Affordable electronics to suit Thiel 3.5 speakers

Hi All,
About a week ago I came across a really good buy on a pair of Thiel 3.5 speakers. I got them home put them in my existing system and noticed that while the bass was much improved and they showed significantly more detail then my Vandersteen 2CE's, they seemed to quite forward and bright.

I love detail and bass in my music (which is primarily orchestral and folk) and that aspect of the Thiels really appeals to me. Unfortunately, when I listen to them for any length of time they begin to seem almost harsh. Reading in the forum, I see numerous comments that Thiels simply will not sound good until they have excellent upstream electronics. My current upstream electronics, which sounded very good with the Vandersteens, are an Oppo 83SE player , Sony TAE 80 ES preamp and Acurus A150 amp. Interconnects are Kimber PBJ and DH Labs with Audioquest Cobalt speaker cables.

What I'm hoping is that some of you who are familiar with the Thiels can help me identify what steps I should take next. I'm a bit concerned that I just am not going to be able to make the Thiels work. My listening room is only 15 x 14 and because it has a very heavy one piece home-built sofa which is L-shaped, a fireplace, and because it connects two other rooms, the only location that I can put the speakers is 18 inches from the right wall, 36 inches from the left wall and 18 inches from the wall behind them. My listening position is 9 feet from the speakers. Because there is not much I can do with respect to speaker placement, if I am going to be able to make them work it will need to be through finding electronics that keep the detail and get rid of the harshness.

Because I am on a tight budget, expensive amplifiers are not an option. I do have coming to me from an Audiogon member a Threshold FET 9 preamp which I bought before I got the Thiels. I suspect this will help some, but the consensus seems to be that if I do not have a least 200W per channel, the Thiels just won't sound good. I have had good luck with Hafler amplifiers and wonder if perhaps replacing the Acurus with an old H500 would help significantly. In one post regarding Thiel 3.6 speakers, a member mentioned that a B&K EX 442 Sonata might be a good choice but I have no experience at all with this amplifier.

So, would those of you who have expertise regarding the speakers and what electronics might result in a substantial improvement in the problem areas please share your thoughts with me?

