THORENS TD-2010 TURNTABLE

with SME M2 TONEARM & DUSTCOVER

Price: $4,825

by

Mike Peshkin

 

First our thanks to Chuck Kennedy, the head honcho at 2-Channel Distribution who imports Thorens from Germany into the US. Like Stereomojo, 2-Channel as their name implies believes that stereo is still the best way to listen to music. They also carry Funk Firm tables as well as Feikert protractors, AQVOX phono preamps (see our review) and Acoustec record cleaning machines. Thanks also to Heinz Rohrer, the head honcho and owner of Thorens. We appreciate you working with us.

 

 

OK, I’d expect a $5,000 turntable to sound pretty darn good, particularly from a company that has been making turntables for more than a century; Thorens turns 125 this year. That's even older than our Publisher. Thorens claims they are the oldest electronics entertainment company on earth.

I figure I have about five grand in 90’s money tied up in my HW19 with the JMW arm…that is the amount I’d spend if I was serious about buying what might prove to be my last turntable. The base TD 2010 with Thorens' version of the Rega 300 arm is about $2,915. The SME M2 arm and a clear acyrillic dust cover takes it up to our tester's $4,825.

The Swiss company makes what might be one of the largest lines of tables in the world, ranging from their "Mini" table which is a complete plug 'n play model for $369 (even has a dustcover) to their stunning TD 550 that sells for about $12,000. There are about a dozen other models in between that offer different options and a multitude of colors.

 

The TD2010 with the SME M2 tonearm is both pretty and pretty sounding as one should expect. The clear acrylic plinth is a thick 25 mm and the polished aluminum platter weighing in at 4kg present a great looking picture for the hardened audio buff that’s not glitter-oriented but enjoys a good looking piece of gear, none the less.

With its beautifully machined motor housing and pulley I have to admit it looks a lot better on my rack than my venerable HW19. I am really impressed with that motor! First, it’s totally silent. C’mon, it’s a motor, it has to have little bit of noise emanating from it!

Nope! Quiet as a church mouse who’s ingested a large quantity of D-Con. (Mike, that’s just plain sick!)

I get intimidated more and more easily. After hanging and aligning many dozens of cartridges, I surely should not be afraid of any arm or cartridge. I even get intimidated when it’s my own let alone someone else’s money involved.

I was intimidated mounting a WIN Labs SMC10 and I felt that was because it is such an expensive cartridge. But mounting my back-up Dyna 20XL was daunting, too. OK, I’d never aligned an SME arm before, but in the end, it was pretty easy.

 

The SME M2 aligns, I’ve been told by others who own them, just like all SME arms, slots at the base of the arm allow for the arm to be adjusted rather than the cartridge on the headshell. Quite different from anything I’d encountered, all others being fixed arms/fixed headshells or “S” arms with removable headshells.

Which leads me to the headshell of the SME M2. I was all excited finding out that the headshells of SME arms are removable, “Oh wow, I can try a bunch of different cartridges.” Well…yes…and no. I thought it would be a standard bayonet connection, it is not. Although you can buy other headshells, it is not a standard headshell and understandably so…remember just above I said you align the entire arm NOT the cartridge?

 

OK, simple; place the cartridge on the headshell which has two holes…not slots; push onto arm and drop then tighten the hold-down screw. I must be getting dumber because every step of the way I had to read the manual at least 4 or 5 times to fully understand what I was to do. Hanging the anti-skate string is a real joy if you are a brain surgeon with microscope-like eyes.

Alas, I am not. Luckily, the tiny plastic roller pops off the wire it is attached to and I could take it to my work bench, use bright light, a stripped twisty-tie I bent into a hook and threaded the nylon string though the pulley under high magnification. It took me a while to even figure out how to place the wire attachment onto the arm as the line drawings are not the best ever, unless you can visualize the opposite side of something…trust me, it’s not THAT hard; again I was allowing myself to get intimidated and I must admit that those spatial recognition tests one takes in highschool always tripped me up…and yes, intimidated me!

