The Thorens TD-160 turntable is a tweaker’s heaven. It is arguably Thorens’ second best turntable behind the TD-124.
The Thorens TD-160 is an incredibly good looking turntable, if minimalism is your thing. The two knobs control the cueing lever and the pulley to switch between 33 and 45 rpm. Its 70s styling is enjoyable, and with an SME arm and new plinth it really is eye-catching.
The Thorens TD-160 And Its Variations
The TD-160 is probably Thorens’ best belt drive offering, closely rivalled by the TD-150. The TD-150 vs the TD-160 is a pretty close battle that isn’t worthy of a great deal of consideration. If you can find either at a decent price, consider yourself lucky. Think of the Garrard 401 vs the 301 – very similar turntables with slightly different executions. You will find few people who swear by one over the other.
The Thorens TD-160 comes in several variations: The mark I, mark II and Super. As the name would suggest, the Thorens TD-160 Super is the best of the bunch, as it comes with a heavier plinth and bottom plate, as well as a damped sub-chassis. The mkI TD-160 is the second choice, which might seem a little counter-intuitive. Apparently, the central bearing and tonearm (the excellent TP-16) are superior on the early model 160s.
People planning to go all the way with modifying their TD-160 may not care much about differences in models, as relative weaknesses can be overcome with tweaking.
There also exists the Thorens TD-147, which is essentially a TD-160 Super with auto shut off.
Setting up a Thorens TD-160
It is a part of collecting, of any variety, that it is popularity that drives prices, rather than true quality. Make no mistake: the TD-160 is an excellent turntable in stock format. The real reason for its enormous popularity is its high level of ‘tweakability’. When fully modified, it rivals other classic belt drives such as the Linn LP-12.
It’s not clear who first began modifying the Thorens TD-160. It is clear, however, that the best and most frequently cited resource for modifying the Thorens TD-160 is here. The Analog Department has a wealth of information on all things Thorens, including all the modifications you could think of. Its presentation is a little lacking, but if you can persist through the ‘wall of text’ style information and awkward navigation you will find detailed how to’s and guides on turntable setup.
Of particular note on the Analog Dept guides is mounting an SME tonearm to a Thorens TD-160. The writer was able to achieve this without modifying the turntable itself, which greatly improves resale value as cutting in to the material can really hurt resale value. Partly due to this guide, SME arms are very popular on Thorens turntables. The Rega arms are less popular as they require the user to cut in to the turntable.
Buying a Thorens TD-160
Before looking for a used TD-160, the potential buyer should consider whether they plan to tweak the turntable. If so, go right ahead – it will provide hours of joy both in the modification and listening afterwards. Those not interested in modifying the Thorens TD-160 should perhaps look at other alternatives, such as modern belt drive turntables. These will provide very similar sound quality to an unmodified TD-160, with the added bonus of not being 30 years old. Having the parts readily available and warranty on hand may sway more practical buyers towards buying new. Lovers of vintage turntables and those with some DIY know-how or guts will love the the Thorens TD-160: a classic turntable that punches well above its already hefty weight class.