Solving the THIEL CS 5i's - vs- CS 7.2 Debate

Well I have been a huge THIEL fan for years. I have owned the CS 7.2's for 4 plus years and the CS 5i's for 3 years. In that time I have been begging for the correct room / source / amplification setup to host an ultimate drag out and shoot out. The stars aligned post new year and I had the extra help to move these monsters around and begin the process to initiate a formal showdown of these extraordinary components and literal masterpieces of speaker construction and design.

To address the weary on what I leveraged to orchestrate this debate, the amplification stage was handled by twin KRELL FPB 650m's, piped through the KRELL KCT, AudioQuest interconnects and woeful Denon CD section. All other things being equal the downside on the CD and speaker cabling should balance the field between the two.

I ran a battery of CD,s and moved the speakers forward and backward, toe in and straight up and I now have what is my ultimate conclusion. At this point I am looking for supporting evidence from the community or welcome an additional party to sit and listen to the setup.

At some point in this thread I can discuss the nuances between the two speakers, however, I will come out and say that the CS 7.2's are pure illustrated magic and profoundly demonstrated a by far greater representation of what I would expect from the original source.

At the end of the day they were the better sounding speakers to my ears in that room, given this setup.

Were the CS 5i's able to bring tears to my eyes? = yes.

Did the CS 7.2's do a better job of handling the soundstage? = yes

I would love to hear feedback if folks have any regarding a direct speaker to speaker comparison.

I will also state that by themselves the CS 5i's sound brilliant.

Thank you,
Always nice to see someone do a showdown like this. I've always loved Thiel speakers. Had a few of the smaller ones and was always curious of the larger guys.

Out of curiosity if you had to guess how do you think the CS 6 would fall into place with these other two?
I had the opportunity to do almost the exact same comparison in very large room at a dealers years ago, and on different occasions with different electronics; Krell and Levinson. I think the cables were MIT.
Interestingly enough, I came to the complete opposite opinion. Though with lower power the 7's might have had the advantage. I much preferred the Krell gear, but some others preferred the Levinson. To each his own. Thanks for sharing!
Kacz, IMHO not too well, other than dynamic range the 6's were a very expensive upgrade over the 3 series. Again, IMHO one of Thiel's worst values.
Kacz - I wouldn't know what to expect from the 6's unfortunately because have never sat down with a pair. My guess is they would be behind both, but I have zero evidence to support that assumption.

Unsound - the 5's did a phenomenal job on the low end and mids. They were also extraordinary in demonstrating separation between instruments on either channel. However the pure and clean center focused soundstage on the 7.2's was something that the 5's was unable to duplicate for my ears. I found this particularly evident on higher end recordings. There were some tracks that I could even say that the 5's might come out ahead, but in the end the 7.2's would hold and balance the vocals dead center and floating. I guess that is what does it for me!
Great review Davidstingray, I enjoyed the read.
On one occasion Jim Thiel did the set up for 5's. The ML gear the dealer provided this time didn't offer the same quaity micro and macro dynamics as the Krells previously heard in the same room on a different occasion (on solo instruments the transient response was equal, but the ML couldn't compare on symphonic tracks in this regard). But, the focus, soundstage, imaging, and body that was demonstrated that day in my experience has yet to be improved upon at any cost, any where, or at any other time. Only much, much more expensive gear matched them in that regard, but those much more expensive systems couldn't approach the 5s for top to bottom coherence. YMMV.
I disagree with Unsound's assessment of CS6 as compared to the 3 series. It is far superior to the 3.6, in every way and worth the price IMHO. They are a steal on the used market for around 3K. Can't compare to either speaker for your shootout David as I have not heard them.

I have both the 3.6 and 6 and there is quite a difference.

