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From the start, the MCS1’s were a pleasure to listen to; coherent, musical and transparent. They offered more resolution than my Harbeths and bit more ambient detail. The soundstage was slightly wider, but not by much. The phantom center image was immaculate, rock solid, and very holographic. This is exactly what you hope for. The Harbeth offers a bit more midrange warmth, as the MCS1 was a bit more extended on top. But to my surprise, the two speakers were not cut from entirely different cloths. More surprising is that despite being higher resolution and better with low level detail retrieval, they were not the least bit fatiguing to listen to. On the contrary, my listening sessions were no shorter than with my reference setup and lasted well into the evening.
I spun my usual eclectic assortment of discs to see if the THIEL favored any particular genre. It was not the case. Since it really straddles the neutral line, it was at home with classic rock, jazz, folk, and electronic music. It was open for business regardless of what my musical whims were. I was on a bit of a Tim Buckley kick during the review period. Buckley’s middle period was heavy on close miked vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion, with a lot of room sound thrown in. The MCS1 drew me into these albums. Buckley’s music is very deep and soul searching, and I was glued to my chair listening to the MCS1 present his voice and guitar in a gorgeously dimensional, human performance. It was tough to tear my self away.
The MCS1 had excellent bass definition, weight, and articulation. Bass guitar was muscular, taught, and defined. Acoustic bass was also appropriately weighty, and limber. It was easy to tell the difference between electric bass and the woodier tones of stand up acoustic bass. I pulled out an oldie but goodie CD, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery with its heavy percussion and huge bass notes, and fantastical interludes especially in “Still…You Turn Me On”. As a matter of fact, this tracked helped illustrate how coherent the MCS1’s were. There are alternating passages of shimmering acoustic guitar, mellow vocals, and a heavy section with bass, electric guitar, and keyboards. The transition between parts was completely believable, and also showed me the MCS1’s had sublime dynamics in its arsenal.
After about a month with these speakers I can honestly say I have a world class design in my system. The MCS1’s are fast, taught and precise as well as lush, warm, and soulful when they need to be. There is no overhang, smearing of transients, or exaggeration of any of the frequency spectrums. Often, “just to keep ‘em honest”, reviewers like to point out a few flaws, real or perceived in a component on loan for evaluation. I don’t think I can accommodate. These are just great sounding speakers. With my back to the wall, my only nit pick would be the odd shape obligates the purchase of the custom stands from Sound Anchors and they are certainly not cheap. I will say they are made immaculately, and Sound Anchors is definitely not a fly-by-night company. Also, the speakers are heavy. Moving them around was a tough job. If that is my biggest complaint, then things could be much worse.
Driving the MCS1’s on the 4ohm tap of my Audio Research VS55 tube amp proved to be an easy task allowing plenty of juice, dynamics, and bass control. Of course, the more room around the speakers, the better they may image. Even with only 2 or 3 feet around the sides and back, they sounded terrific. I’m not an absolutist, and I have heard speakers with thin walled cabinets as well as speakers with non resonating cabinets sound superb in the right set up. I do believe that non resonating cabinets can project a soundstage a bit further into the room, since most of the energy is not being dissipated. If not partnered with the accommodating electronics, this can be a bit fatiguing. Resonating cabinets can “breathe” a bit more, although this may be a problem at very high SPL’s. The MCS1’s were unique in that they were utterly glare free, on the contrary, they offered heady mix of transparency and beauty in their presentation.
I really believe that at $2300 per speaker, this is a tremendous value. When you take into consideration they are designed and made entirely in the USA, in the state of the art THIEL factory in Lexington, that there are a dozen or so superb finishes available, it really calls into question the need to spend as much or more on one of those other brands. I’m sure you can name a few THIEL competitors who have moved production overseas and claim to use exotic materials and such. Of course, geopolitics aside, all that would not mean much if the speaker did not sound damn good. There is 33 years of engineering in this product, and Jim Thiel’s legacy is without question, second to none. The THIEL customer service group is also superb. I had very fruitful correspondences with them and they could not be more helpful with set up questions. The fact that they offer a 10 year warranty carries much weight for me. If you don’t think warranties mean much, think again. My CD player has some transport issues after just two years. No sweat. The 5 year warranty means I will be able to sleep at night as the unit will go in for repair at no cost to me.
I am intrigued enough that I may hit the THIEL marketing rep up for a pair of floor standers further up the line to review. My expectations would be high for sure. But I know I’d better hit the gym, as they are sure to be even heavier. But I shudder to think how much better they could be than the MCS1’s, considering how well they performed in my listening room. If you are considering a world class, high performance pair of monitors in the $4000-$5000 range, the THEIL MCS1 should be on your audition list. If you are putting together a home theater system a cut above the rest, these are a must hear.
Reviewers Associated Equipment System 1:
Reviewers Associated Equipment 2:
- CD Player: Naim CD5x with Flatcap 2X
- Preamp: Audio Research SP16
- Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
- Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
- Cables: Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)
- Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands.
Reviewers Home Theater Set up:
- CD Player: Marantz 5003
- Music Server: Squeezebox 3
- DAC:CIA VDA-2 with XPS
- Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
- Amplifier: Revox A722
- Speaker: Spendor S5e, Spendor S5R
- Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio
- Accessories: Atacama Stands
- DVD player: Oppo 981 Universal Player
- Home Theater Receiver: Cambridge Audio 540AV
- TV: Vizio
- Speakers: Paradigm Monitor Series, Paradigm Atom, PSB Audio subwoofer
- Cables: QED, Shunyata, Kimber, PS Audio