I asked Mr. Rohrer, whose first language is German and not English, why he had chosen the SME M@-9 arm for the table;

"For standard version of the TD 2010 we use the OEM version of the REGA 250 official we name it TP 250. This arm is perfect for so many different turntables - this might be the reason why many of the turntable manufacturer use the TP 250. In my personal opinion this arm TD 250 is not so common in the USA and SME introduced the M2 some time ago. We made some tests and this arm fit perfectly to the construction. Thorens offers the M2 as a strong alternative depending the budget of the customer.

The M2-tonearm brings out all these features as it has a higher resolution and a much more precise bass response than the TP250. We therefore highly recommend this combination - but the price is
higher as well as the sound is better.

In addition to the Acrylic line of us we use this M-2 for same reason also for the Thorens TD 350 and Thorens TD 160 HD".

The table itself was a breeze to set up, the packaging such that dropping it from a plane at 10,000 feet would not damage the table. Impressive. I figure if they spent that much effort making sure the equipment arrived safely, then the equipment must be something special. Every part of the table is cradled, has it’s own place, a depression in the plastic covered foam.

Once you have removed the plinth, motor, dustcover, and all the small parts (each of the collection of parts needed for any step sealed in a bag) you realize that the most difficult part is…NOTHING! If I can set it up anyone can (I’m an arthritic mess).

The motor housing is a work of art in itself; the pulley is beautifully machined aluminum. It’s hefty; one of those things that looks like its light and surprise you with its weight.

Make sure you have your shelf/support set up properly. You’ll want to set and forget and move on to playing records. There are quite a few parts bags, so examine them carefully so you know which things you’ll need first.

I made the mistake of setting up the plinth then realizing the stand-alone-motor needs to go under the plinth, not set through the top because of its attached cord…hey! Everything else had detachable cords, so I’m really not THAT dumb. The motor supply is a two housing affair, the AC/DC box has an IEC connection for upgrading the power cord if you so desire (my belief is that NOTHING shows how good power cords can be like a turntable). If you’re of the “wire’s wire” crowd, then of course, use the supplied cord. I did, although I was tempted to try what my TG silver power cords would do for the table’s sound (actually, the power cord is another method of ensuring clean power gets to the power supply and this table’s got a pretty hefty power supply (PS).

The PS/speed control has an off-on switch and a switch to change from 33 1/3 to 45 RPM. The switches are a bit tiny for my bratwurst-like fingers, but they do the job quite well, thank you. Thorens even supplies you with a 45 adapter for your 7” EP's! I listened to a few of my Jazz EP's…the VERY first time I ever did because it was never as easy to play big hole records as it was with the Thorens.

Mr.Rohrer listed the key features of his table:


- the plinth material has a very high inner-damping to reduce rumble and plinth resonances
- the motor is decoupled from the plinth
- the motor box has a high mass and damping rubber feet
- the aluminum platter is molded on high-precision molding machines and is perfectly balanced
- aluminum has a very good mass/torque ratio and stabilizes the speed reducing wow and flutter
- the rubber belt eliminates all unbalanced-mass effects between platter and motor

 

My journey into hi-fi began with a Thorens TD160. It is a thrill and an honor to have this table in my home for review. It is impossible to say whether the sounds of the two tables are “signature” but to my mind, they are just that.

Simple, descriptive words have occupied my mind as late, smooth, pure, muscular, among others have leapt into my mind upon first listening to some of the gear I’ve reviewed recently.

I had always thought my TD160 was smooth. The 2010 gives me the same feeling. Thorens chose the route of avoidance; not gilding the lilly, trying to make something better than it naturally is. That, if a manufacturer chooses that route, makes a piece of equipment…well, makes it wrong! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this turntable.

The Thorens is not guilty of boosted midrange or extremely heavy bass or anything much at all. It just sounds right. It sounds like the music it is playing. That it does not do something especially good, makes one first think that it is lightweight, cannot deliver the big bass I want and need.

