The TD 160 Super
The Thorens TD 160 Super legitimised the Chadwick Mods that inspired it. The TD 160 became open source design project and just a few years later the internet made it a global.
The Super TD 160 came without a tone arm, dispensing with the TP 16 and they tear-drop queuing knob that defined the TD 160. I want to reexamine that in 2018.
The Thorens TD 160 Super was released in 1982 as a supped up version of the TD 160 which had been on the market for nearly twenty years in different versions, but substantially unchanged. Any TD 160 has to potential to perform as well or better than Thorens TD 160 Super, when upgraded. The significant difference is that the Thorens TD 160 Super came without a stock tonearm.
The TD 160 was released into a burgeoning hifi market at the height of vinyl’s classic age – those sweet years post St Peppers. Thorens were the foremost high end turntable manufacturer in the world throughout the sixties. What was exciting about the TD 160 is it was an early venture into affordable turntables, retailing for about £110 / $400 ) – equivalent to approx. €/$1500 adjusted for inflation. It was sold in respectable audio retail specialists to professional clients seeking a quality product. A Swiss designed and styled, German manufactured machine, from the oldest audio manufacturer in the world ticked a lot of boxes. But that was just the start of the pitch..
Thorens adapted the design, suspended-sub-chassis-belt-drive-turntable from Musical Fidelity but they improved the engineering and believed it to be unassailable for it’s sonic quality and simplicity. They first implemented it in the TD 125 which went on to be be the leading high end turntable of the late sixties. Now, the very same components at the heart of that turntable – the Solonger motor, the TP 16 tonearm, 10mm main bearing and heavy nickel alloy platter, were shared with the mid market TD 160.
The TD 160 represented a quality product with high end technology at half the price of a TD 125.
They sold and their customers were delighted with it.
Here’s a little story.
The story begins with a UK Thorens distributor called Metrosound, and later to be known as Cambrasound. Metrosound was the kind of company that listened to its customers comments. When they began hearing numerous comments from TD160 owners who claimed to have modified and indeed improved the sound of their samples, Metrosound decided to investigate on their own. They set service manager Charles Trayhorn on a mission of producing a modified TD160 in an effort to persuade the manufacturer, Thorens, to produce such a version.
What Trayhorn built used a different mat, used no foam damping in the springs, and the undersides of the motorboard and sub-chassis were damped with bituminous felt. The plastic TD160 armboard was replaced with a high density version and left blank to incorporate many different tonearms apart from the standard Thorens TP16. The standard cabinetry surround was replaced with a larger, more solid one and the plastic dustcover hinges were replaced with metal ones and the top trim facia received a slightly different paint scheme. This is essentially what Thorens themselves built, dubbing it the TD160 Super. The factory TD160 Supers were all based on the TD160 mkII model.
Typically, the TD160 Super came without tonearm so that the customer could choose his/her favorite arm and allow the dealer to drill the armboard to fit. Metrosound/Cambrasound was just such a company that could do this. The TD160 Super sold in limited quantities and always cost significantly more than its standard TD160 MkII brother. Even without a tonearm.
Can A TD 160 Ever Be Super With The TP16 Tonearm ?
Thorens had made the very pragmatic decision to leave out a stock TP16 tonearm and continue to sell the TD 160 but at a significantly higher price. It is as if they were walking away from their own tonearms. They simply had to accept that the engineering mastery that had created the TP16 couldn’t save it from being out fashion by the mid seventies. That’s not to say it was a poor arm. It is a very good arm and it succeeds in managing to make the arm simple to set up for a casual user, whilst at the same time, a very versatile audiophile arm for an aficionado to to optimise its extraordinary potenital, especially with regard to richness of its harmonics.
Even today an upgraded TD 160 is the entry level into suspended-sub-chassis-belt-drive-turntable which remains a very distinguished sonic experience. An sonic experience that has, with vinyl itself, defied obsolesce.