Thorens TD150 and TD160 Setup.
General Notes , Questions and Answers.
"I just received a TD150mkII from one grandparent and a TD 160 from another as they are downsizing (amazing coincidence) and am excited to revive at least one of them, if not both. The 150 seems to work flawlessly, although the certainly original stanton 500 stylus broke within a week of acquiring it. The 160 has an audible "wonka-wonka" sound from the motor which I presume is a worn spindle (?). They are both cosmetically pristine except I note a patina and fingerprints on the edge of the platter.
Although I certainly don't have the ear (or the money) for very high end upgrades, I was hoping to restore and upgrade the 150 (has more sentimental value) and at least fix or replace the motor on the 160.
You have some great tips on upgrade options. I was thinking about building a new armboard and base, new belt, damping the interior, and a new/used tonearm/cartridge for the 150. Do you have recommendations about what you consider to be the best value tonearm and ideas on where to find (I presume ebay is the main option)? Is there any value to replacing the RCA interconnects? The originals seem quite shabby."
The TD160 is trickier to mount different tonearms, than is the TD150, but custom armboards can be bought or made to fit a variety of different arms to this model. You can see one page at the site where I mounted an SME arm to the table and without having to resort to cutting on any part of the table, keeping it completely restorable back to original condition should I choose.
Early in the production run it was discovered that the TD160 had a vulnerability. The motor shaft, on which the drive pulley is mounted, is a long slender affair that sticks out and up underneath the outer platter in position to drive, via an elastic drive belt, the inner platter. The problem is that when people remove the outer platter, they sometimes allow it to actually strike the pulley, bending the motor shaft in one unfortunate stroke. Perhaps without knowing it was done. You can check to see if this is what has happened to your example by first removing the outer platter, then the belt, and then run the motor at 33-1/3 while you watch and note any visible wobble (run-out) of the pulley. Listen for any tic-tic noises. This motor should run nearly silent when healthy. You have to actually put your ear right next to the pulley to hear the very soft whirring noise that a healthy motor would make. Sometimes the noises you hear off the assembled platter drive system come as a result from belt residue build-up on both the drive and driven surfaces. These rubbery deposits can be cleaned off safely with isopropyl alcohol, Q-tips and/or soft cloth.
If you can see, that the drive pulley has a visible wobble to at while spinning, it is safe to say that it has had impact damage at one point. Some folks have successfully managed to straighten one of these long slender shafts, while others have broken the shaft off in the attempt. Shaft straightening is a learned skill that requires a fixture to hold the shaft in position just so while force is applied to other areas of it. I don't recommend this unless you already have such experience in your background. (like from working in a machine shop straightening shafts) The best and cheapest source of replacement parts for these tables is another used turntable of same or similar model. If you attempt to buy individual pieces from the few suppliers out there that actually have this stuff, the price tends to be unreasonably high.
(Consider replacing the belts on either of these tables. Basic rule for belt replacement is 3 - 5 years normal use per belt. They stretch and decompose in the atmosphere. See my page on Thorens belts.
There are plenty of tonearm options for the TD150. However one limiting factor is the actual weight of the tonearm you mount. If it is too heavy the suspension of the turntable is collapsed, which leads you on a mission for finding a stronger spring or 3. (This is another subject which must be addressed when swapping tonearms..!) As you can see by my site I've used the SME 3009 S2 Improved arm. This mounted easily and works well but there might be better choices. In addition to the above consideration the main thing to chose first is which cartridge, or at least types of cartridge you intend to use. I have a page on cartridge / arm matching. Link here:
The primary consideration in this is 1) compliance (strength of spring tension) at the cantilever on the cartridge, and 2) effective mass of the tonearm. The page goes into the details. The natural human tendency, when one first approaches turntable setup and tweaking, is to think of the arm first then choose the cartridge after that. I suggest that you consider your cartridge choices first, then consider an arm known to match well. (Cartridge choice has a huge effect on the sound you hear, more so than any other component!) Fortunately most cartridges work well enough on most arms. Many arms have what might be thought of as medium effective mass (10 to 16 grams) and many currently available cartridges will have compliance at their cantilevers which will neither be over-burdened by the tonearm mass nor too lightly loaded for good tracking.
