Review: Thiel Audio CS-3.5 Speaker

Category: Speakers

I consider myself an upper middle class audio enthusiast that always tries to get a bang for the buck. As a professional entertainment journalist and author, music is a very important part of my life it being vinyl, my favorite, or CD/DVD the medium of choice, the quality of sound is of utmost importance to me. When I had the opportunity of purchasing a pair of pristine CS 3.5 at Audiogon, I jumped and it has paid off. Thiel speakers carry a 10-year warranty, no questions asked, and it is nice to purchase an 8-year-old speaker that is still under warranty. There is a reason why; the construction of these speakers is first class all the way. It is difficult for speakers this size to actually look good within the minimalist standards of today, but the Thiels look like class and wont hurt your decor, a plus with the wife after the initial shock. At first my wife looked at the speakers and screamed, they are too big!!!! The sound is where these speakers will win over your companion; after she listened to a favorite recording our argument-ended right there. She loved the sound and recognized a discernible difference in music she had been totally familiar with!!! Trust me, this is from a woman that was happy listening to music on an AIWA all-in-one component. These are not speakers that you will be moving often, they weight in excess of 70 pounds, you better make sure that you set them right from the beginning. I found they work better away from the walls, but the changes are minimal, these speakers can actually be set up once and forget about them. Their strength lies in the depth of the soundstage. You can actually pinpoint each instrument, and the conjunction of bass, treble and midrange is marked and never muffled. It makes for powerful and easy listening that is not overbearing, but actually quite soothing for such a large speaker. I spend a lot of my time listening to music in order to write reviews, these speakers are very critical and something that is not recorded properly will be exposed dramatically, as well as the overall flaws of your system. If you don’t mind being critical, then these are for you. They would help you appreciate your investment in quality electronics. I am way over $25,000 already, and the CS 3.5 will expose what needs to be changed. The same with recordings, the great ones will shine, the bad ones you will only listen to once. Who could ask for anything more?Strengths:Clarity of sound, depth of stage.Weaknesses:Need power, lots of clean power if that is a weakness. The wife would be spending too much time playing with your electronics, so it might help to improve family relations.

Associated gear
Magnum MF 330, preamp, MF 330 Power AMP, LP 12, Valhalla, Basic Plus, K9, Dennon 1000 Digital, cd/DVD, Nakamichi 600 cassette, Yamaha tuner and LD player
Hi, Thanks for the great review on these speakers, I have a chance to buy a good used Thiel cs 3.5 for about 1,000.00 dollars, it is only a few years old, do you think it is a good deal? and what kind of power do I need, I dont have an amp yet, I would like to have an amp that will make these speakers sing! Thanks , John

i too have just bought a pair of 3.5s, and have yet to listen to them

but from what i have read and from my limited knowledge of thiels, lots of tube power is the answer - or at least ss that is not edgy in the upper mids and highs

i have a pair of fisher 200s being redone at this moment, 72 very strong watts (large transformers) and i don't believe they will be enough

i will know soon (or i might just change the speakers if i love the amps that much)

i don't know your budget, but you may have to reach into the 100 to 125 tube watts to really get these speakers to shine, though i am quite sure 60 tube watts from a strong amp would make them sound great, even if they won't have the tightest bottom end

i have been very happy with quicksilver. they have great value for the money. and they have some older amps with 80 plus watts and a great 125 watt current amp

my favorites have thus far been vac pa90ds 125 watts

if you use an amp with kt88s or kt90s you will squeeze a few extra watts out. i am sure the thiels would respond well to the somewhat more flowery kt-88 (versus the el-84 or 6550) (of course that really depends upon the amp - as i've heard el34s sound very flowery on an old dyna 70)

anyway - let me know what you discover - and i'll post an actual review once i use the speakers

it will be interesting to see how much of what i have said turns out to be correct

good luck
As a former Thiel owner (8 yrs) I agree with the review. However, please note that the xover is first order which means that the slope from woofer to midrange is only 6db per octave. That means the midrange is called upon to reproduce significant midbass content and it's possible (I've done it several times) to blow the midrange with content that is "hot" in those frequencies. Be carful.
I concur with Lenny zwik. I have replaced the mids(free by Thiel) and was told by them some of this problem is attributed to the boosting caused by the EQ in the circuit. That is not to say to remove the EQ! Though keep in mind, this speakers strength is accuracy and speed, not pants flapping SPL's. In most rooms with enough quality power, you should be able to play louder than most folks could stand for any length of time. I moved from B&K Sonata M200 mono blocks running class A up to about 25 watts, to a pair of Bryston 7B's. A match made in heaven! Control! Control! Control! Faster, deeper, wider Low end soundstage with no overhang.
These speakers need lots of power and good cables and interconnects don't hurt either! I use doubles of Kimber 8TC and Hero to/from EQ.
I had the 3.5's in my system for about 12 years, driven by a modified Adcom 555 II. While I never blew the midrange, or any other driver, I did have continued problems with the equalizer, and had to send it back to Theil every two or three years. (It was always repaired free of charge; I've no complaints regarding Theil's customer service.)
I didn't have difficulty reaching loud SPLs and would agree that these speakers like lots of power. I used MIT T2 cable and found it to be a good match.