Thorens TD-124DD Turntable and Thorens SPU Cartridge

A monument celebrating decades of expertise

We live in a creative and fascinating time. If you told me that one day, someone, somewhere in Germany, in 2021, would design a new version of the Thorens 124, I would never have believed you! And yet, Gunter Kürten did it. It is real, it stands like a monument with a timeless look and a simplicity that commands respect. This reissue of the Thorens 124 is called 124DD and is packed with modern technology. While respecting the spirit of the legend that preceded it, the new TD-124DD will have to be more modern, more reliable and, logically, more efficient. This Thorens TD-124DD will have some big shoes to fill. Judging by the reception it has received from the specialized press since its release, we can believe that it will be really special. Will it be able to honour and ensure the continuity of the original 124? Let’s see.

Thorens is a legendary turntable manufacturer. Many Thorens products would certainly have a place in the hi-fi hall of fame, if there were one. Thorens was originally a Swiss company founded in Sainte-Croix by Hermann Thorens in 1883. It is one of the oldest manufacturers of high-fidelity products on the planet. The company is now located in Germany and its various operations are done between Switzerland and Germany. Most recently, in 2018, the brand was relaunched by Gunter Kürten who set it up in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, in the heart of what is now appropriately called the Analog Valley. Since the arrival of Gunter Kürten, the brand has literally taken off. Boldly designed models follow one another while respecting the traditions and spirit of the brand. The current Thorens design team seems to have a special talent for bringing legendary models back to life. We saw it with the TD-1600 which is a reincarnation of the TD-160. In addition, Thorens will soon launch the TD-1500, a worthy replacement for the venerable TD-150. This time, with the TD-124DD, the challenge was great. It was a question of reviving an absolutely legendary model, the TD-124, from its ashes. A model still widely used today, followed and adored by a whole community of fans, who would not change this turntable for anything in the world. The former TD-124 has an entire ecosystem of newsgroups, aftermarket manufacturers and online sales sites. A community that ensures the survival and proper functioning of these magnificent machines, even today. The new TD-124DD comes with several innovations, respecting in many ways the soul of the original model. The main change is the adoption of a direct drive motor in place of the complex roller and belt drive mechanism. Even if some purists see this as heresy, I can assure you that the training solution chosen has been beautifully implemented and that the results are really there. The TD-124DD is a very high-end turntable, delivered with its own TP-124 tonearm and a Thorens SPU moving coil cartridge manufactured by Ortofon. This set has the ambition to recreate the musical magic of its glorious ancestor. To better understand how Thorens’ team was able to meet the challenge, let’s explore the technical aspects of this turntable.

The TD-124DD Turntable
As mentioned above, the TD-124DD is a direct drive turntable. There are no belts, rollers or drive wheels, since the platter is driven directly by the motor shaft. This type of drive has long been decried by audiophile purists. Indeed, during the golden years of analog reproduction, Japanese manufacturers popularized the use of this type of drive through a variety of inexpensive models. Often, the musicality of these turntables suffered from a blatant lack of speed stability, as the motor spent most of its time adjusting itself, trying to correct its own mistakes.

Today, direct drive has become the technology of choice for a growing number of high-end manufacturers. Thorens, Brinkmann, VPI, Technics, and many others have now proven that when this technology is well implemented, it is by far the best. In the case of the TD-124DD, the designers made no compromises. The motor and its shaft are generously dimensioned and the 3.5 kg aluminum plate has been machined with amazing precision. Unwrapping this one, we can’t help but be speechless and let out a hearty WOW! The platter rests on a substantial diameter rotation axis attached to the aluminum subframe. The latter rests on rubber mushrooms. Similar to those found on the original TD-124, they act like a semi-rigid suspension. The level of the subframe is adjustable thanks to three casters located at the front and rear of the stage. This operation is facilitated by the presence of a small bubble level placed on the top of the plate. At the front, a second wheel allows fine adjustment of the turntable speed.

