Saturday, September 19, 2009

Memories of Jim Thiel

Most of my fondest memories of Jim Thiel come from a factory tour in 2001. During the first night at dinner Jim, Kathy, and the higher ranking people were in a discussion about finish options, price points, shipping time, and other business matters while Ken Dawkins and myself were making non-audio small talk. Finally Ken asked me, "So what kind of receiver are you using with your speakers?" My response was, "Well, I'm actually using a Parasound P/HP850 preamp and an Adcom GFA5802 amp with Audioquest cables." Jim, who happened to be sitting next to me was obviously bored by the business talk and turned to me and said, "That's a pretty nice system." Jim spent the next 45 minutes or so having an in depth conversation with the least important person at the table, a kid in his early 20's that few people in the industry took seriously. It wasn't a one sided conversation either, he was interested in my thoughts and opinions as well.

The next day in the Thiel listening room Ken asked us to listen to the PowerPoints which our company had repeatedly declined to put on display. In fact myself and my co-workers were under strict and explicit orders to not listen to the PowerPoint speakers under ANY circumstances. The higher ups in our company had never heard the speakers but had decided based on size that they couldn't possibly be worth the money. At the time the first Thiel sub was still in prototype form, but nearly finished. I shocked my co-workers by saying, "I'll be glad to hear the PowerPoints, but only if we can hear them with the Thiel Sub." Well, one of the Thiel sales guys quickly said that it was Thiel policy to not demo prototypes. No sooner had he said that then Jim said, "deal." Needless to say on my return to the store myself and my co-work told everyone that would listen that we NEEDED the PowerPoints on display. We kept on the decision makers until they listened to them and in a couple of months we had them.

On the same trip I was struck by a sign near the door to the workshop that said something to the effect of, "Perfection is our goal, excellence will be tolerated." I told Walter that it was a great sign. His response was, "That sign isn't accurate, when it comes to Jim is should read "excellence will be grudgingly tolerated.""

A couple of years later while demoing a pair of Thiel CS2.4's for a customer I accidentally hooked them up to the 8 ohm taps of a McIntosh MC402 instead of the 4 ohm taps. The sound was remarkably better and I called down to Lexington to find out why, Sherry said she didn't know but would ask Jim about it and get back to me. A couple of hours later I received a 3 page email from Jim explaining that while he did not have direct experience with the amp in question that my findings did not shock him. He then went on to lay out an extremely involved scientific theory on why I heard what I heard.

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