Thorens TD 203 review

The TD 203 isn't short of ability thanks to its fluid, detailed sound... Tested at £550

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The TD203 is a capable package but the competition is tough


  • +

    Good build

  • +

    Clever arm design

  • +

    Agile and detailed sound

  • +

    Expansive soundstage, nuanced midrange performance

  • +


  • +

    Electronic speed change


  • -

    Lacks the drive and substance of the class best

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When it comes to heritage, few hi-fi manufacturers can match Thorens. The brand was founded in 1883 to make music boxes, began making phonographs in 1903 and launched the legendary TD124 turntable in the late 1950s.

That makes it all the more surprising that the company, in the UK at least, isn’t a dominant force in the ongoing vinyl resurgence. Thorens is hoping to change that with the new TD 203.


Our first impressions are good. This is a nicely built deck and comes complete with arm and cartridge.

There’s not much in the way of suspension, so it would make sense to position the deck well away from your speakers on a level, low resonance support.

The deck is nicely made and finished. Unlike most rivals it comes as standard with an electronic speed change to skip from 33 1/3rpm to 45 rpm.

MORE: How to set up a turntable


The supplied TP-82 arm comes pre-fitted with a Thorens TAS 257 moving magnet cartridge, so you don’t need to worry about alignment.

The cartridge is essentially a version of Audio Technica’s AT 3600. All you have to do is set the tracking force and fit the bias weight.

Unusually, there are two counterweights on the back of the arm – the smaller one is there to allow fine-tuning of the arm’s azimuth ensuring the stylus tip sits vertically in the record groove when viewed from the front.

The arm’s unipivot design means such an adjustment is sometimes necessary. Don’t be tempted to move the ring that sits in the middle of the aluminium arm tube. This is a vibration damper that only works properly in its original position.

MORE: How a turntable is made

Assuming you’ve followed the detailed instruction manual and already fitted the drive belt and platter you’re ready to go.

We plug the TD 203 into our reference system comprising a Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage, Gamut D3i/D200i amp and ATC SCM50 speakers as well as something more price compatible in the form of Rega’s Brio integrated amplifier and Dynaudio Emit 20 speakers.

Those unfamiliar with unipivot designs will find using the TP-82 is a little odd – the arm pivots on a single point so it is free to wobble as it is queued. However, once it lands in the record groove any unwanted movement fades.

MORE: How to build the perfect hi-fi system


We start off by playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Thorens package sounds right at home. It delivers a neat and organised presentation that has a place for every instrument and sound.

The stereo imaging is expansive, sounding impressively wide and large-scale. There’s also an admirable degree of precision in the way notes are rendered, having clean edges and plenty of harmonic richness.

Tonally, things are even, though lacking a bit of authority. Class leading designs such as Rega’s Planar 3/Elys 2 are better at conveying substance, and certainly deliver dynamics with greater impact.

MORE: How to get the best sound from your turntable

We like the TD 203’s midrange though. Listen to Mary J Blige’s No More Drama and it has no trouble delivering her vocals with fluidity and insight.

The deck captures the nuances well and communicates the emotion in her voice with skill. There’s a good degree of transparency and openness in this region.

You can add pleasing agility and decent reach in the bass in the Plus column too. We like the Thorens’ cohesive approach to music replay but switching to its Rega rival reveals more in the way of rhythmic drive and excitement.

The TD 203 makes it easy to appreciate the work that’s gone into the recording but falls a little short in outright entertainment.


The Thorens TD203 is a nicely built and capable deck packed with good quality engineering.

It’s unusual to find a unipivot arm on a product of this price and that decision certainly has an impact on the fluid dynamics, open midrange and good level of detail we hear.

But this is a tough market, and as things stand this deck will struggle to make a notable impact on the class leading rivals.

See all our Thorens reviews

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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