Review: Thorens TD203 Turntable

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Rattlin' Bones, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    I could not resist. The Thorens TD203 is now on sale with Ortofon 2M Blue for $699. That's about half off. Lots of places still list it for $1100-$1,200 with cheaper cart. Amazon has a few at sale price. I bought one from Needle Doctor (they were a great help).

    My first spin was a Pablo Live LP from Montreux '77 featuring one of my favorite trumpet players Roy Eldridge. This is one of my favorite jazz albums. Roy is on fire and Niels Pedersen on bass is just amazing. Side 2 is my favorite, especially "Joie De Roi". The Thornens sounded great. No motor noise (DC motor with ground wire) and speakers are dead silent between tracks. Very quiet. The MDF plinth seems to hold vibrations to a minimum. This TT has adjustable belt tension AND adjustable motor speed. I have not used either, but nice knowing these features are there.

    I was worried about the platter. But it is better than I expected. A 1.7 pound solid ABS disk. I called Rutherford and they said I could add several more pounds, so I may add a weight/clamp.

    The uni-pivot design TP 82 tonearm is very sophisticated. It’s a marvel at this price-point. But, the anti-skate is always tricky for me - I have 62 year old fingers and eyes. Thorens advertises this TT sets up out of box in 5 minutes. That was true for everything but anti-skate. That took me another hour. Tweezers helped. It's set at 2 to match arm weight tracking force, which is recommended at just under 2g for this cart.

    More spinning: Second track, "Lazy Afternoon", on Wynton Marsalis vinyl HOT HOUSE FLOWERS is a good test for any audio system. The ending the last few minutes with crescendo and cymbal. The Thorens reproduced it well.

    Coltrane's "BLUE TRAIN" (Blue Note Records, catalogue BLP 1577) was also rendered well by the Thorens.

    Both of these albums sounded vibrant and alive. They were well balanced. They sparkled. The treble areas were well balanced with bass. The bass wasn't overwhelming. I will say if you like bass you'll love this TT. Especially the middle-upper bass range like trombone or low trumpet. I think this TT shines in mid-level as much as it shines in bass department. And treble is never out of proportion or harsh. It's balanced. The musical sound is what a well-orchestrated and executed piece should sound like. In music when learning to play with an ensemble the bass instruments and mid-range is always allowed to be louder. The trumpets and soprano sax and such have to play at lower volumes to allow the "basement" the foundation to come through. The higher instruments have to blend into mix with lower dynamics.

    The build quality of this TT is excellent. Nothing cheap. It is built like a $1,000 turntable should be. Especially the arm. I can't get over that arm! A lot of the quality I am hearing is probably that Ortofon 2M Blue cart, too. A nice thing about this TT is the ease of using another cart. It's easier than fitting carts on a new Rega arm.

    I did run into a few vinyl albums that I was not pleased with: several Chet Baker albums. "SHE WAS TOO GOOD TO ME" was very disappointing. It sounded much better on my larger speakers and an inexpensive Yamaha YP-211 TT I recently had restored. The album sounded very flat. It had no sizzle. Muddy. It certainly does not exist in upper treble high C area of trumpet as this is after Chet got his teeth knocked out, so he doesn't go all that high. It just sounded flat. I was using a rubber mat on top of the ABS platter. I took it off and used a thin cork mat. Bam. Instantly Chet came alive. Of my Chet Baker albums, WP-1241 from World Pacific sounded the best. THE GERRY MULLIGAN QUARTET REUNION WITH CHET BAKER. It was cookin’ with oil, man, after I switched from rubber to cork. Now, that's a Chet with teeth album, so he does go a bit higher (although never like Eldridge) than his denture period.

    I have now ordered a thin 3mm acrylic platter mat. It weighs about 8 ounces so it will add a bit of weight to the rather light Thorens platter, which comes in at only 1.75 pounds.

