By Nick Seiflow
The TD126 that followed offered even more electronic sophistication, including (again with original Thorens arm) semi-automated arm and start-stop functions. Ultimately, in the Mark III iteration, even the venerable synchronous motor made way for a DC unit, with even more electronic complexity. Perhaps more to go wrong, but servicing and parts isn’t yet a problem, and probably will never be. Some of us won’t let that happen….
The buyer with plumper wallet would have likely opted, in either case, for the SME 3009 arm, and this is how most of us remember these turntables. A survivor from the early 1960s and lasting until much later in successive versions, the 3009 might well be described as the most beautiful tonearm ever designed; it is certainly one of the best. At the height of its popularity the SME was built with the super-trackers like the Shure V15 series, but for those with stiffer pointy bits (the moving coil cartridges that came later) the simple addition of the damping trough enabled the 3009 to cope with all manner of induced resonances. As a listening device the SME 3009 is still a superb arm – and still a beautiful object in its own right. Both arm and table equally iconic, the combination still has the ability to produce thunderous bass, marvelous and stable imaging, and a sweet and lucid midrange.
To listen the the TD125 or its later sibling is wondrous thing. With the addition of the SME and a V15 III, IV, or V, the tracking is utterly secure and composed, and the sounds that issue wouldn’t embarrass the most expensive company. To go one further (as I do…) and to team the 125/126 with a pair of Quad 57s, and a 33/303*, is to experience a level of fidelity that is extremely expensive to significantly improve, even insignificantly. Not bad for 40+ year old technology says I.
*As a sidebar adding all these numbers together produces 575.5… I wonder if this means something (apart from the obvious fact that I don’t get out nearly as much as I should)
Used prices vary from the mid hundreds for a fixer-upper, to three times the amount for a pristine example. When faced with what $1000-plus buys in the new marketplace these tables seem like a ridiculous bargain. Put a brand-new lid on one of these beauties and tell your non-audiophile friends that you paid $5000. They’ll believe it.