Thiel is Toast, Specialty Audio Takes Another Hit

New Thiel logo black backgroundAfter a tumultuous five-year period, which began in 2012 when Thiel was sold to Tennessee private investor David B. Griffin, we can now confirm that Thiel Audio has been closed for good. Failing some kind of 11th hour rescue, another great American audio brand will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

See what we know of the closing of Thiel Audio…

We first reported on the strong rumors the company would be closing in December. Multiple sources were telling us it was all but over. We were able to confirm that the company had just laid off most of its staff at the end of November, as was originally reported on Facebook in an almost wistful post by departing Director of Engineering for Thiel, Dennis Crosson.

“A week ago Monday, it was announced that our company was closing and that Thursday was our last day. It was not a shock because we had watched our business remain stagnant for a very long time.

But when we reached CEO Elyse McKenna to confirm these rumors, she strongly denied that the company was closed. She did admit that significant changes had taken place, including significant layoffs, but she insisted that the company was still open.

“So, we are very much still open for business – I don’t know exactly where that [news of their closing] has come from,” McKenna said with remarkable equanimity. “Yes, there have been some changes to position us for our next phase of development. But as of right now, we are absolutely open and moving forward.”

The Boom Drops

Photo of Elyse McKenna, Thiel Audio CEO

Elyse McKenna
Thiel’s last CEO

McKenna told us repeatedly that Thiel would soon be announcing their new direction in Q1 2018. Now, that announcement appears to be moot – in an email exchange with McKenna in the last few days, she confirmed the rumors of Thiel’s closing:

“We had spent the last part of 2017 working to secure a round of funding for Thiel Audio. Sadly, that funding fell through and the decision has been made to close the company. This isn’t the outcome that any of us were hoping for as my team has worked incredibly hard to relaunch this brand and product. We made great strides heading in the right direction and simply ran out of time. It has been a massive undertaking and we were eager to conquer the challenge. I am thankful for the opportunity to have lead such a talented team and wish everyone associated with Thiel Audio the best in their next ventures.”

Former Executives Comment

Bob Brown, former Interim COO and a Board of Directors member in 2012 told us that this news was sad, but he wasn’t too surprised.

“Because they didn’t know the industry, they didn’t understand the importance of relationships in the specialty audio business,” Brown said, with a tinge of frustration in his voice. “Yeah, Thiel is a great brand and I’m very sad to see it go. But, truthfully,  I mourned it’s passing a long time ago and have moved on. Still, it’s a shame.”

Tom Malatesta, CEO in 2016 and part of 2017, told us he was proud of what his team was able to accomplish in the short time they were given.

“Very proud of the team I put together. We turned the company around. The job Mark Mason executed as Director of Music Industry Relations, attracting the music talent and industry participation for AURORA, created a “wow” factor for the company and brand to build on. Unfortunately the situation is now a mess but I salute all the folks who tried to make it work over the past several years. Ownership never comprehended the brand nor its position, past and future, in the marketplace.”

Photo of THIEL CS3.7


Micah Sheveloff, owner of WIRC Media, Thiel’s public relations firm who represented the company for many years, including during some of their best days…remembers the company for its true heritage.

My agency, WIRC Media, had the honor of representing the THIEL brand for roughly a decade. THIEL speakers were born from an unfettered passion to make great sound, which is how I discovered the brand as an audio salesperson in 1984. Everyone at THIEL worked to achieve the same goal—from the CNC operators and driver build techs to sales administration—it was all about building superb speakers and getting them to eager consumers. THIEL was an inspiration to me. And as a musician, I became accustomed to the overt dimensionality and precise instrument placement within the soundstage that Jim’s phase and time coherent designs seemed to present so magically. I understand that the reality of the world is that nothing lasts forever, however I feel like having represented the THIEL brand, and the memories that encompass those experiences, are held in a special place. Wow, we had some fun! And I am reminded of it every time I turn on my HiFi system.

Unfortunately, This Outcome is No Surprise

For long time readers of Strata-gee, this outcome is likely not  much of a surprise, as we’ve been following the long, slow decline of this brand ever since the 2012 sale. There will be plenty of time to conduct a detailed post-mortem, but we can think of a few “contributing factors” to this brand’s demise.

