Thorens TD 1601 Turntable—It Might As Well Be Sprung

Back in 1972 the original Thorens introduced the TD 160, a triple spring-suspended sub-chassis design that quickly became a long-in-production classic and the blueprint from which many other turntables, er, sprung—Linn for instance.

The original AR XA turntable designed by Edgar Villchur and introduced way back in 1961 for $58 was, to the best of my knowledge, the first to place the platter assembly and tone arm on the same sub-chassis isolated by a three point spring mount from the rest of the turntable (and from the outside world).

The previous incarnation of the Thorens brand, founded by Heinz Rohrer, had in the mid- 2010’s launched the TD 900 series also featuring the classic sprung chassis, but prices ranged upwards of almost $10,000 and the looks were “industrial”.

Producing a moderately priced, cosmetically suave turntable that lived up to the rich heritage and impeccable reputation of Thorens’ TD 160 was a formidable task for Thorens GMbH, reorganized last year under new CEO Gunter Kürten—an audio industry veteran and former CEO of ELAC. You can read more about the company’s history in the TD402 review published here in the fall of 2019.

The sample of that budget direct drive model turned out to be a “for photography” edition, which Thorens claims explained the loose arm bearings and other issues noted in the review, though much of its “guts” and the tonearm used were familiar looking “off the shelf” components manufactured at the highly accomplished Taiwan-based contract manufacturer Thorens, among other turntable companies, currently uses.

Other than the equally superlative “fit’n’finish”, everything else about the new TD-1600/1601’s design and mechanical performance is the opposite of the TD402’s.

The new 1600/1601 ‘tables are a “from the ground up” original design created in Germany and precisely executed by the Taiwan-based factory. Only the TP 92 arm, which will look familiar to many of you, is a “holdover” from the previous era.

Other than the TD 1601’s auto-cueing and end of record lift features, the TD 1601 and 1600 are identical. The fully manual 1600 has an MSRP of $2999. The 1601’s is $3499.

Unlike the original TD 160, which featured a sub-chassis hung from its top plate, the TD 1600’s MDF sub-chassis sits atop three foam-damped coil springs attached to a massive, highly damped base supported by three height-adjustable feet.

The brushed aluminum top plate/plinth is of Alucobond™—a sandwich of aluminum plates in between which is an aerospace honeycombed material that is said to produce a super-stiff composite.

A newly developed silicone ring-damped 12 volt synchronous motor fed by an outboard 16V linear power supply featuring a large toroidal transformer is encased in a non-resonant housing that’s mounted to the base.

Thorens has effectively addressed one of a suspended chassis’ biggest problems, which is sometimes known as “porch glider effect”— the sub-chassis’ tendency to shift horizontally, produced by, among other things, record eccentricity, but most especially by the motor’s driving forces against the platter.

The MDF sub-chassis features a stability-enhancing aluminum plate insert (blue in the drawing) to which are mounted both the platter bearing and the tonearm. The platter bearing is braced against the base plate with a thin steel thread that runs via a guide along an axis between the motor pulley and the platter axle terminating in a brass tensioning pin also seen in the drawing.

Without such an arrangement, the platter bearing assembly and thus the entire sub-chassis can shift relative to the motor’s fixed position, which can produce belt flexing speed inconsistencies. While placing the sub-chassis atop the springs also improves lateral stability, the guided and tensioned steel thread eliminates it, producing from the three springs the desired pistonic vertical movement.

The 7 pound dynamically balanced 12 inch diameter aluminum platter rides play-free on a generously sized aluminum sub-platter sitting upon and mechanically attached to a maintenance-free sealed spindle bearing ((the outer platter weighs 4.5 pounds, the sub-platter 2.5).

The entire spin mechanism exudes high quality, which is not to say it’s perfect: viewed from the side as the platter spins it’s possible to see both top surface vertical movement and clearance variance between the platter bottom and plinth top plate, though both are minor and of little concern. Thorens supplies a moderately thick rubber platter grooved with large “land masses” in between for, as far as my experience tells me, mostly cosmetic reasons.

Speed can easily be adjusted via rear panel mounted pots for both 33 1/3 and 45rpm. As delivered the 1601 ran beyond acceptable speed variation tolerances but once adjusted remained accurate. The Platterspeed App measurements show that the Lowpass-filtered maximum relative and absolute speed deviations were both minor producing a relatively smooth green line free. As you can see the raw deviations were larger than you’ll see on direct drive turntables, but those usually produce a “choppier” lowpass-filtered frequency line resulting from constant electronic correction. These measured differences also produce sonic differences, with all else being equal, the DD turntables sounding to some “more precise” and the belt drive turntables sounding “smoother” and more relaxed.

In addition to the back panel’s speed adjustment potentiometers there are both RCA and balanced XLR outputs as well as the multipin power supply jack.

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Anton D's picture

That was everything a review should be, I felt like it have a true feel for the turntable.

If I were shopping right now, I'd buy it. (I think I am saving up for a Fern & Roby, but who knows.)

Well done!

Michael Fremer's picture
I need to get one here to review ASAP
Michael Fremer's picture
Turns out azimuth can be adjusted though it was not in the manual I used. I've changed the copy to reflect that and also provide the procedure..
rischa's picture

Is the power supply pictured above included?

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes.
Drubin's picture

US dealers seem to have the 1600 at $2999 and the 1601 at $3999. A $500 difference makes more sense.

