Thiel replacements

I'm thinking about purchasing replacements for my Thiel 3.5s. For some reason, I can't get the speakers to disappear. I get a center image, whether its vocals or guitar, but that's about where the soundstage ends. All other instruments appear to be coming directly from the speakers. It really stinks! Is this just a characteristic of Thiel speakers? I don't see how it could be, though, as many people think very highly of them.

I don't think the room is the problem, but here are the dimensions. They are along the short wall. The room is 13' X 19', the speakers are 8' apart, I sit 9' from them, and they are about 5' from the front wall. The left speaker basically has no side wall next to it, as it's next to a large opening which connects the living room to the dining room. The right speaker is about 3' from the side wall. They are currently slightly toed in, which seems to be the best. I have tried them at all different severities of toe.

Speaker polarities are correct, unless of course there is a problem inside one of the speakers themselves, but I doubt it. The EQ box had just been gone over by Thiel, so it should be ok.

My components are: Jolida jd100 cd player, Anthem Pre1L preamp, Classe CA-200 amplifier, and all cables are Jon Risch designs which utilizing Belden coaxial cable. The ICs are twisted pairs and the speaker wires are cross connected coaxial cables.

I don't know if I should consider new speakers, spend several more weeks moving these around the room, or ?????? Any suggestions would be great, whether they are tweaks or whatever. I look forward to hearing what the pros have to say! Hopefully it will help my system perform the way it should.

Hi Kevin. From my experience, Thiels are a bit tricky when it comes to getting a wide soundstage out of them. I was never as happy with them in that regard as I am with my current setup (I owned the 2.3's and the 6's). So, it might not hurt to audition other speakers. However ...

Having one of the speakers next to a large opening will not help matters. Can you move them back by a couple of feet to allow for some direct reflections from a side wall? That could help.

Also, I'm not sure about your speaker wires. Thiels are pretty sensitive to the right wires in my experience. It wouldn't hurt to try some different ones. I would recommend home trials so you don't commit to buy until you try. My first suggestion would be MIT cables. But, read some past threads for other fine recommendations.

Finally, I would also suggest trying speaker cones under the Thiels. Big, big difference. You will hear it immediately. There are lots of places to get these, but Thiel usually supplies some with their speakers. This would be an inexpensive and highly effective tweak that should help with the soundstage.

Good luck.

Ozfly has given some good recommendations. Thiels are very finicky when it comes to cables. Also, you may want to try them along the long wall. I had my thiel's set up with almost no toe in. I had much better success and thought that was the consensus among thiel owners, but I may be wrong here. Anyway, I would suggest contacting the cable Company and doing an in home audition of cables. You will find it very helpful.

hope this helps,

How long have you had the Thiel's, Kevin? From your post, I can't tell if you have been happy with the speakers but have soured on them, or if they are a new addition and are not working out for you.

Another question: what characteristics of the Thiels DO you like?
The 3.5's like plenty of space,especially between them.
I have mine ~10 feet apart with just a slight toe in.
I sit ~ 12 feet from the speakers and get a wide and deep stage.At times (recording dependent) I get imaging ~ 2 feet to the outside plane of the speakers.
Mine sit on Thiel supplied spikes.
I have tried several speaker cables inc.Harmonic Technology Pro-11's, Kimber 8TC and others and settled on MIT T-2's.They gave me the widest and deepest stage.The MIT's sounded the best in all areas also.
Even though you say your speakers are in phase,it doesnt sound like an in phase stage you are describing.
Have you tried switching ONE speaker cable at the amp end? Switch the + with the neg.on one cable only.
If your bass EQ was bad,either it would just be dead or making a horrible noise.
Im surprised Thiel had you send the bass EQ.
Check for proper what ozzfly suggests and let us know.
BTW,if it is your room,different speakers wont remidy the problem.
I would keep the Thiels and put some work into your room and different speaker placement.
Set up properly,the 3.5's are tough to beat, the used prices.
I love mine!
Do you have anything inbetween your speakers?
Have you tried sitting closer to the speakers?
Do you have any room treatments going on?
I have 3.6's, and they image very well, but as others have alluded, are very sensitive to upstream gear. For soundstage, I found the biggest improvement in my system by upgrading the amps. After auditioning several amps, I ended up buying a pair of Theta Enterprises, and they present a very deep and wide soundstage with my Thiels. Instruments are well placed, and you really don't hear the speakers at all. In fact, if you close your eyes, you really can't hear them at all, though most of the soundstage is between the speakers. I have mine about 11' apart, and my listening position is about 10' from each. For speaker cables, I tried lower end MIT, but wasn't happy, so I upgraded to Cardas Neutral Reference, and I am very happy with them.

