New Turntable In the House: Thorens TD-309

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by dividebytube, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
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    Not a detailed review since I just got the Thorens 309 with Ortofon 2M Bronze cart in yesterday and have only spun a dozen records so far. It's an upgrade to my old workhorse, a Dual CS-5000 which was starting to get outclassed by the rest of the gear.

    Initial impressions: bass response is tremendous with shades, timbre, and a serious foundation (well - as serious as a pair of 5" woofers can produce!) versus the old unit. I'm reminded - at least bass-wise - of my old VPI Aries 1 table. Of course that was in a waaay different system so grain of salt and all that.

    The Thorens has a lot more detail overall, with better soundstaging depth and width. It bests the Dual/Shibata tipped OM20 cartridge in that department, making the old turntable sound like a lower end cassette player (or as my wife said, AM radio). So much quieter in the background with less rumble and analog "dirt".

    Overall effect is a more engrossing musical experience. The Aleph J amp and Classe Five preamp are now shining and sounding better than I expected.

    More later - it's always easy to gush with a new piece of gear!
     
  2. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    Location:
    St.Louis Mo.
    Congrats! Nice! Do they come with a dust cover or do you have to order one?
     
  3. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    New - doesn't come with a dust cover, that's a separate item. Mine was bought used and thankfully came with one. It's just a plexi-bit that slots over the spindle, covering up the plinth and tonearm.
     
    Slippers-on likes this.
  4. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Another pic: DC motor belt drives an aluminum subplatter which has a thin ridge on top. The glass platter sits on top of that ridge. Additional fet mat on top of the platter.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Jay Kepps

    Jay Kepps Active Member

    Location:
    lakeland, florida
    Wow. Truly beautiful. A work of art.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  6. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    some listening notes:

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    Dead Can Dance - Into the Labyrinth is a well-recorded gem. The Thorens/Ortofon combination reveals quite a bit more detail, a pulsing bass, and a soundstage that had width and depth. The music positively soared, leaving, in comparison, the old Dual sounding like an AM radio. Voices were especially good, with excellent body and realism. Congestion was nil, each instrument sitting in its own space without confusion or muddiness.

    Background noise, on this original 1993 UK pressing, was suppressed with any ticks and pops riding on a separate plane of the music.



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    Neil Young's live acoustic album - Massey Hall 1971 - is a well-recorded album. A good system should sound like live music, revealing not only excellent timbre but the very hall itself. The Thorens TD 309 does a very good job here. If I close my eyes it does feel and sound like I'm really there, enjoying the concert. The only break in the spell is the lack of chatter behind me, and of course no cigarette smoke.

    The reverberation or natural slap of the hall walls can be heard. Impressive with much more life than any digital rig I've ever heard.



    [​IMG]
    Animals
    is my favorite Pink Floyd album so I was looking forward to hear what the Thorens to do. Instead of a big vibrant soundscape, I began to hear a lot of compression (at higher levels). Once I turned the volume down, the compression disappeared. As an experiment I went upstairs and pulled out my backup amplifier, the venerable Adcom 545, which has roughly 4x the power of the Aleph J.

    Long story short, it turned out that the Thorens had such an extended bottom end that it was making my low-powered single-ended Aleph J clip! Such is the life of trying to live with so little power with a pair of 86dB speakers. This pointed to a future speaker upgrade.


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    With the Aleph J back in the system, I went for something a little less bombastic. Gabor Szabo was a Hungarian guitarist with a delicate touch. He died too young but luckily left a large body of beautiful work. The album High Contrast works well with the Thorens: with speedy lead note changes, the shifting dynamic drum work and the perfect rhythm guitar genius of Bobby Womack.. The attack of the guitar is just about right, never edgy, revealing the intricacies and subtle methods of Szabo. The imaging, given the multi-miked nature of the recording, is also very good with the lead guitar slightly forward of the rest of the instruments.



    As you can tell I was quite taken by the Thorens, at least once I understood that it had such a wider dynamic range than the Dual CS5000. This lower, more refined bass response caused all sort of havoc with my amplifier/speaker pairing, leading me to the decision that a more efficient pair of speakers is in my future.

    As regards to overall sound quality:

    Bass: Dynamic, at least within the limitations of the small Wharfedale speakers. The midbass frequencies are special here with lovely timbre and shades that I've heard only on the better turntables. It's the sort of bass that I prefer over digital, which can plod and sound artificial.

