The story began with Heinz Rohrer the CEO of Thorens making the decision that the time was right to move from the ’stabilise and grow’ strategy of the past few years to the ‘invest to re-establish position’ strategy. Heinz had always planned Thorens as a three-term strategy. ‘Recovery and survival’ when he first took over Thorens, then ’stabilise’, and now ‘investment to re-establish pre-eminent position’.
Of course, the way to create the products to reposition Thorens was key. Advice was sought from many areas. Advice was considered and a radical decision was taken. If Thorens was to develop innovative, performance orientated products it needed a very wide combination of skills that could not come from one person. It had to be a team. The choice of team in some ways was easy. Heinz had already worked with Helmut Thiele on some industrial design projects. Helmut was both a colleague and an old friend of Karl-Heinz Fink. For electronic engineering, the obvious choice was the brilliant Walter Fuchs who worked with Karl-Heinz on some projects. That left product planning and marketing. Karl-Heinz suggested Steve Harris to get a more international team and Heinz agreed after meetings in London and Basel. The team formed. Some with turntable design experience, some not; but they came with the benefit of open minds.
The brief was simple: remember the past if possible but do not let that stop you designing something brilliant. The target customer was a music lover but not necessarily a total audiophile. At the same time, audiophiles should also feel comfortable with the turntable. The primary goal was performance, the secondary goal was performance and after that came the normal constraints: great looks, ease of use, flexibility, price.
Early in the discussions about the first model, the team agreed to go with a suspended sub chassis, to design a new tonearm and to continue with belt drive.
The choice of motor type was left open until a series of tests, both measurement and listening based, could be analysed. The decision to use a low-voltage low-noise DC motor was actually an easy decision. The far lower radiated field, the ease of accurate short- and long-term speed control together with the lack of cogging, delivered improved measurements and actually, more importantly, sonically a lack of thickness in the lower registers that became known to the team as woomf (or lack of woomf in the case of the DC motor). The motor mounts in an anti-vibration adjustable moulding.
The belt is traditional Thorens: high-precision rubber 4mm wide 496mm long that is ground to a tolerance of 0.03.
Traditionally suspended sub chassis turntables often require skills in setting them up which are often seen as almost black magic to the music lover. It was important that these modern turntables were suited to a modern lifestyle, with all its time pressures, and were easy to optimise.
The system therefore had to have three feet and to be in static balance. Thinking of the future: the design allowed alternative weights to balance alternative tonearms.
The three suspensions are easy to adjust from the top with just a hex driver. The TD 309 benefits from being on a shelf or rack that is not massively heavy, as the suspension is tuned to 4Hz deliberately well below and ideal cartridge/tonearm resonance.
The suspension delivers the maximum vertical freedom with minimal totally controlled lateral wobble, which also reduces footfall related problems especially in rooms without solid floors.
Besides the three feet, giving cause for the name Tri-Balance the whole Turntable, Tonearm and Platter are all precision and static balanced.
Just the thing for playing your old Frankie Goes To Hollywood singles on.
‘Claridges’ birdhouse, by Sparrow & Finch
‘Yesterday I took my saw, and some bits of wood,
And I made a little house, nicely as I could.’
‘I shall place it under the boughs, of the apple tree,
And I’m sure as rent for it, they will sing to me!’ - Evaleen Stein
You don’t have to live in the rolling English countryside to enjoy a birdhouse.
Claridges is based on a traditional English Dovecote, and divided into eight compartments ideal for attracting communal nesting birds like House Sparrows, or even a single pair of nesting birds with very grand ideas. The hand-made cedar shingled roof removes for easy cleaning.
Tom Dixon by George Smith 2009
Milan Design Week 2009 internationally launched a collection of sofas and seats from Tom Dixon by George Smith, uniting quality traditional manufacturing techniques and contemporary design. The collection illustrates that British manufacturing and innovation are still alive as two iconic brands develop an exciting partnership.
The collaboration challenges the method of manufacturing contemporary shapes, pushing the boundaries, to develop an innovative product of the finest quality. Resolutely British; with all products made in the George Smith factory in Newcastle and designed by Tom Dixon, the partnership underlines the capabilities of British manufacturing and design.
The collection celebrates the traditions of British upholstered furniture with each piece hand made by George Smith using long established techniques practiced for over 250 years. Skilled craftsmen, including generations of the same family, employ the use of traditional skills such as joinery, hand sewing and upholstery. These skills are kept alive through an apprenticeship scheme which ensures the knowledge and techniques are passed down from generation to generation supporting the British industry.
The construction of each piece uses many materials from renewable sources; with frames made of wood from sustainable forests, and the main body fillings upholstered with natural ingredients including natural cotton, feather, and boar bristle.
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #17 November 2009