Wow, I agree with all of the above recommendations, I would try no toe at all, space the the room in thirds or fiths for placment from front wall. Last, the 3.5's are a very old design maybee its just time to upgrade them. Though this should NOT fix the problem you are having. My last thought is room treatments, I didnt see you list any. The room is as important if not more than the equipment. I have seen mid-fi equipment sound great in a good room and great equipment sound poor in a bad room. Hope this helps.

P.S. I also agree with the MIT cables, contact Joe Abrams here on Audiogon.
Quick 2 cents, this may help. Thiel's are very "revealing" speakers- that is their strenght. With most average electronics most people would find them rather forward and flat sounding, but if you want a speaker that is capable of revealing detail in certain electronics, that is where the thiel comes in. Above is right, they are very sensitive to speaker cable, but I would look at it as capable of getting the best out of certain speaker cables that other speakers have a harder time with. Same with amps.
The theils, especailly are not the wide, smooth soundstage kings, but rather are very good at revealing components that are.
Sorry if this is too long winded, and I should note that I am not the Thiel expert, I have experienced exactly what you are describing with those speakers. Also should note when I fiddled, listening position was height sensitive, that made a big difference.
I have thiels also. My experience has been similar to tombowlus and basement's. Every upgrade to my system has resulted in enhanced imaging and soundstage. They included DAC, interconnects, power conditioning, tube preamp, and power amp. Currently my speakers are sitting 12 feet apart and 14 feet from the sitting position. The soundstage begins about 1-2 feet outside of the speakers and spans the entire space between. The only time I hear music obviously coming from the speakers is when it was recorded that way.
Thanks for all the good info so far, although it's not exactly what I wanted to hear.

I moved the speakers apart another 1'+ and moved my seat back about another foot. It did seem to help a little, but its not there yet. Instruments that were before cluttered around the center image have been moved out slightly and have a little room to breath. On recordings where instruments are placed further away from center, though, the sounds seem to still be coming directly from the speakers.

I can't position the speakers along the long wall because the listening position will not be far enough away. The way I have it now is the best it's ever going to get (room wise). I may try some different cables, though, if I can find somewhere that will loan them to me.

I tried switching the polarity on one speaker, and it obviously made the situation worse. It sounded like a mess. It was very fatiguing and nerve wracking, even after a minute of listening. The center image was gone, but it would come back slightly if I switched to mono. Is this consistent with others' observations when switching the polarity on one speaker?

Now, to answer a few questions that have been asked...

Vader, the only room treatment I have is on the front wall between the speakers.

Drubin, the speakers are new (to me), and they have never worked for me. It's tough for me to say what I like about the Thiels. I can say that they are much too harsh, though. They could really use some calming down. Any thoughts?

David, the bass EQ was bad... made horrible noise (actually just a buzz).

I'm already using spikes. I noticed that these helped bass tighten up.

So, of the guys who have owned Thiels in the past... what do you own now? I'm also wondering what speakers would be similar performance wise for about 1K used that would work in a smaller room like mine AND work with my equipment. I listen to jazz and jazz based rock music mostly.

Please keep the info coming. I'm learning a lot about Thiels from this thread!
For people who find Thiels to be too much, I recommend a good tube preamp and either MIT or Transparent cables.
Hi, I thought Drubin's question was a good one (how long have you had them, did you sour on them). I am wondering if you had a chance to hear them before buying on the system that the seller had (i.e. did it sound better in that setup?).

