How good are Thorens turntables?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by LeeS, Feb 14, 2007.

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  1. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan Thread Starter

    I have a good friend who is looking at turntables and he grew up with his father's Thorens and has some sentimental value for them.

    I'm curious if anyone has a Thorens or is familiar with their sound and has an opinion on them.

    If he is looking to spend around $3K for just the table what would be a good Thorens recommendation?

    Thanks! :wave:
  2. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    Thorens has a strong following and a well-deserved reputation for high quality. I would think that $3,000 would be massive overkill for buying a good one.

    I had a Thorens TD-115 mk. II for some years, and I liked it. Eventually I passed it to my father, who still has it, when I bought a used Fons CQ-30. To my ear, the Fons sounded better, I think mainly because the speed stability was better, but that is by no means to say that the Thorens was in any way "bad."
  3. Randy W

    Randy W Original Member

    Check Acoustic Sounds - they carry them. He can call Clark there to discuss pros and cons.
  4. bangsezmax

    bangsezmax Forum Resident

    Durham, NC, USA
    I have owned four vintage Thorens tables (still have three of them). They are an outstanding value.

    Their "basic" belt-driven tables of the 1970s (TD-150, TD-160 and TD-165/166 series) were well-designed and well-built mass market tables. These typically run from $100 to $300 used. They sound just fine stock, and they are tweakable to the extreme. Check for more info about that. IIRC, the TD-145/6 series are the same tables except for an auto-stop feature.

    The nicer belt-driven tables from that era (the TD-125 and TD-126 series) are pretty darn close to the Linns in terms of quality, especially if you put a nicer arm on them. These run from about $300 to $700 used on eBay (may be more depending on the arm). Some of these now-30-plus-year-old tables have issues with the variable speed electronics. Mine have exhibited a few quirks, but not enough to be more than an occasional inconvenience.

    The TD-124 is an idler drive table from the late '60s and are in high demand on the used market. These are considered by many as the best table Thorens ever made, and the prices reflect that. These are going to run from $500 to $1000 depending on the configuation.

    I can't speak to much on the current Thorens lineup or the tables from the 80s-90s. Hopefully someone else can.
  5. HiFi Guy 008

    HiFi Guy 008 Forum Resident

    Thorens now have new tables available in every price range going all the way up to $5800.00. The TD850, at $2100 is rated "Class B" by Stereophile Magazine (for what that's worth). That seems to be in the range of the VPI Scout series.

    Any idea how this model stacks up against the Regas, VPI's and other tables in that price range?

    I've also wondered how the sound of the idler wheel tables, (like Thorens' TD124) compare to modern decks - or if their value is due to the build quality and nostalgia.
  6. mtodde

    mtodde New Member

    Atlanta, GA
    Gee Lee, for $2500 he could get a Scoutmaster just like you...why would he need anything else?
  7. Blumenkohl

    Blumenkohl Member

    I like the Thorens TD125 MkII I own, to the point that the only worthwhile (as in significant) step up for me would mean buying an Avid Volvere et. al. A good friend active on the German Analogue Audio Association forum, who runs a TD125 MkII in custom plinth with an SME IV and Benz Ruby staged a A/B showdown with another forum member owning a fully modded Linn LP12/Ekos/Lingo/and heck of a cart. Both decks played head to head and neither distanced the other in any way. So with a Thorens TD125 MkII your friend wouldn't just satisfy nostalgia, but own a very scalable deck that can take him a long way on his journey into vinyl. My basic TD125 MkII (first owner, papers, all that stuff) cost me 200 Euros on eBay, the plinth another 100, the acrylic armboard 60 Euros, and special bearing oil, belt etc maybe another 50. Pretty good value if you ask me. And I dig old stuff too.
  8. sharedon

    sharedon Forum Zonophone

    The vintage TTs are fabulous, as above. However, those currently being sold under that name - correct me if I am wrong - are not related to the company that made the famous earlier models.
  9. pick-me-up

    pick-me-up Straight shooter from S/FI

    Just love my vinyl Volvo!

    Thanks for asking!

    I have Thorens TD 850 and I just love it!
    If you can find what Stereophile wrote about it, it’s all true.

    I have a very modest phono stage but the sound is wonderfull!

    I’m glad I’ve chosen exactly this model! I have Shure V15xMR pick-up and the sound over all is much better than I was expecting … :) :righton:

    So my advice is to pick up Thorens 850 TD and get a better arm to it. I am sure this thing works wonder to any arm that is fitted to it!

    ”It's smartly designed, well-built, and has the dynamic 'pop,' musical grip, image focus, and excitement I crave from vinyl." - Michael Fremer, Stereophile
  10. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Forum Resident

    Central New York
    That's what I thought. I'd like to see LeeS produce this "friend" who wants to spend $3K on a Thorens...;)

    The problem with Thorens is that they have a lot of new models suddenly, and they're not all being designed and/or built by Thorens. I think they need to settle down a bit and concentrate on the good models, and get rid of the ones (TD190) that few people seem to like.

    I've always been hard on Thorens over the years...I always thought they had great build quality and reliability, but somehow it didn't quite translate into sound quality. Lately, however, I've been hearing a lot of extensively rebuilt Thorens 'tables that sound as good as some of the Garrard projects out there. So I have a new respect for them.

