as reviewed by Andre Marc
I guess I could consider my self pretty familiar with the sound of Thiel loudspeakers, having previously reviewed the MCS1, the CS2.4's, and the CS3.7's. My current reference is the CS2.4. I felt it was the sweetheart of the line, and it also made me a believer in the late great Jim Thiel's phase coherent and time aligned design theory. I found the CS2.4's to be highly transparent and detailed, yet fatigue free, and above all else, highly musical. To me they were the rare floorstander that imaged like monitors and were unfussy about set up.
I received an email from Micah Sheveloff, Thiel's long time, hard working PR representative, asking if I would like to review Thiel's latest speaker, the SCS4T. The SCS4T is an attractive floor stander, which comes equipped with specially machined custom outrigger feet. These feet are, according to Thiel, performances enhancers. Essentially, the SCS4Ts are a tower design that utilizes the same in house developed "coherent source" driver configuration that is found in the SCS4 compact monitors.
I have decided not to spend too much time discussing the in great detail the technical design of the SCS4T, several other reviewers have covered that territory nicely. The basics are as follows...
Set Up & Listening
It is obvious that there was a lot of attention to detail in designing and assembling the SCS4T. Everything from the finish quality to the binding posts was first class. Set up was rather straightforward. After installing the custom machined outrigger feet, I toed them in every so slightly. Thiel is pretty well known for recommending 50 to 100 hours of break in time on their speakers, and here was no exception. I started critical listening at around the 50 hour mark.
My first impressions of the SCS4T was that it cast a very deep and wide soundstage, with unusually natural dispersion. The separation of instruments was off the charts. It was highly resolving, yet smooth, without a hint of glare or unnatural brightness. This is exactly what attracted me to the CS2.4, and what I found astounding with the CS3.7. Unfortunately, the 3.7 was out of my price range! Compared to the Harbeth Compact 7ES3, the SCS4T spread the performers out a few feet, and also set them deeper back into the room. I found my self drawn to acoustic jazz and classical music initially because of this. When I played a live BBC performance of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances from earlier this year, I was struck by the tonal purity of the woodwinds and strings. This tonal purity was even more evident when listening to several Chopin solo piano piece. Decay times and transient attacks were very realistic. It is almost as if the speaker was voiced using piano recordings.
A piece I discovered a few years ago, Piano Concerto No. 5, "The Egyptian", by Camille Saint-Saens, is a great test for loudspeakers in that is quite atmospheric and ethereal, with a beautiful reoccurring piano theme . I had a great recording on hand by Jean-Yves Thibaudet and L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande, conducted by Charles Dutoit (Decca,2007). Through the SCS4T, the piano notes shimmered, and the string section hovered in space dramatically. I found this presentation quite addicting.
I decided to start throwing all sorts of curve balls at the SCS4T. I cued up everything from electric jazz fusion from Pat Metheney, to Texas troubadour Steve Earle, to reggae greats Steele Pulse. No matter what genre I threw into the mix, the performance of the SCS4T was consistent. That same big and wide soundstage was easily apparent, along with a top end clarity that was hard to not enjoy. I also did not hear any obvious port noise or cabinet resonance, even with material played at higher volumes.
The one area I can ding the SCS4T in is in the lower frequencies. I am not talking about bass definition, or articulation. On the contrary, in these areas it was stellar. Being able to distinguish bass notes, and different types of bass instruments was very easy. However, I did feel their was not enough weight in the nether regions for a speaker of this caliber. I am talking about the kind that really moves air in the room. This is a bit of a nit pick, since the speaker was really well integrated across the board. However, if you are into room shaking, artificially pumped up bass over refinement, you might be disappointed.
Even though I use a Thiel CS2.4 as my current reference, I believe I came to this review with a clean slate, with no preconceived notions. I think the SCS4T is a very accomplished loudspeaker, and at $3690, it is very fairly priced. I still prefer the CS2.4 by a small margin mainly due to bass that goes deeper and with more authoritative heft. But consider then that the CS2.4 is also a good two and a half grand more the SCS4T. I should also note I found the SCS4T is easy to drive, and the amplifiers I had on hand never had to do any heavy lifting.
The clarity that the SCS4T brought to the table make it ideal for a stellar two channel set up, or as part of a home theater system that could include one of Thiel's new subwoofer models, which include the USS and the SS2.2 models. I found it easy to set up and integrate, and the finish and overall appearance are in my opinion, top notch. In my experience it is not easy to find a speaker in this price point that does not sound exaggerated in one area or another. The SCS4T is very natural sounding, and will satisfy listeners across all types of music.
For those shopping for a pair of attractive, high resolution, and essentially neutral speakers, the SCS4T is a superb place to start your auditions. Jim Thiel and company have in my opinion, not made a bad speaker yet, although certain models will appeal to some more than others. The SCS4T is an easy recommendation. Aside from slight lightness in the bass region, it really does everything right. Bravo. Andre Marc
Thiel Audio Products