Thorens TD 1600 review: an updated classic

0
98

Today we’re testing the Thorens TD-1600 turntable. This high-end record player that debuted at the 2019 Munich High End show is a belt-driven manual model priced at €2,990. It inherits the unique design that makes Thorens turntables instantly recognizable, more specifically that of the 1972 Thorens TD 160. The Thorens TD1600 also benefits from the technologies that have become a signature of the manufacturer over the years, notably the use of a floating subchassis, a heavy aluminum platter and the famous Thorens TP 92 tonearm. Although the competition in this price range is far from abundant, the Thorens TD 1600 turntable has to meet high standards. Is it able to carry the torch of one of the most iconic names of the vinyl industry?

The Thorens TD 1600 turntable’s timeless design makes it instantly recognizable.

Thorens TD 1600: the brand

After starting out in the late 19th century as a music box manufacturer, the small family business located in the town of Sainte-Croix in Switzerland quickly broadened its catalog and began designing gramophones and amplified needles, the ancestors of the phono cartridges we know today. Thorens continued to innovate throughout the 20th century and added direct drive turntables and tonearms to its catalog. In 1965, the brand introduced the Thorens TD-150 turntable, a model equipped with a new technology that would become synonymous with Thorens: the floating subchassis. This new floating design was a significant step forward in reducing background noise by preventing distortion caused by mechanical disturbances.

Today, the brand’s catalog includes turntables, as well as phono preamps, cleaning tools and products, platter mats and high-end stabilizers.

The Thorens TD 1600 inherits the design of the TD 160, released in 1972.

Thorens TD 1600: packaging & accessories

The Thorens TD 1600 comes in a large box inside of which it is firmly held in place by foam blocks. The turntable is effectively protected against any impacts that may occur during transport. The turntable is wrapped in a plastic pouch and protected by the dust cover and the platter mat placed above. Thorens includes the usual accessories and does not try to be extravagant. This is a credit to the brand, which does not try to show off with accessories and gets straight to the point. Note that the Thorens TD 1600 turntable is delivered without a cartridge, which leaves you free to choose the model of your choice. In addition to the turntable, the Thorens TD 1600’s box contains:

  • An aluminum platter
  • A rubber platter mat
  • An external power supply
  • A manual stylus gauge
  • A stroboscopic disc to set the rotation speed
  • A dust cover and hinges
  • A 45 RPM adapter
  • A power cable
  • A user guide
Conveniently, the Thorens TD 1600 turntable comes with a manual stylus gauge and a stroboscopic disc to set the rotation speed.

Thorens TD 1600: presentation

The Thorens TD 1600 turntable features the classic Thorens aesthetics that can also be found with the Thorens TD 402 DD direct drive turntable (read the Thorens TD 402 DD turntable review) and the Thorens TD-148 A automatic turntable. The heavy lacquered wooden chassis decorated with the brand’s logo is associated with a sub chassis suspended on 3 conical springs. This technology allows the subchassis to be uncoupled as much as possible in order to minimize vibrations and to limit its movements to a vertical axis. As a result, the tonearm is not affected and the signal generated by the cartridge can be transmitted without loss or interference. The Thorens TD 1600 adds new XLR balanced outputs and a manual belt tension adjustment feature to this time-tested design. This allows for precise control of playback speed as well as optimizing the lifespan of the belt once it begins to slacken.

The Thorens TD 1600 is equipped with XLR balanced outputs and a belt tension adjustment system to optimize the lifespan of the belt and fine tune the playback speed.

While the Thorens TD 1600 table has the same general appearance as its predecessor, it has a more modern design with a lacquered wooden chassis and three buttons to select the speed which replace the selection potentiometer. We would have preferred that Thorens keep the original natural finish and the selector for an even more vintage look. Naturally, this is simply a matter of taste.

Thorens TD 1600: key specifications

Design

  • Manual turntable
  • Belt-driven
  • Lacquered wood chassis
  • 3-point floating subchassis
  • Aluminum platter in two parts
  • Rubber platter mat
  • Adjustable belt
  • Platter: 30.5cm (12”) / 4.2kg, aluminum
  • Ferrite magnet anti-skating

Motor

  • Electronically controlled AC synchronous motor
  • Speed: 33,3 RPM, 45 RPM
  • Speed control: mechanical (switch on front)

Tonearm

  • Type: Thorens TP 92
  • Length: 232.8mm
  • Overhang: 17.8mm
  • Offset angle: 23.66°
  • Effective mass: 11g

Connectors

  • 1 x RCA stereo
  • 1 x ground (mass)

Included accessories

  • 1 x power cable
  • 1 x AC transformer
  • 1 x acrylic dust cover
  • 1 x 45 RPM adapter

Thorens TD 1600: Thorens TP92 tonearm

As usual, the Thorens TD 1600 is equipped with a 9″ (232.8mm) tonearm designed by the brand, here the TP92 model. Featuring built-in adjustments for anti-skating and height, the Thorens TP92 tonearm is made of a single aluminum tube with integrated headshell. Compatible with the ½” mounting standard, the Thorens TP92 tonearm is suitable for the vast majority of phono cartridges on the market. The high-precision ball bearing located under the tube of the Thorens TP92 tonearm is positioned at the same level as the cartridge’s diamond, which guarantees better stability. The brand specifies that when the tonearm was designed, Thorens engineers used a laser vibrometer to analyze the resonance of the tube to target specific frequencies and guarantee a total absence of unwanted vibrations.

