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UPGRADE: Thorens TD160 MKI

   Thorens is a Swiss manufacturer of high quality audio equipment, that started Original Thorens TD160 MKI (Thumbnail)in 1883. I love businesses with history and heritage and over 100 years of making audio related products must speak for something. Thornes TD160 was first introduced in early 70s (MKI) and the modern version of it is still in production today. There were multiple improvements and versions of it made over the years, however, I always wanted the MKI - true classic. This turntable was very popular back in the day and was one of the biggest competitors to legendary Linn Sondek LP12. It is also one of the most ‘tuned’ turntables ever. There are numerous articles on the internet about upgrades that can be done to TD160 to improve playback quality. One of the very good sites is The Analog Dept. - not the easiest one to navigate around though.
When I eventually bought it, I have realised that, improvements that were done to it over past three decades were done for a reason. As with everything else, you can take ‘upgrading’ to extremes, but I have started with more practical approach.

Connectors
   My TD160 came with original grey cables and RCA plugs. Over 30 years old copper cables and poor quality RCA plugs didn’t fill me in with confidence. Moreover, there was no separate connection for the ground - it has been connected to one of the signal cables. Not being able to change interconnects and unplug the ground made this setup not very user friendly. For these reasons I have decided to upgrade it with gold plated RCA sockets (to allow me to use my own interconnects) and a separate connector for the ground. The hole was cut in the back of the plinth, and a flat piece of aluminium was used to fit the sockets. It is important to use lacquered piece of aluminium to ensure that it does not fade over time. This can be purchased or made from a piece of flat aluminium ruler. In addition to the above, the original signal wires going through the tone arm were replaced with silver plated OFC wires. This can be quite tricky and requires some patience. Here is a very good article that illustrates how to do it step by step.
   Next on the list was the power connector. TD160 originally came with the permanently attached power cable. I’m not into changing power cables in HiFi to get better sound, especially that in this case power cable powers the electric motor. Nonetheless, having permanently attached power cable is a pain, therefore, the original cable was cut off and soldered into nice Furutech IEC socket, which was then mounted one the back of the plinth.


Bottom Plinth & Damping
   The TD160 is quite well made, well, with an exception of base board. It is 3mm fibreboard, with four small plastic feet. Not good. I have replaced it with 25mm plywood board and four good quality feet. It makes the whole turntable body more rigid, heavier and it actually looks good.
   I have read multiple opinions on how damping of the chassis in TD160 improves the sound quality. As we are talking here about the analogue system which is all about micro vibrations, it sounded quite believable that damping may improve sound quality. Initially I have started with 1mm self-adhesive cork (visible on the photos) and then realised that, greater improvements can be made by using Dynamat (some more photos to come).
   I have also read about people removing foam inserts from suspension springs, explaining that original purpose of these was to damp really low vibrations (i.e. when the turntable is placed on the table and somebody walks on the floor). However, in most of the cases, having foam inserts makes it worse, as the foam insert increases the contact area between spring and centre pin, ultimately transferring higher frequency vibrations onto rotating record. Again, this justification sounded believable, therefore, I have removed the foam inserts from my turntable. Even so, I could not hear any difference before and after.


Play Adjusment & Setup
   My turntable came with the genuine TP16 arm. This can be a very good arm, providing that it is set up right. Set it up badly and you will be disappointed. One of the biggest improvements one can make to vintage Thorens TD160 is to remove play from the tone arm. This article describes how to do it step by step. Having play-free arm, means that turntable is ready for the final calibration. This requires some patience and steady hands, but it is very important to do, to be able to fully appreciate vinyl sound. Very good article on calibration can be found here.


Final Thoughts
   Thorens TD160 is a great turntable but it is not a ‘plug and play’ device. As with most of vintage stuff, if you want to get the best out of them, you need to do some work, so is the case with TD160. Despite this, working with vintage HiFi is a pleasure (at least to me) and it is very rewarding when all the hard work changes into satisfaction from listening to music.


List of Components & Prices
   Table below shows list of the parts together with prices, necessary to perform the upgrade as described above.

Project Summary:
Total Time: 8h
Total Cost: £67.69

 

Miscellaneous: Item Specific Unit Quantity Price Per Unit Total Price
Aluminium Plate 100x100x2mm Piece 1 £1.50 £1.50
RCA Connectors Gold Plated Piece 2 £2.00 £4.00
Speaker Terminal Gold Plated Piece 1 £2.00 £2.00
Furutech IEC AC Inlet Gold Plated Piece 1 £8.99 £8.99
Silver Plated OFC Tonearm Wire 7strands x ø0.7mm 1m 2 £6.00 £12.00
Self Adhesive Cork 1x1m Piece 1 £6.95 £6.95
Dynamat 45x90cm Sheet 1 £14.25 £14.25
Turntable Feet Aluminium/Plastic Pack 1 £12.00 £12.00
Plywood Cut-Off 500x500x25mm Sheet 1 £6.00 £6.00

TOTAL

£67.69

 

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