AH, THE 1980S… Channel 4, The Style Council, the miners' strikes and the selling off of all our heavy industry – halcyon times indeed. It's hard to believe it's nearly 20 years ago they finished, and looking at the Thorens TD160HD, doubly so.
With an authoritative, bulky stomp, Thorens is back, with the TD160HD in the vanguard. Make no mistake, this turntable is the epitome of the word chunky. Mounted on a solid-looking black plinth that is simple yet reassuringly impressive, with a speed change switch that goes ‘clunk-click', it has undeniable presence.
Yet despite the initial raised eyebrow, it turns out that the TD160HD packs some very interesting surprises.
First, Thorens has isolated the playing surface by using polymer grommets as well as the non-resonant composite material RDC to cut external vibration.
Second are the obvious cork anti-slip mats that prove to be surprisingly effective, and then there's the TP250 arm – Thoren's badged version of Rega's RB250 – which complements this deck rather well. In terms of cartridges, we used the moving magnet design Goldring 2400 – unlike the arm, it's not included, but at £160 it's a worthwhile addition.
Decked out for every occasion
We restrained the temptation to dig out our retro skin-tight white Levi 501s, but we did throw every musical style we could think of at this turntable.
Giving it a complicated, yet compressed sounding production such as Pentangle's Bruton Town, it was immediately apparent how well the subtleties of the song were treated, with each instrument being clear, yet sounding part of an ensemble. Vocals were full of life, while the string double bass was resonant and not overbearing.
Give the Thorens something with a reverb saturated sound full of bass and depth, such as Herbie Hancock's funky Fat Albert Rotunda, and you'll be surprised at how tight the sound is – with the group sounding like, well, a group and not a load of individuals in a recording studio. One thing the Thorens excels in is its cohesion, and there's always a sense of the music pulling together.
Finally, using a spoken word record, such as The Goon Show or Under Milk Wood, the timing ability of the Thorens shows through, with vocal inflection and emotion really making an impact.
The TD160HD presents a very even soundscape and lacks any hint of unwanted stridency or excessive bass frequencies. Yes, the build is robust and more than capable (that clunky-click speed change is very easy to use), but some may be put off by a style that's as subtle as a breezeblock.
What's important here, though, is to not let aesthetics get in the way, and to concentrate on the sound – which can't be faulted at this price point.