The TD 204 is Thorens’ top model in one of its entry-level series. After all, the German brand from Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne has two families aimed at audiophiles on a budget. The TD 204 is part of the TD 200 line, which consists of manual models where you have to place the tone lever on the register yourself. The TD 101 A and TD 102 A are fully automatic models. The focus of these record players is on ease of use, while the TD 204 is more versatile and has more audiophile features. This is partly due to the choice between an amplified or regular phono output, and this is a turntable that can adapt to the situation.
The TD 204 was recently awarded EISA Record Player of the Year. You have to take the price into consideration, because of course there are devices that are more perfect from a technical standpoint. Those cost a lot. Thorens positions the TD 204 primarily as a complete kit with a ready-to-use belt-driven turntable with an MM cartridge that works well out of the box. Unlike very cheap turntables, you can upgrade this one for €799 if you wish.
Walnut or black
Compared to main competitor Pro-Ject, for example, Thorens offers fewer color options. With the TD 204, you get two other classic options: black or walnut. In both cases, a glossy coating is provided, giving the record player a more eye-catching appearance. Because the base isn’t very high, the black TD 204 we visited looks quite streamlined. The large feet that support the skirting board not only dampen vibrations from the environment, but also improve the elegant appearance. Unfortunately, the glossy black paint also means you have to remove the dust cloth regularly. But in any case, dust removal is a must if you love vinyl. Fortunately, the TD 204 comes with a clear dust cover. And yes, if the TD 204 looks familiar, that’s no coincidence. There are many design elements that are reminiscent of more expensive players from the manufacturer.
In terms of operation, Thorens keeps it clear and simple. At the top of the player are two large, old-fashioned dials. One is a simple on/off switch, and the other allows you to switch from 33 to 45 RPM. Unlike some other turntables in this segment, you don’t have to reach under the base to get the power button or do crazy things with the belts to play a 45 RPM record. Old school 78 rpm vinyl backing is not included, but this only applies to collectors.
Unloading and setting up the TD 204 goes very smoothly. Although you can’t take out your vinyl collection right away. As usual with better turntables, the device is not delivered fully assembled. This would increase the chance of damage. But you don’t have to do much.
Installing the aluminum turntable and connecting the belt to the motor is very easy, while installing the cartridge is no more difficult. The TD 204 is equipped with a newly developed 9-inch aluminum J-shaped arm terminated with an SME connector. The TP 120 lever looks very light and agile – and it is. Thorens says it used new bearings with very low coefficients of friction, allowing it to follow the grooves more closely.
On the sound arm, you can place the head cover with the Audio-Technica AT95e cartridge installed on it, which you will find in the box. This is just a matter of inserting the head cap and tightening the collar screw. We think we can do no wrong.
The AT95e is a reasonable choice for a record player in this segment. With Audio-Technica, you can usually count on beautiful details, and that’s the case here as well. But if you’re looking for an upgrade, replacing it with a more expensive cartridge is an obvious choice. You can also replace the rubber mat with a better one made of cork.
To make the TD 204 fully ready to play, you need to install and adjust the counterweight to the back of the light tone arm. This can be done without a scale, but with one it’s a little easier. Adjusting the anti-ski weight is very easy. Simply set the small dial next to the tone lever to the correct weight to bring the spring to the correct tension. The advantage of this method over drop weights is that you can easily adjust the tone of the sound for much lighter or heavier cartridges.
In the back of the TD 204, you’ll find a few more options than in the average turntable. This is due to the presence of a built-in subwoofer. This allows you to use Thorens drivers in a number of scenarios that non-amplified record players are not suitable for. Unless you add an extra subwoofer, which offers additional hardware to your music system (but potentially better quality). In addition to connecting to an amplifier that does not have a dedicated phono input, you can connect the TD 204 to other devices with an auxiliary input. A Sonos speaker or other wireless speaker, for example, or an active speaker or set of speakers. This bit of extra flexibility is an asset.
However, it is possible to bypass the built-in subwoofer. This can be done simply by moving the slider at the back. The output signal is then low level, i.e. very quiet.
The TD 204 is controlled by a DC motor that was very quiet and stable. Wow and Flutter remained very modest during testing.
He gets a lot of recording
We put the TD 204 through a few settings during testing. We first connected the Thorens to an old Sony TA-A1ES, a ten-year-old Class A amplifier that still works fine. Since the Sony speaker doesn’t have a phono input, we ran the record player’s built-in speaker. We then replaced this subwoofer with a combination of the Primare PRE35 and A35.8 (in plugged stereo mode). First with the Thorens subwoofer turned on, then without this part but with a separate Primare R15 phono stage. The speakers have always remained the same: the R7 Meta’s, big brothers to the R3 Meta’s, a review of which you can read soon.
All but the Girl has fallen off our radar completely, which is not surprising considering they went silent somewhere around the turn of the century. However, the pop duo made a very successful comeback this year with the song “Fuse.” As with their previous successful albums, a series of sparse tracks are presented via Sony. Tracy Thorne’s voice, with simple synthesizer tones and percussion in the background, is pretty much the recipe by which this duo creates beautiful songs. The TD 204 gets a lot of that hit pressure. The slow-paced “When You Mess Up” is played very subtly, as is the song “Nobody Knows We’re Dancing”. Thorens’ strength is that it presents everything accurately. Although there could be more bass extension, these tracks are presented to us full and lush.
Great for refined music
We also release the Cinematic Orchestra’s double release “Everyday” in honor of the 20th anniversary of the classic Ninja Tune on Thorens. There’s a lot of atmosphere in the sometimes slow hip-jazz fusion that you discover on this record. Musically it’s close to everything but the girl – but who’s complaining? TD 204 conveys the enveloping feel, reminiscent of a big city late at night, very effectively to Primares. It’s a very thick and rich sound, but with the necessary attention to fine detail. For example, the saxophone in “Man With The Movie Camera” is played authentically and very quickly. Things also stand out on “All That You Give” with Fontella Bass’ soulful sound: hi-hat, cymbals, and sparse piano notes resonate beautifully. The center in particular comes out beautifully. If you’re coming from a cheaper player that may have a cartridge that feels a lot thinner? Then look up now.
“One” by Belgian music star Jeff Neff is a completely different listening material. The piano is in the spotlight here, which will delight fans of virtuoso piano playing. It’s a homecoming for the Audio-Technica cartridge, because the AT95E on the TD 204 really likes to do just that. We’ve been treated to crisp, vibrant melodies, where subtle nuances and details are beautifully revealed. We have more of that if we switch to the Primare R15 instead of the built-in subwoofer. It sure doesn’t look weak, but moving to an external device offers an extra bit of naturalness.
The Thorens TD 204 is a turntable that combines an insightful display with plenty of flexibility. It’s a mid-range car that really has quite a few acoustic qualities and thus offers plenty of listening pleasure out of the box. There is also a solid foundation for further upgrades, for example in the form of a better cartridge.
Its versatility and ease of use also mean that the TD 204 fits well with a classical music system, but also with very different acoustic solutions. Wireless speakers with an auxiliary input, for example, or subwoofers.
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