  • First – New owner Griffin had absolutely no previous experience in the technology business…none…zippo. Beyond that, neither Griffin nor any of his subsequent management teams, had any experience in the high-end, high-performance audio segment. In the high-end specialty audio, relationships are almost as important as product design and technology. Yet, after the departure of the initial turnaround team, including Bob Brown and Stephen DeFuria, the company’s communication with its dealers, reps, and the market overall was absolutely abysmal.
  • Second – The challenge of reinvigorating Thiel would have been difficult for even an extremely knowledgable and highly experienced audio expert. The fact is, the specialty audio world had changed dramatically and many companies were struggling to find their way in this new wireless, multi-room, Bluetooth speaker world. Even companies more stable than Thiel faced extreme challenges trying to course-correct for the shifting winds of consumer preference. Many are still struggling to do that.
  • Third – Elyse McKenna, who was appointed as Thiel’s CEO in the middle of 2017 in replacement of Tom Malatesta, was the fifth CEO at Thiel since 2012. In five years, Thiel Audio had five CEOs, five different management teams in charge of the company, five entirely different approaches to running the company. There was no consistency is strategy, approach, tactics…even product development. You don’t have to be a Harvard MBA to appreciate the lunacy of this approach.
  • FourthAn over-estimation of the power of a specialty brand…and an under-appreciation of the context of its utilization. The new owner at Thiel believed that the brand was so strong that they could go to China and buy wireless speakers that they could sell at a higher margin because of the power of the Thiel brand. But it didn’t work, at least in part because context matters. For example, take the brand Apple – a very powerful brand. But put the Apple brand on a cheap dog collar and watch the product just sit there. The context of the brand’s reputation matters.
  • FifthWhen consumers are confused…they DON’T BUY. This is an old marketing axiom that still holds true today. The company first offered the Thiel brand, then they launched the Aurora brand, and finally the Aurora by Thiel brand. They attempted to change the Thiel brand definition while at the same time that they were trying to launch and define the new Aurora brand – on both a music performance space and wireless speakers – ending up with a hazy, not clearly defined Aurora by Thiel brand. I’m confused just trying to explain it.

Didn’t Stay Committed

Co-founder, Tom Thiel

Thiel Audio co-founder, Tom Thiel

But at the end of the day, the biggest issue is that Griffin did not stay committed to any one team or strategic direction over the long haul. It takes at least two or more years of concerted effort to establish a brand on average. But with new teams every year, and new strategies and approaches…no one strategy was given an opportunity to gain traction. This is classic mis-management at the ownership level.

Had Griffin and Thiel’s management team done everything right, they may still have failed. But the zig-zag path they did take almost guaranteed failure.

The World Changed

Thiel’s world changed dramatically in 2012, when a Nashville investor named David B. Griffin bought the by-then diminished Thiel Audio company – a once proud leading brand in the high-end loudspeaker business. Founded by engineer and chief technology strategist James Thiel, along with his brother Tom Thiel and college friend Kathy Gornik Thiel had a good run and made a name for itself. But it wasn’t the first bit of drama the company endured…that first traumatic turn of events took place in 2009 when Jim Thiel died as a result of cancer.

Photo of Kathy Gornik, Dawn Cloyd, and Jim Thiel in Dubai

Kathy Gornik, daughter Dawn Cloyd, and Jim Thiel

Jim was more than the company’s titular head…he was it’s chief engineer and technology strategist. Passionate about music and it’s reproduction, Thiel developed the theory, based on Jim’s research, that phase coherence and time coherence were the most critical elements in sound reproduction. Their design, known as Coherent Source technology, served as the basis of several series’ of speakers from the company, many of which earned respect and solid critical acclaim. Even if you didn’t agree with some of his principles, you respected his commitment.

