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Not only was it robust but it sounded remarkably linear -no boom, no suck-outs. The same can be said for midrange performance. The Gallo A'Diva speakers that the Thiels replaced suddenly sounded like miniatures - little boys sent to do a man's job while the Thiels sounded like cavalry. Where the admittedly and decidedly less expensive yet over-achieving A'Divas sounded clear and detailed, they also sounded as though they lacked density and body. The Thiels had that body, that density - that ability to conjure reality from thin air. While home theater enthusiasts often credit their systems for sounding better than commercial theaters, the fact is that while linear and refined, most home theater's I know lack the gravitas - the weight of a real theater. And I'm not talking about overloaded bass. I'm talking about a sonic saturation here that occurs through the midrange as well as the bass. Suddenly, my living room had that saturation. As far as my experience in my own home theater goes, it was a singular event. I'd never before heard it like this. I'd never heard such well-balanced density with absolutely no excess boom or bloom.

Obviously and for optimized performance, the PowerPoint 1.2 will have to be placed either on the ceiling or floor where the tweeters' output is not obstructed by furniture or fixtures. You'll want to keep them in open line of sight. However, I was somewhat surprised by how little they suffered when I placed them wide enough such that I couldn't see one of them because of the obstructing arm of an over-stuffed love seat that runs perpendicular to the front wall. Once I focused on the on-screen action, I found the sound completely acceptable.

The Incredibles were in heavy rotation during this time and most enjoyable. The Power

Point 1.2s not only exhibited big density but conjured a nice big soundfield around the TV and accurately tracked all the on-screen mayhem. If you know the movie, you know the considerable amount of moving about the soundstage of all the voices and general chaos. That the two-channel Thiels could satisfy was no little feat.

Weeks later when the PowerPoint 1.2s made it back into the two-channel room, little about their observed performance changed with the exception that they were now mated to the SS1 subwoofer via the PX02 crossover. Consistent with my previous experience with the SS2/PX02 combination, setup couldn't have been easier. It's truly plug-and-play. In neither experience did I so much as have to adjust the volume on the subwoofer. The integration of the sub was flawless - so much so that I vow right now to never review another subwoofer for Thiel (unless they want to send me the gargantuan SS4 just for fun).

Why? Because after you get over the technical aspects, they don't leave much to talk about. More so than with any other sub I've ever used, they just don't draw attention to themselves and, shall I say it - they are somewhat repetitive to write about. It's true that they achieve the best bass I've ever used in my room.
Within the context of an all-Thiel system, they also achieve the best and easiest system integration there is. This is all terrific no doubt. But when it comes to writing about it, how many examples of the best reproduction of bass can I come up with? Do people want to read about that? Don't they wonder to themselves, "Can it really be that good?' The answer is yes - it's that good.

I was speaking to a dealer a while ago about the $4,900 SS2 subwoofer of which I'm so fond. He didn't stock it. He asked me whether it was really worth $4,900? At first I was taken aback and had to think. To tell you the truth, when I reviewed the PCS/SS2 system, I really didn't consider it a combination of a pair of $3,000 speakers plus a $4,900 subwoofer (a lot for a subwoofer). But as I remembered my mind-set as I wrote that review, I recalled not thinking of it in those terms. I was thinking of the review subjects as a $7,900 system. And as a $7,900 speaker system, the PCS/SS2 rates my highest recommendation. The PCS satellites are wonderful speakers. When you couple them with extremely good bass in an idiot-proof package, it results in excellent and foolproof performance. That's a no-brainer recommendation if I've ever come across one.

At $2900 for the SS1, I find it just as commendable as the SS2. Yes, it's still expensive. But its purchase must be
viewed as more than just a way to add bass to a system. It must be considered in the overall context of how it elevates the performance of the entire system in such a flawless way. Those who know me know that I'm all about value. This position then may seem hard to take. But I'm certain that those who experience the Thiels will know what I'm talking about. And, they will agree. You can buy accomplished subs for less but without a tremendous amount of luck and/or skill, you probably won't meld it as seamlessly into the system. And if I may be so superficial, it probably won't look as good as the Thiel subwoofer either. These things are beautiful. They are extremely well finished (to match your speakers) and I find their styling striking.

