The deck comes supplied with a Thorens-badged Rega RB250 mounted on its now circular armboard. This is moulded from RDC and incorporates a locking collar to allow arm-height adjustment. The armcable is terminated in a pair of phono sockets mounted in the rear of the plinth, although no earth terminal is provided. One final change that’s definitely for the better; the deck stands on three RDC cone feet, which sound better than the old rubber ones as well as allowing precise levelling. The factory-set suspension and clear instructions make set-up as simple as any solid-plinth design and the biggest dilemma will be choice of cartridge and mounting surface. Although the Thorens is less affected by its support than some suspended designs, it will still benefit from some care in this regard and I got excellent results from Cambre Core and finite-elemente racks as well as the (completely overkill but I just had to try it) Grand Prix Audio wall shelf. The Rega arm will be at home with anything from budget moving-magnets up to sub-£1K coils from Lyra, Ortofon or Dynavector. Again, I got great results using a DV-20X but the player really deserves (and rewards the use of) a better cartridge, and I employed the Lyra Argo for much of my listening – although I’ve a sneaky suspicion that the DV-17D3 could work really well too.
The complete package (without a cartridge but including a basic interconnect for the tonearm, a small spirit level and a really excellent instruction manual) will set you back £1395, which I have to judge a considerable bargain. Incidentally, you can also buy the TD160HD as a BC (or basic chassis) model, fitted with a Rega, SME M2, SME oval or blank armboard at a price of £1250. Other factory fitted combinations include the RB300 at £1470, the SME M2/9 at £2500 or the SME 309 at £2800.
In serious analogue terms the price of the TD160HD with the RB250 represents one step up from entry level, the bottom rung on the high-end ladder. However, that doesn’t mean that you can take its performance for granted. Care and attention to meticulous setup pays dividends, and whilst this is mainly a case of doing it properly and checking that you have (rather than any arcane black arts), time spent getting the deck perfectly level, aligning the cartridge – ideally more accurately than the provided Rega single-point protractor allows – and getting cabling and a nice clean mains feed is readily audible in the musical end result. In particular, pay attention to tracking force. Set it initially (preferably using an electronic balance) but then take the trouble to listen to the effect of tiny adjustments up and down. Do it by ear, simply turning the weight a mil or so each time. You’ll soon hit a sweet spot that combines pace and a solid sense of purpose to the music. Over do it and things will start to slow and get stodgy. It makes all the difference between a performance that’s nice, and one that really grabs and holds your attention – and it’s free. Which in many respects sums up the Thorens as far as set up goes. Plug and play it straight from the box and you’ll get a performance that’s perfectly respectable, especially at the price. Do the job properly and you’ll elevate that performance significantly, adding transparency, dynamic range, solidity and a natural sense of musical flow to proceedings.