That said, arms that have been successfully used on either of your models include those from Linn, SME, Rega, Hadcock, Graham, ADC, Infinity Black Widow, Magnepan, Alphason, Thorens, etc.
You will also hear some folks make statements that certain arms just don't have good 'synergy' with certain turntables while others do. I think that much of this 'lore' comes about serendipitously when a tweaker has either good fortune or poor after his efforts. I'm more concerned about the common sense practical issues of mounting an arm and tend to ignore the folklore.
Personally, I like the TD150 better than the TD160. In essence both of these models have the same layout, but the execution differs. The TD160 was designed for mass production by the --then new-- employees at Lahr (Black Forest area in Germany). The TD150 was designed by the team in Switzerland before the company made an alliance with EMT and moved to Lahr, (while leaving most of its workforce in Switzerland behind!) Many of the structural parts have different architecture while achieving the same effect. On paper, either table should be equal to the other in terms of sonic quality, ignoring the different tonearms used. However the TD150 is easier to mount different arms to and build armboards for. It is a more compact design and takes up no more space than is required by its assembled parts.
RCA interconnects. Yes, if you are handy with a soldering gun by all means install some decent quality RCA jacks at the table. In my case I duplicated the Thorens grounding scheme. Another thing to consider is the /power cord/. Look at the back of your computer and notice that the power cord is detachable from the unit. This type of connection is now widely used on audio and HT components. If you plan on making a custom plinth for the TD150, I'd definitely include this type of power cable attachment.
"Since I'm a lot newer to this than most of those who visit your site. Is there information about the basics of restoring the turntables. Mainly: 1) what oil is best to lubricate the spindle (both are pristine condition). I saw that someone used Mobil 1. Really? 2) Can I/should I lubricate the motor? How? 3) Is there a chance of repairing the 160 motor, or how would I find a replacement? 4) Any tips for cleaning the patina/etched fingerprints off of the platter without damaging it. I notice that those on your site all look almost silver."
The original factory supplied lube is a kind of "turbine oil" designed for constant running while providing a smooth non-turbulent flow during the spin. I have not found a direct replacement for the original Thorens lube. However it has been suggested by some that air compressor lubrication may be a suitable substitute. Another alternative is to buy the turbine oil used in aircraft from aircraft lubrication suppliers. The viscosity needed should be between 10wt - 30wt, depending upon the amount of wear found in the bearing.
I've used a variety of types of oils without apparent difficulty. Oils to avoid would be those that might have ingredients that could attack and cause wear onto the porous structure of the sintered-bronze bushings used in these models. Ash and sulfur: The oil should be refined enough so that it does not contain any of this. Also note that automotive engine oils are designed for a very different work environment. These have detergents for cleaning and will suspend contaminants that blow down from the combustion chamber past the piston rings to reside in the crankcase, then hopefully get trapped in the oil filter, until the next oil change. The Thorens turntable doesn't have this type of requirement. Light machine oils (3-in-one) sewing machine oils, gun oil, Marvel Air Tool oil, bicycle oils should be ok providing the refinement is good enough. ( no ash or sulfur) I've used Phil Woods "Tenacious Oil" with no apparent negative effects. I have seen people use light white lithium type grease in these bearings with no apparent difficulty. However I haven't tried grease so I can't say whether or not there might be a longer term effect. Does this read like I'm not a chemical engineer..? That's right. I'm just repeating what has generally been said by other turntable owners.
With regard to motor lubrication, it can be done but these motors were designed to be lubed for life at the factory. The complication is that we are past any life span that the original designers envisioned for these motors. Doing just fine, many of them. For the time being, I would suggest that you refrain from adding lube to the motor. First determine that you don't have a bent shaft on that TD160 motor. If it runs quietly, as described above, don't oil. Think like a watchmaker would. The oil should go only where needed, in the amount needed, no more than that. Excess oil attracts dust, then makes an oily slurry of mud, inside the motor.
The platters and sub-platters on the TD160 and TD150 were die-cast zinc alloy. It is a white, fairly dense, non-magnetic metal. Depending on the purity of the zinc that was cast there may be a slightly different appearance from one platter to the next. The platters may be polished to a very high sheen using polishing compounds designed for aluminum or even rubbing compound designed for automotive paints. However, the metal soon loses the shine and the dull patina returns. At least you should be able to erase the finger prints by this method. No damage should come about from using the polishing compounds.