Drummer's picture

That's one of the first albums I play when something new comes into my rig. Mark Howard, long time Daniel Lanois collaborator and engineer deserves mention here for his contribution to the sound of Oh Mercy. Fans of this sound will like his book "Listen Up" and Lanois' book "Soul Mining" many stories about the way they approach recording and insight into why the records they collaborated on have a vibe like few others. "Time Out of Mind" is another recording that stands alone in its sound picture. (I just made that phrase up. Pretty good, unless I accidentally stole it via lost memory) No turntable in my rig at this time, but my original copy of Oh Mercy sits in a special place with some other records I'v carted around for the "someday I'll get another turntable moment". $3 K is luxury in my world but I enjoy learning from reviews like yours. Thank you.

phumiston's picture

20 years ago I rebuilt an AR XA with the Merrill suspended acrylic sub-platter and bearing improvements (plus a Moerch UP-4). At the same time I replaced the original AR steel top plate/plinth with Alucobond. Loved both the sonic and aesthetic improvements!

Jim Tavegia's picture

Good LF extension below 30 hz and HF past 15khz, but good balance and clarity. I might want to look at that IFi unit.

Ortofan's picture

... direct comparison with a “tricked out” Linn Sondek might be a direct comparison with the direct-drive Technics SL-1200G or SL-1210GAE.
Both 'tables are priced at $4K.

mdiehl's picture

I would be very much interested in a comparison with a Linn Sondek, especially one that has the most recent Lingo power supply and also the new bearing that just recently became available.

On another note, can this new table accept different tonearms? I do have a refurbished Thorens TD 160 Super with a SME 3009 tonearm and a Lyra Delos cartridge and I wonder if this new model really would be any better. Possibly because of the more advanced subchassis design or the more advanced motor?

Fsonicsmith's picture

But I would like to have seen an explanation as to whether the platter-plinth discrepancy you observed was the result of the bearing assembly (not likely based upon what you heard) or sloppy machining of the platter.
I grew up with vinyl and it was common to see "platter wobble" in the '70's but today, even $500 decks rarely exhibit it. And it is also nice to see something about the tonearm wiring scheme-is it a continuous run from clips to RCA's or is there a break-out box?

Michael Fremer's picture
So slight many records have more vertical play. Not an issue but I felt obligated to mention. RCA and XLR puts on back of wooden frame. Hard wired from clips.
supamark's picture

my "daily driver" is a 1987 Thorens TD-316 which is currently in the shop being refurb'd (PS board recapped, bering checked/oiled, etc) and the 30+ year old Shure V15MR type V is (sadly - wtf Shure?) being replaced by an Ortofon 2M Bronze. I'm pretty sure the rubber bits in the Shure are toast at this point. It's a great 'table, and I'm excited to be able to listen to my vinyl collection again.

Glad to see that Thorens is making good turntables again, even if they're no longer made in Switzerland like mine was. When I bought it I was deciding between the Thorens and a Linn LP12... the deciding factor (besides a couple hundred dollars difference) is that back then playing a 45 on a LP12 was a needlessly complicated endeavor.

daniel quintanal's picture

Hi Michael, I listen to mostly classical music and some jazz, not rock or pop, I want to buy a new turntable and I doubt among the three: Linn LP 12 Klimax, SME Synergy and Technichs SL-1000R, could you recommend one? In that price range that seems best to you, tell me if you are so kind. Thank you very much.

Michael Fremer's picture
I reviewed both the SME Synergy and Technics SL-1000R in Stereophile and I think if you searched on that website you will find the reviews. I haven't reviewed the LP12 Klimax.
daniel quintanal's picture

thanks

TommyTunes's picture

Looking to change my office table (Classic SB with upgraded subplatter), the current one is just not cutting it and I want a traditional looking table in the office, so this might just be the ticket.

Gramoguy's picture

"Red Sails" by Barney Kessel from Red Norvo's Music To Listen To Red Norvo By. Sound by Roy DuNann. I just played my mono copy on my Thorens TD 126 MK III. My other turntable is a TD 160. Michael, thanks for your good work.

vinyl listener's picture

... sat on top of the springs like a Linn LP12.
:)

vinyl listener's picture

....

Michael Fremer's picture
The TD 160's springs hung from the top plate as described in the review. Here's a photo:

vinyl listener's picture

... you wrote the subchassis (not springs) hung from the top plate, that would make it a SOTA-type arrangement with springs on top of subchassis ?

Wimbo's picture

sounded really nice and inviting Michael.

gbougard's picture

nice review

made me love my Thorens 124 MKII and my Thorens 125MKII even more, which, by the way cost me less even after being fully (and beautifully) refurbished by Schopper in Switzerland

McDonalds or Steak's picture

It wouldn't be a Stereophile TT review if something wasn't described as "massive."

Mijostyn's picture

I think what vinyl listener is trying to say is that turntables like the SOTAs, and the SMEs have their platter chassis hung from their suspensions versus sitting on their suspensions. The TD 1600 and TD160 chassis are sitting on their suspension. The effect is the same whether or not the springs are hung from a top plate or sitting on a bottom plate. The SOTA and SME systems are inherently more stable. The original face off was between the SOTA Sapphire and the LP12 back in 1980 or so. LP12 owners had to tip toe around their turntables but not the SOTA. You could jump up and down right in front of it no problem. The LP12 chassis sits on it's springs just like the TD 160 and 1600. If a mass sitting on top of a spring is disturbed horizontally it becomes unstable and tends to tip over. A mass hanging from a spring if disturbed will to return to the neutral position.

vinyl listener's picture

... to the Linn/SOTA wars played out in the late 80s TAS
:D

Mijostyn's picture

I reviewed my records. The Sapphire came out in 1981. I sold my 2nd LP12 in May 1982 to buy the Sapphire with which I was thrilled to death. I can't remember exactly what in-sighted me to make the trade. I still had one foot in the audio business so it may have been insider mumbling. But, I seem to remember the decision being based on extremely positive reviews.

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