The Hub: James Edward Thiel 1947-2009

One of the curses of intelligence is that it is often accompanied by ego of matching size. We have all known brilliant individuals who live to flaunt their intelligence, if only to emphasize the inadequacies of others.

Once in a great while, we encounter a soul possessed of talents and insights and instincts we can never hope to match, much less surpass; someone who seems to know something about any subject that comes up, has something enlightening to say about it, and gives freely of their knowledge and perspectives, just for the joy of sharing. We learn merely by being around such rare, unselfish folk, and feel privileged to have shared even a few moments with them.

Jim Thiel was one of that breed.

The Thiel Audio Products story sounds like a ’40’s movie: brainy mathematician/physicist music-lover starts rebuilding radios in his adolescence, then builds speakers in his garage with his wood-worker brother, and markets them with a plucky young woman who criss-crosses the heartland, hauling speakers in the back of her station wagon. The reality is that Thiel, the company, grew from those beginnings in 1976 (with the oh-so-’70’s name of “Conceptions Electronics”) to become one of the largest and most-respected manufacturers of loudspeakers in the world.

Jim Thiel’s first two products were relatively conventional bookshelf speakers, although unusual in their use of equalization. Then, as Jim told John Atkinson of Stereophile in 1998, “I started thinking a lot more seriously about not just making a good product, but making a product that I hoped would be better than any others available.”

From that thinking came a dedication to eliminating phase- and time-distortion through the use of first-order crossover networks and sloped mounting baffles, still elements of Thiel designs today. Model designations of Thiel speakers began to carry the prefix “CS”, for “Coherent Source”, and Jim’s thorough examinations of every element of a loudspeaker led to rigid baffles made of reinforced concrete, along with drivers designed and built in-house.

The Thiel dedication to continuous improvement of products is reminiscent of Porsche; models may run for a long while, and largely LOOK the same--but the structure and components are hugely different, and are always getting better. This, coupled with unmatched woodworking, quality-control and of course, remarkable and realistic sound, have given Thiel speakers resale values that are the highest in the industry, as documented by the Audiogon BlueBook.

Jim’s long-running partnership with Kathy Gornik was also remarkable; a former Chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and still active in that organization’s leadership, Kathy is one of the few female CEOs in high end audio, and certainly the most-visible of that small group. The partnership of these two driven, dedicated individuals helped build a thriving, well-respected company, known worldwide today.

Few in the loudspeaker industry have created as many genuine innovations and breakthroughs as did Jim Thiel; even fewer are as highly-regarded by peers, press and employees, as can be seen by entries on the Thiel website.

Jim will be missed.
God knows I've had my qualms and disagreements with AudiogoN, but in all seriousness...thank you for this. The Hub, as a feature, is useful in both the micro and the macro sense and gives us all a strengthened sense of community.
Thank you. What a beautiful rememberence. Thiel was one of the titans of the industry and will be sorely missed.
Thank you so much for your kind comments.

Communities, being communities, will have fights, feuds and divisions. What matters are not the things that tear us apart, but those that bring us together.

We hope to emphasize those positive elements of our community in the days, months and years to come.
I think the 'HUB' is great but was wondering if a link on the homepage would be something to consider?
very thoughtful remembrance to one of the audio giants --well done!!! also a reminder how short life can be and to enjoy the MUSIC
Thanks for the Hub. It is a great idea to remember someone who had profound impact in our life. His speakers made me an audiophile who grows to appreciate music more and more, and especially high-end systems. Jim will be greatly missed.
I have owned speakers designed by Jim Thiel for 15 years and they are much like their designer: unassuming in appearance, brilliant in their articulation and truly the most honest, straight forward speakers I have ever heard. I am so glad I now own the CS3.7's but am saddened that this will be his final crowning achievement. His mind undoubtedly had much more in store for all of us who love music. Rest in Peace, Jim.
An outstanding speaker designer along with a perfect audio/speaker philosophy. I have always been impressed by Jim Thiel's speakers and have always used his CS6 speaker as a reference (the only reference, in fact!) and have always considered his speakers as some of the best in the world regardless of price. I can now only imagine what his next great creation would have been like. THE Speaker Designer... Jim Thiel!
He will be sorely missed. I have never owned his products, but have heard them several times. Although not my cup of tea, I applaud his vision and efforts to capture that elusive holy grail.
The world of Hi-Fi will be a grayer place without Mr. Thiel though his designs were controversial and often misunderstood. Their level of innovation is not surpassed. Thank you Mr. Thiel for offering such well executed and rich sounding designers to us all. You will be missed.


Very nice and quite thoughtful.

IMO... perhaps the 'Hub' should be more prominent at some point on the home page, or as the lead in, to the home page. It would add a classier look that's for sure... and not appear so mechanical. or as commercial as the home page now does with it’s multitude of links framing the web site.

Which ever path or if not anything new is changed by way of the home page, this dedicated segment is most refreshing.
In such nameless and faceless times the ‘Hub’ adds character and imparts a visceral expressiveness, to the previously near transparent Audiogon administrative body.

Unless some predisposed proprietary aim for this featurette has been already outlined, would it not also be a good idea to consider submissions from members too?

Thanks for this new addition.
The Thiel CS5i was my first big plunge into the world of high end audio.......the sound and visual aspect was stunning....there are a handful of speakers that combine both as well. I never met Mr. Thiel, but his speakers have a warm spot in the audio section of my heart.
You will be missed.

It feels like the audiophile community is losing great figures much too fast! Who is going to be able to fill such a great persons shoes? Not anybody soon...
He will be missed . I always hate to lose a pioneer for high end audio.
My first pair of Thiel was CS3.5 with bass equalizer. I thought it was the best sounding, best power-hungry at the time I bought them back in '87.

A great forward thinker,designer.
Thiels have been in our home for over twenty years. I can't help but feel like our family has lost something personal with Mr. Thiels passing. I've had to good fortune to meet and speak with Mr. Thiel several times over the years. He was a tribute to our hobby. Always patient with my naive questions, always offering friendly advise, always true to his self and his ideas and yet never, ever slighting his market place competitors to promote himself or his products. Whether you agreed with his design philosphy or the way his products sounded, by his very demeanor he elevated the manner of the entire industry and all those who had the good fortune to have ever spent time in his company. My sincerest sympathies to his family, friends, associates and employees. RIP.
A true american audio pioneer hero. His effect on high end audio was great. My heart goes out to his family and company.
I really enjoy the things that Mr. Thiel brings to market w/ his brand of loudspeakers. His unique design and driver/cross over selection is second to none, IMO. Happy owner of CS 2.4SE.
Sure miss Jim Thiel, though I never met him.  Say what you want about his speakers, but they were/are one of a kind.  Me?  I happen to say they're some of the best!  Best sound, and more importantly, best music I ever had was with Thiels.