Thorens models TD-160, TD-165, TD-166, TD-150, TD-145, TD-146, TD-147 are floating subchassis suspended turntable. If in working order they can be easily upgraded and refurbished.
Though many of these turntables are easily found in the used market, they are rarely offered in top working conditions: a suspended turntable from the 70s may still be aesthetically perfect but it is almost never correctly adjusted and fine tuned, which is critical to achieve the surprising performance old Thorens turntables can still provide today.
Vintage Thorens turntables MUST be perfectly adjusted and tuned to top performance, with greatest care to suspension adjustment and tonearm alignment.
Why an old suspended Thorens turntable?
The first answer is “class”. Old turntables have a look, a design (and, well… sound) that most modern counterparts lack. Thorens used top quality materials at the time. Those turntables can still work very well today and their performance can even surpass modern technology turntables – provided they are set up correctly. A well adjusted and fine-tuned Thorens from the 70s can still feature a sound quality that may rival that of modern decks. But it is mandatory that it is hooked to high quality stereo equipment and installed on a perfectly horizontal and rigid/isolated surface.
Many companies today offer affordable and easy to use turntables. Most of them are not suspended turntables but are based on rigid plinths. We could argue about which is the better design philosophy, but keep in mind that modern suspended turntables offered by Thorens cost more than 2000 Euros. Therefore, Thorens also offers a choice of cheaper rigid plinth turntables. Like all modern rigid plinth decks, they are ready to play, you just hook them to your system and start spinning records. Old suspended turntables do require adjustments and fine tuning before operating – but when this job is carried out correctly, you’d be surprised by what you hear!
What an old Thorens lacks that modern turntables have?
Build quality in 1970s Germany was top class. Still, those years’ technology and materials can show the signs of time. There still nothing inherently wrong in those turntables even today. My early opinion was that rubber mat, bottom board and feet needed to be changed. But what changed are my ideas. Today I must say I don’t hear much differences in those upgrades.
Many build or buy a newer and heavier plinth. Today I am convinced it does not add any improvement from the mechanical pint of view. If you like a new plinth there is no arm in doing it. It might look beautiful, more modern, but personally I like the old looks, which I prefere to preserve.
The bottom board is another issue: it is flimsy indeed. Maybe it would be better to remove it completely or build a thicker one.It is still part of the plinth, anyway – therefore it is not that sensitive.
I am considering to re-install the original small feet. Many choose installing spikes, but maybe I would agrre to the other scholl of thought: isolation (spikes have a coupling effect). Maybe there is a reason for those stock small rubber feet. The best restorer uses just a bit larger rubber feet. I will probbaly follow that read soon…
Cables: the best restorer argues the original phono cables were designed correctly for that table. Cable capacitance may be very important, therefore building our own cables could be tricky. For me I have chosen turntable cables designed for the Technics SL1200. Therefore, if the cables still work we might as well keep them. The RCA plugs were really awful. They must be replaced. The mains cable is not important here, but surely I would add a ground wire.
The original rubber mat does no damage. You might not like it so there is no harm in changing it with a newer one or a felt mat, or whatever. As of today, I don’t see the reason to spend a lot of money for such a minimal upgrade.
In summary, what needs to be done to an old Thorens to recover nearly 50 years of progress? I would suggest the following (of course if it is in working order and the suspension has been tuned):
- Replace the belt with a Thorens-branded one (before dealing with the suspensions)
- Add a ground cable
- Install a new cartridge or replace the stylus
- Upgrade the headshell leads
- Remove or upgrade the bottom board
- Replace the RCA plugs – the cables only if necessary
- Dampen the bottom of the top plate and the bottom of the sub-chassis (retune the suspension accordingly)