    Worst feature: the dust cover. Who the heck designed this thing? It covers tonearm and platter. That's it. And the tonearm is open on both ends. The rest of TT is left to collect tons of dust. It's horrible. If you use any kind of pad on top of platter then platter can move slightly because that raises cover up and then cover edge doesn't rest on the right side of TT anymore; the platter mat raises it up. I have ordered a vinyl dust cover.

    Where this TT is manufactured is a mystery I have not been able to divine. I did read someplace that the TD203 is manufactured in Germany. But the motor? Arm? I don't know. Are they assembled in Germany from offshore par sources? The box my TT came in has no distinguishing markings or labels as to where manufactured. It's mostly German writing. Which might be an indication they are not manufactured in China or Asia.

    The other thing is the TD203 is much different, from what I can tell, than other competitive products. The motor and mount are different than Rega/Pro-ject/Music. etc. The arm is completely different. If you were to compare a Rega Planar 3 up along the TD203 and the comparable ProJect and Music Hall and hide the labels I think the two that would stand out as best made highest quality are the Pro-Ject Classic and the Thorens. You'd then have to move up to the $1,600 ClearAudio for something superior. But now the Thorens is only $699 so that would be a $1,000 jump. And, the Thorens is $300 less than the Rega Planar 3 and $500 less than the Pro-Ject Classic right now. With that Thorens arm and a Ortofon 2M Blue on the end of it, that is an easy choice!

    Next spin was the Pablo label 2310-786 BASIE JAM #2. The first side has some very difficult trombone (Al Grey) parts to reproduce. The Thorens handled it with authority and subtly. You can hear his lip articulation very clearly. It's followed by a guitar solo (Joe Pass) and I heard no wavering. That's followed by Clark Terry, and his trumpet was spot-on. He was sitting in my downstairs office blowing his horn!!!

    The anti-skate on my Thorens isn't working as well as I'd like. The little loop that goes over the grooved bias shaft the loop is too big. It works fine when playing a record but when you move arm back to resting position the loop slides over. I'm keeping loop on the #2 position (2g) and it slides over to #3 or #4. Then when you play a record you have to slide it back to #2. My solution is tying a piece of thin dental floss to the fishing line between the loop and the bias shaft. That makes loop smaller and it stays in your selected notch (2g for the Ortofon 2M Blue).

    Final spin was Fantasy label #6003: Jazz at Massey Hall featuring "Charlie Chan" (pseudonym for Charlie Parker). Yes!!!

    What a value this Thorens TT is at $699 with a very special arm that may, in time, become a classic.

    --"Rattlin' Bones"
     
  2. MondoFanM

    MondoFanM Member from ATX

    Location:
    Austin
    Solid review! I've heard this table with vintage gear and it was nice. It didn't have the 2M Blue, but I am familiar with it on my old Music Hall MMF 5.

    I ordered s VPI Cliffwood for my new office system and the next day I saw this deal. I almost ordered it to have a shoot out.

    I think I could live with the cheese dust cover for a bit. It at least provides some arm protection. Probably not any real dust protection.
     
  3. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    The original price of this model was simply too high, at least for North American customers. What vendor(s) are offering it with the 2m Blue? All the pics I've seen have it with one of AT's cheapest models. The 2M Blue certainly adds value even if it's not my favorite cart.

    I probably take a chance on one of these before a Rega/Pro-ject/MH in the same price range.

    How well machined is the platter? Any speed stability issues? Is there VTA adjustment on the arm?
     
  4. nosliw

    nosliw Azunyan! にゃーーー!

    Location:
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    According to the Sound Group website of the Thorens TD203 model, it's made in China: Thorens TD 203

    Other new models of the Thorens are either made in Germany or within the EU somewhere.
     
    SandAndGlass and patient_ot like this.
  5. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    The $699 special with Ortofon 2M Blue cart may now all be sold out. I got mine from Needle Doctor, and it was dropped shipped from CONUS distributor in Colorado.

    The platter is a nice surprise. It's a solid piece of ABS and weighs almost 2 pounds. Similar to acrylic.

    VTA (what Thorens calls azimuth) is adjusted on arm.