Thanks in advance,
Your room is bit small for the Thiel 3.5's, but more importantly the dimensions are problematic. You might be better off using the 40 Hz setting on the EQ. I find them better firing straight forward rather than toed in, but your placement puts them pretty close to one wall. If you can get them out from the walls even a little bit, so long as your at least 8' from each speaker, things should improve somewhat. Again it's a tough fit.
Your on the right track re: power, but rather than 200 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms, think in terms of 400 Watts per channel into 4 Ohms. The upper end of the Acurus is a poor choice with Thiels.
I'm not exactly sure what your budget is, but used Threshold S 500 Series II, Krell KSA 250 and the conrad-johnson 2500A are very good considerations, the bigger Classe' amps aren't bad either. While they're not my favorites, I can understand why many like Levinson and Rowland with these speakers.
Since funds are limited, room isnt ideal and current equipment doesnt work well with the Thiels, why not just sell them ?
Thanks for the responses so far. To provide a bit more information:
1. I don't want to sell them unless I just can't make them work well in my room because I truly like how they sound except for the "brightness". They have much better bass and seem more detailed and transparent than the Vandersteens and I value those characteristics a lot. Plus, it wouldn't be easy to resell the Thiels, the gentleman I got them from had listed them on Craigslist for $500 for 6 weeks with no calls when I spotted them.
2. I could stretch my buget to aroud $1500 total.
Since posting, I've been researching amps in my price range and wonder if besides the DH500 Hafler mentioned in my original post an Adcom 5802, an ATI 1502, or an Audio Research 100.2 might fix things up.
3. Also, please help my thinking here. Since the problem seems to be just in the upper frequencies which don't require much amplifier power, and because pretty loud playback levels in a small room only take a few watts with these speakers, am I barking up the wrong tree, so to speak, thinking more power will help significantly? A few folks have posted being very happy with these speakers with amps in the 50W range.
I will post what changes I hear when I put the Threshold FET 9 preamp in the system but I am not too hopeful about that since the TAE 80 ES was very close in sound to what I heard direct form the Oppo,when I did a bypass test with the Vandersteens.
Thanks for the help so far and please let me know your thoughts given this updated info.
In a small room like yours you may be able to get by with 50W on Thiels. Those 50W would have to come from an amp comfortable with the Thiel 4 ohm load like a Krell KSA-50S not your Acurus. Of the amps you mentioned the Audio Research 100.2 is by far the best amp. A Classe CA-200 might work well with the Thiels. With inexpensive high watt amps think like this; if the first watt doesn't sound good why would you want 199 more just like the first.
Unless you're willing to slowly change your entire system, sell them. I have Thiel CS 6's. I call them "The SYSTEM Changers". I chased that Thiel demon thru 3 amps, 4 pre's , 2 subwoofers and loads of cable. Of all the amps I tried with my Thiel's they sounded best (2me) with VTL 300 mono blocks. They also sounded really good with Krell and Classe. See the pattern, $$$$$$$.
I had the 3.5's and they sounded fine until I auditioned and ultimately bought my Vandersteens. I suspect that what you are hearing is the Thiel sound...If you didn't have the Vandersteens to compare it to, you might like the Thiels. Remember you are used to the sound of the Vandersteens...and you say you like them. Thiels have a totally different sound. Yes you can slightly change the character with different electronics and cables. With more power, you can smooth out and better the sound...., but they always will remain Thiels. I am not saying that's bad...just that coming from Vandersteen's I can understand your discomfort.
I used the 3.5's as my main speakers driven by a Music Reference RM9 (100wpc) tube amp for almost 8 years, and the sound could best be characterized as smooth and easygoing. The 3.5's use a silk dome tweeter and a Scanspeak midrange--drivers not known to be bright. The 3.6's are a whole different story altogether. I could never bare the thought of selling them, so I put them in my home theatre driven by a Harmon Kardon AVR625. More detailed sounding but still extremely listenable. Listening distance is important with 1st order crossovers and the lack of toe in are good suggestions. I would not give up on them just yet. The brightness you are hearing is not the speaker. BTW, I use mine without the equalizer, as I always found it lent an artificial quality to the sound. I would try this first and if you like the improvement in the mids and highs, I would consider a Rel sub to fill in the bottom.
Looks like you are getting a range of good advice/opinions. I have enjoyed my Thiel CS 2's since 1987. I don't know how they compare to CS 3.5's, but I agree with Stringreen. You are hearing the Thiel sound. I auditioned Vandersteens some years ago. The sound was quite different from my Thiels. The 'steens' sound was
"sweet," seemed to be restrained, attenuated across the range, almost a bit muffled. I have read and agree that Thiels tend to be quite revealing. Yes they are. Mine are driven by a 1995 Hafler 9180 MOSFET amp and I am very happy with what I hear. I wonder about a MOSFET amp for you like the B and K 200.2. Used equipment I yield to the more experienced members. Thiels can create a very impressive sound stage with proper placement and room dampening. I have read their sound reproduction qualities vary widely with room placement. Have you considered some sound dampening? Good Luck!
Hi all ! Im with Nordic on this one .Room treatments..... Take some blankets and put them on any shelves or flat bare surfaces and see if that helps the "edge" . If it does , get some room treatments . Too often we blame the equipment when the room is horrible .My room was horrible until I treated it . If you clap your hands , does the room echo ?
Thanks a million Folks,

All the input has been helpful beyond expectations, especially the points relating to the 3.5s not being inherently bright and suggesting focusing on the room. Long story short, I opened the 5 foot wide pocket doors seperating my listneing room from the guest bedroom to give the Thiels more volume to breath into; opened the door to my wife's sewing room; moved the speakers 6" further away from the back wall and pointed them straight ahead; closed all the heavy cloth drapes in the room and put a spare 5'x 7' area rug right in front of the immovable couch.
Cost $0.00, improvement, priceless. Easily 90% of the problem issues were resolved. I'll still probably play around with electronics, but at this point even if I could get no further improvement I would happily rate them a step up (for my listening taste only, of course) from my Vandy 2CEs.
Thanks again,
I used the Thiel 3.5 with TAD-1000 monoblocks(EL-34 tubes used)/Sonic Frontiers Line 1 with great success in 13x20 room on the short axis, so I could get a little over 10 feet from the speakers. They are 3 feet from the side walls and 3 feet from the back.

