Thorens' 140-Year Anniversary: Navigating Vinyl History With A Springy Step

Thorens' 140-Year Anniversary: Navigating Vinyl History With A Springy Step

Written by Sebastian Polcyn

Copper has an exchange program with FIDELITY magazine (and others), where we share articles, including this one, between publications.


It’s hard to imagine the record player world without Thorens – and yet that name almost disappeared from the microcosm that revolves around the black gold.

 Founded in 1883 by Hermann Thorens (1856 – 1943) in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, the manufacturer is older than the record itself. Initially, the company manufactured phonographs based on Edison’s principle of operation, as well as music boxes. Soon, however, the company switched to horn gramophones.

In 1927, the family business was transformed into a stock corporation, and a period of innovation followed in the form of the first electrically-driven record players and magnetic pickups. Conventional as well as pioneering tangential tone arms were developed, as were music cabinets and radio sets. At times, Thorens also tried its hand at non-specialist products – the spectrum ranged from harmonicas, lighters and razors to film cameras and typewriters.

The introduction of the legendary TD 124 turntable in 1957 put Thorens in the global spotlight – from this point on, the manufacturer was one of the big names in the industry. Other successful models followed – simplified versions of the TD 124 as well as sometimes enormously elaborate, fully-automatic record changers. However, the TD 150 deserves a special place in the history of record player manufacturing – a relatively inconspicuous turntable that, with its sub-chassis suspended on conical springs, is perhaps the most influential Thorens model ever.

After a short-lived merger with Paillard SA, the two companies split again in 1966 and Thorens re-established itself in Lahr – a site previously jointly operated with EMT to match production capacity to demand.

After various diversification attempts in the 1970s around receivers, cassette decks and speakers did not show the desired success, Thorens marked the year 1979 with the Reference – a 90 kg-heavy, limited to 100 pieces demonstration of power from a turntable – clear that they were fully focused on vinyl.

This also worked quite splendidly for a while – until the CD entered the stage. There was still no doubt about the quality of Thorens turntables, but the manufacturer could not remain profitable in the rapidly shrinking market. A series of restructuring measures followed, as did further attempts to expand the portfolio to include electronics and loudspeakers, but to no avail – in 2000, Thorens had to file for bankruptcy.

However, this was by no means the end of the story: Swiss businessman Heinz Rohrer acquired the rights to the name, and soon, newly-developed turntables appeared under the famous name – including the 900 Series models with sub-chassis adjustable by air chamber. In the absence of a successor, Heinz Rohrer handed over the recovering company in 2018 to Gunter Kürten, who had previously made a name for himself at Elac. Re-founded in Bergisch Gladbach on May 1, 2018, Thorens today returns to its original values and offers a modernized version of the legendary TD 124 as well as completely new models with the [company's] familiar virtues.


Thorens' 140th anniversary
What a comeback: The mighty new flagship Thorens New Reference.

We wish them all the best for their 140th!

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