Price (RRP): $1,499
Does the word Thorens conjure anything in your mind? For those familiar with classic turntables, it is an image that is in part similar to, but also quite divergent from, what is delivered in the Thorens TD402 DD turntable.
Review: Thorens TD402 DD turntable
- International Website here.
- Manual here. (Look for link under “Documents”).
- Price: A$1,499
- From: Legitimate retailers including Addicted to Audio.
- Warranty: Two years
- Country of Manufacture: Taiwan
- About: Thorens is a legendary Swiss maker of high-end turntables. It made its first one way back in 1928. It fell on hard times in the late 1990s as the CD crushed analogue competition. Under new management, it is now based in German, and continues to make high end turntables.
About the Thorens TD402 DD turntable
Legendary, indeed. One of the design features of those legendary turntables was the floating sub-chassis. The working parts of the turntable was isolated from the outer case by fairly soft springs, reducing noise from external shocks. The Thorens TD402 DD turntable is not like that at all. Nor is it belt driven.
The “DD” stands for direct drive. A low-noise motor with a slow speed of rotation is connected directly to the spindle, turning the platter. Direct drive turntables are typically fast to start up and slow down and are preferred by DJs. Traditionally audiophiles preferred belt drive, but I think there has been something of a reassessment of that position in recent years.
This is a two-speed turntable: 33 1/3rpm and 45 rpm. A lever to the left switches conveniently between the two. The lever to the right sets the platter to turning, or not. A small slide switch at the back of the turntable selects between full manual and semiautomatic operation. Manual leaves the damped cue lever to lower stylus to vinyl but leaves everything else up to you. When the stylus gets to the end of the disk, it will just keep on playing back the run-out groove indefinitely, even though it isn’t producing anything useful, until you push the cue lever back. If you leave it, you’re shortening the useful life of your stylus. You really ought to be considering a replacement after two or three hundred hours of playback.
The Thorens TD402 DD turntable tonearm
On the Thorens TD402 DD turntable, semiautomatic means that the turntable pays attention to the position of the tonearm. When it gets to where the run-out groove is, it waits around twenty seconds for you to do your duty, and if you fail to lift the stylus, it just stops the motor. After a moment the record has stop rotating and the record has stopped. No more wear and tear on the stylus as it just rests there. In this mode, the platter also won’t turn when the arm is back in its rest.
The turntable is fitted with a Thorens TP 72 tonearm, which uses a “carbon tube”. I think that means carbon fibre. That makes for a lightweight, but extremely rigid arm. It has a screw counterweight so that a range of different cartridges can be accommodated. It also has a removable headshell, which facilitates cartridge changes. Anti-skating is set simply with a dial with markings indicating the tracking weight.
An Audio-Technica AT-VM95E moving magnet cartridge is pre-fitted to the tonearm. This model of cartridge sells by itself for around $70 in Australia. It has a bonded elliptical stylus, a middling output level of 4mV (for a 1kHz modulation at 5cm/second) and a recommended tracking weight of two grams.
The Thorens TD402 DD turntable preamplifier
The Thorens TD402 DD turntable can deliver its signal natively – at a low level requiring the use of a phono preamplifier – or at line level using an in-built pre-amp. Another switch on the back selects between the two modes.
I like that. The built-in pre-amp means that you can use the turntable with any playback device with an analogue input and a volume control. The bypass means that you can employ a higher-end phono preamplifier, or use the turntable with an integrated amplifier with its own phono input. If you decide to upgrade to a more exotic moving coil cartridge, the in-built preamp simply won’t do (you need another twenty decibels of gain for those), so the straight-through option is welcome.
The Thorens TD402 DD turntable doesn’t use a suspended or floating sub-chassis, but a pretty solid plinth with everything solidly connected. Quite the departure, but a design style used by many other iconic turntables of yore. Nonetheless, it has styling cures of the Thorens of old. The plate around the turntable is silvery while the outside of the plinth is wood. Perhaps. It’s that super shiny wood veneer that you see in luxury car interiors. So shiny and smooth, it might possibly be plastic. Whichever, the Thorens TD402 DD turntable is a fine thing upon which to cast your eyes.
Installation of the Thorens TD402 DD turntable
Clearly the review model had been around a bit before getting to me. It was in parts, but not quite in the arrangement suggested by the manual. Should you purchase a new Thorens TD402 DD turntable, I have no doubt that everything would match up properly. The manual is quite clear about how to put things together and set up the turntable.
I’ve set up a few turntables in my time, but one aspect had me quite puzzled. The calibrations on the counterweight were utterly wrong. Generally, to get the right stylus pressure you first balance the tone arm, so that it floats with the stylus at the level it would be if playing a record. Then you rotate the counterweight on the end of the arm so that that tracking pressure you want is indicated by the calibration marks.
A floating arm
So I balanced the arm and turned it first to 0.5 grams, then 1 gram and so on to 2 grams. Rather than making the arm press down, the arm went up floating at a higher level. I consulted the manual and found if supplied new, you install the counterweight yourself. The turntable had come to me with the counterweight already on the tonearm … the wrong way around! I hope the previous reviewer used a stylus gauge to work out the tracking weight.
I mention all that for fun, because it gives a sense of some of the intricacies involved in turntables and, well, because I had to work it out so I might as well share it. Again, that’s not something that you’ll encounter with a new Thorens TD402 DD turntable.
Anyway, once I’d worked that out and flipped the counterweight the other way around, setup took just seconds. Seriously. A quick spin on the antiskating dial to the indicated position, and then I was spinning vinyl and enjoying music.