    Some of the new 'tables seem overpriced. A couple of the $5000 models seem to be designed to directly compete with LP12s.
  11. Idler wheel drive turntables are notorious for rumble. I should know, I had a Garrard Lab-80 for many years and stubbornly held onto it. But newer belt (and direct drive) turntables have much less motor noise and better isolation, so I can't understand the fascination with the older Thorens TD124, or the Garrard 301 and 401 idler drives for that matter. Am I missing something?
  12. ddarch

    ddarch Forum Resident

  13. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan Thread Starter

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. :)
  14. HiFi Guy 008

    HiFi Guy 008 Forum Resident

    Exactly. Other than build quality and, for the age of the table, good sound, what is the appeal of the old idler wheels? I've heard "dynamic" and "punch" - but compared to Regas, Linns, VPI's?

    I recently spoke to someone who had sold his VPI HW19 because the Grado cart he preferred to use had created lot of hum with the deck.

    He switched to a modded Garrard Lab80 (idler wheel?) and said the hum is gone and the sound is incredilble. I haven't heard his setup, but the cart he preferred was a not-expensive model, so I believe his deciding factor was to keep costs down (avoid having to upgrade to a pricier cart). Perhaps the VPI was never set up with the propber arm/cart combo. :confused:
  15. jligon

    jligon Forum Resident

    Peoria, IL
    Either 15 to 20 TD-160s...or any vintage Thorens in nice condition and about $2400 to $2800 in records!

    There's no shortage of info on the Web. Have your friend do some research before he spends 3K on a turntable. He might be able to get what he's wanting for about 1/10th of that.
  16. Doc Sarvis

    Doc Sarvis Forum Resident

    Utah USA
    I bought a restored TD-160 from Vinyl Nirvana for my son, that he absolutely loves. Very organic, sweet sound. The suspension system reminds me of an Avid - for a lot less money. I've heard that the Thorens tonearms were not so great; my son's restored table came with an RB-250. I used a Shure M97xE cart with great results.

    They are very tweakable, so unless you go for that sort of thing (I don't), get a restored table like I did. Also, my experience was that they need a genuine Thorens belt (available at Acoustic Sounds) although not everyone reports this.

    One unusual (although not necessarily bad) thing: Mine does not have a separate ground wire - it's part of the output cables. Ground hum is not a problem, though.

    If you are looking to spend 3-700 on a table/cart combination, I would absolutely recommend a restored Thorens over anything new in that range.
  17. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    San Jose, CA
    Let's face it, a Garrard Lab 80 was not a good turntable. We had one.

    Idler wheel drives have a couple of advantages: high speed motor for low noise, close coupling to the platter for speed consistency in heavily modulated passages. Speed, drive, bass - PRaT.

    One would not want to say that "Idler wheel drive turntables are notorious for rumble" and then add "I should know", based on a Lab 80. Sorry.

    There is a huge and very interesting thread on Audiogon on the Lenco, Garrard, Thorens idler wheels. If you think belt drive made these designs look dated, you may want to check out the thread. Read what John Nantais says and check out his collection of Lencos:

    Here's his beaut Lenco L75 and his great Garrard 301 grease-bearing.

  18. proufo

    proufo Active Member

    Bogotá, Colombia
    AFAIK, the old ones are orphaned and the new ones are not really Thorenses.

    I use and love a 126 MKIII but had to buy a new one for parts at ebay when the original one failed.

    Once my Teres is ready will cannibalize the Thorens to make a half-speed turntable for doing needle drops (for kicks, really).
  19. Claude

    Claude Forum Resident

    Exactly. Thorens went out of business, another company bought the brand. The new Thorens lines (TD8x0 and TD20x0) have nothing to do with the Thorens tradition. The recent TD350 tries to build on the TD14x/16x line, but it's too expensive. The cheap Thorens models (TD170/190/295) are nothing special.

    At least here in Europe, used "vintage" Thorens turntables from the 1970's and 1980's are very popular, and they can be found at very good prices. There is a large community of Thorens experts who can provide tips and spare parts. (german)
  20. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Forum Resident

    Central New York
    Do you think this applies to 301s and 401s? Is the reason their performance is so revered today simply a function of the modern advances in terms of modding?

    I'm only asking because I love the sound of these new 301s, and I've never had a chance to hear a stock one in its prime.
  21. Plinko

    Plinko Forum Resident

    Yes, you are missing something. The rumble is completely eliminated and the noise is minimized by high mass plinths and a couple of other refurbishing tricks. I don't think the noise is less than belt drives (belt drives are likely more quiet) but this isn't the lure of the idler. The lure is the high torque motor that provides a sound like no other kind of table. Not saying it would work for you but it works for many people, incuding myself. And, I'm speaking from experience. I much prefer my Lenco with my RB700 arm than my P5 with the RB700.
  22. soundQman

    soundQman Forum Resident

    Arlington, VA, USA
    The new Thorens line of acrylic platter and base turntables are drop-dead gorgeous. I don't know anything about the sound of these, however. They also have a line of suspended-chassis tables, which would seem to be more consistent with their older traditional designs before the brand name changed hands.
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