The Wind Out of Their Sails (and Sales)

Losing Jim in 2009 just took the wind out of the sails of the company. And while the company’s other engineers picked up the slack, other market forces and strong headwinds began to buffet the company…leading then-CEO Kathy Gornik to make the decision to look for investors. Gornik told Strata-gee about it in an exclusive interview in 2013:

There was “…a confluence of events – including Jim’s death, the changes in consumers’ audio tastes that had been ongoing for years, and buying patterns of consumers that rendered the audio specialist a more minor role in the scheme of things,” Gornik told us. “If we were going to adapt, we needed fresh ideas across the gamut of the company and this meant having capital to invest. We had already begun this process but we needed to proceed with greater speed.”

It turned out to be, as we know now, a fateful decision.

All That’s Left Now

A skeletal team remains at the company wrapping up details before finally closing the doors. Sources tell us there is significant inventory of the Aurora speakers that remains and there is no word yet on how the company intends to dispose of them.

The Thiel Audio website is still active and can been seen here:


Thiel is Toast, Specialty Audio Takes Another Hit — 74 Comments

  1. A sad day for sure, but as noted in this fine coverage not a surprise at this date. This special part of the market is driven by passion and vision, and without clarity on either this result to a great extent was forgone. My condolences to the brand, the man and his many friends and family. He had that vision, and too bad circumstances did not allow another to pick up and carry it on. Change comes.

  2. A sad day. But you could see it coming. The question was when. There are still many Thiel owners out there. They have relied on Rob Gillum at the KY. facility to fix their speakers. I guess that option is gone too.

    • According to sources elsewhere, Rob seems to be setting up an standalone repair operation for Thiel products, on his own. It is unclear at this time whether warranties are invalid, but I would suspect they are.

      • I have reached out to the company in an attempt to determine the status of their warranty repair center in Lexington. So far we have no response.

        So nothing is yet confirmed. However there is reason to believe that efforts are being made to try to do something there.


  3. a shame that Thiel wasn’t allowed to follow the course set by Jim after his passing…
    today’s tech (DSP, etc.) would’ve allowed Jim’s designs to achieve the design goals he championed, to a far greater degree than he’d been able to do when alive…

    • This is how I feel about it. I think he was really on to something with his overall design philosophy but it was really hard to do what he wanted to do with passive speakers. It’d be great if a company that is capable of realizing his dream bought the name. The old Thiel is gone. It was a great company that caught a couple of very bad breaks in a row. Jim died and the dumbest rich guy on earth bought it. What a bummer.

  4. Hopefully someone else will re-buy it and come back to the core values and products. Just launch a new line of high end speakers with the same CS coax concept and better materials and parts, and call it V2? Or maybe keep the same CS coax to reuse parts and keep costs down, but put them in smaller and more affordable enclosures, like a small 3 way tower and/or bookshelf speaker? Would have been a lot easier to keep the company’s momentum and loyal customer base for many good years.

    • I wish they’d keep the coax and put it in smaller, dsp, active speakers similar to what kef has done with the wireless LS50. Keep them first order, phase correct but do that via dsp rather than with big, complex, passive crossovers. I’d think they could get the cost down significantly and still have a great sounding speaker that is affordable to a lot more people.

        • It is certainly feasible using current DSP topologies and electronics to realize Jim’s dream- the question is are they any people out there with the passion, drive, and fiscal resources to make that happen. Technically it not all that complex, but financially it will take serious commitment and not a small amount of $ and patience.

    • I’m not sure it would have been a priority for any resurrected true-to-Jim Thiel to “keep costs down.” For the level of sonics, design, and cabinet finish, Thiels across the board were typically half the price of competitors who could offer equal attributes. When we see the insane prices of so-called “mid-priced” speakers today, Thiel staying their course would have kept them as competitive yet unique as they were in their heyday.

