Thorens TD 402 DD Review

by crackler01

Here is another turntable review, this time Thorens in a Thorens TD 402 DD Review.

Thorens TD 402 DD Review – Intro

The history of the company founded in 1883 by Hermann Thorens revolved around music from the very beginning. And literally, because initially, a modest manufactory dealt with the production of music boxes. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first cylinder phonographs were manufactured in a factory located in the picturesque Swiss town of Sainte-Croix, and a few years later horn turntables for playing shellac records.

Interestingly, these majestic devices remained on Thorens’ offer for several decades, until they were replaced by turntables resembling modern designs. In the late 1920s, Thorens released the first model equipped with an electric motor. In 1934, the company constructed a system that drives the platter axle through a set of gears, but the real breakthrough was the TD 124 turntable presented in 1957.

Actually, one should rather write “drive”, because the device was delivered to customers without housing and without an arm. Buyers of the model from this year could still count on a stand for mounting the tonearm, but in the following years this facilitation was abandoned and music lovers had to properly construct a turntable around this specific drive unit.

The TD 124 had to be exceptionally good, however, because many users were eager to take on this task. Even today, this legendary model achieves sky-high prices at online auctions. It can be said that the 1950s were the period in which the Swiss company secured a strong position in the market, enjoying its reputation as a manufacturer of refined and reliable turntables.

Sale
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
5 Reviews
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
  • The Thorens TD 402 DD uses state of the art technology together with ease of use and perfect sound
  • Featuring innovative direct drive motor with an integrated phono pre-amp and auto-start and aut- stop function
  • The pre-installed cartridge AT VM95 E is mounted in a detachable headshell
  • integrated phono preamp can be switched off if necessary
  • An acrylic dust cover and a power supply are included

Today we associate it primarily with designer projects with a shape that deviates from the standard rectangle, which, combined with unusual color versions, gives a really electrifying effect. Thorens also produces hi-end turntables, and recently they have once again reached their rich history with the introduction of the retro-styled TD 1600 and TD 1601 models. They are beautiful but horribly expensive.

Just below them, in the corporate hierarchy, there is a very elegant, but smaller and much cheaper turntable marked as TD 402 DD. Maybe it’s worth taking a look at?

Thorens TD 402 DD Specifications

  • Function: manual with limit switch (can be switched on/off)
  • Drive: direct drive / direct drive
  • Motor: DC Motor
  • Speeds: 33-1/3, 45 RPM
  • Switching: electronic
  • Platter: dampened aluminum platter
  • Tonearm: Carbon tonearm tube and detachable headshell
  • Cartridge: Audio Technica AT VM95E
  • Phono preamp can be switched on/off
  • USB connection: no
  • Anti skating: yes
  • On/off switch: yes
  • Power supply: external plug-in power supply 24V DC
  • Dimensions: W x H x D 420 x 141 x 360 mm
  • Weight: 5.8 kg
  • Finishes: high gloss walnut, high gloss black, brushed aluminum top plate
  • Scope of delivery: power supply unit, dust cover (acrylic), cinch cable, Thorens rubber mat, operating instructions
    EAN code: walnut high gloss 4260623590067, black high gloss 4260623590012

You can download the manual here->Thorens TD 402 DD Manual

Thorens TD 402 DD Review – The Design

At first glance, the described turntable looks like the younger brother of the twin models TD 1600 and TD 1601. Stylistically, it refers to the cult, no longer produced Thorens turntable TD 160. Thorens TD 402 DD looks like TD 160 because of the two switches placed on the front, on both sides of the platter.

Thorens TD 402 DD Review

Thorens TD 402 DD Review

Swiss designers used their own patents. Instead of giving audiophiles an extremely modern vision of a turntable with a triangular base, they opted for a classic reminiscent of the period in which the dominance of vinyl records was not threatened by either CD, or digital files, or streaming. And that’s good because many music lovers like to come back to those times.

But that’s not the end. The last two letters in the name of this turntable indicate a solution that some avoid for one reason or another, and others – also not without reason – praise and recommend it. We are talking about direct drive, which in turntables intended for home use has been almost completely replaced by belt systems, not to mention other solutions used in top models. The transmission of torque from the motor to the platter by means of an elastic belt reduces the contact between these two elements, isolating the platter and the underlying platen from vibrations and various kinds of disturbances.

