Thorens is a Swiss founded manufacturer of components for entertainment electronics, which became known worldwide especially for its high quality turntables . Most recently, the company moved to Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.
The company was founded in 1883 by Hermann Thorens (1856–1943) in Sainte-Croix , a small community in the Swiss Jura (canton of Vaud ) near Lake Neuchâtel (Lac de Neuchâtel). The family business initially produced music boxes and musical works. 1903 Thorens began with the production of Edison - phonograph .
After the neighboring Paillard company had been producing gramophones since 1904 , in 1906 Thorens also switched production to the manufacture of horn gramophones for playing shellac records . A total of around three million gramophones were built and sold, most recently as case devices. In addition, Thorens also manufactured harmonica (until 1952) and lighters (until 1964).
In 1927 the family business was converted into a stock corporation and just one year later there were the first patent specifications for the electrical direct drive of the turntable in gramophones . In 1930, 1200 people were employed. In addition to the gramophones, high-quality radio receivers were manufactured in cooperation with the German company Stassfurt-Imperial .
In 1937, Paillard hired engineer Edouard Thorens, who gave his name to a record player he developed . Paillard became the birthplace of the Thorens record player. In the early 1940s Thorens began developing and manufacturing complete record cutting systems as well as sound and amplification systems for cinemas . Company founder Hermann Thorens died in 1943.
The 1950s and 1960s
In the following years, various turntables and record changers were created, with which Thorens was able to gain a foothold in the USA . These included developments such as the "Symphony" CD 50 , a record changer with two motors that was able to play records from both sides without turning them over by hand.
From 1933 the licensed production of German was Imperial - radios from Staßfurt added. The products were distributed by Alpa-Radio in Zurich . From 1936/37 the license agreement expired; until 1940 Thorens produced his own radios. In 1946 a project was taken over by Tavaro SA Geneva. This resulted in the "New Century" music system in 1949 , which was sold particularly abroad until 1957. It was a radio with a wired remote control . This control panel was hardly bigger than a book and contained the receiver with the transmitter scale and the control buttons; the "baffle" contained the amplifier and loudspeaker. In the same year the compact phono case “Vedette” was presented. The Thorens “Riviera”, a mechanical razor with a spring mechanism , was created around the mid-1950s .
In 1957, a year before the introduction of the stereo record , the TD 124 was presented as a high-quality record player for professional use in broadcast studios, which was one of the first to have an exchangeable tone arm board (patent CH343667) for mounting different tone arms (from 9 to 12 inches). The drive was equipped with a two-part turntable, in which the lower part served as a flywheel and the cup-shaped upper part as the actual turntable. This could be separated from the constantly running flywheel via a simple coupling mechanism. When the clutch was engaged, the turntable immediately reached its rated speed of 16⅔ min −1 , 33⅓ min −1 , 45 min −1 or 78 min −1 . The flywheel was driven by a combination of belt drive and friction wheel, with the rubber wheel lying on the inner plate ensuring an additional reduction in plate resonance and thus contributing to the excellent sound of the drive. Due to the inner and outer plate weighing 4.5 kg + 0.6 kg and due to its drive concept (motor + drive belt + intermediate wheel + friction wheel), the drive has very low wow and flutter even compared to today's top drives . The 220 V reluctance motor had an output of ten watts, and it was controlled using an alternating current frequency of 50 Hertz. Because of the high torque, the drive was also used as a drive for record cutting machines. Due to its complex die-cast chassis and complex mechanics, the TD 124 was also very demanding in terms of production. From 1966 Thorens offered the "TD 124 II", a slightly modified version of the previous model. The suspension of the motor was better decoupled from the housing with additional rubber parts, which made for smoother running. Furthermore, the design of the control button was changed, and the chassis was now also painted gray. The "TD124 II" in particular is still an extremely popular turntable due to its technical and sonic advantages, for which elaborate frames are manufactured by specialized companies such as Schopper or Norma Hylee Tech . On the technical basis of the TD 124 , further turntables were developed in the following years, which differed in price and equipment ( TD 135 , TD 134 / TD 184 ). Some of the devices were manufactured by Paillard for Thorens . This collaboration led to the merger of the two companies in 1962. At this point in time, Paillard a. the Bolex cameras. In the same year Thorens presented the TDW 224 "Studiomatic", a technically very complex record changer based on the TD 124 .