I listened to classical, classic rock, alternate rock, with Rega Apollo, then a Cambridge Audio 740C to a 840C doing source duty. Each upgrade in source allowed the Thiels to reveal a little more. At the end I used a Rega DAC and Anedio DAC1, with the 840c as a transport.

I also used a VTL ST85 as a power amp with very good success.

The ONLY reason the 3.5's are sitting on the sideline is I got a set of 3.6's

I now use a PS Audio Perfect Wave trans and DAC into the SF Line 1 bi-amping the 3.6's with the TAD-1000(6550 tubes used) for the HF and Mids, with a Krell KAV2250 handling the bass. Very happy with my set up right now, no real desire to change.
Hi all ! Really amazing what the room does. If the highs still have a little too much edge to them try this...tap the tops of all of your components .Put someting heavy (not metal )on top of the one that rings the most . I like using wood blocks for this , 3" x 6" x 1" . Maple , oak , basswood are favorites , good luck .

Are you saying that your 3.5s were 7' apart and you sat 10' from them? Did you have any acoustic treatments on the first reflection points? How would you describe the soundstage and imaging?
I used to own Thiel 3.6 for a long time. Thiel speaker need a lot of juice to sound best. I have tried Rotel 1090, Sunfire Grand, Krell KAV 1500, Krell FPB200, McCormark 500. The FPB200 was doing a good job but the McCormark was better in controlling the high and gave the Thiel's bass more weight. Just my 2cents.
HI Everybody,
As a quick update on the Thiel 3.5s, I got a B&K 2220 amp from a fellow Agoner and am using it with the Threshold FET9 pre that was on its way to me in an earlier post. The combination is working really well and I'm now about 95% of the way to a system I hope I can avoid tinkering with too much, but just listen to. The problem is, of course that last 5%.
A local dealer has some Thiel 2.4s available at a good price and I have another post running here now looking for feedback as to whether the 2.4s or 3.6s would be a significant step up. I really do love the transparency and detail and everything sounds really, really nice except for massed violins which are a bit harsh,but perhaps that is simply due to the CDs themselves, since HDCDs are much better sounding.
Anyway, thanks to everyone again and please do share any ideas you have about that last little bit I'm wondering about.
In your room I think you could get away with a good tube amp. Something around 60 watts or higher. Maybe look for a used Rouge amp or a used CJ. I have heard the 3.5's and the 3.6 driven with Audio Research mono 150's and they sounded wonderful. If you could stretch your budget a little these would work quite well.
You may also want to try and borrow a few tube preamps to see how that works.

This is an older post, perhaps you all can help update it for me.  Likewise, I have a pair of 3.5's which straddle my TV.  When I built my house in '93, my built-in entertainment center was created specifically to fit the 3.5's which I had since collage.  All was good.   Time has past and the wife would like to use a remote for the whole system.  Without thinking, I bought a Yamaha RX-367 and it sort of delivered.  There was always some clicking when the unit powered up and when the amp changed inputs but when one of the channels started to fade in and out, I pulled it.  So I have pretty unused speakers at the moment.  Since I am a smoke 'em if you got 'em kind of guy, I have a decision to make.

I am going the CES this weekend, so I'll have time to ask around and check things out.

I read this post and appreciated the comments.

Admittedly, my CS3.5's will be used as a glorified 2-channel sound bar, which admittedly, we have been enjoying.

If I were to get a new amp for this purpose, what are your recommends.

If you are thinking I am really nuts for holding on to these speakers (I know I am nuts), then I'd be happy to hear your recommendations.  I figure I'd need to get some stands for new speakers since I have to use the same space.


join us over on the THIEL OWNERS thread. There is a plethora of helpful info and tips by us experts.  Look  under the Speaker section.

Welcome! Happy Listening.
teacup, I find your placement of these fine speakers into an entertainment center an anathema. Sort of, like, putting a bowling trophy in front of a Van Gogh.
For your purposes find an amp capable of at least 100 Watts into 4 Ohms. You might find some with an input for home theater trigger. 
Teacup, I agree with unsound re placement of the Thiels and appropriate power. I am a long time owner of Thiels, but not the 3.5's. The Thiel forum is a good place to go for owners of all Thiel speakers.
Quality High current power amps like Krell, Classe, Pass, Threshold are examples. I use a pair of Krell 250m mono blocks to go with my CS6's.