I think a lot of the posters have given you great ideas about how to pull the most out of the Thiels, but it sounds like your complaints are more fundamental. I am wondering if something is grossly wrong (miswiring? blown driver? failed crossover component?). Your equipment sounds to be at least reasonable for Thiels. Have you ever heard them sound good in a different setup? You also could try listening to one channel at a time- this won't give you imaging, but it might help isolate if one side has a gross problem. Just a thought- good luck.
I've sold/owned Thiel's for years. What you have MAINLY, is an acoustical/system setup challenge!....I garantee it.
You are dealing with what so many (ok, most) people deal with every day. Their setup, speaker and seating possition, and their relation is the main and foremost problem, from a foundational standpoint. That and their acoustics overall in the room are not effective to that set up either. Added up, improper speaker, seating, and acoustical treatment considerations will give you AWEFUL SOUND EVERY TIME! From what I'm assuming from your description(although you didn't specify ceiling and floor situation, or sidewall/back wall/front wall specifics), you have some major challenges(the room, setup, speaker, seating placement, acoustic treaments, structural challenges, calibration/tweaks are easily 2/3's the battle sonically! joke).
Your room is not 13x18 if you have no left wall, which opens up to the next room(how big is that connection/opening/doorway/whatever?). Your room is acousticallly much bigger, and your dimmensions acoustically are differnt.
How high is your ceiling? What's on your floor and sidewall (right speaker), back and front wall?...bare?
As it stands, you have different(likely radical) frequency response for your left speaker than your right(and vice versa). The right speaker is getting a likely double reflection back to your ears immediately after your direct response from the speaker. This blures and softens image, obscures detail, etc. Your left speaker is more out in "open space", and is giving a differnt signature than your right speaker. If you have a low ceiling, and sit back a ways, you will also have to deal with another reflection issue, with similar affects (assuming flat ceiling).
You couple that with reverb issues, other reflection(non-treated surface) issues, room modes, balance issues, etc, and you have problems.
I bet if you took your same gear, and put it in another room/setup, and you'll get different results!...assuming better setup.
If you can't switch your set up around, and address acoustics issues, you will only go so far with ANY SYSTEM!
Good luck

Very interesting. I went through the same thing a couple of years ago and got to the point where I had to get rid of the 2.3's. I could never get used to the harsh sound on certain recordings and since I listen for long periods it was driving me nuts. Heard the speakers - not the music.

To make a long story short I sold them and bought a used pair of Proac 2.5. I am once again REALLY enjoying the music and would never change. These speakers are magic.

Good Luck,

I made just the opposite switch, but to the Thiel 2.4. No harshness whatsoever. If anything, I'd like a bit more treble energy. Now when have you heard someone say THAT about Thiels?
Kevin, the only reason to change polarity on a speaker is if there is another switch somewhere along the signal path and you are trying to correct for it. Speakers that are not polarity synchronized will have an awful sound stage.

By the way, have you had an opportunity to borrow a different amp/preamp setup?
I agree with you when you say i have an "acoustically" larger room than 13X8 because of the opening in the wall where the left speaker is. The opening is 6' wide, and the speaker is more of less centered in it. The ceiling is 8'. The right wall has no treatments, and the rear wall has another opening that is 4.5' wide and almost centered behind my listening position. The front wall actually has a small couch along it, and the "treatments" are big pillows standing up on top of the couch's back. It sounds ridiculous, i know, but i'm just playing around here. The room is in a state of disarray because i'm trying to get the stereo to work.

What do you mean when you say that the right speaker is getting a double reflection back to my ears immediately after the direct response from the speaker? i know one reflection comes from the wall... where does the other one come from?

Ozfly, I have no opportunities to borrow different equipment as i don't know anyone who is into audio.

