Thorens TD 204 Turntable Package Page 2

Good recordings, such as Melody Gardot's 'Baby I'm A Fool' [My One And Only Thrill; Verve 1796787], were handled well, and the deck even cut through the murk of poorer pressings to do its best to reveal the heart of the performance. I have heard some turntables struggle to dig into the blues rock of Gary U.S. Bonds' 'Jole Blon' [Dedication; EMI AML 3017], but the TD 204 performed admirably here.

This crowd-pleasing performance isn't without a few minor shortcomings, however. Vinyl roar and general surface noise were not intrusive but were apparent, and despite the perceived width and solidity of the TD 204's soundstage, and positioning of instruments, there wasn't a great deal going on in front of, or behind, the loudspeakers.

There was also an occasional tendency for the turntable to lose some of its treble clarity with complex pieces of music. On the title track of The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden LP [Universal 060251749243 1], the acoustic guitar strings, hi-hat and cymbal were all there, but you had to concentrate to really pick them out. A change from the supplied mat to a Pro-Ject Cork It did help a little, but the loss of Thorens' hefty rubber mat made surface noise a little more prominent. It was more of a side-step than an improvement.

Bypassing the internal phono stage shows how much difference the flick of a switch and a relocation of two plugs can make. Using the MM input on my Yamaha A-S501 amp, the soundstage broadened and deepened as the TD 204 projected its sound much more confidently. Each instrument on The Eagles album acquired its own proper area; it was almost as if the studio manager had told the band to 'pick up your gear and spread out a bit'.

Midrange Insight
Also obvious was a boost in the clarity and organisation of the top-end presentation. No longer was there any sense of muddle when the music became somewhat busier – the TD 204 now kept each detail crisp, clear and well-focused. And given the already impressive midrange insight and emotion, adding in some extra treble panache and authentic spatiality ensured the turntable really found its feet.


Stereo RCA sockets deliver the AT-95E pick-up's unequalised signal (Preamp Off) or an equalised line output via the internal MM phono stage (Preamp On)

Moving to an external preamp brought a few other subtle changes. Mid to upper bass detail was still highly engaging, but there was now a small but notable improvement in definition to the beginning and end of notes – not that there had been much wrong with this in the first place. The TD 204 endowed the pace-setting bassline on Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' 'Forest Fire', from their 1984-1989 compilation album [Polydor 837 736-1], with a gorgeous 'chewiness' and texture.And while it didn't bring quite the ultimate level of 'kick' to the bass drum on this track, it never sounded lightweight or thin.

During my time with the TD 204 I experimented with more expensive cartridges in the TP 120 tonearm – a £189 Ortofon 2M Blue MM and a £459 Quintet Blue MC [HFN Dec '14] – and both, as expected, provided marked improvements over the humble AT-95E. This is a fine starter cartridge, but Thorens' turntable is definitely capable of more in the hands of a superior pick-up. That said, neither managed to quite fill in that very bottom octave, so this does seem to be a feature of the deck's own 'sound'.

Riot Act
Where the TD 204 succeeded time and again was in pulling a performance together into a convincing rhythmic whole. 'I'm Gonna Charleston Back To Charleston' from the Firehouse Five Plus Two's Goes South LP [Good Time Jazz L-12018] was an absolute riot. This jazz track galloped along with energy and precision as the TD 204 let the action fly and spread the instruments out far and wide. It's the sort of music that should put a big grin on your face, and the TD 204 made sure it did.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Although up against strong competition, there is a lot to recommend Thorens' TD 204. It's neat, stylish, and easy to set up and use, and turns in an agreeable performance through its internal phono stage. Put it through an external phono amp, though, and it really finds its stride – as a standalone package the TD 204 is a solid deck for an 'audiophile beginner', but turns out to have much more to offer.

Thorens GmbH
Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems
07738 007776