severe limiting factor

I just put together a system consisting of Thiel 3.5s, a Classe ca-200, an Anthem pre1-L, and an old Magnavox cd player. The cd player will be replaced soon, but for now I'm pretty disappointed. There is no soundstage or imaging to speak of. I have played with speaker placement and toe a little, but no luck.

Is it possible that the cd player is holding the system back from delivering what I'm looking for? Is there something else drastically wrong that I'm not aware of?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
The CD player is the problem. If you want an excellent front-end, you should consider separate Transport and upsampling DAC, both modded.
Well, if you could tell us more your room's dimensions and placement, as well as what you mean by "no soundstage or imaging". What are your expectations and what do you get. Could be the result of many things but your speakers, amp and preamp are certainly up to the task of giving you a reasonably good sense of imaging and soundstage. And while the Magnavox may sound shrill, dull, whatever, and can easily be bettered, it should not present as you described.
I think you stll need to work on speaker placement....
even systems that the components are mid fi can create stage and some depth, maybe not the ultimate in these areas but some. I think your equipment has the means to produce the things you want and do it very well. Also your room plays a bigger role than you might think and often a mid fi system can sound great in a good room, but a high end system can sound like crap in a bad room. As for the CD player, it is holding your system back but I think it's more the speaker Placement and your room than CD player. Happy Listening!
While components and cabling can drastically alter soundstage and imaging, a large percentage of what you'll hear will be attributed to how the speakers load into the room and where your listening position is in regards to those loading characteristics / nodes.

Having said that, from what i can remember of them, Thiel's are not "wide sweet spot" speakers. While they can image and produce a solid soundstage, you have limited seating options with them. On top of that, they tend to be somewhat bright up top if you are sitting in the sweet spot and have them toe'd in. As such, you've got your work cut out for you choosing between improved imaging / soundstage and even tonal balance. Sean
Thanks for the responses so far.

I should first say that what I mean by no SS or imaging is that I hear the music coming from the speakers.. not in front of them, behind them, or to their sides. it appears to come right from the wood boxes that are sitting on the floor.

The room is 10' x 17' and I sit about 12' from the 10' wall and about 9' from the speakers. right now the speakers are almost perfectly centered along the 10' wall. they are 6' appart (center to center). The left one is about 2.5' from the side wall, and the right one is about 1.5' from the side wall. Thiel recommends more distance between the speakers and the side walls, but if that's impossible, they want you to toe them in. They are toed in now so that when i'm sitting in my position i can only see the front side of them. they're looking at me straight on. i did this because along the 17' wall between the speakers and my listening position there is a desk on one side and a hutch on the other side. if they were aimed more straight ahead they would be aimed at these objects. also, there is 2.5' from the rear wall to the back side of the speakers.

before today, the speakers were slightly closer together. In their current position (as described above) i think i might have lost some of the "music coming from the boxes" effect, but the change was very slight.

I have a feeling that this room is probably too small, but i didn't build the system for this room. for now, though, i would like to get the most out of it.

thanks again!
Kevin, it sounds as if they might be out of phase...judging by your description emulating from the "wooden boxes. Double check your connections..I am not being funny at all, I did the very same thing last
I agree with Tunes4me that your speakers could well be wired out of phase. A good check for this is to play a mono source, like a voice. If you are properly set up you should have a very sharp center image. Additionally, assuming that solves your first problem, don't be afraid to move your speakers closer to the sidewalls and cross the axis of the speaker well in front of you. You can get a much wider soundstage this way and you won't have an overbright upper midrange/high end from listening on axis. The severe toe in will help avoid the early reflection problem from the side wall. The only downside is you might elevate your bass.
I have the Thiel CS2.4s and can't imagine a problem with imaging. I have mine nearly 9 feet, center to center and sit about 11 feet from them. I am using a total POS Sony DVD player ($160.00 at Good Guys) and I have a great soundstage and imaging with my Rotel integrated doing the DAC work. I think your inital problem is indeed speaker placement. Try moving them further apart temporarily and with a slight toe in, maybe 5-10 degrees. I actually moved mine so far apart at one point that the center image started to disappear but a few inches closer and they snapped back into line. Also, how far from the rear walls do you have them?

