Vintage Amps for Thiel 1.5

I have a pair of Thiel CS 1.5s that I love for their clarity, imaging, and tonal balance, but sometimes I wish they were a bit more dynamic in the mid bass.

I have been driving them with an old Sony TA-1150 (35w rms, 150w dynamic into 4 ohms), that sounds great but I worry may not have enough power. I usually keep the volume control at around 1/3 - 1/2 and rarely feel the need to go above 1/2, so is my amp powerful enough after all? Is the lack of kick drum punch just the limitation of the Thiels' 6.5" woofer?

Or would I get better punch with a higher watt amp from the '90s? What would you recommend for around $500? 

Bryston 3b? Creek 5350SE? Carver?
I haven't the slightest idea about your Sony amp.  But the Thiel CS 1.5s were the main reason I got re-interested in high-end audio back in the mid 90s.  They were being powered by a Pass Aleph 3 amp and I think a Bryston pre, and it sounded incredible -- very balanced and refined with excellent imaging and soundstaging.  The 1.5s seemed to thrive on that Class A power and oomph, and if I owned those speakers I'd be scouring the net for that amp and maybe even an older Bryston pre.  Personally I think those speakers deserve better than a $500 amp, but best of luck in your search. 
If you can find a working Bryston 3B for $500 - buy it! I have one (and that's what I paid for mine from the original owner).      An excellent choice for ANY Thiels!
Think about adding a sub because that small woofer just can't move enough air!
BAT or Classe.  Match these with some MIT cables and a tube preamp and enjoy.
I have a sub low-passed at 50hz, so they pick up around where the Thiel's leave off. I don't want to mess with their phase with bass management. If I can get more punch with a better amp, I may skip the sub.

Thanks for the recommendations!

I want to stay solid state, so I'll keep a lookout for Pass and Bryston. Would a Bryston 2b be good enough? Those seem to be in my price range.
A Bryston 2B will work well at a bit lower average SPL level. Also depends on your choice of music. Mahler will need a lot more power than, say, Kind Of Blue!
I had a sumo polaris and athena (run in bypass mode mostly) on my 1.2's. They were an amazing match. Better than krell ksa 50, rowland model 1 and 5, and a couple of threshold units I cannot remember. Of course that is in my system. What was better to me in just a couple of ways was a audio research classic 60 and arc ls-1 pre I had for a little while.  A little different speaker than the 1.5. You could try the sumo polaris or andromeda or an ampzilla amp for SS. All are really good. I wanted to try a muse amp which I thought may be very good also at the time but never did.


Feel free to join us over on the Thiel Owners thread. I would like to read more about you and your Audio journey. Good advice as above.

Happy Listening!

I did a little more research and learned that Jim Thiel used Bryston amps when building and exhibiting his speakers. So even if there are more exotic or euphonic amps available, I think a Bryston 3B would be a safe pairing.

Would it be worth it to spend a little more for a 3B-ST, or is the older 3B close enough in sound?
Some more food for thought FWIW.  First, what sub are you using and have you tried crossing it over a bit higher to see if it adds that added oomph you may be looking for?

As for Bryston, obviously great amps but just because your speakers may have been in part voiced or shown with Brystons doesn't necessarily mean they'll provide specifically what you're looking for in your system and with your tastes.  Reason I mention this is that I've had Bryston amps in my system and found their bass to be very quick and tight but not as meaty down in the upper and mid bass region as some other amps.  I noticed a nice improvement in this area between the SST and SST2 models, but especially as you move back to older models you might find them not as helpful in the particular area you're trying to address  Mind you this is just a semi-educated guess from my experience, and others with more extensive Bryston experience (especially with older vs. newer Bryston iterations) may be of more help here. 

I've had a McCormack DNA 0.5 Rev A in my system forever, and I found it to be a bit meatier and more robust sounding than the Brystons down in the mid and upper bass areas so was thinking it might be a good fit for what you're looking for.  Also, there happens to be a very nice stock DNA 0.5 available here now for a little over your $500 price target.  BTW, Thiels were frequently paired with McCormack amps at shows as well. 

Again, just a little more info to chew on, and others with McCormack and/or Bryston experience may have further thoughts along these lines.  Hope this helps in some way. 


go for the 3B-ST, at the least,  it is worth the extra cash. Keep us posted on your buying decisions.

Happy Listening!

Ok an update:

I did a little more reading on McCormack, Bryston, and Pass, and dug up the service manual of my Sony just out of curiosity to see how their designs compare.

The Sony service manual has more detailed specs than I had seen elsewhere and, as it turns out, my TA-1150 can actually put out 55w into 4 ohms when using one channel at a time, as I do. And it appears it was ahead of its time circuit design-wise. The specs are actually stellar by mid 70's standards, some even by today's standards. Signal to noise = 110dB! Damping factor = 100! Distortion better than McIntosh of the time.

So I decided to give my amp another sniff before throwing it out with last week's vegetables. I noticed the power amp input impedance is the same as the preamp aux input impedance, so I connected my DAC directly to the power amp section and switched it to separate. Lo and behold the dynamics are now excellent. Startling. Bass has more speed and power and treble sounds a little more smooth and precise. Imaging was already great but is now remarkable--glass removed from the window.

I am still using the sub, but I tried switching it off and I didn't lose any punch, just sub bass extension. I could live without it. 

I'm going to guess the filter caps in my preamp need replacing. Makes sense considering their age. 

I'll keep tabs on those other amps on here and Ebay in case any rare deals pop up, but for now I think I can live with running my DAC direct into the power amp, and switching back to integrated when I want to use the phono input. This sounds good enough that I want to get on with it and listen to music.

Listening now to the Evergreen Club Gamelan: Road to Ubud. I've performed in different gamelan ensembles for years and this is what it sounds like when you're there. Stunning.
When I had Thiels I used a Forte 4A. Pure claas A amp 50 wpc into 8 ohms and 100 wpc into 4 ohms also in Class A. Also the Forte 6 is very good an A/B amp 200 wpc into 8 ohms and 350 wpc into 4 ohms. The first ten watts are Class A.
Very sweet! aalden

IME, Sony / Sony ES has built some of the best Audio gear over the years.
Every once in a while, the company, will build a real "sleeper" of a product that flies under every radar. Sounds like you have found yours.
Keep me posted.
Happy Listening!
how is your amp performing? Give us an update.
Happy Listening!