    No speed issues; I've listened closely to suspended notes over a measure or two and can't hear any wavering.

    The motor and subplatter are a lot more substantial than the Rega models.
     
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  6. MondoFanM

    MondoFanM Member from ATX

    Location:
    Austin
    Looks like its still on sale at Soundstage Direct.
     
  7. BMWCCA

    BMWCCA Forum Resident

    Location:
    Central Virginia
    Didn't see it there but HiFiHeaven has it, as does Jet.com
     
  8. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Great. Thanks for the update. I hope they have them available. Needle Doctor doesn't carry their own stock. They drop ship from Rutherford. If HiFiHeaven and Sound Stage do that, too, then Rutherford may be out of stock and these retailers just don't update stock status on their web site because it's not an item in their actual inventory.

    Wanna suggestion for a great sounding album on this TT? This morning I'm spinning Dave Brubeck and Jay and Kai at Newport CL9323. Piano sounds fantastic.
     
  9. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    Entire table weighs less than 8 lbs....yikes.
     
  10. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Rega 6 at $1000 more = 11 lbs. That's kinda odd, but I'm reading specs. I see Rega 2 and 3 are heavier than that.

    I'll take the $250 cart on Thorens. Like, on these class of turntables, isn't the cart+motor+arm really where you get your sound? I'll take the 8 pound TT and that Thorens arm and that Thorens motor and you can keep the extra poundage.

    Now, the Clearaudio Concept comes in at 16 lbs. That's a TT where weight plus arm plus cart are going to pay dividends. It's $1,000 more, but you get a lot more IMHO.
     
  11. vinylkid58

    vinylkid58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Victoria, B.C.
    They both have glass platters. Otherwise, they would blow away in the wind.;)

    jeff
     
  12. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    If accurate that does seem way too light. I'd probably buy a heavy butcher block or something to set it on.
     
    HiFi Guy likes this.
  13. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    I'm not sure what is quantifiable as "too light".

    I agree - Butcher block under any turntable is probably a good idea.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  14. clercqie

    clercqie Active Member

    Location:
    Belgium
    Timely thread. I recently pulled the trigger on this turntable (upgrade from an AT LP120), but I guess I overpayed at 800 euros for the TT with just the stock 'Thorens' cartridge. :)

    Anyways, I made my decision after I demo'ed the Thorens side by side with a Rega Planar 3 (2016) at a local dealer. My impressions then where that the Rega has a more artificial sound, with boosted bass and treble, while the Thorens sounded more natural, balanced. I had the impression that groove distortion was lower on the Thorens as well. Both were tested with the stock carts. Add to this that the Thorens has a speed switch and is 100 euros cheaper than the Rega, this made my decision clear. Plus, I like the concept of a unipivot arm.

    So I finally got to set it up this weekend. It is supposedly 5 min of setup with the factory supplied cart, but I checked the alignment anyway. So it took quite a while longer here. :)

    I could not get the arm to float steadily before setting the tracking weight and antiskate. Zero weight was no problem for the vertical direction, but it kept on rotating back to the arm rest, away from the spindle. I don't know if this is normal behavior. My AT LP120 did this too btw...

    The supplied weight gauge is kind of arbitrary. I managed to set the tracking force 'somewhere around 2 g', which is lower than the suggested tracking force for the stock cart, but I don't like the suggested force of 2.2 g. Looks heavy. So far no problems while spinning records.

    The antiskate tread: I can confirm that it does not hold its position when putting the arm in the arm rest. You have to reset it between playing sessions. While playing, though: no problems.

    There is a hum that increases when increasing the volume. This indicates a grounding issue. I could not get it to go away yet, but it only becomes noticeble (with headphones) at a volume setting with is way too high when listening to music. So I guess its not too much of a practical problem. It bugs me that it exists, though. :) Could also be an issue with the earth connection on my amp... I have to test this further.

    Motor noise is low, but does exist when you lay your ear next to the platter. Again, so far I haven't heard an influence during playing, but it exists. Gaaagh. :)

    The dust cover is indeed not very functional, but if its a matter of cutting costs, I rather they do it in this department.

