Cables replacement

Cables installed on Thorens turntables in the 70s were not high-quality, as customary at the time. Many believe that original cables in good state should be left in their place. A good idea may be replacing the RCA connectors with modern gold-plated ones. Some preserve the original plugs after thorough polishing. It depends on each case, but in my experience I’ve really heard some differences with different cables on Thorens turntables.

One of the first thing  I did on my first Thorens, a TD-165, was getting rid of phono cables and mains lead. For replacing the latter I could be satisfied with a general purpose modern mains cable with standard plug. Then, following the advice of an electrical technician friend, I bought some gold-plated RCA connectors to use with a good microphone coaxial cable; coaxial cables typically offer low capacitance and good shielding for phono applications.

17860204321_01c7d1af06_oA coaxial cable is essentially a central conductor wire wrapped in a plastic sheath, wrapped in turn in a shielding made of a braided metal net that runs along the whole cable. The braided shield is to be connected to the negative (cold) lead, the central conductor to the positive (hot) lead.

This may be it for all HiFi purposes, since we’re talking about unbalanced connections vs. balanced connection use in professional audio. The braided shield in unbalanced cables provides isolation against external interferences; the low capacitance makes for a better high-frequency roll-off, hence a flatter frequency response. The capacitance of cables affects the final audio result more on turntables than in other audio applications: capacitance is a function of impedance, therefore of length, so it is better to keep cable length around one meter or so.

Later I discovered that the best non-professional audio cables were those designed for video: they are coaxial (the best geometry for unbalanced phono cables), they are well shielded and feature a relatively low capacitance since they are designed to have a standard impedance of 75 ohm (resulting in 16-21 pF/ft). The best among video cables seem to be those with double braided metal shield and a rather flexible sheathing. As phono cables for my “new” Thorens TD-160 I was able to find the Belden 1505F, recommended by Blue Jeans Cable for general analog audio purposes. As RCA connectors I picked up some excellent Monster Cable plugs. Although the Belden are cerainly very good coaxial cables, maybe only bettered by the Blue Jeans LC-1 cables they inspired, I later decided to use thinner cables: they are easier to manage and install within Thorens plinths; they are more flexible and handle better when folded for transport. I’m currently evaluating some turntable cables intended for Technics SL-1200 decks but easily installed on Thorens tables.

The grounding cable for a turntable is a completely different matter. To begin with, it is better to clarify that we’re talking about signal ground, not mains ground (which is disconnected on Thorens tables). Many Thorens models are sold with no grounding cable to be connected to the pre’s or phono amp’s chassis (or to the appropriate connector when available). TD-165s and 160s all come with a simple ground wiring: a wire connects a metal tab soldered to the negative right channel tonearm terminal to the floating subchassis (picture below). With this wiring, which I never bothered of before, I’ve never had any hum problems with my Thorens TD-165: although I’m running a Grado cartridge, I experienced no Grado hum at all… But as soon as I hooked my current TD-160, I was startled to hear a low hum as background noise…

Thorens_ground_originalBrowsing through the many forum threads on the topic, I decided to try the same rewiring that, if I’m not wrong, the Thorens service manual suggests (see picture below):

– I disconnected the cable from the subchassis but left it soldered to the right channel negative terminal metal tab; I simply isolated the lead in the “white tac” I’m using as internal dampening;

– I connected a simple copper wire from the same subchassis connection to a hole in the top plate that you can find near the motor in any Thorens TD-16x;

– a suitably long copper wire is also to be connected to the subchassis contact: it will function as grounding wire to the preamplifier.

thorens-ground-rewiringNow even my Thorens TD-160 has become “hum-free”. As a consequence, I’m adopting this rewiring for the other models I’ll work on.

Low capacitance cables from Blue Jeans Cable
Unbalanced vs. balanced cables on