Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Articles

Vinyl Nirvana & The Art of the Restored Turntable

How a tiny turntable restoration company called Vinyl Nirvana turned a new generation of vinyl listeners into the cult of Thorens.

Thorens TD-125 Turntable Tonearm Closeup

Dave Archambault is a busy man. The proprietor of New Hampshire-based Vinyl Nirvana has been restoring and rebuilding vintage Thorens and Acoustic Research turntables full-time for almost a decade and 2020/2021 proved to be very challenging years; a period that he was able to navigate through a lot of hard work, creativity, and a major pivot when events beyond his control both at home here in America and in Asia almost upset the golden applecart.

He has become the source for affordable restorations and reproductions that are second to none, but Vinyl Nirvana is not a large turntable manufacturer like Pro-Ject, Rega, or VPI who have the ability to engineer and manufacture their own tonearms.

2020 was a record year for vinyl sales across the globe with tens of millions of people stuck at home because of pandemic lockdown rules. Americans spent over $600 on records for the first time in decades. 2021 proved to be even busier with $1 Billion in sales from 40 million new records sold in the United States alone. That’s the most new albums shipped in the U.S. in 33 years (since 1988).

That massive surge in demand also put a lot of pressure on turntable and tonearm manufacturers; which was exacerbated by supply chain issues across the globe.

Thorens TD-125 MK II Turntable Tonearm Restoration

Japanese tonearm manufacturer, Jelco, a major supplier of OEM tonearms for a number of manufacturers, restoration companies, and the DIY community called it quits creating a massive shortage of tonearms. 

Adding to the shortage was the inane decision by British manufacturer, SME, to stop selling its renown high-end tonearms to anyone. If you want one of their tonearms, you have to buy one of their very expensive turntables. Greed isn’t always good.

So what does a bespoke restoration company do when two of its primary tonearm suppliers decide to make life difficult for everyone?

Thorens TD-160 Super Turntable Restoration
Thorens TD-160 Super Turntable

It pivots to something even better manufactured in Japan that will be available on all of the Vinyl Nirvana models based around the Thorens TD-160 Super and TD-125 turntables. 

I’ve seen it. I’m not allowed to share. It will be installed on my new Thorens TD-125 MK II restoration which I hope to have in Q4. I just need to get in line like everybody else. 

I’ve been a customer of Vinyl Nirvana for over 5 years; 2 restored Thorens turntables are my reference decks at home, and I endorse Vinyl Nirvana as someone who paid full price for his turntables and has benefitted enormously from their set-up and performance advice.

Restored Thorens TD-125 MK II Turntables Now Spinning

Customer service is a huge reason why people patronize smaller companies, and this is one company that gets that part right. Much better than other brands in the audiophile space. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

So if 2020 was a much harder year for companies like Vinyl Nirvana to get enough tonearms to keep up with the demand for finished tables, how did they deal with the shortfall?

Restorations and parts sales. 

Even with his tonearm issue resolved, Archambault did the smartest thing possible. He focused on consulting services and restorations of older Thorens and Acoustic Research turntables that people were buying in huge numbers on eBay or discovering in the basement or attic.

“I’ve been busy. Very busy,” remarked Archambault when we spoke on the phone last week.

“Over the past 20 years since I started the company, I’ve accumulated the largest stash of new/used Thorens parts in the world, which makes what we do invaluable. A big part of my business is helping the customer who discovers a 35-year-old TD-125 in their parent’s attic which needs to be serviced but they don’t know where to turn. Not only do I have the parts, but I can make it sound better than it ever did,” said Archambault. 

Thorens TD-125 MK II Turntable Restoration Front

“The Thorens TD-125, in particular, is my favorite turntable to work on. I cringe a little when I see other restoration companies build brand new plinths that completely swallow up the front of the table. That design feature is so iconic, and I make sure that our custom wood plinths only accentuate the beauty of it,” explained Archambault. 

“What made the TD-125 so unique was the electronic speed control that was a major feature of the turntable. The pitch control was a very important feature that high-end buyers demanded and Thorens made it work.”

“Thorens sold more than 100,000 TD-125s in 1975 alone if the numbers are accurate, and that means that there are a lot of tables and parts floating around. I was smart when I started and bought up as much of the supply of parts that I could find,” Archambault explained. 

Thorens TD-125 MK II Turntable Restoration Front Right Corner

The TD-125 was originally sold with its own tonearm, but users began switching them out for SME tonearms for their superior performance. With SME out of the DIY game, Archambault is confident that his new tonearm will be popular with his customers; which include some heavy-hitters from the music world, actors, comedians, and regular music lovers looking for a durable and custom turntable.

“At the end of the day, the TD-125 is a very easy turntable to service. I’ve worked on so many of them at this point, that I feel like it’s a part of me. Thorens knew what they were doing when they built this deck. It’s a heavy suspended design with a 7-pound platter and they are made to last.”