Sale
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
5 Reviews
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
  • The Thorens TD 402 DD uses state of the art technology together with ease of use and perfect sound
  • Featuring innovative direct drive motor with an integrated phono pre-amp and auto-start and aut- stop function
  • The pre-installed cartridge AT VM95 E is mounted in a detachable headshell
  • integrated phono preamp can be switched off if necessary
  • An acrylic dust cover and a power supply are included

Direct-drive turntables take less time to start and stabilize rotation and are less susceptible to external forces, which is why many audiophiles find them more robust. If the drive system is made with due care, they are also characterized by great playback characteristics, so there are no problems with vibrations.

Apparently, Thorens found that even the relatively inexpensive TD 402 DD could use direct drive, which will not bring any embarrassment to the company. There is nothing left for us to do but check it in practice.

Thorens TD 402 DD Review – Appearance and Functionality

Let’s start with the fact that the tested model costs $1300. Too much? The bargain hunters will say that it is quite a lot, but for audiophiles, it is still a budget – a device potentially better than the basic models of Pro-Ject, Rega orAudio-Technica, but having much more in common with them than the cheapest turntables from such brands as Clearaudio, Roksan, AVID, Transrotor, Scheu Analog, Acoustic Solid, VPI or Michell.

The Swiss knew exactly who they were addressing their offer to and probably hit the best time possible. Besides, not only them. Suddenly, several leading turntable manufacturers realized that the owners of the cheapest machines had done their homework, and got bored with them. In the meantime they bought larger loudspeakers and more powerful amplifiers, so they will be looking for a slightly higher-end turntable in a moment.

Here we get a classic design, high-gloss lacquered walnut veneer cabinet, aluminum top plate with elegant switches, chrome platter, carbon fiber arm with pre-installed Audio-Technica AT-V95E cartridge, plus a built-in phono stage, direct-drive and auto-start/stop function. Maybe it’s just a hoax that contradicts the idea of ​​some audiophiles about the perfect, fully manual turntable, but I guarantee that nobody will be bothered by it.

Thorens TD 402 DD walnut version

Thorens TD 402 DD Walnut version

In addition to the wooden version, we also have a black piano varnish to choose from. In this color, Thorens looks more modern, although it still lacks a lot for the triangular TD 209 and TD 309 models.

Everything indicates that we are dealing with a very interesting structure that stands out from the competition. However, you should be aware that $1300 is still no world record, so we will not get a really luxurious turntable for this money. The TD 402 DD is very nice, but as soon as I opened the box, I knew that I was dealing with another version of the turntable that took over the budget segment. Which model do I mean? Well, I do not know, because today it is difficult to determine which was the first. Reloop Turn 3, TEAC TN-400BT, Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN, Onkyo CP-1050, ELAC Miracord 50 – these are just a few variations on the same theme.

The housings, feet, buttons, and platters are maybe changed. We get different logos and different accessories for the rear panel. But believe me, after the test of the fifth or tenth turntable packed in the same way, equipped with an identical cover with plastic hinges, a power supply with insertable tips for different countries, and a tonearm with a screwed headshell and anti-skating adjustment in the form of a knob, a man does not care what model he has to deal with and what his manufacturer has invented to lure us.

I am even wondering whether using the word “producer” or perhaps the term “client” would be more appropriate here because I do not believe that Thorens actually designed the described model from start to finish. Same as Reloop, TEAC, Audio-Technica, Onkyo, and others. According to my information, all the inexpensive turntables, which can be identified by a few of the above-mentioned elements, are mass-produced in two or three factories in the Far East.

Thorens TD 402 DD High Gloss Black version

Thorens TD 402 DD High Gloss Black version

That’s possible, that each of the companies deciding on such cooperation has contributed something. For example, the Swiss could help develop the motor or a tonearm. However, something tells me that the creative process takes place remotely, and the role of a “producer” comes down to specifying one’s expectations (what the turntable should look like, in what color versions it should be manufactured, what motor, platter, tonearm, the cartridge should be placed and functions to be equipped), determine the order quantity and negotiate the lowest possible price.

So you can once again complain that Swiss turntables are not Swiss at all, German loudspeakers have Polish enclosures, and Norwegian amplifiers see Norway only when the delivery of freshly assembled devices arrives in Oslo for quality control, but if everything was to be manufactured on-site, the cheapest Thorens would probably cost $3000. Would that be a better solution? I do not know…

I know, however, that this whole race is dictated by the fight for a customer who watches every $ and wants to hunt for equipment that will give him as much satisfaction as possible. To reach it, the manufacturer must do the same, looking for suppliers and contractors offering the highest quality at the lowest possible price. Nobody will wonder if the turntable comes from a factory located in China or Taiwan. Music lovers are interested in the functions, parameters, equipment, and everything that translates into higher comfort of use and sound quality of such a device.

