The Thorens TD402 DD Direct Drive Semi-Automatic Turntable

Hermann Thorens founded his company in 1883 to manufacture music boxes in Switzerland. Cylinder-based phonograph manufacturing began around the turn of the century. In 1956 the company introduced the TD-124—the company’s first high performance turntable and one that among collectors is still in demand. The company moved to Germany in 1966 and merged with EMT. The classic TD-125 followed in 1968.

Unfortunately, the CD-era created the usual pressures upon the company and in 2000 it was denied bankruptcy protection and in 2002 back in Switzerland it became Thorens Services Ltd., but to manufacture “tsotchkes” (lighters, razors, lighters, etc.) not turntables.

As the vinyl resurgence grew Thorens was resurrected by Mr. Heinz Rohrer again as a Switzerland-based company. Mr. Rohrer organized a series of splashy debut events to which members of the press were invited, including a memorable visit to the restored magnificent Dresden Opera House that some claimed had been “spite-bombed” by the Allies during the waning days of World War II.

Mr. Rohrer worked hard to restore the brand’s luster but it was a difficult task, especially since Mr. Rohrer had resurrected a brand name, more than a turntable factory.

At one point at a lavish Munich area event Rohrer introduced us to a recently hired turntable designer who unveiled an ambitious prototype that to many in attendance promised to fully restore the Thorens name to the upper echelons of turntable manufacturers. Unfortunately, that product never materialized.

Thereafter Thorens designed, built and marketed a series of turntables at various price points, including some that resurrected the classic sprung subchassis designs. Those include the ambitious TD 550 and the TD 907.

Last year Thorens returned to Germany, reorganized as Thorens GMbH under new CEO Gunter Kürten—an audio industry veteran and former CEO of ELAC. While many charge that Thorens is more a marketing company than a designer and manufacturer of turntables, it does and has had a design team that works with companies like Pro-Ject and the German company that currently builds turntables under the Dual name among others.

Unfortunately, over the past decade or so, the company’s precise manufacturing history became somewhat cloudy. In other words, among the company’s many offerings, it’s not clear who makes what or from where the parts are sourced.

However, the $1099.99 TD402 DD, a direct drive turntable featuring auto-start and stop, a switchable moving magnet phono preamp, a carbon fiber arm tubed tonearm fitted with a pre-installed AT VM95E ($50 retail) cartridge and a hinged dust cover is manufactured to Thorens’ specifications in Taiwan at the same high quality factory that manufactures for a variety of other turntable brands.

The TD402 DD has a high quality Thorens “look” including a glossy rosewood frame and a brushed aluminum top plate. The base sits on four elastomer-based feet. The die-cast platter weighs a relatively light 1.5 pounds, topped with a thick ribbed rubber Thorens badged mat. One cannot fault the TD402 DD’s cosmetics.

Easy Set-Up And Use

Thorens has designed an easy to use “plug and play” turntable that includes an excellent “old school” glossy perfect-bound manual. The ‘table sets up in minutes. Unbox, put the platter with rubber mat on the spindle, set the tracking force and anti-skating and you’re almost ready to play records. All you need to do is choose on the back panel whether or not you want to use the built-in MM phono preamp and choose the “auto-on” feature or not. “On” means when you move the arm towards the platter, it begins spinning automatically. At the end of play the platter stops, though it takes more than a few revolutions to do so. Not a big problem.

After listening to a few records using the built-in phono preamp, I used the Platterspeed app to measure speed accuracy and consistency.

The platter ran at the correct speed (close enough to the test tone’s 3150Hz to be considered precise) and speed consistency was very good—especially at this price point.


Unfortunately, the sound produced by this turntable was muddy on bottom and somewhat gritty on top. Bass was both weak and sloppy both through the built in phono preamp and somewhat less so using an outboard phono preamp. I’m quite familiar with the excellent sound of the Audio Technica AT95E, which I assume is similar to the VM95E. Installed in this turntable, this cartridge did not sound at all as I was expecting. So what was going on? After all, the platter speed performance was excellent.

I did a cursory bearing check and found that the yoke “rattles” unacceptably with the slightest pressure applied.

When this “play” occurs on the microscopic level it can’t be felt but it can be heard, which is why one can hear differences among, for example, Rega’s arms. The lower tolerance bearings used in the better Rega arms produce audibly superior results. Here the “play” could be felt.

