Thorens TD160 MKI Upgrade

What To Upgrade

Thorens TD160 MKI 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 it, you need to do some work – so is the case with TD160. Purpose of some of the upgrades described in this article is to make this turntable more user friendly, whereas others, to make it more solid, reduce vibrations and improve the sound as a result. Modifications include replacing permanently attached wires with sockets (signal, ground, power) as well as making a thinker bottom plinth and damping the internal elements with Dynamat. It is not a quick job, but 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.


 
 

Upgrade Process

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 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. Comprehensive description of this process can be found on the Vinyl Engine website.
Next on the list was the power cable. Thorens TD160 originally came with permanently attached power cable. I’m not into changing power cables, especially that in this case the mains cable powers the electric motor and has nothing to do with the signal path. Nonetheless, having permanently attached power cable is a pain, therefore, the original cable was cut off and replace with Furutech IEC socket, which was then mounted one the back of the plinth.

Bottom Plinth & Damping
Thornes TD160 is quite well made, with an exception of the base board. It is a 3mm fibreboard, with four small plastic feet. Not good at all. I replaced it with 25mm plywood board and four good quality feet. It makes the whole turntable body more rigid, heavier and IMHO, it actually makes it look better.
I read multiple opinions on how damping of the chassis in Thorens TD160 improves the sound quality. As we are talking here about the analogue system which is all about micro vibrations, it sounded believable that damping may improve sound quality. Initially I started with 1mm self-adhesive cork and then moved onto Dynamat, eventually ending up with a mixture of both.
I 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 a table and somebody walks on the floor). However, in most of the cases, having foam inserts makes it worse, as they insert increases the contact area between spring and centre pin, transferring higher frequency vibrations onto rotating record. Again, this justification sounded believable, therefore, I removed the foam inserts from my turntable. But to be completely honest, I could not hear any difference before and after.

Play Adjusment & Setup
My Thorens TD16 MKI turntable came with the TP16 tonearm. This can be a very good arm, providing that it is set up right. Set it up badly and you will be disappointed. If the tonearm exhibits play, one of the biggest improvements one can make to vintage Thorens TD160 is to remove that play. A great tonearm play removal step-by-step guide was created and shared by a guy called Rudi. Once the tonearm is play-free, the 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 its sound. The Analog Dept. is a fountain of knowledge regarding this, but I would suggest to start with VTA/SRA adjustment, and then look at the azimuth correction, followed by the three point suspension setup.
 
 

List of Components & Prices

Table below shows list of the parts together with prices, necessary to perform Thorens TD160 upgrade as described above. The prices were correct at the time of publishing this article.

Total Time: 8h
Total Cost: £67.69
Item Details Unit Qty Price Per Unit Total Price
Aluminium Plate 100 x 100 x 2mm 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 ø0.7mm x 7 1m 2 £6.00 £12.00
Self Adhesive Corke 1m2 Piece 1 £6.95 £6.95
Dynamat 450 x 900mm Piece 1 £14.25 £14.25
Turntable Feet Pack 1 £12.00 £12.00
Plywood Cut-Off 500 x 500 x 25mm Piece 1 £6.00 £6.00
£67.69