It is with great pleasure that we had the opportunity to test the Thorens TD124 DD direct drive turntable. Sold for 7999 euros without a cartridge, this imposing high-end model with an aesthetic borrowed from the legendary Thorens TD 124 turntable is highly customizable and will undoubtedly arouse the curiosity of audiophiles looking for a high-performance turntable with a vintage look. Does the Thorens TD124 DD really enhance this iconic model?
The TD124 was the very first turntable designed by Thorens. Launched in 1957, the Thorens TD124 was a great success and became a classic of the brand and was reissued several times. The original version of the TD124 turntable is still talked about today among collectors. Many enthusiasts of the Thorens TD124 restore old models piece by piece to give the turntable a new lease of life. This belt-driven model, initially sold without a tonearm, had a cast iron platter weighing 4.3kg and offered four speeds plus a +/- 3% regulator. It also had a quick start and stop system, a built-in stroboscope for checking the platter speed, a built-in spirit level, a replaceable tonearm, and a new anti-vibration design that made it unrivaled at the time. Following the approach taken with living room phonographs, Thorens created a turntable combining high performance and robustness from which the TD124 DD (DD for Direct Drive) is directly descended.
Thorens TH124DD: packaging & accessories
The Thorens TD124DD turntable comes in an elegant and imposing black cardboard box decorated with a phonograph and the Thorens logo in red. The table is securely held in place by packing foam blocks. Wrapped in a plastic pouch and covered with a fabric cover, it is effectively protected against any bumps or scratches that may occur during transport. Delivered without a cartridge, the box of the Thorens TD124 DD turntable does however include two counterweights and a ½” headshell which allows you to connect the model of your choice without weight restrictions. Unfortunately, there is no dust cover or RCA cable. It is therefore strongly recommended to use a high-quality grounded RCA cable such as the NorStone Jura RCA.
The contents of the box are as follows:
- 1 Thorens TD124 DD turntable
- 1 aluminum platter
- 1 rubber platter mat
- 1 Thorens TPN 124 power supply unit
- 2 counterweights
- 1 Allen key to install the counterweight and anti-skating system
- 1 alignment protractor
- 1 user guide
- 1 certificate of authenticity
Thorens TH124DD: presentation
The Thorens TH124DD is the direct descendant of the brand’s very first turntable. It updates the design and technologies implemented by its predecessor, notably by adding a new direct drive system, a Thorens TP 124 tonearm, a TPN 124 power supply unit, a new plinth and XLR connectors in addition to the standard RCA connectors. Although Thorens has modernized a classic model, the TH124 DD still has a vintage look that will appeal to lovers of retro electronics with curved lines and a distinct personality. Let’s face it, the Thorens TD124 DD turntable is not designed to blend into the background. Built like a tank, this 17kg turntable (without the power supply) will not fail to catch your eye.
The Thorens TD124 DD turntable is composed of a heavy sub chassis that is mounted on four anti-vibration feet. This high-damping structure replaces the wooden plinth of the original TD 124 and serves as a base for the chassis mounted on four round height-adjustable feet. The problem most often highlighted with direct drive turntables is the presence of vibrations due to the motor. Thorens therefore endeavored to overcome this challenge and develop the most inert shock absorbing design possible.
The Thorens TD124DD turntable uses a new Thorens 12-pole high-precision direct drive motor with Delrin bearing mirror. This powerful motor allows precise rotation speed control and is designed to minimize unwanted vibrations. The speed is easily controlled using a 33/45 RPM switch taken from the original TD124 turntable.
The connectors include a standard RCA output accompanied by a grounding terminal and a power supply connector. However, the Thorens TD124 DD doesn’t just offer the classic set of connectors and stands out from the competition with a pair of balanced XLR connectors. An advantage that means it can be paired with high-end electronics equipped with the appropriate connectors to take full advantage of their potential.
In addition, and as a demonstration of the Thorens TD124 DD’s premium character, the turntable comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity placed in a thick padded pouch.
Thorens TH124DD: key specifications
- Manual turntable
- Direct drive
- Electronic tonearm control
- Aluminum platter
- Height-adjustable damping feet
- Rubber platter matt
- Anti-skating system with ruby bearing
- Separate TPN 124 power supply unit
- Thorens TP 124 tonearm
- 1 x RCA stereo output
- 1 x balanced XLR output
- 1 x grounding terminal
Thorens TH124DD: TP 124 tonearm & TPN 124 power supply
The Thorens TD124 DD turntable is equipped with a J-shaped TP 124 tonearm, which is found exclusively on this model. This 232.8mm long arm with ruby bearing has an effective mass of 15g and adopts an ultra precise anti-skating system. To facilitate the smooth insertion and removal of the stylus, the TP 124 is equipped with a patented electric tonearm lift. Despite being very practical for placing the stylus on the record smoothly, this mechanism is slow and noisy and does not seem to bring any real benefits compared to a standard lever. The anti-skating system is composed of a weight and a ruby bearing for increased precision. It is installed manually and relatively easily, with a little patience and precision.