In 1965 Thorens introduced the single-stage belt drive with the compact TD 150 . The specialty of this turntable was its two-part chassis. In this design, based on a patent from the American company Acoustic Research , the tonearm and the turntable bearing are on a floating sub-chassis that cushions shocks and vibrations. This sub-chassis became a design feature of Thorens turntables in the years that followed. Thorens record players based on this principle are still manufactured today. The Scot Ivor Tiefenbrun took over the design of the TD 150 in the early 1970s as the basis for the Linn "Sondek LP 12", which is still built according to this principle today.
After the collaboration with Paillard ended, Thorens-Franz AG started business operations on July 1, 1966. On the basis of a license agreement between Paillard and the company EMT Wilhelm Franz GmbH , the turntables have now been manufactured in the device factory in Lahr ( Lahr / Black Forest ). The sales company Thorens SA , still based in Sainte-Croix , was relocated to Wettingen (Switzerland, Canton Aargau ) and renamed Thorens-Franz AG .
In 1968 the production of the TD 124 ran out and with the TD 125 a newly developed successor was introduced. Up to this point in time almost 100,000 record players of the type "TD 124 I + II" had been built. Like the TD 150 before it , the TD 125 was also equipped with a sprung sub-chassis. The belt drive of the new turntable had electronic motor control and three speeds (16⅔ min −1 , 33⅓ min −1 and 45 min −1 ). The EMT company , now also based in Lahr in Baden , which had recently bought the majority of the Thorens SA sales company, used the high development potential of this turntable to develop the EMT 928 , a professional studio drive, in 1971 .
The TD 160, presented in 1972, formed the basis of an entire generation of drives that were built well into the 1990s. In the basic construction with sub-chassis and belt drive it was identical to the TD 150. The housing had been redesigned and enlarged and the TP 16 tonearm had been taken over from the TD 125. The TD 160 and its subsequent generations were built for over 20 years with one short interruption. Since the own tonearm TP 16 (Mk II and III) is very light and is therefore mainly suitable for MM systems with high compliance, the drive was available with tonearms from other manufacturers or naked with different tonearm boards. Today it is being built in a new edition, which is equipped with RDC elements, by the "new" company Thorens.
The TD 126 appeared in 1976. The successor to the TD 125 was also designed for professional use. The proven design features, such as the sub-chassis suspended from three conical springs, have been adopted and further improved. The modular drive and control electronics were designed for maximum reliability. In the third generation of this turntable (Mk III), the tried and tested plate drive using an alternating current synchronous motor was replaced by a completely newly developed drive with a direct current motor and load-dependent speed control. In addition to the standard Thorens tonearm, the TD 126 could also be equipped with tonearms from various manufacturers (e.g. SME) ex works.
Thorens had continuously expanded its product range in the 1970s. In addition to cheaper turntables such as the TD 115, the dipole loudspeakers “Soundwall”, the receivers AT 410 and AT 403 as well as the PC 650 cassette deck were also developed. In addition, cartridges based on Ortofon and EMT systems , specially developed for their own tonearms, were offered which could be supplemented by appropriate electronics (preamplifier and transformer).
Although Thorens tried to keep spare parts in stock for old devices, there were no more engines available for the TD 124 in the mid-1970s. For this reason, in 1977 the Papst company developed a new AC synchronous motor, the so-called "external rotor", especially for this record player. Papst engines are quieter than standard engines of the TD 124 MkI, but louder than the better decoupled E50 engines of the TD 124 MkII.
In 1980, the "Reference" was the largest and heaviest Thorens drive to date (total weight around 90 kg). Around 100 copies of the device, which was originally designed as a measuring platform and display object, were sold. However, there are contradicting information about the exact production number. Up to three tonearms could be mounted on this turntable. The prices were, depending on the equipment, over 18,000 DM (about 9,100 euros).
In the early 1980s Thorens developed the TD 524 based on the EMT studio drive 948. This device was designed for use in radio and discotheques and was equipped with a quartz-controlled direct drive that accelerated the turntable to its nominal speed in 0.25 seconds . In order to meet the requirements in radio and recording studios, the drive functions were completely remote controllable. Another turntable from this time was the TD 226, which was technically based on the TD 126, but could be equipped with two tonearms. Only about 600 copies of the TD 226 were built.
