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Though Thorens includes a thick manual with detailed setup instructions, there are no step-by-step diagrams. And with such an expensive piece, you don't want to make mistakes. Chuck Kennedy at Acoustic Sounds was helpful in sorting out how the various bits and bobs fit together but really, a shoddy manual is enough to put you off your lunch. If after spending close to 12K you have to call the importer for setup help, something stinks in Blighty. In Thorens' defense, Chuck noted that anyone buying a table like this would typically hire a professional for setup. Maybe I am old school but I like to get in there and set up a table myself and I am betting you would too. Granted, someone spending this amount of green is most likely an experienced vinyl listener but the need for a solid manual with setup diagrams is without question. If you get a fold-out setup guide with a $500 Rega, why not with a nearly 12K Thorens?

But some things were obvious even to this dunderhead. Thorens' easily adjustable cone feet, six in total, made balancing the table as easy as could be. And once set up, the 550 performed flawlessly. The arm sat down lightly on the record when in motion and cueing worked well though that is really down to the Ortofon, not the Thorens obviously. Still, it's all about synergy. Thorens states for those enamored of factoids and I paraphrase, "...the basic idea for the design of the TD 550 was to combine a mass turntable with the virtues of a suspended chassis. Suspension is done by means of 49-strand Bowden wires in the horizontal plane and 12 springs made of extremely flexible spring steel in the vertical plane, which unlike the sheet metal Thorens used in the old days do not bend over the time and eventually had to be reversed. Unlike all other suspended spring systems, this one does not couple to the vertical plane after having been excited or offset in the horizontal plane. This principle was dubbed IDD (Independent Double Damping)."

On suspended designs and the TD550's carbon fiber arm board: "The ideal suspended chassis should be free of any resonance, stiff and mass-less. It's because each sympathetic oscillation always generates an opposite phase which in particular is going to cancel bass frequencies and compress dynamics. If a suspended chassis and the tonearm were truly mass-less, the centre of gravity of the entire system would coincide with the bearing axle. However, since no tonearm is mass-less, the suspended chassis must be as light as possible and very stiff. This is why we eventually decided to employ carbon fibers because a suspended chassis made from this material is substantially lighter, stiffer and much less resonant than wood, sheet steel or aluminum."

Motor electronics: "Eight transistors are generating the energy for a powerful and stable torque of the motor and to provide constant rpm at any time. For the first four seconds, the platter is starting up at half the speed and thus ensuring a swift acceleration to the rated speed, also at 45 rpm and without the need to initially start up the heavy platter by hand. The rear panel features two potentiometers for fine adjustments of each speed. A long-time test for 15 months has shown that rpm was still 100% correct after that time."

Heinz, what materials are used in the piano black chassis or plinth of the 550?

Both colors you asked about are made of MDF with three layers for the Maccassar finish and five layers for the black piano lacquer finish.

The TD550 uses a square rather than a round belt. What are the benefits of a square belt?

Using a square belt prevents the belt from running up and down at the outside of the platter. In tests we found that the square belt has better wow and flutter than a round belt even when the platter has a small groove to lead the round belt.

What are the ingredients of the bearing lubricant?

The bearing lubricant is a mixture of some different ingredients. This has just evolved over the years by long time tests and measurements.

The TD550 is larger than the previous TD350?

Yes, but in principal the suspension and electronics are approximately the same. The electronics have been developed further and further however. That allows the motor to start and run very quickly and efficiently. The idea of heavy material turntables came about six years ago when the tendency to heavier platters evolved.

The Really Big Shew
We've covered basic setup, history, functionality and design. Now let's return to sound. As stated earlier, the Thorens / Ortofon / EMT combo literally stunned me into submission, altering my mood, clearing the air and perhaps replacing my DNA whenever I powered up its luxuriant machinery. Let me be as specific as possible though. Heck, I might even talk about soundstage, treble and bass extension and transparency! 'Music Lovers' beware!