      • The real question is whether any resurrected Theil could have even happened- there was no one who had the $$, and willingness to do it it seems then or now- Costs down vs the other stuff is a relative question- what would he market pay for a”real Theil”if one could be built- ???????????hard to survive as boutique company today unless ownership is willing to forgo big $$ profits for quality

        • Yes, my observation was more relevant if a smart designer aligned with Jim’s ideals (if only had a protege existed) taken over upon his death, not years later. In 2009 Thiel was near the top of their game, great staff, competitively priced for their finish and sound, had decent dealer relationships, and was at least a little profitable, or so I thought. I’d guess Wilson, Magico, and those reputable established engineering-centric relatively-high-quantity 6-figure-flagships speaker brands are making a fair profit despite the money put into R&D. But I don’t know the economics of that sector so well; others here probably do. Thiel was never in that niche, with their 7.2 at $14K/pr…

          • IMO most of those 6 figure brands have such pricing because of volume vs costs not because of quality- it does not take nor should it take that amount of $$ to produce an HQ speaker passive Theil like- it’s possible IF someone wants to make the commitment but that’s what it would be a commitment to live with minimal profits for a while if success was achieved. In the current climate where 10$ junk seems to satisfy I don’t know if it’s possible- wish it was but……….The technology is there, the parts are there it would take hardcore committed ownership and engineering talent to do it and I don’t see that happening unless someone steps up witht the full knowledge that they are doing this for the quality and sound not for the $$,.

  5. It was clear that the new owners thought the power of the label alone was enough to sustain a business. They didn’t understand the “secret sauce” of the 1st order crossover and other details of the design was really what the brand represented to their fanbase.

    And the optic of their staffing choices, and the designs they did for their speakers, really made a shaky and weak foundation that they couldn’t grow off of.

    • I think the stereophile review of the 3.7 started with a good assessment of what Thiel is all about with “Thiel Audio’s 3-series loudspeakers are the audio equivalents of BMW’s 3-series sports cars: relatively affordable, but 100% about performance.” New ownership seemed to think it was a “luxury” brand and good performance priced high in a pretty box was what Thiel was about.

  6. Everyone at the original Thiel should be very proud of what they accomplished over the years. They put passion into wonderful products that were, and still are, truly enjoyed. Who has the opportunity to build a ‘thing’ that can move souls to tears?

    Think of the real Theil as a Porsche 911. That quirky, originally water cooled, rear engine, horizontally opposed car is so unusual, but what a gem! If the 911 Porsche ever disappears because of changing times, everyone involved with Porsche should always be period.

    I know I am! :) ( Hi Kathy and Gary and Denise and Dawn and Rob! )

    • Thank you! Much appreciated. If the first CEO had not treated Kathy and me so badly, we could have stayed and allowed them to utilize the capital infusion well. When they lost Kathy, they lost their best remaining resource. I truly hope Rob continues the service department for all our wonderful customers.

      • Dawn,

        It is truly unfortunate the way things worked out. And sad to see such a great brand name disappear. I hope you and Kathy are doing well!

        Thanks for reading!


      • It’s so nice to see a post from Dawn, here.

        Over the years I had been in occasional contact with Thiel, which included interactions with Kathy Gornik and as I remember, once or twice, Dawn.

        Each time I was left thinking “What wonderful people, what a wonderful company!”

        It’s no wonder many of us remain “fans.”

    • Between complete closing down and a Chinese investor group buying the assets (patents, designs) and moving all production to China, I would very much like the second option.
      Anyone interested? Customers are still here! :D

  7. What a shame.They were doomed when they dropped the original speaker line. They could very easily have sought ways to reduce cost in speaker manufacture while still sticking with what identified a Thiel speaker, phase coherence and time alignment to create more affordable speakers for their sizable customer base. A bluetooth speaker could have been a side venture. To lower costs, they could have outsourced their drivers. I know they originally did this with Vifa. They could have also had the normal real wood veneered speakers and added a less expensive vinyl covered speaker. These are just a couple ideas.
    Anyway, the main problem now for folks who still own Thiels like myself, is repair. Will Rob stay in the business? How do we get in touch with him now?

  8. I think too much of the company rested with the design efforts of Jim Thiel. Perhaps obvious, but Thiel Audio was Jim Thiel. After he passed and different ownership resulted, the new Thiel abandoned the Coherent Source design philosophy, and that is what made Thiel a force in American audio. There was just something beautiful about the CS 1, 2 and 3 series speakers – not only in performance, but in the simplistic, beautiful sloped designs that were the antithesis of an ugly box design. I will never forget my CS 1.1 speakers – such a fine design!