Great post, thanks for sharing. Love Thiel speakers.
For $3K you can find 5s.
@ pops, I did say some krell amps were a match for Thiel speakers, this is one of numerous times I have read were a Thiel user had success with krell with Thiels, look at all the op said, and unsound said, when you see this info repeated so many times, well it must be of significance.
The CS6s were reported to be Jim's favorite speakers I can hear why. I have owned a pair now for ten years, and reluctantly have to offer them for sale due to a downsize. They are dynamic, smooth and extended, but beyond that, they conveyed all the detail inherent in the source. I previsouly had a pre-owned pair of CS7s and the CS6s were by far the outperformers. In some ways, comparing the CS5i to the CS7.2 is a little misalinged only because the CS7.2's driver were manufactured entirely by Thiel, as were the CS6, which were the first model where all the drivers were Thiels own.

And yes, the FPB series of Krell amps were the perfect partner to the big Thiels because they were optimal current sources to drive the <3 Ohm impedances at soem frequencies. That combination was never harsh, nor bright, as some would claim misguidely and misinformed.
I am with you audiolabyrinth and one day I may get serious about a Krell, right now everything is sounding good and I have to water and fertilize the money tree! It has run out of blooms! LOL!
I would love to hear that comparison. I have a pair of CS 5's, with a Krell FPB 300 powering them. The 5's replaced 2.4's. I am enjoying them immensely. Will upgrade cables first, have Transparent mw plus now. Will trade up to a FPB 600 when I can.
Am also trying to dial in the bass. Soundstage is terrific. Imaging does not beat the 2.4, but neither does anything else.
Great post!
@unsound given your passion to the capabilities of the 5's I am going to go back and modify the setup a little and change the location of the 5's to be independent of what I had for the 7.2s. Perhaps there is a comfort zone that can be achieved that is unrecognized with my symmetrical spacing to the side and rear walls. The 5's are dramatically larger and might need unique spacing to bring out the proper imaging and staging.

I will say this however, the setup I have with the 7.2's is spot on dialed in. The vocals hang in the room as if there is a live body sitting on a stool in the room. My little boy walked into my room for the first time a while back and you could see him looking for the vocalist in the room not understanding that a system was so capable as to produce next to live music. He is under two, but the magic of the experience will never be lost on me!
Like what you like. It's about pleasing your ears. With that said, I wouldn't be surprised if different placement might change your perspective. Of course the 7's just might work better in your room, or just press your buttons better.
I am inspired to keep trying. I welcome any experienced enthusiasts from the D.C metro area to gauge and listen.

My desire is to resolve and conclude the debate based on real listening and insightful discovery!
Please continue to share your results. I for one am interested.
I find that my CS 5's need to be more widely spaced. I think about 10 feet in my room works best, with the back wall 4 ft and side walls more than 2 feet. 10 feet is too close to sit for these as opposed to the 2.4's,which I found to be dialed in nicely in the triangular mode. I sit about 14-15 feet from the 5's.
If my room were larger, I would space them at closer to 12 feet apart.
Just for what its worth, as I live with these on a daily basis.
@ Michaeljbrown, Hi, I do not own Thiels, I respect the company as part of the American heritage of high-end audio, I own JBL speakers, I am not going to hi-jack this thread talking about JBl at all!, However, your speaker placement is similar to my own, this took 3-months of heart-ache to achieve because of inside fireing 12 inch woofers, My placement is 5 degrees toed in, 32 inches from rear wall, 21 inches from side walls, the speakers are 76 inches apart, the room is only 11 foot 4 inches wide!,, If my room were larger, I would space them a little more,, The reason I have elaborated on this, It is in my exsperience, That these kinds of placement results in a far better sound stage, alot deeper soundstage, imageing, etc..., thus creating a real 3- dimensional sound stage, so to me, your sound must be awsome to say the least!
I agree with Michaeljbrown about spacing. I have my CS6's spaced about 12 feet apart center to center and 3 feet from the front wall. That leaves me about 2 feet on each side but I have treatment on the side walls. And I sit about 14 feet from each speaker. Gives a more open and realistic presentation.

Even the 3.6's work better this way in my room.
I have had the Thiel CS6's for almost 7 years now. I love the sound of them. I moved up from the CS3.6's and found it to be a significant upgrade all other things being equal. I use a Pass Labs amp with MIT cables. I got no complaints about the sound. I am certainly used to them; but from time to time they still give me goosebumps.

