Thorens TD 1500 Turntable: Modern Improvements on a Classic

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Ian White
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Does the Thorens TD 1500 merely pay homage to one of its classic decks or is there something more here?

Does familiarity truly breed contempt? Having invested a sizeable amount of money over the past decade in three restored Thorens turntables from Vinyl Nirvana, there was both intense interest and some skepticism on my part in regard to the new Thorens TD 1500 Turntable.

Swiss-made (or German-made depending on the decade) Thorens turntables have been prized by audiophiles for both their sound quality and precision engineering since 1957 with the launch of the TD-124 idler drive turntable, and that list has grown over the years to include the TD-145, TD-150, TD-160/Super, and TD-125 belt-driven models.

Thorens relocated their manufacturing to Germany, Poland, and Switzerland during some rather tumultuous decades for the company as it struggled to combat the birth of digital audio, and only recently in 2018 was restructured with new ownership that is based in Germany.

Thorens is back in the game of manufacturing brand new high-end turntables but has shown little interest in supporting legacy products that were some of the best belt-driven turntables ever made.

So why buy a used Thorens and have It restored to its original glory?

Why not buy something new? 

Thorens is making a strong case for itself with new models like the TD 1500, TD 1600/1601 and TD 124 DD.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Walnut Front Top
Thorens TD 1500

The TD 1500 pays homage to the ground breaking TD-150 and whilst there are some similar design cues — the modern version offers a number of substantial changes that make it far more user friendly and competitive from a performance perspective with other turntables in the $3000 to $4,000 range.

Sticking with the past, the Thorens TD 1500 is a manually operated deck that still features a sub-chassis that is designed to decouple the turntable and tonearm base from the motor and frame through 3 conical springs.

The difference between the older deck and the TD 1500 is that the springs can now be adjusted from above through corresponding holes that have been drilled into the platter.

Having used a TD-145, TD-160 Super, and TD-125 for the better part of a decade, there is no question that the TD 1500 is easier to adjust and forget.

There is also no question that it bests the TD-145 and TD-160 Super in some areas rather handily. Not entirely sold on that when it comes to the TD-125.

Thorens now offers the TD 1500 with the Ortofon 2M Bronze; which is an entirely appropriate high output MM cartridge for a table of this caliber. Some users will likely install something different, but it proved to be very competitive against my own Thorens tables with Dynavector, Ortofon, and Goldring cartridges installed.

Another new twist is the inclusion of both RCA and balanced XLR outputs on the rear panel of the TD 1500; the Pro-Ject X2 B that resides in my office system is another deck that offers a similar set-up but for less money.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Tonearm with Ortofon 2M Bronze Cartridge

At the time of the review, I did not have an external phono preamp with balanced inputs/outputs to ascertain if that would make any difference; and with the 2M Bronze being a MM cartridge — a somewhat irrelevant test.

A Better Tonearm Makes All The Difference

Let’s be frank. The tonearm offered on the original TD-150 was rather crude and it explains why SME tonearms were so popular on Thorens decks over the years.

The TP 150 tonearm, which reminds one of much older EMT arms from around the time that I was born, offers superior build quality, adjustability, and the Ortofon-designed detachable head shell.

Its operation on the TD 1500 was extremely smooth and one can tell that the bearings were no afterthought.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Tonearm
Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Tonearm

Having used a Rega tonearm on my TD-160 Super for many years, there is no question that the TP 150 is superior from a built quality perspective and offers a much higher level of refinement.

The Rega, however, works extremely well with the Ortofon 2M Black that has been used on it for the past 5 years; I did have a custom counterweight made for it and the internal wiring is Cardas.

It is definitely not a stock version of the RB300.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Adjustment

Thorens provides all of the necessary tools to finalize the cartridge installation; including an excellent overhang gauge, which is in the form of a LP-sized template with a strobe disc on the other side.

The anti-skate is set for you at the factory which was a nice touch.

Installation was rather easy.

Remove the two transit screws, position the high quality belt, platter and record mat, install the head shell with the pre-installed 2M Bronze and mount the counterweight.