The Thorens TD-124DD returns with a rather unique feature that was present on the original model. This is a lever on the side, which allows you to pause the rotation of the platter when changing the disc. It’s simple, practical and effective! The subframe rests on a wood base with a flawless matte black finish. Too bad other real wood finishes are not available. It may come one day.

At the back of the base, we find all the necessary connectors and, rather rare, a pair of XLR connectors allowing to route the delicate signal of the cartridge in perfect silence. There is also a connector for the board’s power supply, which is located in a separate housing. This linear power supply has been designed with great care and undoubtedly contributes to the turntable’s performance.

The Thorens TP-124 Tone Arm
This new tone arm from Thorens is a nice surprise and is a nod to the old tone arms from the 1970s made by EMT. It has a J-shaped aluminum tube. The inside of the tube is damped to minimize resonance. Thorens supplies two brass counterweights of different masses. This allows the TP-124 to be compatible with any type of cartridge and more specifically with the Thorens S P U supplied with the kit. A shell compatible with the SME bayonet is also provided for use with a conventional mount cartridge. As the TP-124 is equipped with an SME bayonet, it will be possible to use another type of shell, and to make cartridge changes easily.

The Thorens TD-124DD returns with a rather unique feature that was present on the original model. This is a lever on the side, which allows you to pause the rotation of the platter when changing the disc. It’s simple, practical and effective! The subframe rests on a wood base with a flawless matte black finish. Too bad other real wood finishes are not available. It may come one day.

At the back of the base, we find all the necessary connectors and, rather rare, a pair of XLR connectors allowing to route the delicate signal of the cartridge in perfect silence. There is also a connector for the board’s power supply, which is located in a separate housing. This linear power supply has been designed with great care and undoubtedly contributes to the turntable’s performance.

The Thorens TP-124 Tone Arm
This new tone arm from Thorens is a nice surprise and is a nod to the old tone arms from the 1970s made by EMT. It has a J-shaped aluminum tube. The inside of the tube is damped to minimize resonance. Thorens supplies two brass counterweights of different masses. This allows the TP-124 to be compatible with any type of cartridge and more specifically with the Thorens S P U supplied with the kit. A shell compatible with the SME bayonet is also provided for use with a conventional mount cartridge. As the TP-124 is equipped with an SME bayonet, it will be possible to use another type of shell, and to make cartridge changes easily.

The TP-124 has an innovative traction control system that works like a pendulum. It fits inside the base of the arm and has a small weight at the end of a wire, coupled to a jewel bearing. The Thorens design team chose to use very high quality ball bearings for both arm axes. These are remarkably well implanted and offer no play while ensuring exemplary rigidity.

Curiously enough, Thorens also chose to install a motorized arm lift with the control located at the front. Quite honestly, a simple manual arm lift would have been less noisy, faster and much more pleasant to use.

The Thorens SPU Cartridge
This superb cartridge is manufactured by Ortofon from Thorens’ specifications and has been designed to work in perfect synergy with the TP-124 tone arm. Based on Ortofon’s SPU Synergy G, the Thorens S P U features a perfectly polished elliptical diamond shape. At Thorens’ request, the cartridge mass has been reduced to allow for a lighter weight requirement when reading, resulting in a recommended weight of three grams as well as better tracking. The 0.5 MV output level of the Thorens SPU is a little higher than that of its Ortofon counterparts. It will therefore be much easier to match with different phono stages.

Unpacking and Installation
The version of the Thorens TD-124DD that I received was a package that included a gorgeous reinforced carrying case. This is a small pleasure that adds to the joy of unpacking such a classy machine. The installation was a breeze and the instruction manual is quite clear. It is presented with the same retro look. All the necessary tools and accessories are provided and in less than an hour, the Thorens TD-124DD had already started singing.