    • I totally agree with this. The entire Thiel philosophy died when Jim died. There was nobody in the industry willing to go to the lengths he would go to achieve his goals. I know this first hand, because I worked for a driver vendor that supplied him very early on in his company’s life. Everything we supplied to Thiel was highly custom, and both difficult and expensive to build. Many talked about having “first order” crossovers, but Jim went way beyond this. His goal was to have genuine first order acoustic handover from one driver to the next. The complexity this required within the crossover was not trivial. Some of his designs required as much as 45 components. As time went on and with ever increasing demands on driver design far outside the norm, driver vendors backed away, leaving Jim to bring driver manufacture in house. I can’t begin to imagine what a difficult transition that was, and how much time and money was spent to get such a complex enterprise up and running. And the effect could be seen in the long delays in getting products to market. I don’t think it was possible to bring any true Thiel product to market that wasn’t going to be costly, and difficult to build. There was a ceiling to the market for such product, in spite of Jim’s unwavering dedication to his “coherent source” concept. After all, there were many successful high end speaker competitors to Thiel that designed products using nearly an opposite acoustic approach, that also got positive reviews and were judged to be sonically excellent. But “coherent sound” was inseparable from “Thiel”, and surely this fact would have been known by the purchasers of the company. The mistake I think they made was in not understanding the near impossibilities of developing such designs without another engineer like Jim (non-existent) at the helm. The only alternative was to shift into yet another line of “me too” conventional drivers in a box with a high order crossover. Who needed that?

      • That’s what they tried and it did not work. Customers did not want PSB speakers which is essentially what we’re produced be Mark Mason.
        I still think a good audio engineer could bring back the Thiel designs and produce them at a cheaper cost by adding efficiencies and having drivers built by a speaker driver company. In my mind they could produce drivers that are not as custom as Jim Thiel demanded that would still sound great and capture the imagination and business of all the Thiel customers out there including myself.
        I love Thiel speakers and really wonder what else I would buy if I had to replace my CS1.6’s new?

      • I think one possible alternative would’ve been to start building active speakers that incorporated dsp for the crossover rather than complex passive networks. Something like that wouldn’t please everyone but I bet performance would be as good or better and could still conform to his first order, coherent source design philosophy.

        • As much as active loudspeakers make a lot of sense from a technical perspective, the “traditional” high end audio market still pretty much rejects this approach. You only have to look to the likes of Magico, Wilson, YG, Devore, and many others. This was the arena where Thiel was playing, and making such a shift likely would have been just as problematic as the one they made towards conventional passive crossover designs. Using DSP to achieve similar results to a first order crossover is technically possible, but if you just emulate a first order crossover digitally, you still don’t solve the problem of requiring very non conventional drive units. You can alternatively design a high order crossover and then digitally correct it for time, which is something a lot of active speaker companies already do. But I still think it would have been a “tough sell” for Thiel to go fully active. B & O has been doing fully active speakers-and pretty good ones- for well over 30 years now, and they still get very little respect from the traditional high end customers.

          • I agree John Stone.

            I’m one of those reasons why active speakers don’t sell well.
            Even though in principle it makes tons of sense, a lot of audiophiles like to feel they have some of their own influence in molding the sound of their system. That’s part of the fun.
            To that end, I absolutely love the sound of my speakers powered by my various tube amps, and I generally haven’t found a solid state amplification as satisfying. If I went active, I’d have to forgo the fun and satisfaction I get with using tube amps (at least, that’s the case with many active speakers when the amplification is built in).

            Of course one can use tube amps to drive an active crossover system…but usually “active” is associated with the manufacturer supplying the amplifiers. (At least in the minds of many audiophiles).

          • I think active will eventually become dominant since it’s the best bang for the buck and in some ways inherently superior. At any price point an active setup is capable of better performance. The question is when. Passive is popular because that used to be the only thing available. Most big budget audiophiles are old and aren’t going to dominate the market for much longer.

            I don’t really think of Wilson, YG or Magico as Thiel competitors. Those are more “luxury” market products that cost far more than their performance could justify. Thiel was a high performance brand.

