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 are developed, as are 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 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 do not show the desired success, Thorens makes 1979 with the Reference – a 90 kg heavy, limited to 100 pieces demonstration of power from a turntable – clear that they are fully focused on vinyl.
This also works quite splendidly for a while – until the CD enters the stage. There is still no doubt about the quality of Thorens turntables, but the manufacturer cannot 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 models with sub-chassis adjustable by air chamber. In the absence of a successor, Heinz Rohrer hands 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 familiar virtues.