Good luck, I love my Theils as do many folks on agon from what I have read.
Sometimes when short-wall placement fails to achieve good results, positioning the speakers along the long wall may work better... I don't know if that would be possible in your room, but if it is, it could be worth a try. You'd be listening fairly near-field, of course, and you may have to play with the positioning and bass EQ, but it may well give better results.

The flat soundstaging could also be caused by a component or cabling mismatch, which is just as likely as anything else. I have heard certain Classe amps sound very two-dimensional in certain situations. Aren't they internally wired with some sort of silver wire? If so, you might want to try cabling products with some silver content...
Kevin emailed me with some specifics, so i'm responding here in hopes that this may help others and / or encourage further commentary that may benefit his situation.

Your speakers are WAY too close together and you're sitting too far back from them at that speaker spacing distance. I agree that you should get them further apart and toe them in a bit to minimize side-wall reflections. For temporary results, you might want to try hanging some wool blankets at the primary reflection points.

You'll also have to experiment with the distance from the front wall to balance out the increased bass reinforcement from the proximity of the side walls. You really need to get them on the long wall if possible.

Other than that, i've never worked with Jon's cross-connected 89259 speaker cabling. I'm not really a fan of heavily stranded conductors as a general rule, especially bare wire braids where the signal can jump from conductor to conductor at random. This type of geometry typically results in smeared treble response and vague placement within the soundstage.

I also agree that the Magnavox may be hurting you, but you should at least have some semblance of imaging / soundstage. This is true even with a "digital fossil" for a front end : ) Sean
Ketchup, You also need to get them farther away from the back wall, I think 2.5 feet is too close, try 3.5 - 4 feet from back wall, 4 feet is better. 6.5 feet apart and no more than 7 feet from speaker to listener. Toe them in slightly but have the center of your tweeter fire to the outside of your ears. You need to address the first reflection as mention above and try something on the wall behind the speakers too. One last thing, do make sure they are wired correctly!
Jsawhitlock - Your advices, while good, don't really address problems created by Thiels - They are not made for listening that far into the nearfield as you have suggested. Thiel recommends a listening position further back so the drivers in each speaker will integrate. The bottom line is that the posters room is basically too small for proper set up of the Thiels in the first place.
Newbee, I agree the room is to small or the speakers are too big, what ever way you want to look at it. Since Ketchup's current speaker setup isn't working, I think he should explore all possible setups first as this cost no $$ and if this fails then perhaps a speaker change or room renovation may be needed! (just kidding on the room renovation) I do beleive pulling speakers at least four feet out into the room should improve them and as far as distance from listener to speakers, well this will be a bit more of a challenge. Ketchup, your speakers are not the best match for your room but I really do think you can get some more out of them. may not be 100% of what your looking for but I think alot better. If you choose to spend a bit more time on speaker placement let us know how it works out.
Newbee: I agree with the majority of what you are saying here. I do have to bring up one point. I would not consider sitting 9' from speakers that are spaced 6' apart as being "too far into the nearfield". While i know that such variables as toe-in or running the speakers flat-faced can make a huge difference, the fact that he's sitting 50% beyond an equilateral triangle pretty much negates any nearfield effects. Sean
Sean, The problem which I was addressing was that a poster Jsawhitlock, in his first post, made a recommendation that the listening position be at about 7 ft with the speakers placed 6 ft apart. I have no argument with that recommendation except that its contra to Thiels recommendations and my personal experience. Thiel recommends a greater listening distance than 7 ft. As you say, 9 ft would be fine, except that when listening to the speakers 6ft apart from 9 ft away you lose (compress) your soundstage substantially - ergo, my (and your) original recommendations that the speakers be placed closer to the walls and toed in substantially to avoid 1st reflections from the wall. The problem with toe in on Thiels is that on axis they are IMHO unbearably bright, thats why when I recommended toe in with the axis well in front of the listener I was trying to set them up to minimize early reflections and on axis brightness. In a good set up for Thiels with a listening distance of 9ft the speakers would be about 8 1/2 to 9 ft apart, pointed straight ahead, and be several feet (3-4 would be best) from any wall, and even then the wall should be treated. Obviously they should be 3 to 5 feet from the back wall as well. Interestingly, while I believe he will have to compromise his listening experience substantially with the Thiels in this room, this room could work quite well with panel speakers firing down the length of the room as these can be placed quite close to the wall without creating large 1st reflection problems. By the way, are you aware if this fellow ever solved his apparent phasing problem?
Good question Newbee....still havent heard, have we?
I just upgraded my CD player (see my above post) to a Sony DVP-555ES and boy, what a difference! I will reiterate my belief that you need to get those suckers about 8 feet apart and sit roughly 9 feet back, slightly toed in. Try out hanging some blankets at the first reflection point as others have suggested. Beg, borrow or buy a different CDP and see if that helps. I also agree with the assessment that nearfield listening with the Thiels isn't a good idea. According to Thiel, 8 feet is the distance where the time aligned sound begins to gel.

