Thiel Owners Celebrate the News of the Rebirth of Thiel Service
The rumors have been swirling around various audio blogs and forums for a couple of weeks now and Strata-gee has confirmed that the service department of Thiel Audio, the only part of the Nashville-based company that remains in Lexington, KY, has been split off from the company and purchased by long time head of service, Rob Gillum. The development is incredibly good news for Thiel owners everywhere, many of whom were crushed to hear the brand was closing down.
Rob Gillum talks to Strata-gee…
“That deal is a done deal, I signed a Bill of Sale,” Gillum said in a telephone interview with Strata-gee recently confirming the rumors. This development is a significant demarkation in what has been years of disappointing news for many Thiel fans and owners as a succession of management teams, appeared to be running the company into the ground. Legacy Thiel speakers, unlike some other brands, is an investment grade product that owners tend to hold on to for years. So when Strata-gee broke the news that the company had closed, many went into mourning.
They had good reason. Thiel products were targeted at a very unique niche – music lovers who appreciated performance but did not have unlimited budgets. In many cases, Thiel purchasers struggled to buy their speakers and then held on to them for years. Throwing them away to buy some other equally impactful high-end speaker is not an easy option for many. And if you’re a fan of Thiel technology, which many owners became, you wouldn’t want traditional speakers anyway, a reality that caused a disconnect between the new owners of the Thiel company and fans of their legacy products.
Reason to Rejoice
Now, owners have reason to rejoice, as they will be able to continue reaching for new coherent, sonic heights with their legendary Thiel speakers for as long as they would like. Gillum has purchased the assets of Thiel’s service department, although not the intellectual property (such as the brand name).
That being the case, Gillum had to rebrand, chosing a name that will be identifiable to – and if you’ll pardon the pun, resonate with – Thiel owners everywhere…Coherent Source Service. The name signals his intention to remain true to the legacy of Thiel that its customers over the years know so well – Jim Thiel’s philosophy of coherent source design.
Not Legally Bound to Honor Warranties. But…
Gillum did not purchase Thiel’s service liabilities. What that means pragmatically is that Coherent Source Service is not legally bound to cover warranties of all Thiel products…likely a large financial burden. But Gillum tells us that even though he is not required to, he intends to honor the warranty on Thiel legacy products only.
“They [Thiel Nashville] made some speakers from the Third Avenue Collection and they didn’t sell very many – that’s why they had to close their doors,” Gillum explained. “Those speakers, I don’t have any repair parts for, so I’m not really going to be able to do anything to the ones they made in Nashville. As far as the old Legacy series that Jim Thiel made, I am going to honor those warranties – which I don’t have to – but I definitely will. Anybody that has a Thiel warranty from the Legacy series…I will honor that.”
Paying Out of His Own Pocket
Why would Gillum voluntarily take on such a financial burden? Part of the answer is that many of the Legacy products are nearing the end of their warranty period, helping to make the financial burden manageable. But we think there’s more to this decision than that.
Gillum speaks with a light Southern drawl and has the mannerisms of a Southern gentleman, referring to the interviewer as “sir” in his answers, as in “Yes, sir” or “No, sir.” In speaking with him, we clearly sensed that Gillum takes great pride in his long career with Thiel – telling us he joined the company in 1981, is a dyed-in-the-wool devotee of the philosophies of Jim Thiel, and was even head of manufacturing for many years.
This history has given Gillum a deep appreciation of the product, but even more than that, of their loyal customers. Se we think this is the real story behind why he chose to cover these warranties out of his own pocket, even though he doesn’t legally have to. It is a gesture that is uncommon in today’s world – but it speaks to a code of honor that is more intuition than logic.
Here are some of the questions we asked Gillum, with his responses:
Will Coherent Source Service have enough business to survive long term?
“Well from my calculations, if you go all the way back to 70s when Jim Thiel first designed the Model 01, we’ve sold probably 80,000 speakers,” Gillum said. “So there’s a lot of speakers to be serviced. And if you’ve ever owned a pair of Thiel speakers, you know how well they’re constructed and they’re very durable speakers. Hopefully, because of the price range, people would much rather service those speakers than shop for a new one.”
Does Gillum anticipate opening up service to other brands/products?
“At this time, we are only servicing legacy Thiel,” Gillum said. “However, we are looking at other options.”
What about parts availability, especially on some of the older legacy products? Thiel used some custom-designed parts and otherwise acquired parts from sometimes obscure sources. Where does that leave Coherent Source Service in terms of parts availability? His answer surprised us.
“I have probably 95% of the parts needed to service all Thiel models,” Gillum assured us. Beyond this, he is confident that he can find replacement parts that will work as well or even better going forward. And for all the custom driver models made in-house, Gillum says he has 100% of the replacement parts he needs now.
What is your philosophy about servicing Thiel products and why do owners speak so fondly about their interactions with you and your service department?
“My policy is to try and treat everybody fairly. I don’t treat one guy one way and another guy another way. Of course there are situations that you have to make decisions on, but I try be fair with everybody,” Gillum said in a determined voice. “And it’s extremely important to me to service the Model 01 as well as a CS5 or 3.7. If you’re a Thiel owner, you’re a Thiel owner – and I like to give good service.”
Cabinet Finish and Restoration
Beyond drivers and crossovers, what about cabinets? This is an important element as well, because Thiel cabinets weren’t just square boxes the components were stuffed into – they were an integral part of the speaker design and sound. In fact, co-founder Tom Thiel went on to some acclaim in the quality and the finish of his woodworking, not to mention the performance of his cabinet designs.
There is good news here as well. Gillum tells us they have the ability to work on cabinet issues through a local source that he has cultivated. Even more notably, Gillum tells us that Tom Thiel himself will be advising Coherent Source Service on finish and cabinet restoration matters.
A Performance Upgrade for Your Thiel Speaker? Get a ‘Hot Rod’ Kit
Finally, Gillum revealed to us that he is working on what he calls “hot rod” kits. These will be specially created kits developed for specific models of Thiel legacy speakers that will offer upgraded components and the ability for owners to step-up the performance of their loudspeakers. Coming from Coherent Source Service and Gillum, this is about as close as you can come to a factory authorized performance upgrade.
What a great way to extend the legacy of Thiel…with high-performance upgrade kits that take advantage of new or otherwise improved technical items, such as capacitors, resistors and the like, but work with coherent source technology. A smart solution that audiophiles are likely to embrace.
You can reach Coherent Source Service here:
Coherent Source Service, LLC
763 Newtown Pike, Suite 130
Lexington, KY 40511
Phone: (859) 554-9790
Find them on the web at: www.coherentsourceservice.com.