speakers and no other speakers? If so, that would definitely change my recommendation. Also, what equipment do you currently have?
I am of the opinion that, in less one has a dedicated room for establishment of a home theater, and one is primarily interested in a music system that in addition is meant to augment video, then a 2 channel system is best. Might include a subwoofer, which may be in use for video only. 

I have such a system. What I find amazing is that, when watching a movie, my 2 channel system positions some of the surround portion of the soundtrack behind my back.
After going around on this issue, I’ve settled into simply the two-speaker solution, and going for quality. The initial interest in the more channeled amp was to be able to port separate music into my home office. So yes, only the Thiels, left and right. Even for the TV/movie option, I think I’ll simply run TV audio out into a pre-amp. Dilemma solved.

Believe it or not. I have no equipment right now. This is all first system. (Well, since teen years.) The Thiels are purchased, but are still about 900 miles north of me, in Virginia. These were "home pickup only", and I thought, hey, it’s only 14 hours. So I’m building my system around these. And down now to likely Bryston or Mark Levinson. I’ll probably finalize this around Sunday, after some preamp auctions end. --And wanted to wait for the advice of this group, which has been wonderful!

What’s a bit funny is that what started all of this is my TV speakers are blown. And my previous computer-speaker Bose setup that I was using for movies stopped working. So, for the need of a $2 speaker, I’m now significantly out of pocket for a new (great) hobby.

Mesch, that’s wild. I’m hoping for a like quality where soundstage is present.

In as much as I think my 2-channel system has a very holographic soundstage with music.  There is however something in the coding of some movie soundtracks that expands that experience.  

For example,  I was watching a movie scene where the actors where in a large newsroom with people on phones everywhere. Some of the phones were ringing behind me.

I believe that when you pair your 3.6s with the right preamp/amp, and procure a quality source you will be happy. Given your last posting, I think you might get the most for your $$$ purchasing a quality integrated amplifier, as was suggested earlier. 

And wouldn't you love to be the engineer that puts that together? I think I'll put this sound ... here.
OK, I've just purchased a Bryston 4B SST (300w) amp. So, after the Thiel 3.6s, this is my second piece. Question now is, what do you recommend for a good (yet not expensive) pre-amp? I've seen some with separate power type modules under them. Is such a thing necessary? I though it was really needed just to select from the various inputs, and send the signal on it's way to the amp then speakers? Any recommendations anyone? I was looking at a Bryston 0.5B, but it's gone. And perhaps next time I shouldn't post the active auction link here. ;)  I thought that would have been a good match as they were both Bryston. But I'm back to square one, and seeking recommendations.

stick w/ Bryston for a pre-amp. If you want to go into tubes, seek Audio research (ARC). Both are a sonic match for your power amp.

Which brand(s) of cables/power cords are you planning to use?
Keep me posted & Happy Listening!

Nice amp to drive the Thiel’s with donzi, you’ve done the right thing and got an amp that give good current, for the Thiel’s nasty load impedance.

Before buying a preamp donzi, what sort of source do you have or going to get, and does it have it’s own built in volume control?

This way you may be able to do without a preamp, and most likely get a better sound by not using one, as the Bryston has a good 50kohm rca input impedance and highish gain, that’s switchable from 23db to 29db.

I suggest you try this Schitt Sys passive preamp if your source has no volume controllability, for just $49us and a two week trial period.

Cheers George


while I don't have the 3.6's I do have the CS2.4's. I can assure you that they will need high power/current and a quality front end.  If not they will tend to sound bright and bass will be flat. After all was said and done I ended up with a Parasound A21 amp and a Balanced Audio Technology tube pre amp.  This was the best combination of power and front end I could afford and make the system really sing. You will also need to consider quality cables. I have PAD Venustas speaker cable and Cardas Clear Light interconnects.  Your Thiels will sound brilliant but it will take a great front end to do so. 

Btw I tried to use a Denon AV receiver with an old Carver amp from the pre outs and it was super way lacking on all accounts.