Thiel TM3 Loudspeaker Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 27 May 2015

I’ve been a fan of Thiel loudspeakers going on almost a decade now. I reviewed multiple products from the legendary company. Their flagship, at the time, CS3.7 floorstander was one of the finest speakers I have had in my listening room, bar none. I also evaluated, and later purchased, the CS2.4 floorstander, which still resides in my system today.

Thiel as a company has undergone some dramatic changes, including the untimely passing of chief designer and founder Jim Thiel, a change of ownership, and a revamping of the product line. The company smartly hired distinguished industry veteran, Mark Mason, as lead designer, and now currently employs a four-man engineering team. The Thiel brain trust has decided to offer up set of fresh designs that build on the Thiel legacy, but depart a bit from Jim Thiel’s time and phase coherent approach, coaxial drivers, and first order crossovers.  

Some Thiel fans were wary of the announced clean slate. As understandable as this is, the new direction is an absolute necessity based on a number of factors. First, the late, great Jim Thiel was the type of genius who scribbled designs in note pads, Da Vinci like, with no way for other folks to decipher. Without a successor indoctrinated in Jim Thiel’s design language, new designs based on his ideas were not possible.

Second, past Thiel products were not often at the top of any “best looking speaker” lists. The new owners of Thiel believe, and rightly so, state of the art sonics and artistic industrial design are not mutually exclusive, and that a new generation of speaker buyers clearly feel the same way. With all this mind, Thiel has entered the future by laying the groundwork and foundation for success by not only by hiring great talent, but also by moving their headquarters from Lexington, KY, to Nashville, TN.

I received a pair of Thiel’s new TM3 stand mount monitors for review. They retail for $3498 a pair. The packaging is absolutely first class, even with white gloves included for smudge free handling! The TM3 is simply stunning out of the box. Its Rosewood finish is top class, and the construction is superb. The binding posts are also of excellent quality. The whole appearance is of a bespoke, classy product commensurate with its price and beyond. By the way, three other finishes are available, including Espresso, High Gloss Black, and High Gloss White.

According to Thiel, “Our ultimate goal for the TM3 was to create a loudspeaker that outperforms competitive products while pleasing the discerning eye of deĢcor- conscious consumers. Our objective is to position the THIEL brand as the ultimate supplier of high-performance loudspeakers and the TM3 is just the first in a series of innovative designs as part of a comprehensive product roadmap that we will be presenting to our dealers and distributors worldwide.”

Now to the nuts and bolts. The two-way design utilizes a proprietary 6.5-inch cast basket woofer and 1-inch tweeter, both customized specifically for the TM3. Thiel says they also paid particular attention to cabinet construction and rigidity. Grilles are supplied, and I was told they are essentially transparent. Crossovers have always been a topic of conversation with Thiel products, and the new speakers employ a multi-slope crossover network with slopes finitely adjusted to achieve the desired performance. Slopes range between 12-24dB per octave. This design has enabled Thiel to fine-tune the network in order to achieve the linearity, accuracy, low distortion and durability sought after by the engineering team.

Thiel TM3

Set Up & Listening

I used the TM3 extensively in two separate systems. My listening impressions are a composite of both set ups. First, in my main rig consisting of a Simaudio NEO 380D DAC and MiND streamer, a Revox A77 reel to reel, a Coffman Labs G1-A tubed preamp. The speakers sat on Sound Anchor stands. Cabling was Transparent, Stager, and DH Labs. The TM3 was driven in this system with a Simaudio 760A power amp.

System two was comprised of the CLONES Audio 25p power amp, a Belles Soloist 3 preamp, a Musical Fidelity V90 DAC, a Simaudio MiND 180D streamer, and a Sony TC 350 reel to reel. Cables were Transparent, Stager, DH Labs, and Shunyata. Stands were sand filled Atacama. It should be noted that Thiel produces a $500 stand specifically for the TM3, so they can be bolted in. The TM3 definitely need some break in out of the box. Initially the speaker sounded a bit tightly wound. At around the 25-hour mark it really began to hit its stride, and the speaker opened up. (Interestingly, even previous generations of Thiel speakers needed break in, but far longer.) Once settled in, I was treated to impeccable three-dimensional sound, with excellent integration of the drivers.