It should be noted that the Thorens TD 1600 doesn’t come with a cartridge and is therefore not designed to be used straight out of the box, like almost all turntables in this price range.

The Thorens TP92 tonearm features anti-skating and height adjustments as well as an integrated headshell compatible with the ½” mounting standard, allowing it to accommodate the vast majority of cartridges available on the market.

Thorens TD 1600: separate power supply

Too often overlooked, the power supply of electronic devices is crucial in a hi-fi system, especially when it comes to vinyl. Because the phono signal is much weaker than the signal transmitted by a CD player for example, any interference can very quickly have a significant impact on the listening experience. This is why the Thorens TD 1600 comes with a large separate power supply. By separating the power supply from the turntable, Thorens ensures that electrical and mechanical interference is kept to a minimum. The result is a clearer, more detailed listening experience and increased dynamic range. The large power supply of the Thorens TD 1600 is also designed to supply the turntable with a high-quality current, which further reduces electrical interference.

The Thorens TD 1600 turntable’s large separate power supply ensures a high-quality current and a significant reduction of interference that causes signal distortion.

Thorens TD 1600: electronically controlled AC synchronous motor

The aluminum platter of the Thorens TD 1600 is divided into two parts. The central part is rotated by means of a rubber belt connecting it to an electrically controlled synchronous motor. The tension of the belt can be adjusted, which allows you to regulate the rotation speed that can fluctuate with time. The motor of the Thorens TD 1600 is electronically controlled, which means that the playback speed can be changed at the touch of a button. To select the playback speed, simply choose between 33 RPM and 45 RPM using one of the three buttons on the bottom left of the chassis and press the 0 button to stop playback. The motor responds instantly and starting, stopping and changing speeds is simple, smooth and fast.

The synchronous motor is completely decoupled from the subchassis to avoid any vibration. As with the Thorens TD 160, the choice of a belt drive effectively isolates the vinyl record and tonearm from their environment during playback, so that no externally transmitted vibrations interfere with the tracking of the groove. This allows the stylus to pick up every nuance of the groove’s edge and accurately reproduce every detail of the music.

Thorens TD 1600: listening conditions

While high-end turntables have a reputation for being difficult to set up, the Thorens TD 1600 is very quick and intuitive to install. The belt is already installed, which is a plus for those who prefer to avoid the assembly of various elements as much as possible. Once the turntable is in position, you simply place the second part of the platter, clip the hinges onto the dust cover before inserting them into the notches on the back of the turntable, then mount the cartridge before adjusting the tracking force. Then connect the power supply, the phono preamp and the amplifier to the turntable.

For this review, we paired the Thorens TD 1600 turntable with our Thorens MM-008 reference preamplifier connected to the Atoll IN 200 Signature hi-fi amplifier using NorStone Jura RCA cables. The latter powered Focal Chorus 726 floorstanding speakers via Viard Audio Premium HD cables. First, we mounted the Denon DL-103R cartridge, then we continued our listening experience with the Grado Gold. For a quick and easy adjustment of the tracking force, we used our faithful Elipson electronic scale. Finally, we used the included rubber platter mat during our first listening sessions, then we replaced it with the Micromat Riffaud mat.

Known for its high-end turntables, the French brand Riffaud offers a rigid vinyl chloride-based platter mat designed to absorb vibrations and avoid any signal coloration.

Thorens TD 1600: listening impressions

From the very beginning, the first thing we noticed was the low noise level of the Thorens TD 1600 turntable. With the Denon DL-103R moving coil cartridge we enjoyed a level of detail that was simply breathtaking. With the album Leviathan by Mastodon, the wide soundstage rendered brilliantly by the Focal Chorus 726 speakers was bursting with details. The highs and mids were reproduced with great clarity, the saturated guitars were razor-sharp, the bass was tight and the cymbals were crisp. The combination of the Thorens TD 1600 turntable and the Denon DL-103R cartridge reproduced the Atlanta band’s music with all the energy it deserves. We then moved on to an older recording with the famous Live at Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash. Once again, the sound was incredibly clear and we were transported in front of the man in black, whose deep voice was rendered with a lot of naturalness. The recordings produced at that time often have a lower bass level than modern productions, which is even more true for the live albums, especially this one. On the song “Jackson” sung in duet with June Carter Cash, the Denon DL-103R cartridge was a little too bright for our taste, especially when it came to reproducing June Carter Cash’s higher voice.

The combination of the Denon DL-103R moving coil cartridge and the Thorens TD 1600 turntable provides a spacious, clear and detailed soundstage.

