Thorens TD 160 Super

Thorens TD160It’s almost forgotten about now, but warp back thirty years and there weren’t many serious audiophiles who hadn’t owned a Thorens TD 160 at some point – usually on their way up to a Linn LP12. It was a thoroughly middle of the road, middle class sort of turntable. Built well to do a job, it turned in a measured performance way above the average standards of the day. It offered nothing radical in terms of design, but then again Thorens pretty much wrote the belt drive rule book, so many decks owed so much to the basic thinking that the TD 160 espoused…

Introduced as a replacement to the superbly built but ageing TD 150 in 1972, as with most Thorens of the time, the deck was offered with or without a Thorens TP-16 tonearm; in the UK the majority of buyers went for the latter option, choosing to put the far superior SME 3009S2 on it – and later an SME Series III. The armless deck was denoted by a B or BC suffix.

Small improvements to the bearing and motor ushered in the new mark II version in 1976, and this was the really strong seller; armless and in sold with an SME and likely a Shure V15/III or Ortofon VMS20E cartridge. The deck kept running way after it had peaked in popularity, with Thorens updating it again in 1987 and 1988. An electronic version with end of side shut off was produced under the guise of the TD 160E (Endabschaltung).

The heyday for the deck was the late nineteen seventies, and this is when the UK distributor persuaded Thorens to do a tweaked version called the Super. It sported a selected version of the 110 volt, 16-pole AC synchronous unit fitted to the stock deck, plus a damped plinth and thicker bottom plate.

The beauty of this deck is that it is easily tweakable; modern motors can be fitted, along with electronic speed switching, such as Origin Live’s DC design. The top plate can be damped, the springs can be replaced with Linn items and have their foam removed. Moth even does a bespoke TD 160 tune-up kit. The platter mat can be substituted by a Funk Firm Acromat with great results; there’s so much to do!

Even in stock form, the deck is smooth, sweet and spacious; the Super version adds a little extra detail and dynamics, and further tweaking takes it quite close to an entry-level LP12, especially if the suspension is set-up properly. It’s a very nice, warm sort of sound; miles away from digital. TD 160s can be surprisingly cheap; prices start at £50 and you can get a nice Super version with SME arm for under £400. It’s a lot of turntable for the money!

2 comments

  1. Colin Stock

    I have Thorens TD160bc with a SME iiis tonearm which I’m interested in refurbishing rather than replacing. So I found this article very interesting. I would also like to replace the tonearm with something newer. And I wondered what your recommendation would be.

    • SME do not service Series IIIs (they’re not proud of the arm, so they tell me!) so it would be better to fit a new one. The Rega RB300-series of arms is the obvious fitment, and will sound far better than the SME anyway. New or second-hand, they’re great value. If you can’t stomach a modern looking design and want a traditional S-shape, the Jelco is very good. It sounds a bit woolier than the Rega family of arms, but is still nicely fluid and musical. Going to a higher end arm – SME 309, etc. – would simply be overkill for the TD160BC.

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