Gnobber, I don't think there are any big problems with either one of the speakers. I talked to Shari at Thiel about this, and she told me to do the pillow test. Short of driving the Thiels to Kentucky for testing, it's the only way to see if something is wrong. Anyway, she told me to get a soft pillow and cover all but one driver and listen closely and carefully with my ear right up to the driver. If you hear clean, clear sound, the driver is good. I did this for all six drivers and nothing seemed awry. At this time I was using a very old cd player, and she thought that was most likely the cause of the problem I was having. She was partly right. When I put the new player in I at least noticed center images which I did not have before.
"double reflection"...I'm sorry, this is a mistake. I mean you're hearing a "double image" with the reflected info(assuming bare wall next to your right speaker) coupling with the direct sound from your speaker back to your ear! If left unchecked, you will hear a smeared less than accurate sounding image. Your left speaker may be giving differnt results. HOwever, if you are getting an image off of your left wall between you and your "6' opening", you will have same problem there. And yes, the opening is affecting the response and imaging of your speaker. But, the right wall is giving other problems being next to your speaker untreated. Really you don't want any reflective surface right next to your speaker mostly. This has some sonic consequences/challenges.
Also, the opening behind your chair is a challenge.
"Master Handbook of Acoustics" will tell you (as with many respected acoustical engineers (consult Russ Herschelmann, Rives Audio, PMI, etc) that putting speaker and chairs infront of "opening" to other rooms will cause some strange response issues in your sound. This must be considered. Basically, you want even and "flat"(or close as you can) response from ALL speakers from your listening possition. This is a major problem with your likely "less than ideal" set up. You'll also have to adress the "first order reflection points" (including ceiling if you dont' sit close enough...which is a problem with Thiels, because they are simple 1st order 6db crossovers, which need room to build) .
My suggestion, change things around or you'll have limitations. Using onother set up or room might be your best bet, even if it means smaller speakers. The room and setup is over 50% of the performance. You need to know what's going on.
Also, from your description, I presumed a flat 8' ceiling. Sitting back too far also adds some challenges to for you with those speakers!
You might want to tinker with these speaker in a nother set up situation to compare. Good luck. Better yet, email and pay for a consultation/room fix! Otherwise, you can do what many do, and that's go through gear to no end, and you still have a poor room setup problem!!!(you must single handedly identify your "culprits"). ex
Thanks for passing on your accumulated knowledge, Ex. Your advice is helping me as well. My room is even more of a mess than Kevin's (I think), with two hallways, and a doublewide sliding glass door leading off of it, but worst of all, with an open archway right behind my listening position. After messing with location, I have my Thiels setup where the imaging is very good, but the bass response of that room has always been pathetic. A Velodyne DD-12 has greatly helped that problem, though. I'm now down to looking into room treatments to fine tune a bit. Your comments have given me some good ideas and inspiration. Great point about endless gear upgrades that are really a fruitless attempt to correct for room anomalies.

Thanks again for sharing, Tom.
I like it when a post brings out a real expert on a particular subject. Thanks Exertfluffer.
My room is very similar to yours. It is my living room and it is about 11x20 with an opening about 5x6 on the right side, about 3' from the front, and a couch on the opposite side wall. I also went through similar pains in that I moved in and made changes to my equipment at the same time.
I am using vandersteens which are really opposite thiels as far as their strengths and weaknesses, but I soon found out that I had to accept that my listening room going to have a lot of comprimises. My speakers are way off center toward the right side, and each one has a different toe-in, which I play with occasionally to depending, But what I am really saying is that it took me a while to get used to my new room before I could get used to what I was hearing. I had to get used to some comprimises in what I could achieve before I could actually make it sound good (i.e. sacrifising width for a more balanced, or blended sound, and sacrifising some of the balanced presentation to let each speaker sound better).
Perhaps we could use some tips? Some thoughts or ideas on how do deal with a room such as this would be really helpful.
Basement, can you say anything about the process you went through in arriving at the sacrifice tradeoffs you chose? Where do you begin?
The system was going to be in the room I spend the most time in, with me, that was first. When it came to where I was going to put my furniture and put my system, I ended up with what I have now because I realized that the system would need a certian amount of space to function properly and function in a way that I could listen to it while I lived in my living room, so I basically started by laying out my living room around my stereo because it would be my main source, but also taking into account I wanted to be comfortable with the whole room.
The main thing I take into account is that no matter where the listening chair is, the speakers and the room must interact with each other, so I mostly concentrate on the interaction between the speakers and the room. Because there is a big 'hole' in one side of the room, the speakers to not behave the same on the two sides (nor the room). I try to adjust each speaker so that it interacts with the room at its best, while at the same time adjusting for the interaction of both. This leaves me with a main listening seat that is not perfectly center, and not perfectly balanced between the speakers.
My listing recliner is to the left of the toe in of both speakers, and closer to the left speaker than the right. Since I haven't been able to get a balanced, centered presentation without gross negative overreactions from placement, I abandoned that idea temporarally, so I could just get the speakers and the room working better. I pretty much stopped there.
I am aware and of the opinion that a speaker will sound its best according to how it reacts to its placement in the room, and both the size of the room and the sound pressure, as well as other sources (the other speaker or a sub) interacting as well. I am also aware that there is always a "sweet spot" where these aspects come together at a certain place. I have really abandoned the sweet spot and adjusted for the former to make my listening position better.
While I am satisfied for now, I know that there is possibly, problably, more I could do, and that there are others more experienced and knowledgable than I, so my interest is peaked.
I agree that before ketchup replaces the theils, it would be better to finish or concentrate on the room and the speaker placement, since that is so important to getting the most out of any speaker, and since the theils are so revealing, that would evan make dealing with the room that much better. Since my room is so similar, that makes me interested as well, not to mentions how many other similar situations exist and what we could all learn.