    Midrange: Subtle, expansive and revealing. Different recordings, well, sound different. So there's not a lot of coloration or analog "dither" (noise) over the music. Once again it's not a sterile presentation, which can occur with lower-end digital, but shines a light on the notes in an engrossing weigh. It's also easy to shift attention to another instrument. Organic is a word that comes to mind, but not overly warm like some noisier turntables.

    Treble: Smooth, provided the cartridge is setup correctly. An aggressive recording is not going to sound rolled off, but something well-balanced won't sound dark either. There is a nice sparkle and shimmer too.

    Other: This sort of tight analog foundation seems to be rare but adds to the rhythmic toe-tapping experience of music. More than once I found my foot moving with the beat. The turntable plays very quietly, doing an excellent disappearing act in minimizing coloration. The Ortofon 2M Bronze is a great tracker too, playing the last songs without any audible IGD.
     
    Lucca90 likes this.
  7. rebellovw

    rebellovw Forum Resident

    Location:
    Prescott, AZ
    Nice looking deck congrats
     
  8. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    Congrats. I used to own a 309. Very nice table - sounds as good as it looks. Sometimes I am tempted to pick up another one but I'm quite happy with my VPI and I think I'm going to spend my efforts upgrading it rather than stay on the merry-go-round. But if I was looking for a table, it would be near the top of my list.

    The only thing I wasn't crazy about with the 309 was the headshell - made installing a cart more difficult than it should be, at least I thought so.
     
  9. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    South West, UK.
    I doubt this table is even Planar 3 quality apart from the metal inner platter. You may find it wanting with more full range speakers? Very simple plinth with some nice styling and a decent arm. I'm surprised you are so enthusiastic if you had an Aries. It appears to do the basics well. What you describe I would expect from any competent TT at this price level.
     
  10. rebellovw

    rebellovw Forum Resident

    Location:
    Prescott, AZ
    Ummm he seems to like it very much are you telling him he shouldn’t? Why piss on someone’s joy?
     
    warp2600 likes this.
  11. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    The 309 is a suspended design - totally different than a P3. I had a P3 for a while as well. They are both nice tables. I think the 309 sounded better and it certainly feels much more substantial and better built, and I suspect the suspension also helps it deal with vibrations better than the P3 does with the low mass approach. Once you are in the $1K+ ballpark I think you should be getting a nice table that sounds great - of course the 309 is significantly more expensive than that.
     
    Lucca90 likes this.
  12. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Yeah I'm no fan of the headshell either. Seems like a strange design allowing little left to right movement for cartridge adjustment. You had better hope the cartridge you buy is perfect.

    Regarding the P3 - I'm no turntable newbie. I've owned a solid plinths before and wanted to try a suspended design (again). The Thorens really is quite nice for the (used) price I paid for it. Certainly better than the low-mass arm Dual. To each his own.
     
  13. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    South West, UK.
    It doesn't look like a full suspended design. More like some kind of sprung feet? Thorens have some new models at a higher level that replicate their traditional sprung models of old but with springs in compression rather than stretched.
     
  14. blair207

    blair207 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    Can I ask how you are finding this with extended use. I’m thinking of going to hear an ex demo at a local dealer tomorrow?
     
  15. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I paid $1300/used and it also came with an Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge, which would be a big upgrade over the stock (!) AT95S. Given the price and the upgraded cartridge, it's a good deal. As my system evolves I'll be looking at a (far into the) future upgrade but I have no idea what that will be given I think I will have to spend a considerable amount of $$$ to get to the next level of analog playback.

    But... given my recent speaker purchase of KEF R500s, the Thorens TD309 is still holding its own with the rest of my gear. At this stage I'm more interested it trying a tube phono preamplifier than replacing the turntable. With my Classe Five preamplifier I'm still getting excellent detail, very nice deep bass with different shades of timbre, along with extended treble detail, etc. I'm now in the position where I will be trying to find push the boundaries of finesse - more transparency, more detail, a little better soundstaging, etc. The table - at least at this point - doesn't seem to be the stopper. If I put my previous table - a Dual CS5000 and Schiit Mani preamp - back into the system the difference between the two setups is stark.
     
    blair207 likes this.

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