Review: Thiel SCS4 Bookshelf Speaker


MSRP for Thiel SCS4 bookshelf speaker is $1,980/pair

The average user will find this system suitable for all but the largest rooms, and biggest amplifiers.

Feb. 25, 2009 — by

The Thiel SCS4 speaker system has certainly met my expectations for performance. The SCS4 is a well thought out and well made effort. The materials and workmanship are both first class. The front baffle and speaker are cosmetically a thing of beauty, and the overall construction is excellent. The average user will find this system suitable for all but the largest rooms, and biggest amplifiers. If you have limited space, and the wife will not let you buy that floor standing speaker you really want, the Thiel SCS4’s can provide you with years of excellent sound and aesthetics to please the true audiophile in you.

The Thiel SCS4 is too small to be a floor standing speaker, and although on the large size for a bookshelf speaker, it will fit on all but the very smallest bookshelves. It will also fit easily on a typical speaker stand, but my first listening was done with the speaker on the floor. This is not the preferred location for this speaker, and Thiel clearly states this in their manual. When my son came into my listening room hearing the speaker for the first time, he immediately proclaimed, “Wow, that has way too much mid-bass!” (Adam is the Golden Ear in the family). Even elevated, this speaker has a bit too much mid-bass for my liking, and placing it on the floor exacerbates this issue.

If we examine the impedance magnitude curve of this speaker, and place this information over the frequency response, it is clear that the output of the speaker is highest where the power demand is highest, and the impedance magnitude is lowest. In my opinion, this speaker will sound more natural when driven with a tube amp than with a transistor amp because of the higher output impedance of the tube amplifier compared to a transistor amp. “Fattening” the low frequency output in this region is an easy way for dramatic affect to be added to movie soundtracks, and is sometimes done by manufacturers to create “the wow effect” in the untrained ears of potential end users. I do not believe that was Mr. Thiel’s intent. After speaking to him by phone, I believe he is motivated to make the best most neutral speaker he can, as he is by himself the engineering department, and wants most of all to make something he himself would buy.

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Product: Thiel SCS4 Bookshelf Speaker

Price: $1,980/pair

Performance: 3.5 out of 5

Value: 3 out of 5


  • Good sound quality with very good midrange performance
  • Can be oriented either horizontally or vertically without affecting dispersion or frequency response
  • Very good bass extension for a small speaker
  • Very smooth off axis response
  • Minimum floor space necessary when used with stands


  • Relatively low sensitivity (inherent in small box speakers)
  • Must be elevated for best performance
  • Can bottom out if overdriven
  • Grille very difficult to remove
  • Best performance slightly off center axis

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