Sale
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
5 Reviews
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
  • The Thorens TD 402 DD uses state of the art technology together with ease of use and perfect sound
  • Featuring innovative direct drive motor with an integrated phono pre-amp and auto-start and aut- stop function
  • The pre-installed cartridge AT VM95 E is mounted in a detachable headshell
  • integrated phono preamp can be switched off if necessary
  • An acrylic dust cover and a power supply are included

When it comes to practical values, I liked the fact that the TD 402 DD is ready for use … Well, maybe not right away, but literally a few minutes after taking all the elements out of the box and correctly assembling the elements (platter, counterweight, cover, headshell with inlay, slipmat). Compared to the models with belt drive, the procedure is even easier because we do not have to pull the belt over the roller through a small hole in the platter. It’s nice that the rear panel, in addition to the necessary sockets, has two toggle switches – one to activate the automatic start and shutdown of the engine, the other to bypass the built-in phono stage (a gateway to improving the analog circuit). We will also see a switch here, which I think is a medium need because the second one is placed in the front part of the aluminum top panel (the second switch is used to change the speed of rotation), and if the automatic start and stop function is on, the platter will not start spinning until we lift it up the arm and move it.

Minuses? As in most turntables based on the same design, I like elements such as the plug power supply, the hinges holding the cover (especially the process of assembling them), or the light, aluminum plate, which looks really average without the included mat. The rubber pancake saves the day, although it is not beautiful. I would recommend freshly Thoren’s owners look for something better. The pluses include the quiet and smooth drive, quite decent and easy-to-use tonearm, and the fact that the manufacturer decided to use the AT-VM95E cartridge, which may not be the top of every vinyl lover’s dream, but in a relatively easy way it can be improved, changing the cartridge itself and thus reaching the Microlinear model (the replaceable cartridge AT-VMN95ML costs $150) or Shibata (AT-VMN95SH for $180).

Audio-Technica AT-VMN95ML Microlinear Replacement Turntable Stylus Red
301 Reviews
Audio-Technica AT-VMN95ML Microlinear Replacement Turntable Stylus Red
  • Replacement stylus for at-vm95ml cartridge
  • 2.2 x 0.12 mil Micro-Linear stylus
  • Nude square shank construction
Audio-Technica AT-VMN95SH Shibata Replacement Turntable Stylus Brown
151 Reviews
Audio-Technica AT-VMN95SH Shibata Replacement Turntable Stylus Brown
  • 2.7 x 0.26 mil shibata stylus
  • Nude square shank construction
  • Replacement stylus for at-vm95sh cartridge
  • Package Weight: 0.024 kilograms

This is how we come to the next stage of the turntable adventure. Here, $25 for a better mat, just $150 for a cartridge that allows more precise reading of the music written on microscopic grooves, then bypassing the built-in phono stage and replacing it with an external preamplifier of a much higher class … Yes, it is certainly very addictive fun. But before we get going, let’s check what the TD 402 DD can do – first in the basic configuration, and then with accessories.

Thorens TD 402 DD Review – Sound Test

The main problem with assessing the sound of budget turntables is that many of them are factory-fitted with very similar or even identical cartridges. Since this microscopic element plays a key role in the process of reproducing black discs, and its quality affects the final effect more strongly than the drive or tonearm used, more and more often I get the impression that the test of such a device is in fact another version on the Ortofon 2M Red or Audio AT-VM95E techniques.

Manufacturers of turntables assume that a novice user does not need anything better, and when he comes to the conclusion that in his system it is time for a change, he will definitely choose a model from a much higher grade. At the same time, he will learn to change and position the cartridge, which is not as difficult as it may seem in turntables with a detachable headshell.

The Audio-Technica AT-VM95E is a very decent cartridge, but it is also mounted in the Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN turntable, whose catalog price is $350.

Thorens is bigger, more elegant, and better made. Its base is not the simplest board in the world finished with a wood-like veneer, and its legs do not resemble enlarged caps from cola bottles. But the higher price also means higher requirements for the sound, and meanwhile, we get roughly the same as with the AT-LPW40WN, because the sound is determined by the cartridge. As if that was not enough, the AT-LPW40WN is now sold for $450, so it is enough to add an AT-VMN95ML needle with a Microline cut ($150) and an external phono stage, such as Clearaudio Nano Phono V2 ($500) to get the sound a completely different class for less money.