After streaming about a dozen or so albums, I noted how pleasing, yet ultimately neutral sounding, the overall balance of the speaker is. The bass and midrange were absolutely seamless in my listening rooms. While the TM3 can’t possibly move the kind of air or produce the lowest bass notes when compared to a large floorstander, it performed superbly within the parameters of a two way monitor set up properly in a small to medium sized room. I must note also that the TM3 seemed to have the ability to play at high volumes without a hint of strain and they consistently sounded bigger than their appearance would suggest.

I found myself listening to a lot of jazz music during the review period. It may have had something to do with the TM3’s transparent and smooth midrange. Piano, percussion, and horns were just so natural sounding. I dug into some vintage 7.5 ips reel-to-reel tapes and spun a variety of recordings, including the fabulous soundtrack to the film I Want To Live, featuring Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne, and Art Farmer. Enjoying this analog goodness via the TM3 was a sheer delight.

I also plowed through a bunch of Elvis Costello recordings, as I am intimately familiar with his voice, and the TM3 was totally spot on. Later period releases like North, The Delivery Man, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane were presented in a cohesive way, despite being stylistically varied. Whether Costello chose string sections, an Americana-style backing band, or countrypolitan flourishes, the TM3 was on the money at every turn.



Strange Trails, the second album from American combo Lord Huron, is a gem. Filled with pastoral, folk rock flourishes, and a clean, wide mix. I had the experience of enjoying the album immensely, totally forgetting I was reviewing speakers, or listening to a playback system. The TM3 just stepped aside and brought the music into the room, effortlessly.

A recording that surprised me, and sounded immaculate through the TM3 was the legendary band Renaissance's Symphony Of Light. The album was released last year after a crowd funding campaign. Annie Halsam’s sparking, wonder of a voice is still intact and seemed to be hanging in space between the speakers, almost like she was standing between them. I guess that is what the call pinpoint imaging. The band’s trademark piano and orchestral flourishes and acoustic guitar textures were all intact, and rendered with dramatic effect.

So what are the defining characteristics of the Thiel TM3, after having in the system for several months, across two different systems? Refinement and sophistication. The TM3 produces music effortlessly, with no strain at all, and not asking much of the partnering amplifier. The CLONES Audio 25p, with all of its 25 watts seemed to barely break a sweat driving the TM3.

Thiel TM3

Conclusion
    
Like every fan of previous Thiel designs, I too was a bit curious about what direction the new owners of the fabled company were going to go. I should not have been concerned. No matter what recording vintage or thrown at the TM3, I enjoyed a natural, transparent presentation I could easily live with going forward. Their other current product, with more to follow, is the floor standing TT1, which I am eager to hear. Congratulations to Thiel, as they are off to a great new start.

Bottom line, the TM3 is a great loudspeaker. At $3498, it certainly faces a crowded field, but in my estimation it distinguishes itself in several ways. Smooth, accurate tonal balance, top tier styling, excellent construction, and ease of set up make it a frontrunner. An audition is highly recommended. Bring your favorite music, and get ready to lose track of time.

Specifications


Thiel TM3: $3498/pair
www.thielaudio.com

Frequency Response:  48Hz to 30KHz
Sensitivity:    87dB (Anechoic); 90dB (In-Room)
Nominal Impedance:  8 ohms (3.6 ohms Minimum)
Crossover Type:  2-way Multi-order Crossover
Driver Compliment:   1” Titanium dome Tweeter
6.5” Fiberglass cone Woofer (Die-cast Aluminum basket)
Dimensions:   17.1” (H) x 9.8” (W) x 10.9” (D)
43.4 cm (H) x 25.0 cam (W) x 27.7cm (D)
Weight:   20lbs (9.1Kgs) each


Review System 1


Server: SOtM Mini Server w/ battery power supply
DAC: Simaudio Neo 308D w/MiND streamer module, iFI Micro iDSD,
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Coffman Labs G1-A, CIAudio PLC-1 MKII
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4, Bryston Mini T
Cables: Stager Sound, Acoustic Zen, Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs Mirage USB
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz PM5004
Music Server: Simaudio MiND 180
DAC: Musical Fidelity V90, Bryston BDA-1
Amplifier: CLONES Audio 25p
Preamplifier: Belles Soloist 3
Tape Deck: Sony TC-350
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Fluance XL7F
Cables: Stager Sound, Transparent,  DH Labs AES/EBU & Toslink,
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold


 






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