I have mine spaced 10ft apart center to center with 5+ feet clearance to the side walls. They are almost 3 ft away from the front wall. My listening position is 10ft from the front plane of the speakers. The back wall is another 12ft away and I have a 13ft high ceiling. I get a large soundstage well beyond the speakers with records and even with a few CDs. It took me a good year to get the set-up like I wanted it. I tried 8-9ft and up to 12ft; but I didn't want my couch protruding into the room that far to make the correct triangle.
Just for the record, I never said that the 6s weren't better than the 3.6s. It's just that at double the cost from $4K to $8K one gets basically the same bass response, same sensitivity, nearly the same impedance load, and a bit less power handling. IMHO, Thiels 3 series were always the sweet spot for value. Just because the (IMHO) 6's and perhaps the worst value Thiels the SCT4Ts weren't as good a value as some other Thiels, didn't make them a bad speaker(s), or worth it to those who didn't mind the extra cost. The 6's do have a much sturdier cabinet! Value and quality are sometimes two different considerations.
I had no idea that the CS 6's had such a following.

The purpose of the shootout was to drive a flagship to flagship component exercise. An interesting debate exists between the CS 6's and the 3.6's, but from my viewpoint these components are driven by market compromises to price at the consumer level and internal costs.

The one thing I can say that my interest has been peaked to the 6's, however I would never naturally believe that the 6's would show strengths to the 7.2's.

Do we believe that the 6's hold to the former flagship CS 5i's?

Regardless I will absolutely modify my configuration of the 5's based on the input from the contributors here in this post. I appreciate the feedback and I promise to post feedback based on the reconfig of the 5's when I am able to move these beasts around.
I look forward to your findings David.
The better question, what are you doing with 2 statement speakers - you sound like me. My speaker collection (for lack of a better term) is getting out of control. And the bigger they are they harder they are to move. I have some Eggleson Andra II's on the bench currently - they weigh about 215 lbs each.
No, the 6's don't compare to the 5's (in an appropriate room with appropriate gear and set up) IMHO. YMMV.
it's nice to know we still have a lively thread going about 2 discontinued speakers from Thiel. The new owner just doesn't know what he bought and it's sad to see he is throwing all that away with the new direction its headed.
Moving these monsters around is not something I want to do very often!
David, did you ever get a chance to move the CS 5i's around as you described above? If so, what was the result?
richardyc .
Hello. Are Thiel still going to use 1st order crossovers ?
^Still, unfortunately not!

Hi guys, also big Thiel fan for the past 20 years i own a pair of CS 3.7s at the moment and still have my old CS 1.5s.
I wanted to add a pair of CS 7.2s but unfortunately they almost never show on the used market.
I saw i pair for sale 1 month ago in the Netherlands and it's already gone.
So i'm asking myself if i should look at a pair of CS 6 instead ?
CS 6 are pretty easy to find compared to the 7.2s.
Already being a CS 3.7 owner will i be disapointed with CS 6's ?
Should i be patient and wait for a pair of 7.2s even if i have to wait a year or more ?
Thieliste, my advice is to wait for the 7.2 if that is the speaker you truly want.  I own the CS6 and 3.6 and love both speakers.  While they are cut from the same sonic cloth I ultimately prefer the 3.6.  The CS6 is slightly more dynamic, able to play louder with no strain, the 3.6 is more transparent.  They are the most transparent box speaker I have ever heard.  I also slightly prefer the tone and timbre on the 3.6.  I could live with either and that is why I have both.

I think the difference in the design makes them sound slightly different.  I am not sure I am a fan of the coaxial tweeter/midrange on the newer Thiels which both the CS6 and 7.2 have.  Richard Hardesty has an interesting review on the 6 and actually prefers it over the 7.2.  The 6 is his favorite Thiel speaker, it is an interesting read.  

One thing for sure, the CS6 and especially the 3.6  are great bargains on the used market, so if you decide to go with the CS6 you will not be out a huge investment.  BTW, you have great speakers in the 3.7.  Good luck with your decision - can never have too many Thiels! 

