Thiel CS 5i, 7.2. and others

Hi Folks:

In reference to an earlier post that I found discussing the merits of Theil's present flagship versus other high priced speakers, it's really true about the passionate opinions about the 7.2.among other's in the line.

Thiel's former sales manager (I believe) really nailed it when he said that the line has a distinctive sound and not everyone goes for it.

For those of you who have seen my posts over the years, you know what side of the argument I am on. The 7.2 is the best overall speaker that I have ever heard and I have heard others costing three times as much or more. I am slowly moving "up the line". First owning a 1.5. and graduating to the 2.3 last year.

Even another speaker I heard that costs $130K, as good as it is, just doesn't sound quite as accurate or natural as the 7.2. does. Granted the $130K speaker is fantastic in other ways, but for my money, I'd still purchase one of Jim's creations. Which leads me to this question: For those of you have heard or better yet owned both the 7.2. and the former flagship (discounting the 7), the CS 5i, What are the strength's and or differences between them? How much better or different is it over the 3.6? Also can anyone tell me how efficient the 5i is?

I have owned the 3.6's, the 5i's, the 6's ,and the 7.2's over the years. To my ears, with the right amps, the 5i's were the best. When I had the 5i's properly placed and fed by Levinson 20.6's they were stunning. The higher freqs. were a bit rolled off though, as compared to my current speakers. The mids were on the money. The bass is what grabbed you though. You could "feel" each note struck...not harsh, not "boomy" as with most subs I've tried. I'd be particularly intrested in auditioning the 7.2's with the new Thiel subs. The 7.2's have a better top end to my ears, but not by much.....but the bass is a tad shy as compared to the 5i's. If you have the horsepower to feed the 5i's ( dips to near or < 1 Ohm at times) go for them at the used price of will never be disappointed.
I had the 3.6, the 6 and the 7.2 in the past: to my ears the 6 was the best sounding, a little less open and transparent than the 7.2 but more coherent and sweet in the mid-higs. Unfortunately I didn't hear the 5i but, for what I heard about them from other audiophiles, they were Thiel's best loudspeaker ever, probably discontinued because of low WAF and for their extreme difficult to drive load. Buy the present pair advertised at only 3k if you can ! Just my 2 cents.
I have never owned a 5i. But I have the 7.2 now. I started with CS2, then 3.6, other brands, and now 7.2. 7.2 is way better than the 3.6 in every area you can name. Used market will be a good way to find a pair of 7.2.
I haven't heard the 7.2's. I haven't heard any speakers that bettered than the 5i's. That said, I think they are more demanding about room and placement than other Thiels I've heard, and man oh man do they need a serious amplifier budget to really get the most out of them!
I currently own the CS5i speakers. I purchased them NEW and have had them since 1991. I powered them with two Krell MDA 500s originally, and so determining efficiency was difficult since these amps could easily drive a Cuisinart toaster oven with the resulting microphonics pleasing to the ear! They certainly got as hot. Subsequently, I drove them with a less pleasing ADCOM GFA-555 and found them to be slightly inefficent for their size and 6 Ohm impedance. But for soundstage, time alignment, and overall tonality, they still are superior to most. I have kept them in excellent condition and want to sell them as I have no room for them... but sadness will pervade me when that day comes.
Lest anyone get the idea they can easily drive the 6(?)Ohm CS 5's. I believe the Thiel CS 5's have a 3 Ohm nominal impedance and a 2 Ohm minimum impedance.
The CS 5i's are a hog on power demands and need a decent size room but are the best sounding Thiel I heard.
After my Krell MDA 500's aged and self-cooked the filter caps, I replaced them with dual ADCOM GFA555II. After a significant warmup period, these amps, bridged to mono, were about 75 to 80% of the Krell quality in almost every category....soundstage, woofer control, deep bass extension, "time-alignment" and distortion. Re: the latter...everyone knows that when you bridge amps, you at least double the distortion products...but the ADCOMS are so clean and the stored energy in the larger filter caps so effortlessly available, that I am almost as satisfied with the 555II's as I was with the MDA 500s. The Krell 500's were permanently bridged KSA250's anyway...tot he ounce...and just as hot. BTW, I dumped the KCD, the KBL3 and the KSP64x...I believe they were just ADCOM CD changer with 20 bit resolution D/A conversion is every bit as good as the Krell componentry as far as my testosterone-scarred 56 year old hearing can detect....I can still hear to 16,500Hz according to my recent hearing test.
When I said that about THIEL, I was sort of saying it about all loudspeakers. We all have our favorites--maybe a function of our hearing.
Being overly sensitive to the high frequencies, I neverthless loved the articulation of the THIEL Loudspeakers as well as the scientific approach that he employed in his designs, that, plus Jim was my mentor in High End Audio, got me involved in the industry in the early '80's. Plus, he was a giant of an intellect regardless of one's personal tastes in loudspeakers. His work was brilliant in so many ways.
When I worked for him, I found him to be much greater than I could even have imagined. Oftentimes, at a distance, those we admire, become less through daily contact--the opposite was true of Jim--he was as hard of a working person, dedicated, that I have ever known--AND a really great and gentle man too--and for all of his personal gifts, the most humble genius I've ever met.