Where there is recorded bass, there is, in fact, plenty of bass. The upper mids are not slurred; I never got any indication that anything was being added to the music.

I began listening with a number of LPs somewhat if not totally unfamiliar to me, something I do with every piece of equipment as I try to get a feel for how music is delivered to my ears. I find that if I like something I’ve not previously heard, and sometimes things I previously disliked, there may be something special about what I hear, again, how the music is presented to me.

When I listened to LPs quite familiar to me, (Getz-Gilberto, for instance) I began liking the Thorens even more. Let’s face it…every piece of gear sounds differently and that’s good when that difference is musically correct. How do we tell? If the toes ain’t tappin’ and your rear ain’t wigglin’ something is definitely wrong.

But that’s what a turntable should do, keep the rhythms intact, however complex. Keep the notes true, not wavering into another frequency. Any good turntable does that. The better ones seem to dig deeper into the rhythmic complexities, separate the notes more clearly, give body to the music so that it represents reality just a bit better than another table. That is where many turntables fall on their butts.

The Thorens does that rhythmic complexity quite well, I felt it was a teensy bit lacking in that drive department. The solidity I hear with my VPI HW19 Mk. IV astounds me because that’s what blew my mind the first time I listened to a direct drive turntable after years and years of buying and listening to belt drives. I do think the Thorens was better in that department than many belt drive tables I’ve heard, but lately I’ve been modifying my HW19 in small ways and was again surprised at how that the power and drive can be changed…for the better in my case.

But the Thorens does all of the very important things quite well. Its speed stability is uncanny. I stood and watched my two strobe discs, a KAB and a Strob-o-Disk to see if there were any speed changes and never saw the slightest glitch. The arm chosen for this table has got to be the most solid tracker I’ve ever used; I played some really ugly vinyl and was impressed by how the noise was receded, not thrust forward into my face. It does that without obscuring any of the music. This table does NOT hide the truth behind a lie that masquerades as veracity.

While not being ruthlessly revealing, it does however, expose a recording’s faults. Of course, the arm and cartridge chosen will affect that hugely, yet I heard much the same thing with three very different cartridges.

I tried a number of cartridges, trying to find the one. The Dynavector 20XL sounded a bit boring…and that cartridge is NOT boring. I played Dire Straights’ Love Over Gold, “Telegraph Road” is an unbelievably hard-driving rhythmic piece and I found it, if not somnambulant, then easily boring. Boring, it is NOT!

A Supex SD1000 vintage cart sounded OK, but not anything that proved to me why someone should buy this table/arm combo and besides that, the cartridge is not manufactured anymore.

 

From the time I heard about receiving the table, I had felt that an AudioNote IQ2 I had might be a good match but sadly the stylus had been damaged in transport and I had to order a replacement. I was too excited about starting to listen to the Thorens to wait. It turned out that I should have waited as the AudioNote was, in fact, a great match for the SME M2 arm.

Rhythmic structures and instrumental tones were just about as good as it gets. I never felt perhaps I should try yet another cartridge. The stylus set down in the lead-in absolutely perfectly, no skipping, no hard sounding POP as it caught the groove. That blew me away…it did that with every single LP I played!

I had just purchased the Neil Young Live at Massey Hall LP (link to my review at the bottom of this page) and was looking forward to hearing Neil as a young, still not jaded singer/songwriter when I began listening to the Thorens. The arm allows that incredible hall ambience to be heard distinctly, controlling both of the two cartridges I’d first hung on the arm. Neil is dead center, forward on the stage. I am front row, center. This LP may be the closest you’ll ever get to live sound from your hi-fi rig. The Thorens table delivers in spades. When I put the AudioNote onto the arm, I realized I’d found at least my Nirvana. That hall ambience was even more believable!

