GeekDad Review: Fluance RT 85 Turntable

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In 2016, I reviewed a game-changing turntable from Fluance, the RT81. The Canadian speaker maker had decided to take the plunge into designing turntables and the RT81 was its flagship model—and a serious bargain. With the success of the RT80 (a turntable we gave away to a GeekDad reader a few weeks ago) and the RT81, Fluance has expanded its lineup with four new turntables. I’ve spent several months now with the company’s new flagship, the Fluance RT85.

If you’re in the market for a high-performance turntable that offers incredible value for your dollars, you’re going to want to read this.

Fluance RT85 review
Fluance RT85 in black gloss — walnut is also available. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Going Upscale

Technically, the full name of this new Fluance offering is the RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable. The new part is the “reference,” and that reflects the fact that the company is going upscale with its new models.

In the case of the RT85, that means high-end features like an isolated motor with a servo controller that reduces wow and flutter to just 0.07%, an aluminum S-shaped tonearm, rubber spike height-adjustable feet for perfect levelling (a level is included in the box) and improved isolation from vibration, and gold-plated RCA connectors.

Fluance switches out the aluminum platter for one made of acrylic. Besides looking cool, this has several practical advantages. The platter is heavier, and that means even great speed consistency. It reduces static, and you don’t need to use a turntable mat with it. Many people feel a heavy, acrylic platter also improves the audio, including better bass response and superior soundstage.

Like the RT81, the RT85 also has a plinth made out of solid acoustic-grade MDF. That makes for a turntable that’s heavy (14.1 pounds), but with superior isolation from vibrations that can affect the sound of your records.

Those are a lot of high-end features for a turntable that sells for $499.99, but I saved the best part for last. One of the big values of the RT81 was the fact that Fluance included an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge with it. That is a very capable cartridge, and usually an upgrade. With the RT85, Fluance sets the value bar even higher. The company is including an Ortofon 2M Blue elliptical cartridge in the box. This is a cartridge that is getting into audiophile territory, and it carries a $250 price tag. To have this included on a $500 turntable—that’s already loaded with premium features and components—is virtually unheard of.

Fluance RT85 review
The Fluance RT85 includes an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. (Photo by Brad Moon)

The one thing you won’t find is a built-in preamplifier. With a turntable at this level, it’s assumed that you’ll either be connecting to the PHONO input of a stereo receiver/amplifier or using your own pre-amplifier.

Outstanding Performance

Listening to records on the Fluance RT81 is enjoyable. The vinyl sounds great and it’s reassuring knowing that with the high-quality cartridge there is no risk of damaging your record collection. As I have discovered in re-building my own collection (I gave away my originals decades ago), vinyl is a lot more expensive now than it used to be…

The RT85 is listening to vinyl on an entirely different level. The bass is more present, the soundstage is improved, and there is much more clarity and detail to the music. In fact, the difference was so substantial, that I’ve been working my way through my record crates, re-listening to albums and realizing that as good as they sounded before, I was missing out on a lot…

Recommendation

Fluance RT85 review
The Fluance RT85 is an exceptional value for the price. (Photo by Brad Moon)

If you are looking to upgrade from an entry-level turntable to something more capable, the Fluance RT85 offers a lot of audiophile-grade features at a very affordable $500 price. Records sound incredible on this turntable, and the typical after-purchase upgrades—like the acrylic platter and high-end cartridge—are already included. It really is a bargain.

If you want a capable turntable, but maybe not that fancy (or if you need one with an integrated pre-amp), then the $249.99 Fluance RT81 is still in the line-up and remains an excellent choice.

Disclosure: Fluance provided an RT85 turntable for evaluation but had no input into this review.

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