|THIEL MCS1 Loudspeakers Review|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Thursday, 14 January 2010|
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I have heard so much buzz about THIEL speakers over the years, but I never actually heard a THIEL speaker until an opportunity came to demo the MCS1. Jim Thiel was a major proponent of time and phase coherent designs. He believed in the dynamic driver design and set about to improve it. By all accounts, he was constantly pursuing design ideas that would consume his thought process until something tangible appeared; quite the tireless perfectionist. I once attended a demonstration of Wilson loudspeakers conducted by Dave Wilson, the company’s founder. When asked what other speaker designers he admired, his answer was immediately “Jim Thiel”. He went on to say that Thiel started his designs with solid engineering principles behind them.
The THIEL loudspeaker under review is the MCS1 ($2300 each, MSRP). Interestingly, it was designed to be in either a very high-end home theater set up or in a state of the art two channel set up. The speaker can be mounted on custom stands either horizontally or vertically. Ideally, a set of five MCS1’s can be used as front, center, and rear channel monitors. I used the MCS1’s as fronts in my home theater set up briefly, then as my two channel system for about a month. The pair arrived in a beautiful medium wood finish at a weight of 61 lbs each; yet they felt vastly heavier. Not surprising, as another element of the design is an aluminum enclosure, to combat cabinet resonance. The MCS1 has one of the most inert cabinets I have seen, barring mega priced speakers for the Maseratti crowd.
One of the MCS1's most innovative design features is a coaxial tweeter/midrange driver where the two drivers' diaphragms share the same voice coil. According to THIEL, this technique allows the elimination of the midrange/tweeter section of the electrical crossover network as the drivers' structure provides a mechanical crossover. THIEL says the coaxial mounting results in greater coherence regardless of listener position. The MCS1 uses a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 3.5-inch aluminum diaphragm midrange. It has a rating of 90db efficiency and a 4ohm nominal load. There are two small ports in the front, above and below the driver array.
The physical appearance is quite stunning. The MCS1 is shaped like a long rectangle. As noted, the wood finish was second to none. (When ordering, there is a choice of around a dozen finishes.) It is a third taller than my Harbeth Compact 73ES, and a bit less wide. It has two high quality binding posts in the rear. The speaker grille is securely fastened and sonically transparent, according to THIEL, so I left it in place for the entire review period. THIEL also strongly recommended 50 hours of break in before any critical listening. I adhered to this advice, leaving them for 4 days straight in my home theater set up with a mix of the HD cable channel Palladia, which features 24 hour music videos and concerts, and various discs playing.
Set Up: Home Theater.
After the 50 hours break in period, I spend a few days listening to music and watching movies and TV in my home theater set up which consists of Paradigm Monitor Series 9 Fronts and a Monitor series Center, and Paradigm Atoms in the rear, with a PSB sub. Immediately, within minutes, I noticed a clarity to the dialogue and a depth to ambient sounds and music that the Paradigm Monitor 9’s could not touch. Perhaps that’s not surprising if you consider the price difference. The Paradigm’s run $1000 per pair, and the center channel round $500, while the MCS1’s are $2300 each. My wife, who is a huge movie buff, also commented on the clarity of the dialogue and texture to the overall presentation. The 90db efficiency is a blessing since my Cambridge Audio receiver offers a modest 80 wpc, but works well with the 94db efficient Paradigms. Suffice to say, if money was no object, I would run, not walk to my nearest THIEL dealer to buy 5 of these for the living room in a Rosewood finish. My wife would be very happy.
Set Up: Two Channel:
This may sound strange, but I could not wait to get them into my main listening room, as I thought they were “too good” for home theater. I felt their real potential would be unleashed in conjunction with my Audio Research tube gear and Naim CD player. According to THIEL, they like the tweeter of the MCS1 to be roughly 28 inches from the floor. As I did not have the custom stands that are made by Sound Anchors for THIEL on hand, I stacked up several blocks of acoustically friendly myrtle wood so that the tweeter was at the recommended height, slightly toed in, applied some Blu Tak and hit play.