Fluance—the Canadian audio company that started with speakers and expanded into a popular lineup of turntables—has offered up an RT80 turntable as a giveaway to GeekDad readers twice over the past two years. The most recent was last October, to celebrate the final Record Store Day drop of 2020. I’ve had a review sample here for a few months that I’ve been using to evaluate a series of powered speakers, and it just dawned on me that I’ve yet to review the RT80 for GeekDad.
Time to rectify that oversight…
The Fluance RT80 Classic High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable was one of the company’s first generation of turntables. I reviewed the RT80s more expensive sibling, the RT81 in 2016. Both turntables remain in the Fluance lineup (there are now six to choose from), with the $199.99 RT80 acting as the entry-level model. If you are new to collecting records, or you want an affordable upgrade from a record player or turntable rescued from a garage sale, the Fluance RT80 is well worth considering.
RT80 Key Specs
• Audio Technica ATN91 MM cartridge pre-mounted on bayonet headshell
• Aluminum platter
• Static balanced S-type aluminum tonearm
• Adjustable counterweight and anti-skate
• two-speed, belt-drive DC motor with three-point rubber isolation
• Integrated TI pre-amplifier, switchable PHONO/LINE output
• Gold-plated RCA connectors
• Ground terminal
• Sound isolation feet
• MDF plinth with high gloss piano black finish
• Includes a dust cover, felt mat, 3-foot RCA cables with ground wire, 45 adapter
Reading through these specifications, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is something a bit more advanced than an entry-level turntable. That’s a recurring theme with the Fluance turntables, and one of the reasons I constantly find myself recommending them. For the price, you get a lot more turntable than most brands offer. Even in the RT80, Fluance offers a solid foundation and the components—like an adjustable counterweight and anti-skate—that support upgrading the stylus or cartridge if you choose. That’s a nice option to have instead of having to replace the turntable altogether if you decide to upgrade your sound.
Setting up a turntable can be intimidating. Fluance makes it as simple as possible to get the RT80 up and running. The belt is pre-mounted on the platter with a ribbon that makes it easy to stretch it over the spindle. The cartridge is pre-mounted in a headshell that slides onto the tonearm and secures with a locking sleeve. The counterweight pops on, and the dust cover snaps onto hinges.
The most complex part of the operation is balancing the tonearm, but Fluance includes clear instructions and has how-to videos online. You need no tools, no experience, and the operation should take a minute or so.
Once the turntable itself is set up, connect it to your sound system. Use the PHONO output to go to an amplifier with a PHONO input, or LINE (using the RT80’s integrated pre-amplifier) to go to the AUX input on any stereo or portable speaker. Fluance includes RCA cables, but if you’re connecting to the 3.5mm AUX input on a system, you’ll need to pick up an RCA to 3.5mm cable (like this one).
All in all, setup is probably a five minute operation for most people.
Hands-On With the RT80
The RT80 is equipped with an Audio Technica ATN91 MM cartridge. It outperforms the generic cartridge/stylus combos you’ll often find on budget turntables and record players. It’s not going to offer the kind of detail you’re going to get with a more expensive cartridge, but it does have energy and I find it is quite forgiving of the minor scratches you’re likely to find with used records.
The MDF plinth (a little more hollow than on the company’s more expensive models), aluminum platter, and shock-absorber feet help to prevent reverberation for better sound. The combo is far more effective than the plastic that’s common in this price range.
Ultimately, the sound you get out of the RT80 is going to largely depend on what you connect to. On a stereo system with two speakers, you’ll get the best out of your vinyl collection. Even connected to a decent portable speaker, the listening experience is pretty good. You lose the stereo effect, but the warmth is still there.
Fluance RT80 Recommendation
At the end of the day, the Fluance RT80 is simply one of the best choices you can make in an entry-level turntable. You get a very nice looking turntable that feels solid, a good cartridge, and audio quality that beats most in its class—whether you connect to a component stereo system or a portable speaker. At $199.99 this is a turntable that offers a lot of bang for the buck, plus the ability to easily upgrade the stylus or cartridge if you want to improve audio quality later on.
That value proposition means the RT80 is so popular it occasionally sells out. If Fluance and Amazon are out of stock, don’t worry, they get more in quickly.
Disclosure: Fluance provided a turntable for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.