Thorens VN-150 Turntable Review
I’ve always had a turntable, even through the CD era. In later years, I had three in my system: one dedicated for my premium vinyl, another for “scratchers”, and yet another reserved for mono. I found this easier than setting up and adjusting the tone arm to the respective cartridge that would be used for these three genres of vinyl. However, I never had a really high-end turntable – my best table was Pioneer PL-50, but I wanted to up the ante…
Thus began my quest for my flagship table. The requirements: a medium-mass tonearm that would accommodate some of the newer and better MC cartridges and also allowed VTA adjustment, a very accurately spinning platter, a very heavy and low resonance plinth, and the esthetics to visually represent it’s historical maturity (and a bit of retro-Euro sleekness).
I looked at all the re-issues manufactured in the orient, but the build quality just wasn’t there and it just didn’t feel right to not be purchasing an American or European turntable as that is their heritage of invention and refinement. I then looked at the East European made tables but their affordable units were too lightweight and their heavier, upscaled units were too expensive. I then came close to purchasing an American made VPI table, but just couldn’t pull the trigger because of the price. I heard Linn was still producing tables, but upon investigation it became obvious they were overcharging based on the name alone. Lastly, I ventured into the wild west of eBay searching — very frustrating; the good ones were way overpriced and the “deals” were from sellers with less than optimal feedback.
Exhausted and frustrated, I decided to take a break from my quest for my perfect turntable. During this break from searching, I purchased a HOMC cartridge for my PL-50, but realized I needed to shim the new cart to level out the tonearm. I did a quick internet search for “aluminum cartridge shims” and stumbled across a site called “VinylNirvana.com” that carried perfectly milled shims out of aircraft aluminum. I quickly ordered them, and a few hours later, I received an email saying, “I’m at the cabin for the long Memorial Day weekend, but will ship your shims as soon as I return on Tuesday. Thanks, Dave”. I thought, “Wow, what a nice guy and great customer service!” I wasn’t used to such feedback and just figured the shims wound arrive in one or two weeks, much less any personal communication especially for such a seemingly small purchase. But that personal touch got me intrigued to explore his website some more.
You see, the link I clicked on just took me to the accessories page, but later, when I started poking around, I saw “Vintage Turntables for Sale” – now, my interest was really piqued! Long story short, after reading all of what Dave had to say on his website, it became clear he was a “turntable perfectionist” on ALL levels. I knew I had landed where I wanted to be in purchasing my flagship table. I immediately scheduled my first consultation with Dave to discuss the building of my table.
This review is too long already so I won’t bother to chronicle the whole journey, but as incredible as it may sound, I actually engaged Dave for eight months debating on the perfect table for me. Just as he is a perfectionist builder, I am a very picky customer whose demands kept growing for a better and better table during the process of choosing “the perfect build” (for me). What I want to drive home here, is that during that entire time of working with me and playing out different build scenarios, not once did Dave ever drop even a whisper or a hint of becoming impatient or frustrated with me – this guy is a saint! (If I were in his shoes, I would have told me to go take a walk!)
The bottom line here is this: why in the world would you buy a turntable from anywhere else except from Vinyl Nirvana!? I can’t answer that for you, but l can certainly tell you my reasons why I did (these are in no particular order as they all weigh equally in importance):
- Unparalleled customer service and personal attention that is virtually non-existent these days
- A seller that truly cares about the tables he builds for you by hand more than the money
- VN tables are re-built from the ground up or assembled from some of the best vintage tables that still have parts being manufactured
- It just feels right to have a restored vintage table from manufacturers that were building and perfecting turntable design during the years that vinyl reigned as king of the music formats
- You can have a completely customized table meeting all of your requirements for a fraction of the cost of buying from the new generation of turntable manufacturers
Before I close, let me share with you what my flagship table turned out to be: a Thorens VN-150 with a Santos Mahogany plinth. It is customized with the following accoutrements:
- SME M2-9 Tonearm
- Dynavector 17D3 Karat MC cartridge
- Origin Live DC200 motor (their top motor picked for it’s quietness and less vibration)
- Orign Live Upgrade Transformer (lowered impedance enabling higher instantaneous current to be delivered)
- Origin Live Ultra Motor Controller (faster functioning circuit, stricter regulation, and lower noise)
This very accurate playing VN-150 feeds into the following chain: Sutherland 20/20 dual mono phono stage –> Decware Torii Mk IV dual mono, all tube power amp –> Klipsch KG4 speakers with Crites’ titanium horn drivers and hand-built crossovers.
Thank you Dave for all that you do so uniquely well – you bring back the better values of our culture that matches the era when vinyl reigned.
Most sincerely and respectfully,