Clearaudio: Nano V2 Phono Preamp - Black
1 Reviews
Clearaudio: Nano V2 Phono Preamp - Black
  • high quality phono pre-amp
  • utilizes Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) resulting in improved overall performance and ultra-low signal to noise ratio
  • works equally well with MM and MC cartridges, switchable
  • switchable subsonic filter, resonance-free, machined aluminum housing
  • 3 year warranty with registration

Who will take Thorens in this situation? A customer who will like its lacquered base with an aluminum top panel much more? Music lover firmly convinced that direct drive is better than belt drive?

In my opinion, the Swiss should have installed a higher-end cartridge here, because with an AT-VMN95ML the turntable would probably cost $1500, but the list of arguments in favor of buying it would be quite sensible, and customers for a little more money would already get a complete device out of the box.

It would destroy budget turntables, giving the user even greater comfort and peace of mind. The TD 402 DD could be one of the first turntables that could be assembled, installed, and put into operation in five minutes, but with a completely different sound. It remains to count on the fact that the Thorens will present itself much better in the company of more expensive cartridges and preamplifiers or … Buy a better stylus and immediately make the described turntable a device that should be from the very beginning.

Sale
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
5 Reviews
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
  • The Thorens TD 402 DD uses state of the art technology together with ease of use and perfect sound
  • Featuring innovative direct drive motor with an integrated phono pre-amp and auto-start and aut- stop function
  • The pre-installed cartridge AT VM95 E is mounted in a detachable headshell
  • integrated phono preamp can be switched off if necessary
  • An acrylic dust cover and a power supply are included

I have a feeling, that the distributor knows all this very well because in one shipment with Thorens I received the AT-VM95ML cartridge. Coincidence? I do not think so. At first, I did not know why I was provided with this cartridge and put it on the shelf with devices that had already been tested and awaiting shipment to the owner. Only later, when I chose the described turntable and analyzed its strengths and weaknesses, did I understand why such a gift was included in the list. I think this is very good news from the customers’ point of view. It can be read in such a way that the Croatian representative of Thorens is fully aware of the biggest problem of the TD 402 DD (one would like to say – his Achilles heel) and he will probably want to do something about it.

Thorens TD 402 DD – Sound Test 2

But let’s get back to the sound. The listening session in the base configuration lasted a maximum of fifteen minutes. Not because it sounded bad, but because it was a sound that I know very well. Honestly speaking, I could repeat almost everything that I wrote in the Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN test. Maybe I’m a talker, but I don’t like to repeat myself, so I invite all interested parties to read that test.

Of course, I was most interested in the possibility of changing the cartridge (needles), so I quickly turned off the engine, dismantled the headshell, apologized to the AT-VM95ML lying on the shelf, and went to work. After a few minutes, I went back to the listening session and quickly realized that my earlier assumptions were not unfounded. It was an improvement. It was not the same sound but it was a real qualitative leap. The sound finally opened and saturated with details that had been camouflaged a moment earlier. The dynamics, resolution, space, and legibility of vocals are improved – all that translates into the overall realism of the sound. And the analog character did not disappear even a bit.

Thorens TD 402 DD Front side view

Thorens TD 402 DD Front side view

From a turntable that costs $1300, but sounds like the models for $300-$350, it turns into a great device in the blink of an eye, the sound quality of which finally keeps up with the price. The effect was so good that I quickly got excited and reached for the beautiful Audio-Technica AT-OC9XML.

In this situation, I also had to bypass the built-in corrective preamplifier and use Clearaudio Nano V2. The TD 402 DD received a turbocharger in the form of a cartridge worth $180 and a phono stage for $500. Misalliance? Well, not really. It is true that Clearaudio Concept was more “in place” here, but with Thorens, I also got an incredibly clean, direct, and engaging sound. Believe it or not, this turntable managed to defend itself against the many times more expensive devices.

I know that most turntables use cheap cartridges. I know that many of them will go into the hands of novice users, and therefore many of them will simply be damaged in the world. But I still think Thorens should have installed the AT-VM95ML here because customers don’t buy a motor, base, arm, cartridge, and modules ready to be mounted in some special slots right next to the sockets. They buy a complete turntable and judge it that way.

If the TD 402 DD had a decent cartridge installed at the factory, and the manufacturer decided to go up a bit from the price, let’s say up to $1500, we would be dealing with a real killer. Of course, replacing the cartridge is not complicated, so you can achieve the same effect in installments. And here comes another problem … We are in a place where it is really close to high-end turntables that have practically nothing in common with the budget turntables. For example, the Thorens TD 309. It has a completely different drive, the TP 92 tonearm, and a platter made of fused silica, and is now sold for $1600.

