Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thiel SCS4 Coherent Source High Resolution Loudspeaker Review

As the saying goes; if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. As summer approaches, many of you will be like me and get out of the heat. This could cause the dilemma of what to do now with our spare time. If you are anything like me, this question just prompts the answer of it being time to listen to some music.
This is also the typical time of some spending of some cash. With tax day gone, many of us that managed to get refunds either have the cash burning a hole in our pocket now or soon will be. Thiel Audio can help give you music lovers some ideas on how to spend it. With the passing of Jim Thiel last year, I am glad to see that Thiel Audio is alive and well. Their SCS4 could be a very good reason to burn some of your cash on a product that will give you years of enjoyment.

The speakers provided for review is their SCS4 Coherent Source High Resolution bookshelf speaker in a dark cherry finish. When I first learned they were headed my way for review, I was very intrigued at how they would sound. I was intrigued because of Jim Thiel’s use of a coaxial two way design of these unique speakers. This design is rarely used in home audio.

It does give benefits to these speakers. They are fairly large bookshelf speakers, measuring 8.4" wide by 11.7 inches deep by 17.6 inches tall, with a frequency response of 47Hz-20kHz. The single coaxial speaker was placed in the middle of the cabinet with front ports both below and above it. This allows the speaker which was designed for both music and movies, to be mounted either vertically or horizontally so it can be used as front, center, or surround speakers.
Construction quality, materials, and finish is quite high. The dark cherry finish turned out very well. The cabinet features double laminated sides and heavy internal bracing. The rear has a pair of heavy duty binging posts. And the front features an aluminum baffle and a metal grill held in place with magnets. As previously mentioned the speaker is a coaxial design with a 6 ½“ aluminum driver and 1” aluminum dome tweeter.

We all know that looks and design are only part of the reason we purchase speakers. After all, speakers are made to produce sound. So how does the Thiel SCS4 do its job? My answer would be- very well! I was expecting an overall solid performer at their price point. But with their coaxial design, I was expecting some limitations. Two way designs for example, traditionally do not have the dynamics found in a 3-way design. The Thiel SCS4’s seemed to overcome this trend mysteriously.

To start I put in The Very Best of Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops: Top 20. Track 6 Puccini: “Nessun dorma!” from Turandot. The imaging was great, with the tenor Soloist Richard Leech. You could hear the slight differentiation in image placement as he apparently changed which section of the audience he faced and it’s effects on the microphone. The dynamics were impressive and showed no signs of vocal discoloration or distortion which especially can be common, singing with that kind of volume that close to the microphone. The tenor sounded very natural. Track 13 of the same album –Overture to the Phantom of the Opera provided a very smooth sounding organ with authority and sufficient extension.

Mancini: Theme From the Pink Panther was a pleasant surprise ( I am not a big Pink Panther fan). The triangle while just a tad edgy was very crisp, as was the snare drum. The sound stage was wide and deep with almost a 3-D effect. There was not quite the amount of air that I like around the instruments, but there was great transparency, definition and dynamics. This level of resolution is very difficult to produce.

In the orchestra performance of the theme song for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the level of dynamics and resolution brought a smile to my face and continued with each push of the button to go back to the beginning of the track. The sound stage was deep, and seemed to extend beyond the walls. The strings were natural with nice definition, the percussion had a good pitch definition as well. For a bookshelf monitor there was good low end extension. It was a track that screamed: play me loud!, and sounded good doing it!! I kept having to tell myself to stop just sitting here and enjoying the music - I am doing a review. Listen to the instruments. Great job Jim Thiel!!

Moving on to see how they performed with movies, I was not left wanting. Again they showed similar performance with movies as was shown with music. They provided a wide sound stage. Highs were crisp and clean, smooth mids, and adequate bass extension. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a good test environment. The Thiel SCS4 pleasantly immersed me in the experience, just as they had with the music listening. All in all, that’s one of the best compliments to be given.

The Thiel SCS4 bookshelf speakers proved to be a real gem of a speaker. Designed to deliver a high level of performance, they delivered in spades. They truly are a bargain for a reference grade monitor at their price point of $2,000 a pair. If you are in the market for bookshelf speakers, I would recommend them. For more information and complete specs, check out their website at: www.thielaudio.com.