            I think I’m done buying passive speakers. The cost has gone through the roof and I’ve got a pair of actives that are great. There are quite a few active home speakers. Elac is coming out with a line, Kef just came out with one, ATC has some active home models, Dynaudio has some, Bryston does too. There are others.

          • In response to Joe, I could not agree more- passive systems are not dead, but active is now reaching its stride.

        • To mate the attributes of the ‘classic’ Thiel with the best of modern active DSP would have required an engineering staff at least equal to what they used to have and a steep learning curve. ATC et al build some great active speakers, but my guess is even the next-gen Thiel buyer wants an all-analog signal path available. It’s instructive to see how current Vandersteen designs carry on the Thiel torch they shared for so many years.

          • Even though Vandersteen shares a similar tech approach, I always found the design and overall “look” to be below those of Thiel. Sound quality is paramount, but look is also important given these things sit in your home.

          • I agree to a certain extent that Vandersteen carries on (maybe better described as “survives”) the Thiel legacy, but only to the extent that both utilize first order crossovers and are designed with time and phase coherence as major goals. Otherwise, Vandersteen utilized (with the classic models 1, 2 and 3) a very clever minimal-baffle mdd cabinet that on the outside looked like a large box covered in a grille, while Thiel utilized a more expensive sloped cabinet covered by real wood veneer. In addition, Thiel speakers were voiced “light”, particularly the earlier Thiel models, while the Vandersteens have always had a rich, more warm sound.

          • Oh yes, I mention Vandersteens primarily for prioritizing “old-school” implementation of time and phase coherency across all products. Different appearance and voicing certainly. But like Thiel, a reasonable price for ongoing ‘new’ solutions to drivers, cabinets and materials. I’d like to hear their Treo vs my CS2.4.

  9. I received an email from Rob Gillum that he is in the process of buying the repair portion of Thiel and should be ready by month end to accept repairs. He said he would send an email to previous customers. That’s all I have now.

  10. I’m sure I’m not the only one thankful to Strata-gee for covering the Thiel situation so thoroughly over these past few years. It’s been fascinating…and of course disheartening for us Thiel fans…to watch the slow motion train wreck. But at least we could come here to get a glimpse into what was going on.

    Thanks again!

    • Rich,

      I appreciate your comment! And I appreciate you finding Strata-gee as a reliable resource and hope you will continue to visit.

      The Thiel story is part of a larger series of stories as I cover the shifting sands of specialty A/V…including high-end.

      I don’t have an answer yet to the question of “Where is specialty going?” But I continue to follow leads and report my findings.

      Thanks again for reading!


      • Ted,

        I wasn’t aware of this site until, I think, someone linked to it in an Audiogon forum. Now that I’ve visited I will be back to check out some of your other stories.

    • Yes, a big thanks to Strata-gee for this coverage! I might not have picked this up for quite some time otherwise. Thiel was part of my first high-end system, and I have very good memories about listening to great music on them and impressing family/friends with their clarity and unbelievable imaging.

    • I, too, am glad to know what’s going on, Ted. I am very saddened by the news, though. I have a pair of CS 3.5’s I bought just over 30 years ago. I’m listening to and enjoying them right now. In a couple of interactions with Thiel folks over the years, I, like everyone else was dazzled by their helpfulness and friendliness. My next glass of wine will be raised to Jim, Tom, and Kathy, and their many coworkers. What a good work they did!

  11. Ted,

    is this really surprising?

    As wrote in many of your previous Thiel stories, on of my last:

    Just one addendum to mentality and social side if you will. One does not need to be malicious to raise the question, how to we path from the class of lady Gornik, to adolescent type of CEOs, where shallow perception (looking at McKenna press vanity) is more important then any substance or action?

    Times are changed, values corrupted, innovation is a lost treasure. But surely you see that present generation needs refinement as well. Far from generalization, or shield of nostalgia (my-time-was-better-then-yours) but just reading her background, makes me wonder where we are going.

    I hope Tom or Kathy (yes I’m chanting) with good folks of Thiel support (Gary, do you copy this?) perhaps, there is something they could do.

    • Volken,

      No, sadly, this end was not a surprise.

