THE FIRST 60 YEARS
The Thorens story begins in 1883 in Ste Croix in the Swiss Jura, when Hermann Thorens had the company entered in the commercial register. The purpose of the company was to manufacture music boxes and musical works.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the first rollers phonographs were produced, followed a few years later by gramophones, which remained in the range for several decades until they were replaced by turntables. In the meantime, there are also harmonicas and lighters from the factory in Ste Croix.
In 1928, the first electric motor for gramophones was introduced, followed a year later by a magnetic pickup. In addition, there were newly developed tonearms, even according to the tangential principle, which at that time were far ahead of their time.
In the 1930s, the product portfolio was expanded by cooperation with the German Strassfurt-Imperial to include radio receivers and music cabinets, even with built-in turntables (“discophones”). At the end of the 1920s, the company employed about 1,200 people.
WORLD FAME WITH A RECORD PLAYER
From the 1940s, the production of cutting machines for records and sound boxes begins, followed by record changers and other radio sets. The “Riviera” razor operated by springs was also part of the range for several years. The development of pickups, in particular, began at a rapid pace, leading to models with interchangeable sapphires and a reduction of tracking force from more than 100g to one-tenth in 1952. With the CD 43 record changer, the company succeeded in gaining a foothold on the young US hi-fi market.
In 1957, the era of record players begins, leading the Thorens brand to world fame. The TD 124 model comes onto the market and becomes a great success within a short time. It is aimed at professionals in radio studios as well as dedicated home users who want to play the new vinyl stereo LPs available at about the same time in top quality.
In the following years, several simpler variants of turntables (TD 134, TD 135, TD 184) derived from the TD 124 was added. From 1962 an extremely complex record changer with fully automatic control of the tonearm BTD-12S, the TDW 224, is offered in small quantities. The TD 124 model was produced in two versions until 1968 and still enjoys an excellent reputation among record lovers today.
In 1963, Thorens SA and Paillard SA merged, integrating into a larger environment and expanding the product portfolio to include film cameras and typewriters.
In 1965, the TD 150 model, equipped with a sub-chassis suspended on conical springs to decouple the engine from the ground, was developed and, after production had been transferred from Ste Croix to Lahr in Germany, the first Thorens model was produced there in 1966. The plant in Lahr is operated together with EMT. At that time it is not yet foreseeable what influence the small and inconspicuous TD 150 will have on the worldwide development of turntables to this day.
Also in 1966, Thorens and Paillard parted ways again, development and production of the turntables are then taken over by the newly founded Thorens-Franz AG in Lahr.
THE SPRING-LOADED SUBCHASSIS BECOMES A WORLDWIDE SUCCESS
1968 The TD 124 is replaced by the completely newly developed TD 125. A model with a seven kg spring-loaded subchassis, inspired by the small TD 150, and electronic engine control with fine adjustment. Both are new in this class.
One year later, the second generation of the TD 150 comes with an improved tonearm.
1972 then the TD 125 Mk II, which comes together with the TD 160, the successor of the TD 150 on the market. Both mounted the new TP 16 tonearm, equipped with precise magnetic antiskating, which in its various versions became the standard arm for Thorens turntables for many years.
While the TD 160 remained in the program in several development stages until the 1990s, Thorens presented the successor of the TD 125 in 1974 with the TD 126 electronic. First equipped with the first TP 16, later with the extremely light “Isotrack”-MK II and Mk III versions of this arm, the TD 126 in the Mk III version was chosen as the world’s best serial turntable. This model can be delivered ex works with different tone arms and is very successful in the high-end scene worldwide.
Since 1978 Thorens tries to get rid of the one-sided orientation on turntables by extending the product family. A receiver, a cassette deck and several speaker models were added. However, the sales success of the electronics line is moderate.
The TD 104/105 and TD 110/115 models, which have also been added to the range due to discontinued cooperation with Schneider-Rundfunkwerkwerke, are not going to be big sellers either. In terms of price, they are in the same range as the proven TD 160 models but differ considerably from them in appearance and design, so that there are hardly any common components between the series.
The highlight of this period was the Thorens Reference, a handmade 90 kg drive for up to three tonearms, developed in 1979 without regard to cost and effort. The aim is to demonstrate what is technically feasible. The edition was officially limited to 100 pieces.