Good luck and keep us posted. FWIW my wife and I hated our Thiels when we first got them, totally unlistenable. Our first step was the Genesis Digital Lens which made it enjoyable. The Sony DVP-555ES is icing on the cake.
Newbee: After reading your response, it looks like we are pretty much on the same page. Thanks for re-affirming my faith in your good judgment : )

Other than that, i don't know what Kevin has done to try and work through this. He hasn't mentioned anything about checking polarity, etc... He may be frustrated and taking a break, i don't know. Sean
I would have to side with Newbee on this an owner of time/phase correct speakers myself...I can only say this...they are NOT space savers...part of the appeal of the time/phase sound is their SPATIAL/ATMOSPHERIC qualities...and this does require some real estate....ideally 3-4 ft from ALL walls...but to address your specific situation Ketchup....on the short wall you are going to have some(serious) reflection problems...and if you choose the long are not going to have adequate space behind the speakers to creat any depth in relation to your listening position(8-9 ft removed)...have you contacted THiel by chance with your exact dimensions? THis is giving me a MIGRAINE! LOL!
ok, i'm back :)

i've been holding off on posting, but i'm sure appreciating all the info that's been presented here.

the reason i havn't looked into the phasing issue yet is that i ordered some spade connectors that just came yesterday. i should get around to putting them on in a few days, which is when i'll check for any phasing problems. thiels are a pain with the posts are under the speakers, so the fewer number of times i have to lay them down the better!

after i put the spades on i'll mess with placement some more, then i'm going to move the system into a room thats about twice as big to see what happens.

can anyone recommend some really good jazz recordings that give a nice soundstage and imaging (preferably live recordings)? i'm sure i can search the archives for some, but i'de like to listen to something that some of you might know so i can check back and let you know how it sounds.

thanks again for all the good info!
i've been playing around and currently have some fine acoustic treatments (bath towels) hanging on the walls. this seemed to help "clean up" the music. after that, i put the speakers 6' apart, which puts them very close to the side walls, and toed them in severely as newbee recommended. they are crossing axis approximately 2 feet in front of me. i'm sitting 7.5 feet from the speakers.

so far this is the best set up for this room. finally i'm starting to get the feeling that the sound is not coming directly from the speakers. before, when the speakers were not toed in as hard but were aimed directly at me, i merely heard different instruments coming from either speaker. it was a lame attempt at imaging which didn't seem very convincing.

i'm still not exactly happy with the system and hope it can do a lot better. the true test will be when i move everything into the bigger room. hopefully i'll get around to it this weekend.