I agree with almost every point in the messages above. I have had 2.2's (an older design like yours) for about 10 years.

What you have described is so foreign to my experience that I suspect something is wrong with your equipment. In my experience Thiels are one of the great coherent, disappearing speakers. However they must be set up properly. Thiel recommends they be faced straight forward with no toe-in. But I liked them best when they were toed in just a few degrees. Absolutely didn't like them pointed directly at the listening area.

Also, in my experience they need some space behind them to breathe. Where the Martin Logan image is forward and in your face (for example), the Thiel image is 3D behind the speakers, and almost never up to the plane of the speakers. To get this effect I couldn't have them up against a wall. Mine needed several feet behind them, and I typically kept them 5-7 feet into the room. I never had much of an image past the side of the speakers (except Q-sound recordings).

I was getting ready to upgrade them last year (seeking additional detail and dynamics) so I took them into a dealer to compare them to B&W N801s. When I put them on the expensive Krell/Wadia gear they improved so much I upgraded every other component in my system first.

You might test them at a dealer (any dealer with a larger room), and if they still don't work then ask an electical technician to check your cross-overs.

Best wishes to you in your journey.
I have had a somewhat similar experience to Akaddict's. When I decided to upgrade my amps (I had two Adcom GFA-555II's in bridged mono), I took my 3.6's into my dealer and tried them with a number of amps. With a Krell source and Spectral pre (and hugely expensive MIT cables), the 3.6's were able to reveal every detail and nuance of each of the amps used with them. I couldn't believe how good they sounded with the Theta Enterprises, and even though it might seem like overspending on the amp side in relation to the cost of a pair of 3.6's (which I had previously acquired used), I figure that if the 3.6's can reveal all the good things that the big Thetas are doing, and sound fantastic in the process, then why worry?

You will often hear about how Thiel speakers are revealing with regard to their associated equipment. While it is true that they may highlight other system flaws, I can say from firsthand experience that when you associate them with great gear, Thiels will let you hear how good this "great gear" is. I find that very impressive, myself.

Ketchup - what room treatment do you have between the speakers? If it's foam or absorbing that may be causing a grouping not allowing the soundstage to spread out. That has been the case for me - I now have a dispersion treatment between mine. The biggest difference for mine is the spread between the speakers, they need room. Mine are 10.5 feet apart and I wouldn't mine getting another foot but I would be under 3 feet from the side walls. When the spread is the greatest the soundstage is phenomenal - very holographic. Tombowlus - how much room do you have from the sidewalls to the speaks? good luck ketchup
Pops - I have a terrible room, from an acoustics perspective. Past my left speaker, it opens out into two hallways (one continuing along the same plane as the front speakers, and one running at a 90 degree angle heading behind and away from the listening plane), and the remainder of the room also opens up off to the left. On the right side, I am closer to the wall, about three feet from the side, perhaps slightly less. The speakers themselves are about 11-12 feet apart, and they are about 18" from the rear wall (I might be able to get another couple of inches before WAF and fear of toddlers become the controlling factors).

In my room, with some rearrangement of furniture (but no dedicated sound treatments), and with the addition of a Velodyne DD-12 sub (which allows for a great deal of tweaking), I have my Thiels sounding "pretty darn good" to "very good." If you are wondering, yes, my room has huge bass issues, as in addition to those two hallways, my rear wall is really an archway, and I also have a very large sliding glass door along one wall. Plus, I have a very high, sloping ceiling. Without such issues, the 3.6's certainly do not require a subwoofer. However, in my dealer's room (which is not ideal, being an older building converted to use as an audio retailer, but is fairly well treated), the same or similar associated gear with my 3.6's is "extremely impressive" to "awesome." Obviously, I am using my own subjective scale, here, but the bottom line is that in a well adjusted room, with quality (and synergistic) associated equipment, Thiel speakers (especially the 3.6's, IMHO) will really show off what the rest of the gear can do, even when the associated equipment costs much more than the Thiels.

As always, though, your mileage may vary.