Thorens’ TD 309 Tri Balance Turntable Reflects New Corporate Strategy

Thorens TD 309
Thorens’ TD 309 Tri Balance Turntable Reflects New Corporate Strategy

At the Munich High-End Show 2009, the German audio manufacturer and turntable specialist Thorens introduced its all-new TD 309 Tri Balance turntable—a product that not only aims to stand on its own merits. But the new turntable also reflects a shift in the company’s corporate strategy. A company press release states that Thorens CEO Heinz Rohrer had decided the “time was right to move from the ‘stabilize and grow’ strategy of the past few years to the ‘invest to re-establish (pre-eminent) position’ strategy,” and the TD 309 is the direct result of that shift in emphasis.

Most readers familiar with past Thorens offerings would probably agree that the German firm’s product have more often than not been evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. The TD 309 Tri Balance, however, is different, not just in terms of its futuristic styling, but also in terms of innovative mechanical design details. According to the Thorens release, the turntable is the result of an 18-month development effort on the part of a four-man team comprised of industrial designer Helmut Thiele, mechanical/acoustic engineer Karl-Heinz Fink, electronic engineer Walter Fuchs, and product planner/marketer Steve Harris. The release states that the design brief for the TD 309 emphasized performance, performance again, and then “the normal constraints: great looks, ease of use, flexibility, price.” The result of the team’s effort is a turntable with striking styling and distinctive design features as outlined below.

Distinctive Features

  • Three-point plinth made of CNC-machined MDF, designed for ease of installation.
  • Three-point suspended sub-chassis (hence the name “Tri Balance”) with suspension adjustments (via a hex driver) accessible from the top surface of the turntable.
  • Suspension tuned to 4Hz (below the cartridge/tonearm resonance point).
  • Belt-drive mechanism powered by a low-voltage, low-noise DC motor said to offer measurably and audibly superior performance vis-à-vis traditional synchronous motors. The motor is carried in an “anti-vibration adjustable mounting.
  • Belt-tension is adjustable for optimal performance; according to Thorens best performance “is with the belt as loose as possible before wow and flutter increases.”
  •  TD 309s will ship with a 12VDC Switch Mode Power Supply, although Thorens plans to offer an optional, higher performance linear power supply later in 2009.
  • Speed control is by “an electronic Low-Q high-precision feedback control circuit,” meaning that, “speed is constant regardless of weight of record or dynamic drag from the stylus.”
  • The TD 309 sub-platter is made of “precision-machined Aluminum” while the main platter is an oversize unit made of “fused-silica.”
  • The TD309 features Thorens’ TP 92 tonearm with an internally dampened extruded aluminum arm tube.
  •  The TP92 arm incorporates “high-quality/high-precision bearings” source in Japan, a detachable headshell/cartridge carrier, magnetic anti-skate mechanism, and an azimuth adjustment mechanism positioned at the bearing end of the arm.
  • Interestingly, the tonearm is equipped with so-called “5.1” wiring where there are four signal leads, and two ground wires—one for the main arm tube and the other for the “lower arm section to avoid current flowing over the bearings.”

The TD 309 Tri Balance will be offered in red or black finishes. U.S. pricing has not yet been announced, but at the Munich show Thorens projected a European retail price of between 1000-1200 Euros.

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