There's nothing boring about the PowerPoint 1.2, however. Neither in the listening nor the writing about it. These are truly unique speakers. Not only do they sound good, they also go a long way toward answering a question plaguing American manufacturers today: "How do we compete with the Chinese?" Through innovation, that's how. With the PowerPoint 1.2, Thiel has done what Americans have always done best - differentiate themselves by thinking outside the box. As a matter of fact, they thought the PowerPoint 1.2 completely out of any box and into a sculpted and cast aluminum enclosure. Also of note is the fact that the PowerPoint 1.2 comes in a matte white finish just waiting to be painted to match your room (not that there's anything wrong with the white stock finish). It also comes complete with a conical mask [below] designed to keep paint off the drivers during customization - an excellent and thoughtful touch. I also noted that the tweeter, though hidden behind a finger-proof and sonically invisible grill, is further protected by yet another perforated grill. Clearly the PowerPoint is designed to be as near bulletproof as possible.

When it comes to making music, the PowerPoint 1.2s are distinctly Thiel-like but they won't do a couple of things their regular series does. They don't quite throw the awe-inspiring soundstage for one. While center images are astonishingly well developed and solid -- and while the soundstage extends laterally with aplomb -- the 1.2s don't illuminate the upper and outermost corners of the soundstage as the rest of the line will. However, that solidity manifested in the theater

room was no less evident in the two-channel room. They don't quite reach the same level of transparency of other Thiels either not because they are opaque or veiled (they aren't) but because of their extreme density. You can't listen through them in the same way you do with other Thiels. It's not a matter of listening through clouds or muck, though. What inhibits the perception of such transparency is this aforementioned density. You don't listen through the speakers any more than you can see through a performer standing in front of you. The PowerPoint 1.2 has a less ethereal presentation than I recall of its siblings but one that's remarkably life-like nonetheless. It simply has more meat on its bone. Someone might say there's more there there.

Soundstaging aside, I think that some may even prefer its meaty presentation to that of its floorstanding siblings. Those who may not express a preference but want to avail themselves of an extremely room-friendly sound source will find the trade off well worth it - if they truly care at all.

Like the PCS/SS2 system, the PowerPoint 1.2/SS1 system maintains excellent coherence from top to bottom. It truly sings with a single voice. In particular, I found its treble performance enjoyable. Midrange/treble blending is as seamless as that achieved by its siblings, which is to say exemplary. There's no harshness, hardness or glare and yet there's no blurring of reality either. It's extended, honest and well-behaved.

The midrange is all Thiel. Clean, clear, undistorted, incisive and surprisingly dynamic - due to that low excursion high-powered neodymium magnet thing
I'm sure. As a system, the Thiels are surprisingly effortless. At 89dB, the PowerPoints are fairly efficient for such a small speaker system, too - the natural trade off for 75Hz bass extension.

I wrote earlier about the PowerPoint 1.2's gravitas. That was not to infer that the Thiels are heavy-handed with the music. No sir. James Galway's Mozart - Flute Concertos [BMG 09026-68256-2] sounded - well, like Mozart concertos: light, fleet-footed and unearthly. The PowerPoints painted a perfectly enjoyable facsimile of the St. Martin In the Fields Orchestra before me with excellent depth and cubits of space. Listened to from anywhere in the room, the front wall was awash in the image of the orchestra. This piece offered little for the SS1 woofer to do but the PowerPoints sounded superb. Not being the type of music that I usually sit through motionless with my eyes closed, I did get up and wander around the room. It was then that I noticed how very good the PowerPoints were at providing a large window of background music.

Not really a reference disc of mine either, Double's Blue CD [A&M CD 5133/DX640] turned out to be a nice treat. "Woman Of The World' was spacious and airy with lots of lateral spread to the soundstage. "I Know A Place" features an opening female vocal located way off to the left. It was surprisingly well placed and vivid given the nature of these floor-bound speakers. The piano runs were nicely submerged in an authentic sense of space and the lead vocals were solid and appropriately placed in space. "The Captain Of My Heart" sounded big. Tons of artificial reverb assured that it would but that's okay once in a while. Hardly an audiophile recording, this CD is soft and lacks the microdynamics and incisiveness that makes a system come alive. The Thiel system is so coherent and balanced that I think it brought out the most that this recording had to offer to make it completely palatable.

