That vibrations can detrimentally affect turntable performance – whether that be vibrations from the room (and building) it is placed in and the people in it, the other electronic equipment it is near, or the operation of the turntable itself – is something many record player manufacturers have strived to find an ideal solution for. With its New Reference turntable, Thorens claims its design team, in collaboration with German active vibration isolators manufacturer Seismion, has produced the first turntable "designed and optimised from scratch together with a fully active vibration isolation system".
Thorens says this vibration isolation design has never been seen and experienced in turntables before. Intrigued? So are we. As the legendary German brand explains it, the active system is based around high-sensitivity piezoelectric acceleration sensors and an all-linear electronic control circuit, an engineering marriage based on Seismion's Reactio active vibration isolator.
In addition to vibration isolators mechanically based on an elastic mount, an active control system is set up as a classic feedback control. Seismion's explanation is as follows: Especially developed acceleration sensors with piezoelectric ceramics monitor the amplitudes of the isolated platform with high precision. These measured signals are converted into the required actuation forces by an analog control system, which drive contact-less voice coil actuators. Multiple of these active control loops are in action in order to isolate all six degrees of freedom.
The basic idea of active control is to reproduce a so-called 'sky-hook damper'... not coupled to the (vibrating) floor but to a virtual, stationary attachment point. Therefore, no further disturbances from the ground are introduced into the system via this virtual damper, and the sky-hook damper only has advantages for isolation and stabilisation purpose.
This system in the New Reference can supposedly isolate disturbances already below 1Hz and reduce them to less than 1 per cent (-40dB) at frequencies of 10Hz and above – which the company's own tests show be 17x more effective in isolating than the alternative air spring method. Even very small vibrations in the range of a nanometer down to a picometer are still, Thorens says, efficiently isolated.
Thorens has made the system's centre of gravity close to the plan of isolation in an effort to reduce the knock-on effect of horizontal vibrations on tilting motions. And as you would expect from any high-end record player these days, the New Reference's chassis comprises layers of high-damped materials to further reduce resonance, with the isolation system also acting to stabilise the whole sub-chassis on which the platter is placed. An adaptive levelling technique, keeping the player levelled within 20 micrometers, completes the isolation system's design.
That's the rather impressive-sounding vibration-reducing system, but what about the more traditional elements of turntable design?
The New Reference is, you might be surprised to read, a belt-drive design. Thorens says it has chosen belt over direct drive due, firstly, to the former isolating the platter from the drive motor (via the elastic belt) and thus being less susceptible to motor fluctuations, and, secondly, as it claims to have overcome rotation speed errors inherent with belt-drive designs. In fact, Thorens says that thanks to its use of two "ultra-high-precision quartzoscillators", the speed will remain within a range of 33.3332 to 33.3334 rotations per minute over 20 years.
The turntable can be equipped with up to three tonearm bases that can accommodate tonearms of nine, 10 and 12 inches. Two are mounted: the newly developed 12-inch TP160 cutting bearing tonearm with continuous silver cabling, and the Thiele TA01, which supposedly offers the precise guidance of a pivoted tonearm (a cartridge's maximum tracking error angle is 0.036 degrees across the record) with the advantages of a tangential tonearm.
Thorens will present its New Reference turntable at the High End Munich 2023 show next week, in light of its 140th anniversary.
High End Munich 2023 preview: what to expect from Europe’s high-end hi-fi show
Our pick of the best turntables for value