Belt-drive fixed plinth turntable with off-board electronic speed control
The TD 2030 sits just below the top of Thorens current range of turntables and retails for £1725 including the TP 300 VTA tonearm, but no cartridge. Thorens, thoughtfully, includes a pair of cotton gloves to keep your dabs off the acrylic plinth during setup, so gloves on and off we go.
Since the acrylic plinth has no suspension, it’s a simple matter to position the deck on a suitable surface/table, and the plinth can then be levelled by screwing in/out the tip of each of the three feet. The heavy platter is an aluminium affair, weighing in at a substantial 6.2kg and is easily inserted into the pre-greased bearing. Just d on’t forget to fit the felt mat afterwards!
The motor housing, with its AC synchronous motor, is a separate unit and sits in a recess at the rear left corner of the plinth. Positioning this is a bit fiddly, as you need to lift the plinth over the motor housing. The motor is connected with the supplied lead and controlled via the PS 800 power supply, which sports the on/off switch and speed selection between 33 and 45rpm. The PS 800 unit is then connected to the mains via another box, the mains adaptor transformer. The drive belt can now be fitted; this runs from the motor pulley to the outer rim of the turntable’s platter.
A CALL TO ARMS
Various ready-fitted tonearm options are available for the TD 2030 – either an SME M2-9 or 309, or a TP 300 VTA. The review sample came with the latter, and okay, so it’s a Rega RB300 with a sticker, but it’s a simple matter of fitting an appropriate cartridge. For this review I installed an Audio Note IQ III, Audio Note’s top of the line MM with titanium cantilever and IO diamond. With tracking weight set and bias dialled in, arm height can be set by an adjusting collar on the TP 300 VTA, and we are almost there. A supplied phono-to-phono lead plugs directly into a pair of sockets at the base of the arm, accessible from the rear of the deck. (This also lends itself to possible upgrade at a later date.)
The styling and visual presence of the TD 2030 in clear acrylic is most striking, and its simplicity of design, ease of setup and quality of engineering was first rate, easily giving the impression that it would last a lifetime, as well it should given the price. Thorens recommends that the bearing is checked and the lubrication renewed after about five years.
With the TD 2030 now fronting up the rest of my resident system – Audio Note M3 preamplifier, Audio Innovations Second Audio power amplifiers and Snell Type C speakers – it was time to choose some vibes. But first, let’s get some gripes out of the way, the first one being the lack of an integral spirit level as per the TD 124. Second, with those adjustable feet, there is no way of locking the thread once they have been extended, which leaves the whole unit wobbling. Alternatively, you might screw the feet back in tight and use 5p pieces to level the deck. Third, Thorens supplies a tracking force gauge which looks as if it came from the same factory that supplies all those Christmas cracker presents, and should be put straight in the bin. Final gripe is the separate control unit section of the PS 800 power supply; it would be preferable if this could be incorporated into the PS 800, hum issues aside.
PRETENDER TO THE PLATTER
First up on the platter, The Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl, [WEA 923 980-1] recorded at Air Studios, London. The first thing that struck me, in ‘My City Was Gone’, was how solid and stable the image was, similar to that of a high-end CD player, and yes, that was a compliment.
The Thorens delivered an unwavering and robust account of the artists’ position with a rewarding perspective of depth and recording acoustic.
Tony Butler’s bass line underpins the intro, and was both deep and with good timing. The second thing that came to light was the level of detail retrieval. The layering and mix of the track was exposed without any false emphasis or hype. From ‘I Hurt You’, Hynde’s vocals appeared from an inky black darkness, the apparent noise floor of the Thorens TD 2030 being so low, and this helped to emphasise dynamics and tonal shading. Moreover, surface noise was also extremely low, adding to the sense of dynamic, whilst encouraging higher than usual listening levels. There was an unmistakable sense of drive and musicianship as McIntosh’s guitar solo cut in with Chamber’s drum kick. All in all, this was a most impressive and seemingly unflappable performance from the TD 2030.
ALL WRAPPED UP
Next up was Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac [MCA 42028], and the track ‘Black and Blue’. The attack from the DX7 keyboard startled, while the saxophones appeared from nowhere, underpinned by McKinzie’s deep and searching bass line. Lovett’s vocals wrapped themselves around the mix as the track unfolded, toying with the musicians. Even at this stage it was becoming apparent that the TD 2030 added little or nothing in the way of coloration, effectively a full bandwidth platform for vinyl playback.
STAND BY THE MAN
On ‘Walk Through The Bottomland’ from the same album, Emmylou Harris’ backing vocals were positioned just next to Lovett’s with superb separation and dynamics, and with her characteristic drawl easily recognizable. Final piece on the platter was Gershwin by Lindblom [Proprius 9927]. This is an outstanding recording of Lindblom’s talents, and of course Gershwin’s! Played on Lindblom’s own Steinway C from 1919, the recording is simply outstanding. On ‘I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise’, the keys almost rattled under Lindblom’s fingers, and the piano’s soundboard threw full weight as the TD 2030 digged deep. Seldom has piano sounded so right and on key. Piano reproduction is one of the sternest tests of any deck, and the TD 2030 simply sailed through.
During the period of this review it became clear that all genres of music, from Gershwin to Barclay James Harvest, were played out in the same imperturbable fashion. The TD 2030’s character, or rather lack of, never failed to inform, captivate or entertain me. My only problem now – where to put it on my wish list?
Every time I look at the TD 2030 I can’t help thinking ‘simple but effective’. The quality of engineering has to substantiate the styling, and being a Thorens this is a given. This is a top-flight deck, and taken up to the next level – with a SME Series V and high-end moving-coil cartridge – would be an ear-watering prospect.
This review was originally published in the February 2008 issue
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