In the late Eighties, I had my heart set on a pair of tower speakers—much like a coworker’s KEF 104/2. I was on a quest to replace the inferiority of the large rectangular boxes that fronted my own stereo with something more… elegant. We were young, lived and worked in isolation in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; and spent money frivolously—as young people were wont to do.
Andrew Marshall’s Audio Ideas Guide provided the glossy-papered education with which I immersed myself. Day in, day out, I committed the reviews to memory, hoping to share in his experience, firsthand, when I returned to civilization. I recall him being particularly fond of the PSB Stratus…
With the familiar sound of wheels touching tarmac now in the past, I was off to the local retailer, music in hand, only to plop myself down into the leather chair; ready to be impressed. The Stratus did not disappoint. I revelled in the sounds of acoustic guitar, rock drums, and violin concertos. I was sold.
The salesperson suggested that I listen to another similarly-priced speaker, for comparison. ‘Okay.’ I said, already confident in the choice I had made. Being self-assured, as a young man, as I was wont to be. What followed was the most convincing sound of an acoustic guitar I had ever heard. In fact, every instrument seemed more “real”. I was resigned.
“How much… more?”, I asked.
“Oh, I’m sure we could work something out.”, he replied.
After the requisite dance on value, and the stapling of the receipts, I was the owner of a pair of Thiel CS2 loudspeakers. Loaded onto the plane, my prize and I headed back to the island.
I couldn’t wait for my colleagues to hear the joy I found. I felt proud to be playing in the big kids’ audiophile sandbox. Then they listened.
One of them thought there was something wrong. She heard the tweeter break up when a cymbal was hit very hard. An obvious distortion of a familiar track. She had never encountered that before, listening to this song on her own system. I was mortified. I double checked everything, to make sure I didn’t make a mistake in my setup. I didn’t.
The Thiels it seemed, were merely and brutally honest with the happenings in the recording studio that day. We surmised that the cymbal was too close to the mic, and was overloaded by the input. Alas, this lack of forgiveness was not appreciated by everybody present…
‘Tell the truth.’, they say. Perhaps our reality is less idealistic. We hear what we want to hear, and anything that upsets our recollection or preconception, is rejected.
Andrew Marshall wrote about the Thiel CS3.5 in a later review, about its clinical nature, and penchant for laying bare, everything from the speaker’s cable to the recording studio itself. Was it musical? Was it enjoyable? Andrew felt it was; as did I, that day.
Perhaps my memory of it, was wrong. I wanted to believe my revelation—and that it was shared. Maybe it is nothing more than an overactive imagination—as I am wont to have. But the CS2’s had served me well for 25 years. Never had another loudspeaker swayed me from their candour; until recently.
But I’ll save that for another post…