Listening to Love for Three Oranges…both an original (FR1/FR1) and the Classic reissue, I heard the small differences in comparing the recordings, the Thorens being a great music player, it is a damned fine aural analyst, too. I had A-B’d the two recordings (I really don’t like doing that but I do it far more often than I’d realized) and found the dynamics of the reissue a bit restricted, but only a bit. On my original, stock VPI HW19Mk. IV with a PT8 tonearm and a Glider cartridge, the differences were such that I had to listen a few times to fully commit to those differences. BUT, listening with the Thorens, I heard those differences quite easily. The reissue is marvelous, an incredibly great performance with equally great sound. The original still beats it…I don’t know why…40 year old tapes, maybe?

The M2 9 arm is quite different from any arm I've ever worked with. As I work with it more and more I've come to like the arm quite well. I've mounted a Dyna 20XL and a Supex SDX1000 on it so far. The Dyna was OK, but definitely not an exciting match like it is with my JMW arm. The old Supex was an OK match, but doing a review with a vintage cartridge isn't fair to the prospective consumer. I had to do that because the cartridge I thought would be a good match had been damaged by FedEx...they broke the stylus.

I just got the new stylus in yesterday and my guess that it would be a good match for the M2 arm was well founded. The AudioNote IQ2 is a moving magnet cartridge. I replaced the stylus with a Goldring M42 stylus because of the costs. Goldring is the maker of the Audio Note cartridge in the event you didn't know. I have no idea whether their top of the line stylus is equal to the IQ3 stylus or not.

I wonder why Thorens didn't supply or at least recommend a cartridge that they thought would work best - or at least well - with the table. They do for some of their lower priced tables, why not the costlier ones as well? Since I was had the opportunity to ask the guy who owns the company, I did! Turns out it has a lot to do with dealers; the people who sell the products. "As a manufacturer trying to have best connections to all of the pick up suppliers (as well as to the tonearm suppliers) we have to be neutral. This is also in view of the different offerings different dealers have in their assortment. My opinion is still that the customer should have the right to get full information from his dealer regarding the difference of individual pick ups and should have the possibility to listen to different options and products mounted on this future Thorens turntable", he said. While that is a good point, Thorens tables are also sold via dealers on the web, a trend that is probably only going to increase. How are buyers going to audition various cartridges on that case? Heck...how they are they going to be able to audition turntables? Any turntable. Maybe the good Doctor and all vinyl-spinner-makers are going to have to take another look at that.

 

Recommending a table like this is both easy and difficult. The table plays music…not simply sound. It’s pretty as a piece of antique lead crystal and as silent as a summer night in the desert. It allows you to hear that coyote stalking a mouse ½ mile from your listening chair.

On the other hand, there are many choices in this price range; Thorens can make the price more affordable when and if you choose the Rega arm instead of the SME. I can’t imagine this table with another arm than the SME M2, I grew to really love the combination. The table itself is incredibly easy to set up, the SME arm looks tricky, but turns out to be very easy to align. After all, I tried 3 cartridges on it. If silence, beauty, and rhythmic correctness are your heart’s desire, there’s only a small chance for you to find anything better around this price.

I haven’t listened to all of the newer tables in this price range so I won’t even try to compare them…this table stands on its own! The ease of getting it from the box to listening to the first LP might be a real good reason alone to get this table. I think it took less than ½ hour to have the table ready…add another hour (far less, probably, the SME alignment procedure makes things a lot easier than with a fixed arm such as the Rega) to properly align your cartridge.

Are there other tables delivering more body and soul, more rhyhmic structure? Sure, my VPI HW19 is better in that regard…it is NOT, however, as silent! The 2010 with the SME M2 arm reveals a great amount of detail, but if you’re an audiophile listening for the loose nail in the 2nd violinist’s chair you may wish to look elsewhere. This is NOT a cool cucumber; lots of detail, yes! But if your system is warm you’ll want to choose a cartridge that’s cooler than any I tried, all tended to lean toward the warm side when hung on the SME arm but then, they are warm sounding cartridges, the SME/Thorens combo did not create a sonic mineral bath. You really should discuss your preferences with your dealer and get a cartridge that will fit in well with the rest of your system, and match the arm.

 


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