A CD that offered up not only lots of color and textures but also some fun was Squirrel Nut Zippers' Perennial Favorites [35498-0169-2]. If you don't know it, I can only describe it as modern Dixieland Jazz with lots of attitude. "Suits are Pickin' Up The Bill" was a great place to start because it's a sonic blast. Lots of banjo, baritone sax, alto sax, cornet and bass and it too sounded big and awfully transparent and intimate - nothing between the music and me. Bass was lightning fast and engulfed the room. The PowerPoints delivered an accurate and varied palette of textures with lucid ease. Next up was "Ghost Of Stephen Foster", which added some jumpy rhythms to the mix and was translated with equal aplomb. Be it music or video soundtracks, the PowerPoints deliver a surprising level of dynamics. A very different affair altogether was "Pallin' With Al" which features distant violin and muted Jazz guitar tones. Once again I was appreciative of the Thiel's authority and balance. They just went with the flow and didn't skip a beat.

"Fat Cat Keeps Getting Fatter" features the vocals of Kathrine Whalen who -- if you're not familiar -- sound a lot like Norah Jones, a vocalist that I just don't get and who makes me consider ending my life. So deadpan. So not fun. Oh well, at least the Thiels were honest enough through the upper midrange that they didn't add any artificial sweetness, which would make her sound even
more morose. So yes, I could tolerate her on the Thiels. Regretfully, her voice dominates the rest of the CD despite the fact that it's backed by instrumentals the Thiels capture as great fun.

For more lively female vocals, I turned to Diane Shuur captured in front of an audience in GRP Live In Session [GRP-A-1023] and I found something cool. The record noise stayed down at the floor inside the speaker. It stayed away from the stage of performers. I wish all speakers did this! Aside from that, Shuur sounded fantastic, a welcome relief from Whalen's wailings. Equally impressive were Carlos Vega's drums, which were powerful and had tons of speed and snap as they usually do. In small to medium-sized rooms, the SS1 sub delivers a surprising amount of power and slam. But my favorite cut on the album has always been "Dolphin Dreams" and the Thiels fulfilled the promise. Soundstaging was so spacious as to border on the spiritual. I could hear through to Abe Laboriel's bass lines to experience why some think he's the best bassist extant. Man, he is good. He's got the touch! Dave Grusin's tickled ivories served as the perfect backdrop for Lee Rittenour's string-actuated synth tones. By now I had just about forgotten that I was listening to a pair of tiny speakers sitting on the floor as I stared into a huge kaleidoscopic window of color, texture and sound. That's how they'd managed to make me completely forget about 'em, hiding there in the carpet fibers.

So why again was it that Thiel decided to send me merely two of their home theater speakers? Now it should be as obvious to you as it became to me. These are not just home theater speakers. Neither are they your typical out-of-sight out-of-mind, aesthetics-first sound-is-secondary, room-designer-approved after-thought speakers. They may be special application speakers but Thiel wanted to make sure that I knew that they were designed to be musical first.

In my theater room, the 1.2s were an immediate hit with both my wife and her hubby. She loved 'em. I could have cared less that they visually disappeared into the room. I was very impressed by their performance. At $2900/pair, they're not cheap but far from expensive to represent fine value. That they also fill a niche created by people who don't want to see their speakers is a great thing. But make no mistake - they aren't merely a great choice for those forced to make their systems fade from view. Even if you have the flexibility to place speakers anywhere -- under no pressure about cosmetics or real estate in other words -- you should check out these PowerPoints anyway. You may find that they are hardly the compromise you -- and I -- had assumed they would be. They are really good speakers that just happen to be a bit different.

Admittedly, the SS1 is a tougher sell. $2900 is expensive for a subwoofer and on paper, it faces stiff competition. But if you're in the market for a small pair of Thiels, you need to hear them with one of Thiel's Smart Subs. Long after you've forgotten what you spent on your system, you'll be enjoying the benefits of Thiel's Smart Sub technology - and I predict that you'll be glad. Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish. Get the right sub for your Thiels the first time around. Get a Thiel Smart Sub.

In the stereo room, the PowerPoints could be an example of a great product without much of a market. I could be wrong too. I simply don't know. Frankly, I can't imagine that many stereo users will be looking to mount their speakers on either floor or ceiling. If you are -- well, check out the PowerPoints. If not, the thought of placing speakers in such ways may be a hurdle that few audiophiles will feel inclined to jump. But one thing is for sure. Their surprising performance in the two-channel room demonstrated to me that they are worthy of just about any application imaginable. Hence do not confuse them with your typical in- or on-wall jobs! After all, if they can excel in two-channel stereo (and they do), they can do anything. At this point, my only regret is that I didn't get to try a full-blown multichannel system of PowerPoints.

I hereby nominate the PowerPoint 1.2 for our coveted Blue
Moon award. It raises the performance standard of special application speakers to heights that no die-hard audiophile would ever have to apologize for. Believe me, that's no small accomplishment.
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