In 1983 Thorens celebrated the 100th anniversary of the company and launched the special models "Centennial" (based on TD 126) and "Jubilee" (based on TD 147, which in turn derived from TD 160) in limited numbers on the market. The "Prestige" drive was presented in 1983 at the Berlin radio exhibition.
In 1984 Thorens introduced a new generation of turntables with the TD 320. In the new devices, the previously used coil springs in the sub-chassis have been replaced by leaf springs. To demonstrate the new technology, Thorens offered the TD 320 under the name "Phantasie" with a transparent Plexiglas housing. Based on the TD 320, the TD 520 was created in the mid-1980s and could be equipped with tonearms up to 12 inches in length. The TP 16 tonearm, a development from the 1970s, was primarily intended in the Mk II and Mk III versions due to its low moving mass for MM systems with high compliance. Initially, the low-mass version TP 16 Mk III was used on the TD 320, later the medium-weight TP 16 Mk IV. In the same period, the more simply constructed TD 280 without sub-chassis was also launched on the market. In 1988 the “Ambiance” and the “Concrete” turntables were introduced, which attracted attention with their special design. The circular main chassis of the "Concrete" was made of concrete. The last new developments in the 1980s were the direct-drive TD 535 discotheque drive, the drive of which was developed by Revox , and the TD 2001 / TD 3001. The TD 320 II and III, TD 2001 and TD 3001 drives were originally equipped with the TP 90 tonearm equipped. The concept of the TP 16 was further developed in this tonearm, but the TP 90 again had a higher effective mass and is therefore more suitable for the harder (lower) needle compliance of MC systems. Other special features of this last tonearm developed by Thorens were a construction-related lack of resonance and the complex collet insert basket between the headshell and the tonearm tube. From the TD 2001/3001 series so-called RDC components were available as accessories, a new resonance-absorbing material that has proven itself well with the new suspension from the TD 320 series. From around 1997, many components of Thorens 'austerity policy fell victim, which nevertheless could no longer stop Thorens' bankruptcy in 1999. Among other things, for reasons of cost, neither the previously used motor nor the platter bearing were selected as finely as was customary in the past. The heavy plate mat made of a special resonance-absorbing rubber compound gave way to a cheaper felt mat.
The company structure was changed several times during the 1990s. Instead of costly and time-consuming new developments, the turntables were mainly developed further. From 1993 Thorens had some of the turntables built in Poland, but two years later production was relocated to Germany.
In 1994 Thorens presented electronic components for the first time since the 1970s with the "Consequence" series. With the aim of developing high-quality hi-fi components, a new development laboratory was founded in Berlin in 1995. In addition to the “Consequence” series, the “Classic” (tube amplifier) and “Concreto” (38 cm grid) series were also created. At the end of the 1990s, Thorens once again briefly had high-quality loudspeakers in its range with the TSP series. An attempt to find new buyers with inexpensive turntables failed and in 1999 Thorens Audio Vertriebs-GmbH had to file for bankruptcy.
The 21st century
In 1999, Thorens Export Company AG, founded in Switzerland, took over the remaining business activities. In the following months there was a dispute over the use of the trademark rights, which Interthorens Marketing AG won. Thereafter the naming rights lay with Thorens Holding AG in Basel. The owner of the naming rights was Heinz Rohrer.
In 2003 the Thorens company was reintroduced. At the beginning of 2003, among other things, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas under the name "New Line", the completely newly developed drives of the 800 series, which no longer have anything in common with the old design philosophy. The new drives are so-called "mass drives", the characteristics of which are a particularly solid design and a relatively high weight. At the beginning of 2004, two new bulk drives (TD 2010 and TD 2030) with transparent acrylic frames were released based on the 800 series. For the consumer sector, Thorens offers the inexpensive record players TD 170-1, TD 190-1 and TD 240.
In 2005, with the TD 350, a traditional Thorens drive with sub-chassis was presented again. The device combines the advantages of a sub-chassis and a ground drive. The TD 550 followed later, which is based on the same technology but can be equipped with tonearms up to 12 inches in length.