That could explain some of what I heard. Next I did a quick “tap test” with music playing and that produced among the loudest, “drummiest” sound I’ve ever heard from such a “tap test”. While the elastomer feet did a good job of isolating the plinth itself from the outside world, the plinth itself, when excited by the slightest tickle, resonates like a bass drum. No wonder the sound was soggy and undistinguished.


The $1099.99 Thorens TD402 DD’s sonic performance was as undistinguished as the ‘table’s cosmetics and features were impressive. Were this a fully automatic turntable I could argue that this might be useful for a fumbly fingered (or handicapped) person who just wants to be able to conveniently play records and who doesn’t care about sound. However, you can get a cosmetically stripped down Denon DP-300F, that is an automatic single play ‘table with built-in MM phono preamplifier (odds are the same one built into this Thorens, but that’s just a guess) that appears to have been built at the same factory and costs $330 without cartridge.

The Thorens name and reputation deserve far better than this.

Ortofan's picture

... put their name on the Dual 505-4 and brought it to North America.

This test of the earlier version 505-2 shows that the unit's ordinary appearance belies its excellent performance:

Jim Tavegia's picture

There used to be a Dual dealer in Vancouver, but I guess no more. Surprised no dealers in the US.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I'm amazed to see my Dual turntable appear at Analog Planet. Mine was purchased in the early 80s, modified for use in the U.S. when I moved here in 85, still has the original Grado cartridge and used up until ten years ago. I see these turntables are available on Ebay and replacement belts available too, double amazed.

David Andrews's picture

It's really time the semi-auto turntable came back, using non-mechanical technology, with arm lift adjustable for varying groove length (auto-stop optional). I don't sit placidly to listen to music: I read, or write, or use the computer, or do other things that can't be interrupted. I also listen lying down, while reading or dozing. I don't want to jump up every twenty minutes to save a stylus that has to be re-tipped if damaged. I suspect I'm far from alone, and it's about time manufacturers built what the public has been missing into quality turntables. Please review semi-autos as they appear, including Thorens' more expensive TD-1601.

David Andrews's picture

If, from the examples of the Thorens TD402 and the TD-1601, the industry thinks that auto arm lift or auto stop has to be built into cheap crowd-pleaser tables with USB connects or built-in pre-amps, or else into very expensive models, the industry should think again. The technology now exists to put arm-lift or auto-stop into a range of tables without damaging performance. If readers are with me, sound off here, and maybe somebody in the industry will hear us.

WaltonGoggins's picture

But the new $600 Music Hall Classic has the lift feature. Fluance tables have auto stop, but not lift.

Hergest's picture

Quote: I don't want to jump up every twenty minutes to save a stylus that has to be re-tipped if damaged.

You won't damage a stylus by letting it sit in the runout groove until you can get up. I understand that you would prefer an auto shut off but you don't have to worry about damaging a stylus if you don't get up straight away to lift the arm.

McDonalds or Steak's picture

No but you'll wear it out faster if you've passed out, er, fallen asleep or gone elsewhere and it's bumping around for hours. And some used records have pretty rough run-out grooves from changer abuse.

David Andrews's picture

Like I said, "Sometimes listening while lying down and reading or dozing." On a weekend, one can lead to another. I also don't want to be aggravated by having that dead-wax sound in my ear while I'm writing or working on the computer, or by hearing the stylus climb up on the record label, as has been known to happen. I used to own a Thorens TD-329 Mk II, and whatever its faults, at least it didn't aggravate me every twenty minutes, and I had the option of keeping on working (or dozing) without music, which sometimes produced more positive results in what I was doing.

David Andrews's picture

That's a Thorens TD-320 Mk II. See? Even thinking about non-auto turntables is aggravating.

Ortofan's picture

... an end-of-disc auto-lifter function.
It can be enabled/disabled via a switch on the back panel.

David Andrews's picture

Yes, but see 01:50 in this video. I would rather go for the 1200GR and one of the add-on arm lifters that on company (I forget) has developed for DJ tables. Also, I would not pay for an onboard phono pre-amp, especially if the auto arm-lift is unreliable.

David Andrews's picture

Sorry - this is the Technics SL-1500 review showing arm-lift error:

Ortofan's picture

... or is the problem that the record was cut to close to the label?
Maybe the mastering engineer was oblivious to inner groove distortion?
How many LPs do you have that were made that way?

