Thorens TD 1601 Turntable

hfnoutstandingOne of the oldest and most revered names in vinyl's history is back, refreshed and under new ownership, and with a deck that mixes modern materials with classic design cues

How many audiophiles ten years ago would have thought that come 2020 you would be able to buy a brand new Leak amplifier and a pair of Wharfedale Linton speakers? Not many, I'd bet. And it's now possible to front a system comprising these components with a belt-drive, suspended subchassis turntable made by Thorens, and one with 'TD160' in its name. It seems the onward march of 'retro' is unstoppable!

This is good news. Thorens has not had the smoothest of rides since interest in vinyl began to fade in the mid '80s but with a new CEO at the helm, Gunter Kürten, the company is back with a vengeance. We've seen a direct-drive refresh of the TD124 turntable and now the evergreen TD160 has been brought bang up-to-date in the form of the fully manual £2500 TD 1600 and semi-automatic £3000 TD 1601 here. There's even a new moving-coil cartridge available – the TAS 1600 [in-depth review next issue].

The TD 1601 is off to a flying start, having been named EISA's turntable of the year for 2020 [HFN Oct '20]. For this is no half-hearted re-hash of the original TD160 given a shiny finish. Yes, the three-point suspension has been retained from the TD150 launched in the 1960s, but the implementation here is quite different.

Brace Yourself
The most notable feature of the TD 1601 is its subchassis, now made from MDF, and not hanging from the top plate but sitting on three foam-damped conical springs mounted to a heavy, damped baseplate. This base, in turn, sits on three feet that are adjustable for levelling. In addition, the top plate is now made from Alucobond, which sees an aerospace-grade honeycomb material sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium. Meanwhile, the plinth is housed in a very stylish wood surround that comes in a choice of walnut or black, both with a high gloss finish.

The most intriguing aspect of the suspension set-up, however, is a feature that aims to counter one of my least favourite aspects of suspended turntables – the propensity, of some at least, to wobble drunkenly from side to side. Thorens has a two-fold solution, the first involving an alloy strengthening plate that connects the bearing to the tonearm mount. But that's not the main inspiration.

This takes the form of a braced steel thread, which is connected between the bearing housing and a steel pin mounted to the baseboard. This acts in the same direction as the motor pulley and bearing, effectively encouraging the subchassis to remain in this axis. This leaves it free to float up and down, but puts a useful limit on its lateral movement.


Machine Stop
The motor is a synchronous 12V AC type secured to the baseplate in a non-resonant housing and damped with a silicone ring. Power is applied to the drive circuitry by an impressive off-board PSU that contains a chunky toroidal transformer. The motor transfers its drive to the aluminium subplatter via a precision-cut belt sporting the Thorens logo. In turn, the subplatter supports a 2.2kg aluminium outer platter topped by a mat, Thorens supplying rubber and optional (£75) suede types.

Pre-fitted to the deck is the TP92 tonearm. Supplied with the TD 309 turntable [HFN Jun '10], this design was devised in conjunction with Germany's Fink Audio Consulting. It is a 9.1in arm with a damped main tube and a resonance-control ring at the centre. New for the TD 1600 and TD 1601 is the ability to dial-up tracking force directly by means of a calibrated and labelled counterweight. Bias is still applied magnetically using an adjustment control beside the arm pillar. The arm leads terminate in sockets at the rear of the plinth and both unbalanced phono and balanced XLR sockets are fitted.

Cartridge mounting is via a simple platform that screws onto the end of the armtube. It can be adjusted fore and aft for correct tracking alignment and rotated laterally to set the cartridge perfectly level.

Operating the deck is simplicity itself, with three buttons to select 33rpm, 45rpm and motor off. Trimpots at the rear permit speed adjustment over a ±6% range and the deck is simple to set up and a pleasure to use, feeling both solid and well made.

Thorens GmbH
Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems
07738 007776