Thanks! for sharing- pops & thieliste.
Well, my life and fortune were much different when I posted this original thread years ago, but I still have the CS 5i's and the CS 7.2's.  I did finally manage to take input from the thread not too long after the original post and reconfigured the 5i's to try and dial them into the room. 

I remember struggling for a good bit to dial the massive 5i's into position and get them to break out of their shell.  The good news, I was successful.  

Dialing the 7.2's seemed much easier to me, I am not sure if it was luck or the fact that they are more forgiving.   The 5i's on the other hand required numerous moves, but at the end of the day they were a true competitive force for the 7.2's. The 5i's required greater separation from each other, a slight move forward (1 foot or so) and much less distance from the walls.  Toe in was very similar to the 7.2's.

Why?  I have absolutely no idea, but they definitely came into their own and dramatically improved their characteristics when moved about.  I was able to improve upon the sound stage and get the vocals to hang similar to the 7.2's.  The instrumentation detail was extraordinary as well.  I could hear individual instrument details by channel through the 5i's that I was not picking up in the 7.2's.  The lower end was obviously improved, but that could account for some of the additional channel detail.  My best attempt to describe it would be having a weaker center stage with abundant channel detail at the edge.  The important thing to note here, is that the channel detail was at the edge, not necessarily just off of center.  Tough to imagine I am guessing, but you would know what I mean if you were there.

Ok, the rub.  I still prefer the THIEL CS 7.2's over the CS 5i's.  

Why?  I found the 5i's almost over stimulating.  The 7.2's are so easy to listen to and I can listen to them for 2 or even 3 albums without any fatigue.  
Now for the interesting part.  I re-positioned the 7.2's back in place, and placed the 5i's on the outside of each, however, slightly back and slightly more toe-in'd than the 7.2's.  Powering only the 7.2's, I was amazed to hear that the 7.2's NEVER SOUNDED BETTER.  Having the 5'is only slightly behind and on the outside of the 7.2's made the room come alive even more.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but the 7.2's never sounded better.  

That made me think.  Why don't I power both???  The Krell FPB 650M could easily handle powering both speakers and allows for bi-amping.  

The result:
To say the sounds was extraordinary would be an understatement.

If I hadn't heard a couple of Wilson Audio setups, I would say that this was my favorite setup to date and it was in my room.   I know, a completely biased opinion, but I managed to make the room even better by my personal standards.  The Krells had zero issues powering both speakers and I was able maintain the center stage from the 7.2's, while picking up the channel detail from the 5i's.  

At the end of the day, as some one posted above, it is really about what sounds best to your ears.  I have the 5i's currently in a dedicated home theater room and I often listen to live music and love it.  I probably spend more time listening to the 5i's than I do the 7.2's, however, when it comes to critical listening, I want to sit back and enjoy the affects of the 7.2's.  The staging is dramatic and magical in my opinion and I personally find that it satisfies my desire to be amazed by a performance.  

The CS 5i's aren't even behind, they are just suited for different music and a different experience in my opinion.  

The one thing that I also want to say is that my room is acoustically treated.  I have sound panels liberally placed about the room, minus the ceiling.  Behind the speakers, left, right, and even behind the seated position.   If you want to improve your room, work on the room.  I can't say enough about what treatments and environment will do for the sound.  If I had to remove the treatments from my isolated room, I'd sell the speakers and equipment and want to pick up a different hobby.  

Let me know what you think.  I welcome feedback!!! 

Thanks for the info. What final spacing (tweeter to tweeter) did you end up with for each pair of speakers? Also what distance from the center of the plane that runs between your left and right speaker drivers to your seating position did you end up with for each pair of speakers?
Good to read- David,

like cadence151, I am curious about the measurements as well.
THIEL CS 7.2's are 112 inches apart, center to tweeter.

Distance from center to seat is 144 if I am reading this correctly.

Very nice to read this thread. I now own 7.2 and 2_2 and enjoy 7.2 very much. But i am still very curious about how 3.7 compares with 7.2. Any one has an idea?
Also, I am still looking for ml 20.6 to pair with cs 7.2. However, only 20.5 is available so far. Would it be much different?
Welcome! wayneuncle-

join us in the "Thiel Owners " thread.

Happy Listening!