      But in fairness to Dr. McKenna, the patient had already lost too much blood by the time she arrived just a few short months ago.



    • The decisions were being made by David B Griffin who I believe is a 60ish rich guy. I think over time the degree of his ineptitude may become more public. I’ve seen comments here and there over the last few years about how he/Thiel communicated with dealers, the press that would make me think he is either rich enough that this was not important to him or he has incredibly bad judgement. Whatever the case, McKenna was a symptom rather than the cause of the problem.

      • In reply to Joe:
        McKenna may well have been a symptom, but if she was as smart and had the biz acumen she was purported to bring to the party – then why did she take the job? It was clearly a badly wounded, sinking ship when she walked in the front door — add in the terrible & poorly managed and executed Aurora idea (nobody wanted that from Theil )- which was DOA before it left the dock on the Pacific Rim with lack of any consistency in relationships, focus, or even communication (as Ted has pointed out), it should have been blatently obvious to a”biz pro” that the placed was seriously screwed up and the owner was completely un-prepared or wiling to do what really needed to be done- even if the understood it- it seems to me that all she did was to ride the ship until it was well past time to jump overboard – you could have hired a 2nd year economics student to do that? Her repeated statements notwithstanding, did she really make an effort to understand the company or try to fix anything- IMO No! So Just another in a multi-year string of peo0le rotated in/out with no results and no progress on any of the core issues. Perhaps 4-5 years ago it could have been saved but by the time McKenna waltzed in it was already over- the abtteries in the pacemaker still had some charge left but it was dead walking.

        • I’m not suggesting that she was competent or appropriate for the job. Judging by all of the other decisions Griffin made, it seems unlikely that he’d have hired a ceo with any chance of success. I thought she was a bizarre choice and very much in-line with all the other bizarre things he did while he ran the company into the ground. Maybe she was just the prettiest applicant. I’m just saying that had he not hired her he surely would’ve hired some other person with no chance of succeeding.

  12. Ted,

    I had no intentions, in any way to be rude to McKenna, but those vanity shots, highly exaggerated for her position (look for her other shots on web) is reminder for the constant lack of culture. I can assure you, Gornik had better things to do in her time.

    Back to Thiel, there is simply no reason for Thiel support (Jim’s products) with very capable inventory, to dismiss their presence. At least one decade awaits them with orders. From there, who knows


    indeed, but this just proves the point that in situations like these “CEO” is equivalent of nothing. Just a title without meaning. I’m simply commenting balloon of perception, that seems to be more important then action.

  13. As a 20 year owner of CS6’s would welcome Rob Gillum’s contact information as he endeavors to keep the wonderful world of Original Thiel Speakers working well into the future. What a fantastic design and incredible value for music reproduction. Thanks Jim Thiel

    • I was wondering that myself. I wonder if they could figure out how to make a legitimately Thiel product or two and sell them factory direct or something. I hate to see that coax die as it’s an exceptional driver. I know they outsourced the design of the 2.7 and it is a well-loved design so it’s not impossible to find a designer who can carry on Jim’s work.

      • Finding some from an engineering standpoint is frankly the least difficult issue- funding the project, keeping it funded while there is no profit and limited cash flow IS the issue. Factory direct is not a model the “thielophires” would seem likely to embrace given the desire for warm fuzzy high-end parlors, but it is feasible they could reach a whole new audience that way- the question is who is going to put a 7 figure $ amount at risk to pull it off???????????????

        • and BTW building that coax driver in small lots is going to be VERY expensive and complicated— if any OEM source would even consider it- so there’s that issue as well.

  14. Ted if you keep contact with Tom, if they plan to R&D their aspirations for thiel, at later date, by all means, let them know about Roy Johnson :

    I can’t think of more knowledgeable person in US, more capable and more educated in field of Jim Thiel’s excellence. He can build them, he can propose continuation from any TC models Thiel had. Thiel CS7.2 with upgrade for 2018. would make great attraction to Thiel’s name.

    It is a great irony (just reading) that Gary works for Bryston: ,

    The key word in Bryston;s philosophy was always: Accurate and Accuracy !

