Vintage 1973 Thorens TD-165
One example of almost complete refurbishment:
Features: refurbished vintage 1973 floating-subchassis, made in Germany, belt-driven turntable with original TP-11 tonearm and TP-60 headshell.
Speeds: 45 and 33.3 RPM
Voltage: 110-220 V / 50 Hz
Cartridge: used Goldring Elan (early 2000s)
Connections: IEC socket for AC chord; gold-plated RCA sockets and ground connection
Low capacitance phono interconnect cables and power chord included
What I did:
1- suspensions cleaning and tuning
2- cables removed, low-capacitance coaxial phono cables and new power chord included
3- bottom board and feet removed; dampened 1.8 cm MDF board with suspension tuning holes and bigger dampened rubber feet installed
4- plinth treated with beeswax and oil; inside dampened with bituminous tar sheets and white tac
5- motor pulley, subplatter and outer platter cleaned; new original Thorens belt installed
6- subplatter shaft and pit cleaned and lubed with oil
7- Goldring Elan (used) cartridge installed and properly set up and aligned
8- tonearm height and bearings adjusted
9- grounding pattern rewired
10- original rubber mat replaced with new felt mat
11- new gold-plated headshell leads installed
Thorens has always used high quality materials for their turntables. Today’s belt-driven suspended turntables made by Thorens may cost far more than 2000 euros. The most widespread turntable design is today a rigid plinth. The cheaper (2-400e) rigid plinth models might be really worth the money but suffer isolation problems and lack the appeal and character (even sonic-wise) of the old Thorens. The latter, if well tuned and serviced, can still give a run for the money to much more expensive modern turntables.
Although well built, Thorens decks from the 70s can be easily upgraded. What really need to be changed are the original poor quality cables and the rubber mat.
The little rubber feet are almost useless and so is the bottom wooden board.
A good suspension tuning, some simple dampening, a new original Thorens belt and a good cartridge will make your Thorens sound incredibly well.
This Thorens was probably left unused for years. A good cleaning has been carried out but some signs of the time are impossible to eliminate.
The moving metal parts have been cleaned and lubricated. The wooden plinth has been cured with beeswax and oil. The part suffering most of the abuse has been the acrylic dust cover. It has been cleaned and fixed as possible but it has a hole and still it misses one hinge.
The plinth has suffered little damage in its front and left sides. The wooden finish can’t be restored. The top plate, as very common in the delicate surfaces of the TD-165s, has some visible, circular signs.
The antiskating weight was missing, as long as one of the rods: they have been replaced with original parts from Germany.
The Thorens suspension is similar to other brands of the time (AR, Garrard, Dual, Linn); the outer heavy metal platter lies on a smaller subplatter which is connected to the motor spindle by a rubber belt. The subplatter has a metal shaft that rotates in a housing within the subchassis and lubricated with oil to minimize friction during playback.
The sub chassis, a vaguely triangular metal board, is connected to the top plate by means of three springs. The springs provide for the insulation of the platter-tonearm system from ambient and motor vibrations.
The springs have been removed and, together with their grommets, washers and adjusting nuts, have been washed in hot water and soap, and rinsed in talcum powder.
Once mounted back in their place they have been finely adjusted (by rotating the adjusting nuts) to provide for perfect working height, horizontality and isolation. It is a long trial and error process…
Chassis and plinth dampening
For dampening I chose adhesive tar sheets used in automotive tuning. Several pieces are stuck on the inner plinth walls and at the bottom of the top plate. I also use a material similar to the blue tac. It is white instead and it is used in the construction industry to provide insulation and impermeabilization. It can be spread on surfaces to which it adheres dampening the vibrations.
Usually. I limit to the minimum any additional material in the subplatter and the sub chassis since it would cause the over 40-year-old suspension springs to bear a bigger weight than they were designed for. Anyway, most the time the Thorens springs are still perfect.