Thorens TD 402 DD Back side view

Thorens TD 402 DD Back side view

Thorens TD 402 DD – Construction and Parameters

The Thorens TD 402 DD is a direct drive turntable, which – as we can read on the distributor’s website – stylistically refers to the models from the TD series offered in the past. Let’s say I understand, although today the designations of all turntables produced by this brand start with these letters (it is different in the case of phono preamplifiers, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and various accessories), so the TD series is alive.

The hero of our test is distinguished by a direct drive based on a very quiet motor with an automatic start function, thanks to which the platter starts to rotate when the arm is moved towards the plate. The manufacturer informs that in order to obtain the highest sound quality, a new TP 72 carbon fiber tonearm with a replaceable headshell was used. The TD 402 DD comes with a pre-installed Audio-Technica AT-V95E cartridge, allowing the signal path to be gradually improved by simply changing the cartridge, up to the Shibata AT-VMN95SH for $180. The turntable comes with a pre-balanced tonearm, dust cover, and hardware that you need to install yourself. The whole rests on an MDF base finished with black piano lacquer or high gloss lacquered walnut veneer.

As for the parameters, let me say this – I could copy almost all numbers, including the effective arm length, the sway indicator, or the signal-to-noise ratio from the AT-LPW40WN Audio-Technica test, and if you want to conduct a more thorough investigation, you will definitely find it on the market.

Thorens TD 402 DD Video Review

Thorens TD 402 DD – Final Verdict

The TD 402 DD is a nice turntable. I have the impression that it was created for music lovers who follow very specific criteria – they are looking for a reasonably priced model with a direct drive and built-in corrective preamplifier, but do not want it to look like a piece of disco equipment. I understand it perfectly because not everyone likes professional aesthetics and not everyone fantasizes about being a DJ. Thorens gives us all of this in a practical, civilized, and even a bit exclusive packaging.

Unfortunately, the price is already relatively high, and visually the turntable does not differ that much from the Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN, which now costs $350. It is clearly visible that the fight for the customer has forced producers and distributors to reduce prices to such an extent, that customers looking for a turntable for $1200-1400 will seriously consider buying a completely different class of equipment for a little more money. The aforementioned Thorens DT 309 and Clearaudio Concept are just two examples that in such a situation I would strongly consider. The purchase of a higher-end source means further expenses, but TD 402 DD users will also want to replace the cartridge right away, so the $1200 barrier will be exceeded anyway. You can also withhold the purchase, hoping that the described model will soon also be available at a promotional price.

Thorens TD 402 DD has a lot of potentials, as demonstrated by the listening session with the Audio-Technica AT-OC9XML cartridge and the Clearaudio Nano Phono V2 preamplifier. The problem is that in the initial configuration we get the AT-VM95E cartridge, which costs exactly $70.

Sale
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
5 Reviews
Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable with Integrated Phono Preamp & Limit Switch (High Gloss Black)
  • The Thorens TD 402 DD uses state of the art technology together with ease of use and perfect sound
  • Featuring innovative direct drive motor with an integrated phono pre-amp and auto-start and aut- stop function
  • The pre-installed cartridge AT VM95 E is mounted in a detachable headshell
  • integrated phono preamp can be switched off if necessary
  • An acrylic dust cover and a power supply are included

In my opinion, the manufacturer either saved unnecessarily or decided to treat the TD 402 DD as a beginner’s turntable, with the possibility of a quick and easy upgrade, rather than improving it right away and closing the topic. The cheap cartridge brings the sound of the TD 402 DD down to the level of turntables for $350-400. Therefore, my verdict will be quite non-standard. If a Thoren’s distributor fixes the manufacturer’s error and offers this turntable complete with an AT-VMN95ML or AT-VMN95SH stylus at a promotional price, get it. With such a package, you will get a sound worthy of a turntable for $1300 and you will not have to give up the convenience that such a device offers (I mean primarily the built-in phono stage, but also an easy-to-use arm and the automatic start and stop function).

Thorens TD 402 DD Pro & Cons

Pros

  • Auto start/stop function
  • The integrated preamp can be disabled
  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to upgrade
  • Decent sound with original parts

Cons

  • Too expensive compared to what sound quality you get(same as Audio Technica AT-LPW40WN)
A decent turntable that can reach its full potential only after an upgrade with a better cartridge and preamp.
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