    To my ears, it sounds great though. I've been happily respinning a lot of records in my collection the past few days. Keep in mind that I haven't had the chance to hear a high end table in action yet. I'm just starting out in this hobby.
     
    Dan Steele and Lucca90 like this.
  15. clercqie

    clercqie Active Member

    Location:
    Belgium
    Another thing that I noticed, in comparision with the direct drive LP120, is that the platter often comes to a standstill, while dusting a record with my brush. The torque of the motor is quite low, but isn't this a thing with most belt drives?
     
  16. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Seriously? Looking at the manual, how does turning that "smaller, eccentric counterweight" affect the VTA? Does the arm allow what we consider to be azimuth adjustments?
     
  17. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    Same concept that VPI uses and it works. The off-centered weight changes the horizontal angle of the arm and thus azimuth.
     
  18. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    VTA is NOT Azimuth and both are adjusted completely differently. If Thorens said that . . . an idiot must have written the manual.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  19. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Hence why I asked, "Seriously"? So it sounds like there is no VTA on the TD 203.
     
  20. 14 Cheerleader Coldfront

    14 Cheerleader Coldfront Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    That isn't good for the motor...I would use less pressure or dust with the motor off.
     
  21. clercqie

    clercqie Active Member

    Location:
    Belgium
    Nobody said anything aboth azimuth being equal to VTA in the manual. Azimuth can be adjusted via the smaller weigth, but VTA is non-adjustable.

    That said, after reading Geoff Husband's argument on the topic, I don't know how critical such an adjustment actually is...
    Exposing the VTA myth? [English]

    I agree it can't be the best for the motor. It also shows that the motor is not as good as I presumed initially. :-(
     
  22. RhodesSupremacy

    RhodesSupremacy yeah, man

    Location:
    Finland
    Nice taste in music~
     
  23. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    You're right about VTA vs azimuth, But I always think azimuth is more important anyway, and VTA is sorta overblown. Some carts do better with a negative VTA anyway, and my ears have a hard time differentiating much of a diference in such small increments.

    The motor I don't agree with you.The motor on the belt drive system keeps spinning but the pressure just makes belt slip on pulley. The motor ain't slowing down. I don't have any belt drive that doesn't do this. It's a friction system.
     
  24. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Hi there Clercqie. Heppy to hear your new Thorens TD203 sounds great.

    Yeah put the Thorens next to Rega 3 and listen and also look and you'll choose the Thorens. The Rega looks like a toy if you compare arms, motors, and motor mounts.

    That loop for anti-skate is a just a tad too big, or else grooves on the bar are just not deep enough. My dental floss solution closed the loop enough where now it stays put but I can also move it a bit if I want to change the setting.

    Yeah the supplied plastic weight gauge gets us in ballpark, but we need a digital gauge to make sure. I need to borrow or buy one.

    I don't have that hum/ grounding issue. I'm in USA. Not sure if that matters. Did you connect the ground lead?
     
  25. clercqie

    clercqie Active Member

    Location:
    Belgium
    Heh, thanks! :) Currently dabbling in all the good that Africa has to offer.

    Good to know, this makes sense. Guess it doesn't hurt then to keep the platter spinning while changing sides, either? With the DD, I stopped the platter as startup was so fast. I've read that belt drives like it more if you keep the motor running. Would you guys agree?

    Yes, earth wire connected as tight as can be. :) Well, the receiver I use is an old Kenwood 90's model (Kenwood KR-A5050 - Manual - AM/FM Stereo Receiver - HiFi Engine ). It keeps humming, even when the TT is off, but the hum stops when I switch to the CD line input. So I guess it's the built-in pre-amp that's misbehaving. I was planning on upgrading my pre-amp anyway, so hopefully that'll fix it. Anyway, to re-iterate: I only hear it when I really turn up the volume. If I would play music on that level, I'd blow up my speakers for sure.
     

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