The first electronic components announced in 2002 were also presented at the High End 2005 in Munich: the TEM 3200 mono power amplifier, the TEP 3800 high-level preamplifier and the TEP 302 phono stage . Thorens has received several awards for this product line from the trade press . Both the development and the production of the electronics line and the current turntables take place exclusively in Germany.
After a three-year development phase, Thorens introduced the TD 309. The drive was honored with the EISA Award "best product 2011/2012". The models TD 206 and TD 209 followed in 2013, and in 2014 the TD 203 was finally launched as an entry-level model.
In 2020 he presented the high-quality sub-chassis record player TD 1601, which is externally based on the devices of the 1970s; this has a separate power supply unit with a toroidal transformer .
Well-known Thorens record player
- TD 124 : Studio drive for professional use with belt / friction wheel drive
- TD 150 : first Thorens turntable with sub-chassis. The technical model is the vibrating chassis turntable developed by Mitch Cotter for the US company Acoustic Research
- TD 125 : Successor to the TD 124 with electronically controlled belt drive
- TD 126 : Successor to the TD 125 with various automatic functions
- TD 115 : Simpler version of the semi-professional TD 126
- TD 160 : Successor to the TD 150, basic model of a whole generation of drives
- TD 320 : first Thorens record player with leaf-sprung sub-chassis
- TD 520 : large drive with leaf-sprung sub-chassis for 12-inch tonearms
- TD 524 : semi-professional drive equipped with various automatic functions based on the EMT 938 with direct drive for studios and discos
- TD 2001 : further developed version based on the TD 320 series
- Fantasy : Design study of the TD 320 with a transparent acrylic chassis (for the 100th company anniversary)
- Concrete : design study with a concrete chassis
- Reference : “Super drive”, developed as a measuring platform and demonstration object
- Prestige : "Super drive", developed on the occasion of the company's 100th anniversary
- TD 850 : mass drive, representative of the new generation of devices
- TD 350 : newly developed turntable with leaf-sprung sub-chassis and external belt drive
- TD 309 : modern designed turntable based on the sub-chassis principle with Thorens own tonearm TP 92 (2010)
- TD 206 / TD 209 : Turntable with newly developed Thorens tonearm TP 90 (not to be confused with the TP 90, which was developed in the late 1980s and used on various turntables).
- Gerhard Weichler (Hrsg.): Thorens - Fascination of a living legend - Weichler, Engelskirchen 2006. (Product overview over the complete company history, German / English)
- Joachim Bung (Ed.): Swiss Precision - The Belt / Friction Wheel Record Player by Thorens from Sainte-Croix  Bung, Schmitten 2005. (The book about the Swiss record player from 1957 - 1967, especially about the Thorens TD 124 , German)
- Joachim Bung (Ed.): Swiss Precision - The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables - Bung, Schmitten 2007 (revised and greatly expanded second edition of the book, English)
- Joachim Bung (Hrsg.): Schweizer Präzision - Volume 1: The story of the Thorens TD 124 and other classic HiFi turntables - Volume 2: Thorens sales in Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain and the United States  Bung, Schmitten 2019 (revised third edition in two volumes with a joint slipcase, expanded to include hi-fi classics from the 1950s and 1960s, German)
- Stefano Pasini: Deutsche Perfektion Costa Editore, Bologna 2001. (The book about the history of the EMT company and the Lahr equipment factory, German, English, Italian)
- Official website of Thorens GmbH, Mönchengladbach (German / English)
- Internet presence Verlag Joachim Bung, distribution of Thorens books on Swiss precision (German / English)
- Private internet presence with information about Thorens record players (German)
- Device presentations (English)
- The history of Thorens turntables (English)
- stereo.de of April 30, 2018, Gunter Kürten buys Thorens , accessed on May 10, 2020.
- welt.de of November 27, 2004, Real music fans hang on the needle , accessed on May 10, 2020.
- Stereo 2/2020
- thorens-info.de, TD 316 - 315, "Phantasie" , accessed on May 10, 2020.
- connect.de from August 31, 2010, record player Thorens TD 309 + TP 92 , accessed on May 10, 2020.