Thorens TD520 vs a restored Thorens TD125

I have been going around looking to buy my first TT, listening to many tables in the last one month. My current inference is that, mid level "modern" TTs (within $5k) dont cut enough for me. May be because they are designed to be revealing, they also end up revealing their own flaws :-). Either they sound thin or slow or sometimes very CD like. The good modern TTs are all in the 10k range (I am talking about the price of the table only).
Interestingly I still like the classic old school TT sound from the likes of Thorens TD125/160, Garrard 301 etc. There is something about their sound which is sweet and "analogue". They do lack detail and micro dynamics of the new age table but still have some rightness to the music. I dont know how to describe this character and what makes them do it.

This is the reason I have taken a step back and again started considering the older TTs. Currently there are two TTs on Audiogon which I am considering,

1. Thorens TD520 (stock with Thorens 12" tonearm)
2. Thorens TD125 MK2 totally restored by Christopher Thornton of Artisan Fidelity with Origin Live tonearm.

I have not heard any of these TTs and being in Singapore doesnt help. I have heard Thorens TTs and like them.

Can someone please post some opinion on which of these would be a better performer sonically ? I know both TD125 and TD520 were reference models of their time but the 520 definitely looks like a bigger performer. I am confused.

BTW, I have another thread running in the Analog section where we are discussing modern TTs to consider. I wanted to keep the classic TT discussion seperate.
imo the 520.
In the United States, not that many TD520's found their way into owner's hands. We do know that it is essentially a stretch version of the TD320. And such shares materials and architecture with it. Suspended subchassis made of MDF. Suspension is by leaf spring hanging from a wire.

Here's a link to a photo of a TD520:

I believe they could be had with different veneers. Some in Rosewood. In that trim the model was very impressive to look at. But essentially, you are getting the sonic performance of a TD320 but using a longer tonearm. I'd want to upgrade from the Thorens arm if I had one.... But I don't. Nor have I ever heard one.

Here's an image of a stock-ish TD125 (mk1) with custom tonearm:

The Td125 is better known due to having been in more owners hands.....and is well regarded.

Personally, I'd want to sample the TD520 but with a tonearm upgrade. Also, I wouldn't be afraid to put a good quality MC cartridge on it. But others might prefer the older TD125 which can only be used with 9 inch tonearms. ( unless you can find the extremely rare TD125 LB (LB= long base).

Artisan Fidelity will convert your TD125 to a Long Base that will be able to use 12" arms. Also, they will install those new dc motors and controllers in the 125's if you want. IMO, the TD520 was built at a time when Thorens was falling downhill fast in both quality and sound. Those TD520 plinths are very cheaply made in comparison to the high mass solid maple plinths AF uses. Also, they totally eliminate the old suspension which is another plus. Not too mention they just look plain incredible.

Artisan Fidelity TD125 Long Base or "LB"

The bearings used in the TD125's were tops, much higher quality that those used in Thorens models of the 80's such as the TD520.

I'd go with the AF Long base converted td125, better build and I'm sure better sound than a td520.

good luck

Would you care to back up those claims of falling quality at Thorens with examples?

My impression is that Thorens had some winners and losers during the 80's and nineties. However they continued to develop and improve their product up until the mid 1990's when they attempted to diversify with other electronics products like CD players, which did not sell enough to save the failing company.

But I would not say that they let product quality drop below the levels they had during their prosperous 1970's.

As regards bearing quality. Imo the best bearings they made went into the TD124. Nice heavy steel. Rebuildable. The TD125 does not have a better bearing than any of the other models. Good quality hardened steel shaft. But the housing is not designed to allow replacement of the bushings or thrust.

That remained consistent from the mid 1960's onward on all of their models afterward.
Both TD125 MkI and MkII had a better bearings than many models, which should be obvious anyway due to their status and placement within the line during the time of production. Examples of Thorens models with lesser quality bearings than the TD125 models:

TD126 (all)
TD160MKII (Except Super)

(Many more, not worth listing)

The TD125 was built to higher standards than the models listed above (bearings included) because it WAS a higher model in the lineup.

Yes, the TD124 did have nice bearings, I agree with you there.

Thorens had starting building some real clunkers towards the late seventies and into the eighties. I'd say the digital revolution had something to do with that.
The original bushings used in the TD124's bearings were nylon and not that hot. Those can be replaced with better sintered bronze ones though. The actual housing itself and end caps weren't too bad on the TD124's considering their age but there is still much room for improvement.