Another advantage is the TD 1500’s electronically-controlled motor, providing automatic speed change.

Comparing the 4 turntables, the TD 1500 offers superior speed stability and the tonearm offers very little play; the decades of technological advancement have produced a table that is better engineered and certainly easier to setup and maintain.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Walnut Top
Thorens TD 1500

The original TD 150 and the TD 1500 are rather similar in size and weight; the new deck is 42 x 15 x 36cm compared to the original which was 39.4 x 12.5 x 32.5cm (W x H x D).

The bigger change involves the new platter that is only 1.4 kg compared to the 3.2 kg platter of the original. The TD 1500 weighs in at 8 kg versus the 6.7 kg of the TD 150.

From a build quality perspective, there is no comparison. Everything about the TD 1500 is more solidly constructed and that includes the armboard. The TD 1500 and the TD-125 share a lot in common in that regard. Both are solid decks and likely to last longer than their owners.

The TD 1500 is available with either a black or walnut plinth; definitely go for the walnut finish.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Black Side
Thorens TD 1500 Turntable in Black – Side View

Listening

Thorens tables most certainly have a “house” sound that is less accurate sounding than a VPI or Clearaudio turntable.

Nobody has ever described a Thorens deck as being “clinical” or “overly neutral” and that is certainly part of the charm — at least it has always been that way for myself.

The TD 1500 still offers the trademark presence and weight of a quality Thorens deck, but there is no question that the edges are more refined and everything is delivered with greater pace.

Rega pacing?

Not entirely sure one could say that it moves music along with the speed of a Rega Planar 8, but it does conduct its business with more of an attitude than any of my restored decks.

Listening to a wide range of new Blue Note Tone Poet releases confirmed a few other new details about the TD 1500.

Thorens decided to keep the midrange of the TD 1500 consistent with older designs in terms of timbre and texture, but the clarity and resolution are very different; every instrument within the mix was easier to discern and the uptick in detail was notable into the lower treble.

I would be the first to concede that my older Thorens tables don’t exactly illuminate the treble range as well as other decks; and that is with some excellent cartridges like the Dynavector 10×5, Ortofon 2M Black, and Goldring Eroica HX.

There is less treble energy compared to the TD 1500 and it was especially noticeable with my Magnepan LRS/Cambridge Edge A combination that the new design is slightly thinner sounding overall — which is trade-off for the improvements in overall clarity and top end detail.

Male vocals have greater tonal weight through the older tables, but they are also not carved as precisely within the soundstage and there is no question that the TD 1500 pushes vocals further out into the room.

Are the changes huge? Not necessarily depending on the rest of your system, but the TD 1500 was certainly not overly polite with any recording and the additional top end energy was never a bad thing.

Thorens TD 1500 Turntable Walnut Angle
Thorens TD 1500

The Thorens ethos remains but with a more, modern sounding edge.

The low end is better defined; although not necessarily thicker or more resolute sounding.

For myself, a turntable needs to offer accurate speed stability, strong presentation of timbre and texture, and genuine presence to stand out.

Tables that offer a clinical reproduction of music don’t cut the mustard. Regardless of price or engineering excellence.

Final Thoughts

Did Thorens play it safe with the TD 1500?

Not really.

They simply took what was excellent about older decks and refined it with improved clarity, better detail retrieval, and a quicker sounding presentation.

The biggest improvement is the tonearm which will work with a wide range of high-end MC and MC cartridges making this turntable a rather exceptional platform to enjoy your record collection.

The build quality is excellent and most certainly superior to the decks that came before it.

The TD 1500 may not offer the sex appeal of the TD-125 or Pro-Ject X2 B — but that’s not what should matter to you in the end.

One of the reasons why I invested so much money in 3 restored Thorens turntables is that they were built to last and deliver excellent sound quality that I can pass down one day to my children and grandchildren.

The TD 1500 joins that illustrious club with even greater swagger.

Where to buy$2,999 at B&H Photo

For more information: thorens.com


This article originally appeared at ecoustics.com and has been published here with permission.

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