All hail the Thorens TD-160, an easily modified and uniquely designed classic turntable.
The famed Thorens TD-160 is pretty much unparalleled when it comes to classic vintage turntables models. The Swiss clock company first launched its phonograph division back in 1903 when much of the world didn’t even know what a turntable was. That changed in 1928 when Thorens produced their first electric (motor-driven) record player and quickly became one of the most heralded phonograph machine manufacturers in the world.
Honing their craft over the years, the company went on to develop an entire range of audiophile record players in the 50’s and 60’s. In 1965, building on the suspension chassis design of Acoustic Research’s XA model, they created their first suspended table, the Thorens TD-150. The entry level TD-160 would be introduced in 1972 and go on to become the company’s most popular seller, with its manufacturing and production continuing pretty much nonstop for the next two decades. It was the apex of the 1970’s hi-fi boom and there was no shortage in demand for these specialized audiophile units.
Being at the right place and time may have helped Thorens make its mark in the audio fidelity world, but this relatively affordable and well appointed turntable has since become a thing of legend. Considered by many the gold standard by which other turntables are judged, the TD-160 has endured.
The good news? Because so many were made back in the day, anyone looking to find a working model or parts for one will have little trouble finding one on the aftermarket.
Design / Construction
A lot of thought went into the stability within the design of this machine, making it an exceptionally quiet playing unit. At the basic level, the TD-160 is in fact a minimal yet stylistically handsome record playing machine. With its sturdy (usually) wooden-framed plinth and stance, it exudes stability and commands respect as part of any hi-fi set up based on its aesthetics alone.
Simple in theory but technical in its construction, the Thorens TD-160 is a belt driven turntable with a floating sub-chassis suspended by three adjustable springs. The sub-chassis carry the main bearing via a mounting platform for its pickup arm. Which means that the turntable platter and arm are both rigidly coupled to a common sprung chassis, making them entirely independent of the plinth. When adjusted correctly, this innovative design ensures exceptional isolation from feedback and plays a vital role in the fidelity of the deck.
The sub-chassis and suspension construction allows a lower center of gravity, and because the mass stabilization of the sub-chassis and outer frame are so well balanced, the entire system is untethered from almost anything that might make noise and vibrations. The build quality on these things is fantastic. If properly maintained and cared for, a Thorens can last a lifetime or two of pure listening enjoyment.
To this day, the Thorens TD-160 is the deck of choice for turnable enthusiasts who are seeking a collectable piece of audiophile history that will provide amazing sound quality from a solidly made unit built to last.
And make no mistake, it is a superb turntable in its stock format. But what really drives people to the TD-160 is its ability to be modified, improved and adjusted.
If trying out a new tone arm (straight or curved) for more sensitive tracking is your thing, have at it. The suspension springs can be entirely switched out or merely leveled on the TD-160, making for an overall smoother vibration dampening dynamic. Leveling a turntable is also crucial. An evenly leveled turntable has as much influence over the sound performance of your unit as any of its individual parts. Some ambitious audiophilers have even been known to change out the entire motor system within the machine to achieve a quieter running performance.
One of the most common modifications is building a custom plinth, the foundation of the turntable, which serves to improve isolation as well as the aesthetics of the turntable. Another common mod is, of course, replacing or switching between cartridge headshells or styli. Whether it be a moving magnet (MM), moving coil MC or a mono cartridge, swapping out can be quite easily achieved for an improved — or just different — sound dynamic.
The internet is dense with information, manuals and step by step instructions; with a little (or, okay, a lot) of patience, you can learn how to make these tweaks yourself. Whether you want to simply change the belt on your platter to keep consistent rotation speed or change out the unit’s entire plinth, you can do it with the Thorens.
http://www.analogue-classics.com/ English language site, written by Holger Trass in Germany, with info on many collectible Thorens turntables. Also an excellent resource on classic SME tonearms. Highly recommended.