Test Report: Thiel Audio SCS4T Tower Speakers Page 2
With just a single pair of binding posts per speaker, the SCS4T couldn’t be easier to hook up. It’s also easy to set up because the coaxial design makes the sound fairly consistent even if you move to the side of the speaker or stand up. Basically, you position them far enough apart that they produce an enveloping stereo soundstage, but close enough together that they also produce a solid center image. You then move them closer to the wall behind them to get more bass, or farther from the wall to get less bass.
While these speakers don’t particularly need careful positioning, they do reward it. I experimented with toeing in the speakers — i.e., varying them between pointing straight at my chair or straight ahead — to fine-tune the treble response, and also played with the spacing between the speakers to get just the right amount of center imaging.
With 4 ohms nominal impedance, the SCS4T demands a decent amplifier — a mid-price or better receiver, say, or any good stereo amplifier with at least 50 watts or so per channel. Not surprisingly, the Krell S-300i integrated amplifier I used had no problem driving it at all.
I’ve hosted lots of phase-coherent speakers in my home, including other Thiel models, but I was still surprised to hear what the SCS4T did in my listening room. I actually yelled “Whoo!” when I heard the orchestra kick in after the first few seconds of David Chesky’s Urbanicity, from the album that also features his Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra. (The release is available on HQCD or as a 96/24 download from HDtracks.com.) The Thiel SCS4T perfectly captured Chesky’s carefully choreographed cacophony. Percussion percolated across the front of my room, while the ambience of the recording space enveloped my listening chair. I could even hear the echoes of a faint, high-pitched instrument — a bell tree or a tambourine, perhaps — coming from behind my listening chair. Rarely does one hear this combination of pinpoint imaging and an expansive soundstage.
Rarely, too, does one hear an audiophile speaker as versatile as the SCS4T. Often a speaker that sounds great on, say, David Chesky recordings will sound stressed and unbalanced when you play commercial pop and rock recordings through it. (In fact, a Thiel model from the early 1990s, the CS 2.2, was the speaker that first hipped me to this phenomenon.) Yet even schlock like Das Racist’s YouTube smash “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” sounded great through the SCS4T. Cranking up Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” pushed the speaker into mild distortion, but the tonal balance stayed true even as the woofer fought for its life against Tommy Lee’s kick drum.
Few speakers sound so good on so much material with so little fuss. Something about the presentation really grabbed me, and I think it’s the spatial character rather than something in the tonal character. I suppose this is the phase coherence I’m hearing. Many other speakers, such as bipolar and electrostatic designs, produce a great sense of ambience, but their spatial qualities sometimes sound exaggerated.
Here’s my one beef: The SCS4T’s upper treble, above about 8 kHz or so, didn’t sound quite as refined, natural, and spacious as the lower 90 or so percent of the audio band, so small cymbals and the upper notes of acoustic guitar came across as a little brittle. Given how little musical information exists at such high frequencies, this isn’t a problem that bothered me much, but at $3,690 per pair I’m allowed to nitpick.
Usually, when I review a speaker, I end with a line to the effect of “You’ll like this speaker if . . . .” That’s too-faint praise for the SCS4T. Unless you’re that guy who craves tons of crazy-deep bass, I can safely say, “You’ll like this speaker” and leave it at that. There are certainly more affordable options, but enthusiasts who seek a speaker they love rather than the least expensive model that will suit their needs will find the SCS4T hard to resist.
The frequency response of the Thiel SCS4T is mildly uneven, with a downward tilt that indicates a somewhat reduced treble response. There’s no low bass, but midbass output is good, averaging 93.1 dB from 40 to 63 Hz. Slightly below-average sensitivity and a nominal 4-ohm impedance dictate that a fairly high-quality amp be used for best results.
It may be a bit pricey, but the Thiel Audio SCS4T’s outstanding build quality and ability to sound great with a wide range of music earn it a solid recommendation.
Following page: Extended test bench data