The flimsy bottom board and small rubber feet have been replaced. A 1.8 mm thick MDF panel, treated with black styroacrylic paint, has been installed. The inside has also been dampened with tar adhesive sheets. The new, much thicker and dampened bottom board adds rigidity and weight to the plinth, always a good thing in suspended turntables. Three 2-cm wide holes have been drilled to allow access to the suspensions’ adjusting nuts by way of a tubular screw.
As already said, the original cables are really low quality (like all cables of the time). The thing is they were designed for the best capacitance value for those turntables. Therefore it is necessary to pay much attention to what cables to use in order to avoid noise and distortion.
It is generally accepted that coaxial cable design is the best to achieve the low capacitance needed to transport the very low signals of a phono cable. The best cables with this characteristics are those used for video purposes or microphone cables: like turntable cables, they need to be shielded to insulate them form surrounding electromagnetic fields. Coaxial cables are made of a central conductor, or lead, covered with an isolating medium with a braided conductor wrapped around it (the shield). Therefore, as phono interconnects I’m including coaxial, low capacitance, shielded microphone cables. They provide enough low capacitance and shielding to be far better than the originals.
As power chord I include a normal modern cable with the standard Italian plug. The four headshell leads have also been replaced with thicker, gold-plated new ones.
The Thorens mat is made of rubber and provides contact with the vinyl record only along two circles. It is of cheap quality and I prefer to use a different kind of mat.
On Thorens turntables I strongly recommend the 5 mm Funk Firm Akromat made of acrylic and vinyl foam. I have no links with the British firm, but I’ve experienced a great sound improvement with the use of the Akhromat.
The tonearm’s height is properly set and the cartridge’s tracking force is measeured with a digital gauge. The cartiridge’s alignment is set up by means of a protractor.
The Thorens TD-165 came with a stock TP-11 tonearm, a very simple but still effective arm. With a 16.5 g effective mass, it lies in the heavy arms range but it can be coupled to many modern medium to low compliance cartridges. The antiskating bias is achieved by means of a threaded weight that, hanging from a couple of rods, provides a counterforce to the centripetal one the stylus undergoes during playback.
There is a debate about Thorens tonearms of the 70s like the TP-11 or TP-16 being garbage or good arms.
Certainly an old Thorens turntable can benefit from a better arm (Rega, SME, Grace), but there is no reason to dismiss an old Thorens tonearm as useless.
Thorens provided a gauge to correctly position the cartridge in their various headshells. They’re not easy to find, but I have the measurements useful to mount the cartridge so that the stylus tip will be at the right position relative to the arm.
A simply available protractor (many are downloadable and printable) is good enough to align the cartridge along the vertical axis; using a small mirror the vertical alignment or azimuth can be easily adjusted.
The needle’s rake angle (normally known as VTA) is adjustable by varying the tonearm’s height at its pivot. Typical Thorens arms have two Allen screws that lock its pivot. Removing the screws allows adjusting the arm’s pivot height so that the arm tube is horizontal while the stylus is in the record’s grove. Typically, when the tonearm dips toward the cartridge the low frequencies are heightened. Different record thickness affect the horizontality of the arm. Since I don’t believe in excessive care in the VTA adjustments, I choose to set the tonearm horizontal on a 200g record, so that with normal ones the arm will gently dip towards the stylus. It should never dip towards the pivot!
The tonearm’s bearings have been also taken care of. The gimbal bearings of the Thorens TP-11/16 tonearms are prone to become slack with age and use. When gently holding the armetube between two fingers, there should be no play (or ticking sounds) when we try to shake it softly. Otherwise, the bearings’ screws have to be tightened to eliminate the play. Excessive tightening may damage the bearings. One should tighten just enough to eliminate the play, not a bit more! Overtightening may be checked by zeroing the arm (setting the vertical force to 0 through the counterweight so that te arm floats in midair) and softly blowing both horizontally and vertically on the headshell (cartridge mounted): a very gentle blow should cause the arm to move.