    Bryston’s trip to speaker products is fairly new, hmm, Tanner, Bryston, Thiel… that would make great team and combination.

    But, in all honesty, Roy Johnson is the best person for Thiel continuaion. Even if he is hired just for designing a few speakers.

  15. Pingback: R.I.P. | The Coherent Source

  16. Is the Thiel name going to be available (not licensed, but sold) so that another may take Jim’s work and bring it back to the audio industry?

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your question. The short answer to your question is, I don’t know. However, it depends on where they go from here. If they decide to bankrupt the company, then some other company may decide to step in and buy out the assets, like the intellectual property – including the brand name and logo.

      On the other hand, there is no guarantee. Some feel the brand name, in the wake of the last five year slide into closing, has lost any of its remaining value.

      We’ll have to wait and see what the ownership does. They have not been, as I have pointed out many times, very communicative about their plans.


      • Well, let’s hope they decide to ‘handover’ the name to someone who might be interested in taking the Thiel back to former glory.
        BTW, they can ditch the current logo….it looks too southwestern. :)

        • I would agree with Ted that Theil name value today is seriously tarnished. Technology wise the concepts and designs could be “re-animated” but I s=would respectfully suggest that a new name xxx using Theil technology might have a better chance – the service company is using coherent source wording and that has potential. Too many burned bridges and a lot of bad karma business wise surrounding the existing Theil entity. If the IP/name does become available, the real question is who has a few million+$ to re-launch anything and are they willing to spend several years waiting for a return on the investment since that is at a minimum what it would take – if it’s even possible – if you want Las Vegas Sportsbook odds on that I’d say 50/50 at best for success and only if whoever it makes 0 mistakes in re-launching.
          The technology is viable, the question is are their enough new fresh customers to sell enough product to make the costs of custom drivers and woodwork bearable and even modestly net profitable? It would certainly be a venture with significant risk and cost so…….

          • I think the audiophile marketplace that actually cares about 1st order crossover design and time and phase coherence is extremely small today. It was only 30+ years ago when John Bau’s little Spica TC50 loudspeakers became all the rage, Vandersteen’s 2c speakers became a huge sales success and Thiel was growing rapidly with its 1, 2 and 3 series loudspeakers. But today is not yesterday. I believe a lot of the problems inherent in other designs eventually became sorted-out, probably due to better design knowledge, crossover components, cabinets and drivers. 30+ years ago, these first order designs reproduced music with great openess and coherence that just couldn’t be matched in other speakers. Today, many types of speakers achieve great sound with different design philosophies, and rarely are they based on those things that were important to Thiel.

          • I could not agree more Tom, that is why I said it would be a labor of love and a long wait for any profitability if ever. With improvements in driver design and manufacturing, DSP, better x-over parts and so forth a lot of today’s quality speakers get damn close if not on top of what made Thiel so prominent 3+decades ago. If anyone wants to go after that specific space it would have to be with the understanding you pointed out- small market, limited mindshare available and questionable business outcome- as a boutique hobby – sure- as a business not so much IMO.But…. someone could make a nice small speciality company out of the IP, with the full understanding that it would never get big- like super-custom supercars a limited number for a few- maybe.

  17. i’d heard of Thiels before, even had cursory exposure to them playing music very precisely, in high-end audio salons on the east coast. never saw them anywhere out near the northwest coast here. didn’t really listen to them in any close detail until I saw a WAY-marked down pair on ebay, and the price was so good I hadda bite. when they came in the mail, I hooked ’em up and was GOBSMACKED at their tonal purity and sweetness even with mid-fi ancillary equipment and poor listening room acoustics and poorly recorded source material [seems most of the best music was recorded poorly, why is that??]. but it seems I came to the party after everybody else went home. no more Thiel. sniff. :(

    • There’s a Thiel fan thread over on audiogon. Jim Thiel’s brother Tom posts pretty regularly. A former Thiel employee, Tom and others are working on upgrade kits for older Thiel speakers. Thiel has a dedicated following. I’m guessing a lot of people get into the brand because it is so good for the money and they last forever. You can get used ones for cheap that, as you’ve found, are spectacularly better than you would guess you could get for the price.

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