Thiel CS.5

Thiel CS.5

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Thiel CS.5 Speakers: Excellent if you're into delicacy over bombast

Apr 1, 2003 (Updated Apr 2, 2003)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:natural musical timbres, good imaging, tight mid-bass, good microdynamics

Cons:small sweet spot, limited dynamic range, no deep bass

The Bottom Line: The Thiel CS.5s are excellent speakers for those who timbral accuracy and good soundstaging over dynamic range and deep bass.


I have always considered Thiels to be among the best high-end speakers that I would never own. They tend to have excellent imaging and remarkable clarity, and they are beautiful to look at, but I have always found them to be just slightly lacking in warmth, dropping them off the various short lists I have assembled over the years.

The Thiel CS.5 (yes, that's .5) is Thiel's least expensive floor-standing speaker, retailing for about $1450. In the Thiel tradition, it is beautiful to look at, with its gently sloped front baffle and high quality wood finish on the top and sides. And its sound is also quite lovely, the primary problems being a lack of deep bass and ultimate volume capability.

The .5 is a two-way, ported design, featuring a 6.5" paper-cone woofer and a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter. Frequency response is rated at 55Hz-20kHz 3dB. Sensitivity is rated at 87dB. Nominal impedance is 4 ohms. The .5 is 8" wide, 11" deep, and 31" tall. Weight is 35 lbs per speaker. The Thiel .5s are not bi-wirable.

At normal volume levels, the Thiel .5s were a pleasure to listen to. With smaller-scale music in particular, clarity was outstanding, and imaging was really good, especially if the speakers were set up right and we were in the "sweet spot." Possibly because of the 6dB/octave crossover between woofer and tweeter (which Jim Thiel says leads to better phase coherence), the sweet spot is not very big, but within the sweet spot, imaging is great.

Instrumental timbres were really natural throughout the midrange with the .5s, and the brightness I often associate with Thiel speakers was not really noticeable. Massed choruses sounded great, and the sound of a small jazz ensemble was excellent.

But the Thiel .5s are not perfect. Although the mid-bass was nice and tight, deep bass was essentially missing in action. The specified -3 dB point of 55Hz sounds about right. In addition, the .5s, though clean and articulate, were not quite as warm as some other speakers I like in their price range.

And though they could play fairly loud, things got a little muddy or strident with complex passages at high volume. Rock music sounded a bit too polite through the .5s, and large scale symphonic music sounded a little hard when the music was cranked up. I'd consider these to be speakers for those who like jazz, folk, or small scale classical at moderate volume levels. Ultimately, they are not really suited for balls-to-the-wall rock or even bombastic classical at high volume levels. A subwoofer would help the deep bass, but it wouldn't affect the ultimate volume limitations.

Although ultimate dynamic range was a bit limited, microdynamics were excellent of the Thiel .5s. Subtle differences in volume within the music come through clearly. Solo guitar sounded wonderful through these speakers.

In conclusion, the Thiel .5s are excellent speakers for those who don't need sonic bombast. If you tend to listen at moderate volume levels, and prefer folk, jazz and smaller scale classical music to rock or hip hop, give these a listen. Because these are audiophile-quality speakers, I'd recommend using high quality amplification to drive them. They might mate well with entry level tube gear from conrad johnson or VTL, or with solid state amplification from Creek, Cambridge Audio, or NAD.

Other speakers to listen to in this price range include Meadowlark Kestrels (comparable in articulateness and detail), Vandersteen 2Ces (a bit ballsier but not quite as delicate and articulate), PSB Stratus Bronze (more deep bass but not quite as detailed and articulate), Energy 2.1 and 2.2s (excellent, but require good quality stands), and Cambridge Soundworks Towers (musical and ballsy, but not nearly as accurate or articulate).

Happy listening!



Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 1000

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