Owners of any retro Thorens turntable can testify there’s an immense amount of pride in owning one of these stalwart made-in-Germany products. They’re literally timeless. Not just because they’ll always be hip—which, based on the recent upsurge in popularity, is definitely the case—but more importantly, because they actually seem frozen in time. The passing of years never really has any real bearing on the overall quality and finesse of these record players.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for every individual part in a Thorens turntable. The drive belt, a small and easily overlooked rubber component, will inevitably start to stretch and slip with enough hours of play. So, whether you own a TD 126, 145, 150, 160, 166, 280, 170, or any of Thorens’ other belt-drive turntables you’re eventually going to be in the market for a replacement drive belt.
There are a lot of options out there. Thorens manufactures its own drive belts but a lot of companies are providing cheaper alternatives. Anyone shopping online for one of these replacement parts might wonder: is it worth spending a bit extra for an official Thorens part?
To help answer your question we spoke with two people: Heinz Rohrer, CEO of Thorens, and Norm Steinke, long time TD 125 owner and president of sales USA for Rutherford Audio. Here are 4 essential features you’re guaranteed to find in a genuine Thorens belt.
If it’s off by as little as a millimeter the speed accuracy can be noticeably affected. If the belt is the wrong length then it could slip; and if the belt slips it will have the wrong speed. Thorens drive belts are never more than half a millimeter off. They’re designed to fit the exact schematics and cut to perfection.
A drive belt needs to stay soft and pliable and shouldn’t get hard and slippery. “Fact is,” says Heinz Rohrer, “Thorens uses a special rubber mix.” Every Thorens belt uses specially formulated compounds that will resist becoming slick and slipping or cracking like an old tire.
“We also make the production process a little bit more professional than third party manufacturers,” continues Heinz. “The process of grinding and abrading is partly done by hand and guaranties a smooth running.” Any belt starts off as a flat piece of rubber. The manufacturer has to cut it and splice the rubber to join the ends. The splice then has to be abraded and smoothed so there’s no noticeable joint or roughness. If the platter or motor hits a bump then the speed could suddenly change causing a wow and flutter effect. Much of this process is done by hand in the Thorens facility. Not to mention, Thorens ensures the cutting blades are regularly sharpened; any dullness in the blade will cause the rubber to curve, warp, or curl which in turn also affects the sound quality.
At least 5 solid years of intense playing, that’s the guarantee.
We’re not implying no one else can make a good belt. It’s possible. But if you already own a Thorens turntable, your project has come this far, and you already believe in the company’s quality why take a chance? Invest a little extra and get the right belt. Make sure your music sounds great.
You can recognize a genuine Thorens belt pretty easily. Just look for the Thorens logo, but be careful; some companies are wrongfully attributing the copyrighted Thorens logo to their products. Odds are if it’s under $20 it’s not genuine.