To achieve a sound richer in mids and bass, we mounted the Grado Gold cartridge on the Thorens TP 92 tonearm. It only took a few minutes, thanks to our electronic scale which allowed us to precisely adjust the tracking force in a blink of an eye. We also took advantage of this cartridge change to replace the rubber platter mat with a Riffaud model that features a microporous molecular structure designed by the turntable manufacturing specialist Riffaud to effectively absorb vibrations and attenuate resonance. The Riffaud platter mat therefore eliminates more coloration and helped reinforce the already excellent performance of the Thorens TD 1600 turntable in this domain.

We then found the turntable’s performance even more to our liking and it was hard to hide our enthusiasm for this combination. Playing the Leviathan album again, the tracks had more substance and weight in the low end of the spectrum while retaining a natural, detailed character that can be attributed to the Thorens TD 1600’s ability to reproduce the entire signal with precision. The Live at Folsom Prison album also benefited from the change in cartridge, and the listening experience was more balanced and less bright. With the Hisaishi Meets Miyazaki Films record, the orchestrations were rendered with a striking naturalness, from the vibrations of the strings to the percussion instruments. The Thorens TD 1600 turntable and the Grado Gold cartridge displayed a magnificent dynamic range that gave amplitude to the music’s apogees. We got goosebumps when closing our eyes to relive the various scenes from Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke!

Once the Grado Gold cartridge was mounted on the Thorens TD 1600 turntable’s tonearm, the reproduction gained in substance and really impressed us.

Bassheads can rest assured, the Thorens TD 1600 turntable and the Grado Gold cartridge were perfectly at ease with hip-hop. On the album IV by Cypress Hill, the bass benefitted from a nice presence while remaining responsive and the mids kept all their richness. The result? Rich and tight beats with perfectly outlined vocals. The pair was faultless when it came to organizing the different sound levels and it was difficult to resist the urge to sit and listen to the whole album.

With each record we listened to, the Thorens TD 1600 turntable was always impressive. The sound was consistently rich, rhythmic and pleasant. We were able to appreciate the difference between the Grado Gold and Denon DL-103R cartridge thanks to the turntable’s ability to step aside and let the music do the talking. This turntable’s strength is its great musicality, its precision and its ability to reproduce the signal generated by the cartridge without coloring the sound message.

The Thorens TD 1600 impressed us with its ability to reproduce all styles in a natural, musical and accurate way.

Thorens TD 1600: compared to…

As we mentioned earlier, the competition in this price range is relatively limited. Nonetheless, we were able to get our hands on a few high-end models from competing brands.

Rega Planar 8: sold for €2,990 with a Rega Ania moving magnet cartridge and Rega PSU regulated power supply, the Rega Planar 8 ranks among the top models from another iconic brand in the vinyl market. Lighter and more discreet in terms of size, the Rega turntable nonetheless delivers an equally balanced and musical sound performance. Lovers of vintage design and audiophiles looking for a versatile turntable, however, will turn to the Thorens TD 1600. Rega’s philosophy of using lightweight materials is the opposite of Thorens’ approach of producing heavy turntables like this model, which weighs almost 11kg.

McIntosh MTi100: McIntosh’s all-in-one turntable holds a unique position in the vinyl market. It includes a turntable, a tube preamplifier, an amplifier with analog and digital inputs and outputs, a headphone output and a Bluetooth receiver. The price difference is significant, but what about the performance of the turntable itself? The McIntosh MTi100 offers a warmer reproduction due to the presence of the integrated tube preamp, but this also implies a certain coloration of the signal. While the McIntosh model offers a wide range of features, the Thorens TD 1600 is more balanced and offers many more possibilities for adding cartridges.

Thorens TD 1600: who is it for?

The Thorens TD 1600 turntable is primarily aimed at audiophiles looking for a high-end model to be integrated into a system where every element counts. The brand’s goal is above all to offer a turntable whose mission is to reproduce the signal generated by the cartridge in the most precise and faithful way possible. The Thorens TD 1600 is therefore designed for lovers of the vintage Thorens design and is designed to be added to a system where each element has been specifically chosen to achieve a precise sound.

Thorens TD 1600: conclusion

It is difficult to run out of positive things to say about the Thorens TD 1600 turntable. This top of the range model delighted us with a constantly balanced and musical sound. Thorens does everything possible to eliminate all vibrations and sources of resonance and therefore guarantees a natural and detailed reproduction.

We also appreciate the versatility of this turntable, its ease of use and of course the unique design which gives Thorens turntables their charm. We would have liked the German manufacturer to have kept the purely vintage aesthetics of the TD 160 turntable, but this detail does not weigh heavily in the balance considering the sound performances of the Thorens TD 1600. A great success for a turntable that will bring many years of musical pleasure to vinyl lovers.

We liked:

  • The tonal balance
  • The classic Thorens look
  • The easy installation
  • The versatility of the TP 92 tonearm
  • The total absence of noise and interference

We would have liked:

  • A matte finish
  • The original selectors
  • For it to have been compatible with 78 RPM records


Share your opinion!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.