There aren’t many dedicated audiophiles who haven’t possessed a Thorens TD 160 at some point in their lives — usually on their way up to a Linn LP12. It was a turntable that was firmly rooted in the middle class. It was built to do a job well, and it delivered a measured performance that much beyond the ordinary standards of the time. It didn’t provide anything revolutionary in terms of design, but then again, Thorens produced the belt drive rule book, and many decks owe a lot to the core ideas that the TD 160 promoted…
The deck was introduced in 1972 as a successor for the excellently built but ageing TD 150; like with other Thorens at the time, it was available with or without a Thorens TP-16 tonearm; in the UK, the vast majority of buyers chose the considerably superior SME 3009S2 – and later a SME Series III. A B or BC suffix was used to indicate an armless deck.
The updated mark II version was released in 1976 with minor changes to the bearing and motor, and this was the best-selling model; armless and marketed with a SME and most likely a Shure V15/III or Ortofon VMS20E cartridge. The deck remained in use long after its popularity peaked, with Thorens upgrading it in 1987 and 1988. Under the cover of the TD 160E, an electronic version with end-of-side shutoff was developed (Endabschaltung).
The deck’s heyday was in the late 1970s, when the UK distributor persuaded Thorens to produce a revised version known as the Super. It had a modified version of the original deck’s 110 volt, 16-pole AC synchronous unit, as well as a damped plinth and thicker bottom plate.
The beauty of this deck is that it can be easily customised; new motors and electronic speed switching, such as Origin Live’s DC design, can be installed. The top plate can be damped, the springs can be replaced with Linn things, and the foam on the top plate can be removed. Even a custom TD 160 tune-up kit is available from Moth. With amazing results, a Funk Firm Acromat can be used in place of the plate mat; there’s so much to do!
The deck is smooth, sweet, and roomy even in stock form; the Super version adds a little more detail and dynamics, and further tweaking brings it dangerously near to an entry-level LP12, especially if the suspension is correctly set-up. It’s a lovely, warm tone that’s a far cry from digital. TD 160s are surprisingly affordable; prices start at £50, and a superb Super version with SME arm can be had for under £400. For the money, it’s a lot of turntable!