Listening Impressions
High-end
like no other
From the very first minutes the cartridge needle was in the grooves, I knew I was dealing with a very different high-end beast. While the vast majority of turntables in this price category manage to extract an impressive amount of information from the discs, this Thorens does it in a completely different way. The TD-124DD places, first and foremost, the emotional aspects of the sound reproduction before the resolution. The dynamics are devastating with a bass so full that you can hardly believe it.

With the reissue of the famous album Moving Pictures by Canadian band Rush, the result is simply epic! The TD-124DD then injects in my audio system a quantity of energy that I never perceived before. It does this by emphasizing the rhythm, the melodic variations, the drum attack and the bass drum kick. ThorensTD-124DD renders Alex Lifeson’s electric guitar’s music with an incisive impact and a bite not unlike the character of the original 124. The tone is close to perfection and we let ourselves be carried away by the energetic surge of this Rush album. This turntable is in complete contrast to the current offer in the high end. Music lovers who find that expensive turntables often give too sterile a result will certainly find something to their liking with this TD-124DD.

The Great Explorer of Record Collections
What do Steely Dan, Boston, Sarah McLaclan, Suzanne Vega and Tears for fear have in common? Their albums all sound great on ThorensTD-124DD. It behaves like a real explorer of our record library. Each album has surprises in store for us and it makes us rediscover some that we thought we knew perfectly.

Suzanne Vega’s album Solitude Standing is a perfect example. Despite the fact that this one is an edition that has absolutely nothing audiophile about it, the TD-124DD gives it an unsuspected lustre and clarity. The album’s title track bursts through my speakers with an infectious energy. The singer’s voice whispers the lyrics, right in front of me, almost at my feet, with an intimate closeness. A true festival of sonic subtlety graces the song while the drums resonate with a strong impact. That defines the Thorens TD-124DD as well as it defines the old 124.

A turntable capable of finesse, delicacy and subtlety while offering a dynamic range that bursts out of my speakers without any feeling of compression. Moreover, anecdotally, I carried out a good part of my listening with the small Audel Sonika MK2 speakers. Powered by the TD-124DD, these gave the impression of having completely tripled in size! When synergy makes magic!

The Thorens TD-124DD offers a unique and simply magical level of performance. Of course, it is equipped with high-quality components. But it is the synergy between them that makes all the difference. The fact that the cartridge was specifically designed for the TP-124 tone arm and that the tone arm was specifically designed for the TD-124DD turntable brings a plus to the music reproduction. It is a quality that is difficult to quantify, define or isolate. However, when I let this turntable play for friends, they all said that the cartridge worked perfectly with the tone arm and that the match seemed perfect with the turntable.

An essential synergy, which raises the listening to another level, which allows to forget the turntable and to better appreciate the music. Like with this Harmonium XLV record that I played on the TD-124DD, just to have an idea of the result. I ended up listening to the whole thing, completely forgetting what I wanted to evaluate. By the way, my ratio of albums listened to in their entirety has never been as high as with this Td124DD!

Conclusion
The Thorens TD-124DD takes up the challenge of reviving the original 124 with brio. It achieves this through judicious technical choices, impeccable manufacturing quality and, above all, a perfect synergy between the various elements that make it up. It is a magnificent turntable, with reasonable dimensions, sober and classic aesthetics and of which the use is a pure pleasure. With its lively sound, infectious dynamics and smooth tone, it is a completely different offering from other turntables on the market. For all enthusiasts looking for a turntable of this level, the Thorens TD-124DD is a must-have, to be visited and listened to at your dealer.

GENERAL INFORMATION
Price: $20,500

Warranty: 2 years, parts and labour
Distributor: Erikson Consumer, Tel: 514.457.6674
www.eriksonconsumer.com
www.thorens.com

Mediagraphy
Rush, Moving Pictures, Anthem, B0022380-01

Suzanne Vega, Solitude Standing, A&M Records, SP-5136
Harmonium, XLV, Universal, 0816224