One day in his lab, while discussing his designs I told him that I liked the CS5 above all his others, and thought that it had to do with limited bandwidth that the drivers were asked to cover--a fact which I felt gave the speakers a more effortless sound. Plus the overall, 'brightness' that some people did not like in the THIEL's was absent in the CS5--likely due to midrange offset. We were in total agreement on these points.
For those who don't know, the CS5 was his first and last Cost No Object design, done in late '88--a project which lasted many, many months. It was designed, in part, if I recall correctly, due to the Asian market asking Jim to design a 'no holds barred' product.
Crossovers, (by memory here) of 70Hz, 400Hz 2K, 3K gave the speaker a really great image density (that's what I meant when talking about midrange 'offset') that some first order crossovers don't seem to possess, perhaps due to 'lobing' and other cancellation issues consistent with that design. To me, it was a GREAT SPEAKER...and a wonderful Birthday present that year from my wife.
For anyone who's thinking of this price (about 3 to 5K perhaps) a well taken care of used pair is a real bargain.

Larry, all excellent points! I've always thought that Jim's best designs were his sealed boxed ones. I suspect his sealed boxed speakers were better able to maintain the time and phase coherence that were at the very least part of Thiel's hallmarks.
You might consider, (if your significant other, assuming you have one, I DO NOT at this point in my life) has not probs with a speaker of that size, selling the 3.5's and getting the CS5's.
They really are quite wonderful--and I can only imagine what they'd sound like with Auricaps and better air core inductors, resisters etc.
Its a shame that Jim only had time to build ONE model with parts of this ilk before he left this mortal coil.
Though I haven't heard the 2.4SE, I am convinced they are remarkably better than the standard versions.

Larry, my "significant other" gives me carte blanche on such matters, except of course for expense:-). I've heard the CS5's often, and think they are amongst the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately the amplifier requirements scare me. I am thinking of going to something similar, but easier to drive; Dunlavy SCIVa's
One of the salient points I made in other posts was, I used, as a retailer, the Adcom 535 Amplifier, which was rated at 60WPC into 8 ohms. Highish current, but not a HIGH current amp which doubles into progressively lower resistance.
What amp do you have now?
I CAN tell you, and this is opinion based, that the Dunlavy's you mention, don't really compare in terms of resolution, deep, deep bass or imaging density.
AND, as I mentioned previously, if you read it, that one can only imagine, what the CS5's COULD have sounded like with Auricaps or Mundorf Oil/Gold/Silvers in place of the generally mundane parts found in this incredibly heavy crossover that Jim used.
Call me or write, so we can discuss this,
I've heard the CS5's with Adcom, Krell and Levinson. I didn't care much at all for the the Adcoms, was somehat impressed with the Levinsons, and never heard anything sound quite so good (before) as with the Krells. I have heard the Dunlavy's sound quite good with less expensive amplification than the Cs5's seemed to need for my satisfaction.
I own the CS5i loudspeakers. I will never part with them. I used to drive them with Krell MDA 500s but the class A-ish heat cooked the filter caps after a decade so I recapped the Krell and sold them. There are piano recordings I listen to that make it difficult to differentiate between the loudspeakers and the Yamaha 7 foot concert grand in our adjacent dining room. My son is a concert pianist and he played Liszt's La Campanella, and then we played my favorite recording of was very very close...that's the sign of a scientifically-designed speaker system. The CS5i pair is extraordinary...I don't care what Orion says...they are worth over 20k the pair and maybe even more...yes...much more.
I agree completely that Orion's or anyone's value of a product is at best 'iffy'.
Utility is the only measure of a product's worth...using a little lattitude in it's definition as an economic term.
From a purely 'musical or musical enjoyment standpoint', how does one assign more value to a 'new' pair of inferior speakers? Some of us blanche at 'used', which is a shame really. A used pair of CS5's or 5i's would be a tremendous find at the general asking price, and should be seriously considered.

The Adcom 535 comment was made, not to make anyone think that this was in any way a good match, just that an adequate current amp can handle them. Of course the better you put with them...well, the sky was the limit.
They were truly magical speakers, and I can only say that, with the Gryphon Amp a personal favorite, the'd be spectacular. Some years ago, I mated the CS 7.2 with a Callisto, Integrated (Gryphon) and the results were better than with any other electronics, from a purely musical standpoint. (This comparison included, Ayre, Krell, McIntosh, and a couple of others which I've forgotten--all separates too, compared to the Integrated.
What a speaker...magic.