Review: Thorens TD 204 – Manual Plug-and-Play Turntable

Review: Thorens TD 204 - Manual Plug-and-Play Turntable - Two-Speed Turntable with Built-in Preamp & Pre-Installed Audio Technica AT95E Cartridge (High Gloss Walnut)
4/5 - (2 votes)


Thorens: A Storied Legacy in Audio

Thorens is a name that resonates with audiophiles, known for crafting iconic turntables that have left an indelible mark in the world of audio. While their vintage models are cherished relics, Thorens has ventured into the realm of modern record players. Among their offerings is the budget-friendly yet performance-oriented TD 204 Turntable, designed to cater to vinyl enthusiasts looking to elevate their audio experience.

Exploring the TD 204

Thorens’ Entry-Level Series

The TD 204 proudly takes its place as the flagship model within Thorens’ entry-level series. Hailing from Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne, this German brand caters to the budget-conscious music lover by offering two distinct families of record players. Within the TD 200 series, of which the TD 204 is a part, you’ll find manual models that require the user to delicately place the tonearm on the record themselves. In contrast, the TD 101 A and TD 102 A belong to the fully automatic category, emphasizing simplicity and ease of use. It’s in the TD 204, however, that we discover a balance of versatility and audiophile qualities that set it apart.

EISA Award-Winning Performance

Balancing Price and Audiophile Excellence

The TD 204 recently clinched the prestigious EISA Award as the best record player of the year, an accolade that speaks to its performance prowess. While it’s essential to acknowledge its price point, as there are technically superior options available at a premium, Thorens positions the TD 204 as a comprehensive package. It arrives as a ready-to-use belt-driven turntable, equipped with an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge that impresses right out of the box. One notable advantage over ultra-budget turntables is its potential for future upgrades, transforming this €799 device into a sound investment for ardent vinyl lovers.

Key Specifications

A Comprehensive Look at the TD 204’s Features

Before diving into the performance aspects, let’s examine the key specifications that define the TD 204:

WhatBelt drive record player
CartridgeAudio Technica AT95E
TonearmThorens TP 120 9-inch aluminum J tonearm
ExtrasSwitchable phono amplifier
Dimensions42 x 35.5 x 12.1 cm

Finish Options and Aesthetics

In comparison to some competitors, like Pro-Ject, Thorens offers a more limited range of color options. The TD 204 graces your listening space in either classic black or rich walnut finishes, each adorned with a glossy lacquer that enhances its visual appeal. Notably, the turntable’s low-profile base and sturdy, large feet do more than minimize vibrations; they also contribute to its sleek and sophisticated appearance. However, it’s important to note that the glossy black finish may require regular dusting – a small price to pay for vinyl aficionados who understand the importance of keeping records clean. Fortunately, the TD 204 is equipped with a transparent dust cover, adding to its convenience.

User-Friendly Operation

Intuitive Design for Seamless Use

Operating the TD 204 is a user-friendly experience. Two large retro-style dials grace the top of the player – one for power and the other for switching between 33 and 45 revolutions per minute. Notably, there’s no need to reach beneath the base for a power button or contend with cumbersome belt adjustments when playing a 45-rpm record. Thorens has taken a user-centric approach, making the process simple and ergonomic.

Setting Up the TD 204

Assembly and Calibration Made Easy

While the TD 204 doesn’t arrive fully assembled, this is standard practice for higher-end turntables to safeguard against damage during shipping. Thankfully, assembly and calibration are straightforward. Tasks such as installing the aluminum platter, attaching the belt to the motor, and mounting the cartridge are uncomplicated. The TD 204 features a newly developed 9-inch J-shaped aluminum tonearm culminating in an SME connector, ensuring precise tracking of grooves on your vinyl records.

The turntable comes bundled with an Audio-Technica AT95e cartridge, celebrated for its ability to reproduce detailed sound. However, for those seeking an upgrade, replacing the cartridge or opting for a cork mat are viable options. Achieving optimal performance necessitates installing and adjusting a counterweight at the rear of the tonearm – a task that can be accomplished without a scale, though using one simplifies the process. Additionally, setting the anti-skating weight is a straightforward endeavor, thanks to a dial located next to the tonearm.

Flexible Functionality

Built-In Phono Preamplifier for Versatility

One standout feature of the TD 204 is its flexibility. It boasts a built-in phono preamplifier, broadening its usability in various scenarios where unamplified record players might fall short. This includes the convenience of connecting the turntable to devices equipped with an auxiliary input, such as Sonos speakers, soundbars, or active speaker sets. The added flexibility allows the TD 204 to seamlessly integrate into diverse audio setups.

Moreover, should you prefer to bypass the built-in phono amplifier for specific setups, a straightforward adjustment allows you to do so. This feature provides a low-level output signal, offering versatility to cater to your specific audio needs.