The power supply that comes with the Thorens TD124 DD turntable is a TPN 124 unit that can also be found on the Thorens TD1600 turntable (read our review on the blog). The power supply is a crucial element in a hi-fi system, especially with a high-end turntable. The low strength of the phono signal makes it particularly vulnerable to interference, and a large separate power supply ensures stable operation of the turntable and low noise levels. By separating the power supply from the turntable, Thorens ensures that electrical and mechanical interference is limited. As a result, the sound is clearer and more detailed and the dynamic range is increased. The TPN 124 power supply unit is also designed to provide the turntable with a high-quality current, which further reduces electronic interference.
Thorens TH124DD: height-adjustable chassis
The Thorens TD124 DD turnable’s chassis is particularly well designed. It builds on the foundation laid by the original model and enhances this structure to effectively suppress vibration and ensure optimal operating conditions. Because the cartridge of a turntable works like a powerful microphone, vibrations and resonance are amplified, creating distortion and noise that negatively affects the sound.
The heavy lower block rests on four damping feet to ensure a totally inert base and is associated with a second part mounted on four height-adjustable damping feet. These feet are shaped like rubber balls for optimal vibration damping. On the top is the rotation speed switch, the tonearm, the tonearm lift switch and an integrated spirit level. As a reminder, it is essential that the turntable is perfectly level for optimal playback. The spirit level and adjustable feet allow you to easily adjust this aspect.
Thorens TH124DD: listening conditions
For this test, we connected the Thorens TH124DD turntable to the Thorens MM-008 preamplifier and to both the Atoll IN200 Signature and Cayin CS-55A KT88 amplifiers using NorStone Jura RCA cables. We used the Focal Chorus 726 speakers and connected them to the amp using Viard Audio Premium HD cables. Lastly, we installed the Ortofon SPU 124 moving coil cartridge. This cartridge is primarily designed to be associated with high-end Thorens turntables, in particular the Thorens TD 124 DD. Easy to install thanks to its SME connector, we used our trusty Elipson digital scale to quickly adjust the pressure force.
Thorens TH124DD: listening impressions
Easy to use, the Thorens TD124DD direct drive turntable surprised us with its transparency and rigor. We could have done without the slow and noisy motorized tonearm lowering system, but once the stylus was placed on the record, the Thorens TD124 DD and Ortofon SPU 124 duo worked wonders. The turntable was far from the cliché of the noisy direct drive model and all the measures taken by Thorens to dampen vibrations and resonance clearly paid off. The detail extraction was striking with everything from folk to metal to trip-hop. All instruments were delineated with great clarity and the sound levels were precisely layered. The strength of this turntable was above all its ability to provide an extremely accurate and detailed signal with minimal coloration, allowing us to enjoy the sound signature of the amp and speakers. Overall, we found the Atoll amplifier to be more energetic but a bit harsh, and we preferred the Cayin tube amplifier for a warmer listening experience without losing any vitality.
Thanks to its precise and rigorous reproduction, the Thorens TD124 DD turntable made it feel as if the instruments were positioned right in front of us. This feeling was particularly striking when listening to Mastodon’s album Once More ‘Round the Sun. We could clearly distinguish the position of the cymbals in the soundstage.
The dynamic range of the Thorens TD124 DD and Ortofon SPU pairing was also remarkable and the dynamics of each individual instrument was incredible, delivering an extremely realistic effect. We made a similar observation with albums where the instrumentation is less complex and the vocals take center stage. With Dummy by Portishead and Harvest by Neil Young, the vocals stood out in a clear and natural way. We were pleased to rediscover the characteristic texture of Beth Gibbons and Neil Young’s voices.
Precise yet musical, the turntable knew how to extract the details that add texture to the music and was subtle without being austere. Thorens has managed to offer a direct drive turntable with a design that guarantees a noise-free reproduction. The only thing it lacks is a high-end RCA cable with grounding.
Thorens TH124DD: compared to…
Turntables in this category are few and far between, so it goes without saying that direct competitors to the Thorens TD124 DD are rare.
McIntosh MTI 100: the McIntosh MTI 100 is one of the few turntables in the same price range as the Thorens TH124 DD. However, it isn’t easy to compare the two as they have entirely different features. A true all-in-one vinyl system, the McIntosh turntable clearly takes the lead when it comes to features and versatility with its built-in amplifier, headphone output and speaker terminal. The Thorens TD124 DD, however, is far ahead in musical performance with a precise sound reproduction and a sense of scale that few turntables can match.
Thorens TH124DD: who is it for?
If you are considering getting an original TD124 but the maintenance involved with vintage models is holding you back, or if you are looking for a turntable with a retro design to become a permanent part of a high-end audiophile system, the Thorens TD124 DD turntable might just end your quest for the Holy Grail. We particularly recommend combining it with a hi-fi tube amplifier to enjoy all the substance and warmth of vinyl.
Thorens TD124 DD: conclusion
It’s hard not to fall in love with the Thorens TD124 DD turntable. Thorens has pulled out all the stops with this model, which takes the design of the brand’s very first turntable and modernizes it with a lot of ingenuity and taste. The brand knows how to keep things simple while adding improvements that will allure fans of the original model without completely changing it.
- The transparency
- The precision of the sound
- The easy and precise settings
- Its versatility
We would have liked:
- An integrated RCA cable with grounding
- For the tonearm lowering system to have been quieter