The TD125's came factory equipped with quality sintered bronze bushings though from the get go and a larger bore spindle. Thrust plates and end caps were ok, not the best but pretty decent.

Don't mean to hijack this thread into a TD124 debate, just wanted to mention a couple things here.

You do not offer proof for any of your claims. Just here-say.

Can you tell us in what way a TD125 bearing is better than, say, a TD320 bearing? Can you describe the differences?
Your words then are just as here-say as mine. Do your own homework, if your research if accurate, will result in the same findings as mine regarding the models mentioned in the above post.

By the way, the TD320 was not on my list.

Draw your own conclusions then based on your own research, this is always the best and most accurate way of evaluating the remarks of others.

This is why forums sometimes become silly contests of "who knows it all" in which the answer is always the same. Nobody. Peace.. I've got some music to listen to...

Actually I have done some research. I post it to my website.
The Analog Dept. regularly

IN that site you there is quite a bit of information on the various models of Thorens as well as detailed information on the mechanical parts of each model.

Give it a look over and tell me what you think.

Absolutely great website, I am quite familiar with it but did not realize it was yours. Fantastic resource for Thorens, we are fortunate to have access to such information. Good stuff there for fellow Thorens fans who remember when the name meant something - integrity + quality.
I was reviewing some pages on my site and came upon one that shows at least some of the different bearings used on different models; include both mk1 and mk2 TD125 models.

The TD125 saw a re-design of its bearing housing when it evolved from mk1 to mk2. The mk1 has a cast aluminum bearing housing that bolts in to the massive sub-chassis by means of 3 machine screws. The mk2 has a different style of bearing housing that is much less massive in external dimensions, although internally the same as its predecessor, and is pressed in to the same subchassis.

Neither mk1 or mk2 allows replacement of bushings or thrust.

Here's a link to that page:

I don't have much information on models like the TD320 or TD2001 but there are scraps of info. Here's a link to a page with a brief interview with Rolf Kelch. Rolf was in upper management at Thorens during the nineties and oversaw the product evolution during that period. He has some comments about the different bearings used in the TD2001, TD320, TD520, TD126 and also the Thorens Ambiance. Also there is commentary and some photos of bearings produce by a company in Germany called ClearlightAudio. They were and still are Thorens modifiers and did produce an upgraded version of the Ambiance bearing that was made available to various different models of that era.

Here's the link to that page:

I hope this helps to clarify some of the misunderstandings in the above posts.

When a fellow Agoner ask for advice about purchasing a classic Thorens, I would choose to point the 124 in his consideration. When one can overcome his fears of getting involved in restoration perhaps more than he is intented, the outcome not only justifies the effort, but the great pleasure of the ressurection procedure go beyond the limits of the so called "pride of ownership" as this TT can satisfies the collector & the demanding music lover with no equal in all of the industry's creations. I've used to have the 125 & 320 in my youth. But 30 years back my demands were not the same and today I regard my 124 II as the best TT I've ever had after many losted $$$ on contemponary "high-end" BS fashion units. James Campbell (jec965) was of a major help with his motor service, bearing cup, silicone motor pads, armboards and Mirko (sq38) with his new idler wheel. The personal involving procedure of lubrication helps me to understand the unbelievable level of engineering development & the high standards of the materials that this studio quality TT offers. Of course all of this disassembly and reassembly that I've done, was due to your site Steve. Thank you.
Yes. When the question becomes one of which model is the best built Thorens I think it comes down to three models. The TD124 and mkII, the Prestige, and the Reference.

The other models, many of them flagships, were also well constructed and meant to last, but the TD124, when you examine its innards, does impress. It must have cost at something like 50%-60% of the purchase price to manufacture one of those. Small wonder the company went into partnership with, first, Bolex (which wasn't a good match), then with EMT to help it survive. Fortunately, the EMT partnership proved to be a good symbiosis and lasted for a while. But it did cause Thorens to move its operation from Switzerland into Germany. A major uprooting and restructuring. The models designed and produced in Germany were distinctly different from those made in Switzerland.

I chose to answer within the Original post parameters. A simple choice between TD125 or TD520. However you are right, a well tuned TD124 will rock out with the best of them.