Thorens TD-125 MK II Turntable Restoration Angle Right

So why buy a used Thorens and have It restored to its original glory? Why not buy something new? 

Swiss-made (or German-made depending on the decade) Thorens turntables have been prized by audiophiles for both their sound quality and precision engineering since 1957 with the launch of the TD-124 idler drive turntable, and that list has grown over the years to include the TD-145, TD-150, TD-160/Super, and TD-125 belt-driven models.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Thorens relocated their manufacturing to Germany, Poland, and Switzerland during some rather tumultuous decades for the company as it struggled to combat the birth of digital audio, and only recently in 2018 was restructured with new ownership that is based in Germany. Thorens is back in the game of manufacturing brand new high-end turntables but has shown little interest in supporting legacy products that were some of the best belt-driven turntables ever made.

The brand is back in force with a new lineup of turntables, including a replacement for the TD-160, but the real demand for its turntables remains focused on the designs of the past. 

Thorens TD-125 MK II Turntable Restoration Front Angle

“All of the Thorens tables have this remarkable quality about them. Precision instruments with enormous modification potential and a very smooth sound that will never go out of style. I can’t imagine why anyone would want something made overseas that doesn’t have the build quality to last a generation. These tables have survived decades of use and still sound better than a lot of new tables sold today. I’m proud to offer them,” explained Archambault. 

Vinyl Nirvana offers complete packages which include exotic hardwood plinths, a choice of tonearms, and cartridge options from Grado Labs, Ortofon, and Dynavector. Information about their restoration services and consultation process is available on their website.

For more information: vinylnirvana.com

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. William hacking

    March 11, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve been a customer of Dave’s for years and his customer focus is second to none as is his work. I love my Thorens for sure and thanks to Dave for keeping it going..🙏🏼
    William

    • Ian White

      March 11, 2021 at 6:43 pm

      William,

      I agree 100%. Dave is rare in the audio world. Super small company but he never made a single promise he couldn’t keep. I’ve spent a fair bit of money with him (next table will be end-game table) over the years and I won’t buy anything from anyone else — and I can get some serious discounts. He’s a mensch who does it right.

      Ian

  2. Jenn Atocha

    March 13, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    Hi Ian, I design and sell the LP furniture in the 1st photo, would you mind adding a credit for Atocha Design? It’s our Record Stand seen here: https://www.atochadesign.com/collections/stand-series/products/the-record-stand

    On another note, I use a vintage Thorens and love it, while several of my clients also work with Dave.

    • Ian White

      March 13, 2021 at 10:29 pm

      Jenn,

      I knew I recognised it. I certainly will.

      Best,

      Ian

  3. Caron Casteel

    March 15, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    I am on my second table with Vinyl Nirvana. My first a number of years ago was a Sonographe SG-3, I had Dave update with a Grace 707 arm.
    Early last year I had Vinyl Nirvana assemble a phenomenal Thorens TD-125 MK II with Jelco arm and a zebra wood plinth.
    Build quality, customer service before during and after the fact and anything else it takes to make and keep return customers, Dave does it all.

  4. ORT

    March 22, 2022 at 11:35 am

    Do they only restore Thorens? As far as “bespoke” goes, so long as I “bebroke” I may not be able to afford such beauty. It cost me nigh on $300 to have my Dual 1246 cleaned up mechanically including a new and most definitely pedestrian cartridge. 😉

    Being frugal (i.e., not poor but not rich, LOL!) does not mean I can not recognize and laud Thorens for what it is. Gorgeous. Timeless. Classic.
    Highly desirable? Indeed.

    ORT

    • Ian White

      March 22, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      ORT,

      Thorens, Acoustic Research, and the occasional Dual.

      I have purchased 3 tables from him. My highest possible recommendation. He’s a gem of a human being.

      Ian White

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advertisement

You May Also Like

Reviews

The Grado Opus3 is $275 phono cartridge with excellent transparency that handles vocals as well as anything in its price range.

Articles

What are the best audiophile phono preamps for under $1,000? See which models we picked from Croft, iFi, and Pro-Ject.

Articles

The interest in vintage audio speakers has never been higher; especially as brands continue to refresh popular models that have been around for years.

Articles

Affordable vintage loudspeakers come in many shapes and sizes. Not all of them are worth the hunt but these hidden gems are worth the...

Articles

Cassettes are back and indie artists are making them as fast as they can to benefit from a surge in demand.

Articles

Interest in jazz kissa is growing internationally, and kissa-inspired listening venues are appearing outside Japan; can they compete with the real thing?

Podcasts

This episode explores why vintage audio hi-fi gear has suddenly become so sought after with @audioloveyyc and @budget_audiophiler.

Articles

Your turntable may not sound great without the right phono preamp. This guide offers some of the best phono preamplifiers under $600.

Advertisement

ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2022 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.