David Andrews's picture

Oh, I've seen a few with reduced dead wax, and sime that gave my old Thorens premature evacuation... Point is also, I wouldn't buy a table that wasted my money on an inboard pre-amp.

audioholic63's picture

After 35 years of having to get up and lift the needle I was almost ready to drop a bunch of $$$ to restore a DUAL 1229 and just surrender. Then AT started producing their AT6006R tonearm lifter. $129 well spent on Amazon. Dialing it in to my AR-XA/Sumiko MMT setup took about 10 minutes of futzing and now I drift off without a care in the world...

audioholic63's picture

It's a 1219, and I do still think about getting it running properly again but just not a priority right now.

audioholic63's picture

I meant, AT started producing the AT6006R - again. Hadn't been willing to pay the money people wanted for used ones or the price of similar designs currently on the market.

Bobbeatlesvan's picture

Michael - I’m a recent convert to vinyl thanks to you and have been building up a collection based on your reviews. I went with the Denon 300 for a beginner table and upgraded to the ortofon blue cartridge based on wirecutter and an in store recommendation at turntable lab. I know it might be pathetic but find the auto helpful for a beginner (specifically the stop when have friends over etc). Do you think the Denon is crap for a beginner with the blue or am I doing ok?

McDonalds or Steak's picture

I don't get the whole "beginner" turntable thing. Playing a record is not not like learning chess. You don't need a certain level of experience or accomplishment to own and listen to a Clearaudio (or whatever) than a Denon, just more money.

Tom L's picture

that he's not ready to sink a bunch of money into an analog playback system yet. It's quite a commitment for some people, they want to experience the music and process before deciding for sure that it's worthwhile.
His table is a perfectly decent starting point, and the cartridge is a good upgrade from the one that's usually supplied with that Denon.
My first upgrade would be to replace the Blue stylus with an Ortofon Bronze, as the bodies are identical.

mraudioguru's picture

...but no. The Ortofon Red and Blue are the same except for stylus shape. The Bronze and the Black are the same except for stylus shape.

I agree, the Denon DP-300 is a fine table. Enjoy it. Sure you can do better, but if it puts a smile on your face...that's all that counts.

Tom L's picture

Got my colors wrong.

mraudioguru's picture were right. They do have the same bodies, but the engines, (insides) are different. Sorry, I should have clarified my statement.

gbougard's picture

For that money (well maybe a bit more than 1K), one can get a real Thorens, refurbishing is not that hard on the early 124 models and parts are easy to get at Schopper ( in Switzerland (Jurg Schopper is a great guy who know Thorens inside out). And the sound is totally badass. And for those who wish to splurge, Schopper can replace the platter with something even better than the original, rewire it, put an SME arm, replace the plinth, etc... They are guardians of the tradition, so don't expect them to turn a 124 into something it is no, like some other restorators (does that word exist?).

Yorkshirefoxy1's picture

My first turntable was a Dual CS505-2 in the early eighties. It was a good solid turntable with great sound for the price. For those new to vinyl I would look at Project or Rega from the outset. There is nothing wrong with other manufacturers but I think these two companies care about quality of construction and sound. I’ve had my Linn LP12 for 35yrs and upgraded the bearing and power supply. That should be your long-term goal for a turntable that you can improve over time without having to buy and sell to get there.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I installed on on my old Dual 502 with a Rega 202 arm and it works great. I think I paid all of $50 for it. The platter just spinning doesn't bother me, but the stylus just riding the lead out groove does.

atomlow's picture

Yep, the Q-UP for the win. I have no desire to have an automatic turntable. I have a Q-UP installed on both of my Rega turntables. Hey, if it spins for a day I don't really fret about it.

David Andrews's picture

It's nice of everybody to make suggestions about tables and aftermarket arm lifts. I'll have to make a decision someday. But what I'm really saying here is that audiophile manufacturers should be using advances in technology to provide us with built=in arm lifts or auto stops that don't affect performance, and on turntables whose quality merits a price point of $1,000 US and above.

Audiolad's picture

Anyone who reviews turntables costing $1300 or similar price that includes a throw away cartridge is not professional. I remove them for a cartridge I prefer that matches the quality of the table. Then again, I don't get paid for doing it.

cosavor812's picture

Castle Drywall in Winston Salem finds it interesting to learn about the history of Thorens and their transition throughout the years.