The Thiel CS3.7, when introduced in 2007, was the crowning achievement by the late, great, Jim Thiel. The flagship floor stander was the culmination of many years of research, and a series of upgrades and refinements of previous models. It has been universally praised by those who have heard it a hifi trade shows, and by professional reviewers alike. Some of the best ears in the business have claimed the CS3.7 offered remarkable performance that only fell short when compared to the very, very best, and stratospherically priced loudspeakers. The Thiel CS3.7 is currently priced at just about $13,000, depending on finish. which dear readers, is less than a pair of Nordost, MIT, Synergistic Research, or Transparent flagship interconnects.
The CS3.7 were designed and built at their facility in Lexington, KY. As every review of a Thiel speaker is obligated to inform you, the CS3.7 is based on Jim Thiel’s principle of time aligned, phase coherent designs. In a nut shell, Thiel claims this type of design insures that everything else being equal, all the frequencies reach the listener at the same time, and in phase, which preserves the natural timbers and textures of various instruments, and recordings are reproduced with accuracy and extremely low distortion.
The CS3.7 is equipped with an in house designed, and custom made coaxial tweeter and midrange driver. As I said in my review of the CS2.4, very few companies design and manufacture their own drivers. The cost to Thiel, not just in labor, materials, but in prototyping and research is astronomical. If you really want the nuts and bolts, the Thiel web site has tons of technical information, white papers, and videos. The CS3.7 is also equipped with a 10” woofer and a passive radiator of the same size. Jim Thiel felt this was a better design choice than a port. Both are aluminum diaphragms like the midrange, and are wave shaped; another unique Thiel trademark. The general specifications are a bandwidth of 32 Hz to 35 kHz , and sensitivity is 90 dB/W/m, and a nominal 4 ohm impedance.
The 3.7’s sophisticated cross over is technically known as a “first order” type. First order cross overs offer a more gradual roll off, and are known for their phase coherence. Jim Thiel was known to spend endless hours perfecting his cross overs, and was determined to eliminate distortion and other problems. The Cabinet is also highly engineered, and beautifully made. It is highly inert, and designed from both a functional and a performance based directive. There are a pair of very high quality binding posts at the rear bottom, which can accommodate any type of speaker cable termination. The curved, smooth appearance of the cabinets take an extremely high degree of skill, and high quality materials to produce. The pride of ownership for prospective customers is of the highest order.
Set Up and Listening:
This is my third Thiel product review, having last evaluated the CS2.4 and coming to the conclusion that there was something to Jim Thiel’s vision and quite frankly, the 2.4 is the best loudspeaker I have ever heard in the $5000-$7000 range. Its resolution was superb, and it paired well with all the equipment I had on hand, tube or solid state, regardless of program material.
My review samples of the CS3.7 arrived in a very attractive Black Ash finish. Each speaker weighs 91 lbs, and it took a bit of effort, and great care, to set them up properly. They come with beautifully machined user adjustable spikes that must be attached prior to putting them in their standing position. The set up instructions in the manual are very straight forward and easy to follow. In general, Thiel does not recommend removing the grilles, which as with the 2.4, they say are sonically transparent. They also, in most cases, recommend very little, if any toe in, and a listening distance of at least eight to ten feet for proper coherence, driver integration, and optimal enjoyment.
Thiel says the CS3.7 needs 400 hours of break in time. I am always skeptical of product break in claims, but much less so with speakers, because this product category also involves mechanical break in. After my time with the CS2.4, I am no longer a skeptic. Thiel knows exactly what they are talking about. When I first set up the 2.4, I was surprised by how stiff and unexciting they were at first, but after 200 hours they were transformed, to the point that is was practically a different speaker. As I said above, I now hold the CS2.4 in the highest regard. I had the same experience with the 3.7. Around the 200 hour mark they improved dramatically, but at 400 hours they were just there. The drivers in the 3.7, as noted, are stiff and light, and just need to be put to work like a thoroughbred horse before they can loosen up and show their stuff. This also illustrates that keeping open mind is important in a highly subjective hobby.
I also ended up toeing in the 3.7’s between 15 and 20 degrees, to avoid early room reflections, and to get the best center fill image. All of my observations from here on in are from critical listening post break in, and with the toe in. To let the cat out of the bag, the big Thiel’s imaged amazingly, with tremendous soundstage depth, and serious extension and accuracy at both frequency extremes. The highs were as uncolored, smooth, and crystalline pure as I have heard to date. I really heard no mechanical artifacts to speak of which can rear their ugly head when listening to very high resolution speakers equipped with drivers made of advanced materials. . By mechanical artifacts I mean a sterility, or a clinical presentation that can leave you cold. On the contrary, the 3.7 were on the opposite side of the fence. I have never been more involved with the music as with the 3.7’s in my room.
The 3.7’s were musical to the nth degree. I found my self immersed listening sessions that never seemed to end, pulling out CDs I had not dusted off for a while, like The Best of U2:1990-2000. The mastering on this collection of hits, rarities, new songs, and remixes is really good, and I heard space between instruments I had no idea was there. The new release from guitar genius Eric Johnson Up Close, was the nearest I have ever come to the realizing the sound of a live band in my listening room. The mix on this album is coherent, with an “on stage in a club” feel. Some of Johnson’s previous work had more a cavernous, ambient presentation. I was able to feel the power of Johnson’s Stratocaster and Marshal amp combo rip into the room with very life like texture, with the bass and drums galloping along.