Impressive Sound Quality

Comprehensive Testing Across Music Genres

The true test of any turntable lies in its ability to reproduce music faithfully and precisely. The TD 204 passes this test with flying colors. It effortlessly handles a wide range of musical genres, from the minimalistic tunes of Everything But The Girl to the atmospheric trip hop-jazz fusion of Cinematic Orchestra.

Sound Precision and Nuance in Detail

The turntable’s prowess lies in its ability to present tracks with precision, offering a lush and full sound. While there’s room for a slight improvement in bass extension, the overall listening experience remains highly satisfying.

Switching to Jef Neve’s piano-focused album “One,” the TD 204 continues to shine. The Audio-Technica cartridge excels in reproducing crisp and lifelike melodies, unveiling nuances and fine details that might go unnoticed with lesser equipment. For those looking to take their audio experience to the next level, upgrading to an external phono stage enhances the naturalness of the sound, providing a more compelling and immersive listening experience.

Impressive Sound Quality

Comprehensive Testing Across Music Genres

The true measure of any turntable lies in its ability to faithfully and accurately reproduce music, regardless of genre. The TD 204 doesn’t just meet this standard; it exceeds it. In our rigorous testing, we put the TD 204 through its paces with an eclectic selection of musical genres, and it emerged as a standout performer.

Let’s delve into the specifics of how the TD 204 handled different musical styles:

  1. Everything But The Girl’s Minimalistic Tunes: We started with the minimalistic tunes of Everything But The Girl, a pop duo known for their sparse compositions. Their music features Tracy Thorn’s voice accompanied by minimalist synthesizer tones and subtle beats. The TD 204 tackled this musical style with precision, offering a captivating rendition of tracks like “When You Mess Up” and “No One Knows We’re Dancing.” The strength of the Thorens lies in its ability to present every element of the music with accuracy. While there’s room for a bit more bass extension, the overall presentation is lush and full, delivering an enjoyable listening experience.
  2. Cinematic Orchestra’s Atmospheric Trip Hop-Jazz Fusion: Next, we explored the atmospheric world of Cinematic Orchestra, known for their unique blend of trip-hop and jazz fusion. Their music conjures an immersive atmosphere akin to a late-night cityscape. The TD 204 excelled in conveying this enveloping character to our ears. Tracks like “Man With The Movie Camera” and “All That You Give” showcased the turntable’s ability to reproduce intricate details with finesse. The saxophone, high-hat cymbals, and sparse piano tones came to life with authenticity and speed. Of particular note was the center staging, which added a remarkable dimension to the listening experience. If you’re transitioning from a more budget-oriented player with a thinner cartridge, the TD 204 will undoubtedly be a revelation.
  3. Jef Neve’s Virtuoso Piano Album “One”: Shifting gears, we turned our attention to Jef Neve’s “One,” a masterpiece that revolves around virtuoso piano playing. This album is a treat for piano enthusiasts, and the Audio-Technica AT95e cartridge on the TD 204 handled it with finesse. We were treated to crisply presented and lifelike melodies that showcased the nuances and fine details of each keystroke. The turntable’s ability to capture the naturalness and richness of the piano’s sound was impressive. For those who demand the utmost in audio quality, upgrading to an external phono stage further enhanced the listening experience, adding an extra layer of naturalness and depth.

In essence, the TD 204 demonstrated its versatility and capability across a wide spectrum of musical genres. Whether you’re savoring the subtleties of minimalist compositions, immersing yourself in atmospheric trip-hop, or reveling in virtuoso piano performances, this turntable consistently delivered a captivating and authentic soundstage.

The TD 204’s ability to preserve musical detail and provide a rich, engaging listening experience makes it an ideal choice for audiophiles seeking a turntable that marries affordability with audiophile-grade performance.


The Thorens TD 204: A Versatile Audiophile’s Delight

In conclusion, the Thorens TD 204 stands out as a turntable that seamlessly combines performance excellence with versatility. Although it falls within the mid-range category in terms of price, it exhibits several audiophile qualities, delivering an enjoyable listening experience right out of the box. Beyond its immediate capabilities, the TD 204 provides a solid foundation for future upgrades, including the installation of a higher-end cartridge.

The turntable’s adaptability and ease of use make it a versatile addition to both classic and modern audio setups. Its potential applications extend beyond traditional amplifier connections, allowing it to integrate seamlessly with various audio solutions. The Thorens TD 204 is, without a doubt, a well-rounded package for vinyl enthusiasts seeking a balance between affordability and audiophile-grade performance.

Plus points

  • Full package
  • Excellent (switchable) phono preamplifier
  • A nose for fine detail and rhythmically strong
  • Good price/quality ratio
  • Vibration-dampening feet


  • Cartridge is solid, but upgrading is worth it
  • Gloss paint shows dust