At the beginning of the 1980s, several further developments of proven models from the TD 160 family, a studio drive with EMT genes, the TD 524, as well as the two-anniversary models TD 147 “Jubilee” and TD 126 “Centennial” appeared. Additional variants of the TD 126 for two tonearms (TD 226) and for a single long 12″ arm (TD 127). All these models have the spring-loaded sub-chassis in common.
Nevertheless, the Thorens company is in a financial crisis during this time and is undergoing massive restructuring. The production is partly outsourced. The new structure consists of THORENS CABASSE Vertriebs GmbH/Lahr, THORENS Produktions GmbH/Lahr and EMT-FRANZ GmbH/Kippenheim. The equipment plant in Lahr continues to exist.
1983 another HighEnd drive is added: Thorens presents the “Prestige”, an even more elaborate construction than the Reference from 1979. This model weighs 55 kg and brings along everything that is technically possible at this time.
In 1984 Thorens left the previously valid design principle of the sub-chassis equipped with conical springs and opted for a sub-chassis with three leaf springs in the new 300 series. The acceptance of the new models TD 316/TD 318/TD 320 is initially restrained, but when variants without tonearm (TD 321) and as the successor of the proven TD 126, the TD 520, are added a short time later, it increases significantly. In addition to the new type of suspension, electronic motor control in the low-voltage range is also used for the first time. The new models were later supplemented by new tonearms, the TP 90 representing a qualitative leap forward compared to the TP 16 Mk III, especially in the far more universal usability with current pickup systems. The TD 2001 and TD 3001 models introduced at the end of the 1980s round off the top end of the range and together with the TD 160 S Mk V form a top-quality trio that is competitive in every respect on the world market.
Due to the cost pressure, the TD 280 series also entered the new constructive territory in the 1980s. The models are the first of the Thorens brand not to have a spring-loaded chassis. The decoupling from the underground takes place only over rubber feet. Later models (TD 180, TD 290) take up this principle and form the entry into the Thorens world of turntables.
THE 1990S, END AND RESURRECTION
Thorens, as well as other producers of turntables, suffer massively from the pressure of the CD during this time. The high quality of the products cannot hide the fact that the market is shrinking strongly and the company is in massive difficulties at the beginning of the 1990s.
A new restructuring is necessary. THORENS CABASSE Vertriebs GmbH leaves the factory and moves to another location.
New entry-level models are introduced to the market, production is simplified and partly outsourced. However, it cannot be prevented that the equipment factory in Lahr has to be closed in 1993. Production is initially relocated to Poland but later returns to Germany on a small scale.
New developments in the high-quality segment are abandoned in favour of the further development of proven equipment. The TD 160 series ends with the model Mk V, the TD 3001 comes as BC model without tonearm on the market.
In the 1990s the company cooperates with Restek in the field of electronics and offers a range of high-quality components. In addition, the company develops and manufactures its own electronics and loudspeakers at its new location in Berlin.
With the bankruptcy of Thorens Vertriebs GmbH in 2000, an era in consumer electronics came to an end.
THORENS 2001 – 2018
With the bankruptcy, the history of the great name Thorens does not end. Although know-how, finished and semi-finished devices and spare parts are scattered to all winds, the brand itself is undamaged. The name still stands for high quality, engineering, longevity and reliability and a very good price/performance ratio.
Heinz Rohrer, a Swiss businessman, who had already taken care of Thoren’s sales in Asia in the 1990s, acquired the brand and became its new owner.
In the following years, new products are launched on the market, which is designed by various developers and produced in Germany.
With the 900 series, Thorens introduces the ultimate sub-chassis, which can be variably adjusted by means of an air chamber. In addition, the Acryl Line series with the models TD2015 and TD2035 appeal to design-oriented customers.
An electronic line offered in the 2000s consisting of excellent tube amplifiers also achieves great test success.
In April 2018, Heinz Rohrer sells Thorens to the former Elac Electroacoustic managing director Gunter Kürten due to a lack of a successor regulation.
THORENS SINCE 2018
On 1 May 2018, the newly founded Thorens GmbH in Bergisch Gladbach commences business operations. The brand is now back in Germany.
Initially building on the existing product portfolio, the new owner will ensure a quick return to the Thorens “DNA”, to what made the brand famous in the past.
New devices are designed within a few months and the first innovations are successfully placed on the market. The new models planned for 2020, such as the TD1600, the TD1601 or the TD124 DD based on the legendary TD124, are a tribute to the achievements of the past and testify to the new owner’s respect for the oldest brand in music reproduction.
Visit Sight & Sound showroom for more details about Thorens products.