If you had told me a few years ago that both my teenage sons would be at all interested in vinyl or turntables I would have laughed at you. These two perpetually iPod-connected kids that have been all about ingesting their content digitally, each asked me about getting into turntables when they respectively turned 16. My older son, now 18 and a major death metal fan, has been the contented owner of a NAD C558 turntable for a couple of years. My younger son conveniently expressed his desire for a table at the time that Fluance approached me with the idea of reviewing their entry-level RT80 Classic turntable. Now this son, who has three different colors in his hair, a fashion sense all his own, and a room still full of stuffed animals is serious enough about his music that he didn’t want anything remotely resembling a toy or some trendy-looking thing masquerading as a turntable. He also felt that something like my Technics SL1200 was a little too intimidating for him to want to use. No, he was looking for something simple, credible, and effective, while I was also considering affordability as part of the equation. Enter the Fluance RT80 Classic.
Belt-drive manual turntable with electronic speed control and built-in preamp.
12-inch Die-cast Aluminum, 1.22 lbs.
DC with 3-point rubber isolation mounts.
33-1/3 and 45 RPM.
Wow & Flutter:
Signal to Noise Ratio:
67dB or higher (A-weighted, 20kHz LPF).
224 mm Aluminum, Static Balance, S-Type.
H-4 Bayonet Mount.
Supported Cartridge Weight:
3.5 to 6.5 grams.
Included Cartridge Type:
Audio-Technica AT91 Moving Magnet
0.6mil Bonded Conical (Diamond) with Carbon Fiber Cantilever
18dB at 1kHz
Recommended Tracking Force:
(H x W x D) 5.5 x 16.5 x 13.75 inches.
Dust Cover, Counterweight, 45 Adapter, Felt Slip Mat, 3ft RCA Cable with Ground Wire, AC Power Adapter.
fluance, RT80, turntable, belt-drive, analog
Visually, the RT80 shares the familial look with the other 5 models in the Fluance turntable portfolio. Being the least expensive model at $199.99, it is available only in a black gloss finish and comes with an Audio-Technica AT91 MM cartridge (conical stylus) included. Price considerations aside, it seems that Fluance did its homework with this table and made sure that it had all the essentials that a budding vinyl enthusiast would need, along with some room to grow. That includes:
- An easy-to-set-up belt-drive mechanism with electronic speed control. (33 1/3 and 45 RPM)
- Aluminum S-Type tonearm.
- Removable head-shell.
- Built-in phono preamp that can be bypassed.
- VTF and anti-skate adjustments.
- Aluminum platter.
- Fine-tuning of platter speed via under-mounted screws.
So once the Fluance RT80 Classic turntable arrived, we unpacked and set it up on my son’s desk, next to the small stereo system that we put together in his room. The turntable came with a well-written instruction manual which allowed him to do most of the assembly and set up himself. I just did a little final checking and tweaking for him at the end. The turntable feels solid, well made, and all moving parts function smoothly.
His stereo system consists of some older Denon micro components that I passed down to him and a pair of ELAC UniFi Slim bookshelf speakers on Monoprice stands. He made use of the RT80’s built-in phono preamp to keep things simple. The only embellishment that we made to the RT80 was that we swapped the included felt LP mat with a cork one that I had around. My son liked the look of it.
I did an initial check of the platter speed with the iOS app RPM Pro and got a result of 33.83 RPM with a Wow & Flutter reading of 0.16%. I offered to tweak the speed via the under-mounted adjustment screws, but he didn’t want me to mess with it as he was too excited to get some music playing. I may go back and adjust it myself later when he’s busy with something else. Fluance offers a video guide to the procedure here.
“Love + Fear”, Marina
Unlike his older brother, this kid is a fan of modern pop music, so he spun up one of his current favorite albums, “Love + Fear” by Marina. Straight away the sound quality coming from this modest music setup was truly more than the sum of its parts. Warm, full, and thoroughly engaging. Marina’s vocals were nicely presented with plenty of body and detail. The bass sounded suitably deep and solid. We looked at each other with smiles on our faces and agreed that the resulting sound quality was certainly worth the modest effort we expended to put it all together.
In the back of my mind, I was initially worried that we’d be treated to flat, lifeless sound bordering on AM radio. What else could I expect from such an inexpensive source and old electronics? Well, my concerns were completely misplaced. The Fluance RT80 Classic performed flawlessly, tracking grooves without issue and the onboard phono preamp seemed to be of more than sufficient quality to leave the music unencumbered with any artifacts.
I thoroughly enjoyed the quality of this approachable and affordable turntable. If it was me, my first move would be to put a MicroLine stylus tipped cartridge on the RT80, an Audio-Technica VM540ML would be an excellent upgrade choice. But my son is perfectly happy with the AT91 and should he ever get serious enough that he wants an upgrade down the road, the Fluance RT80 will be ready for him. If he ever wants to go further and try out one of my separate phono preamps, then he can bypass the onboard Fluance electronics with the flip of a switch. If I had to ding the RT80 Classic for anything, it is that there is no easy VTA adjustment available for the tonearm. At this price though, it’s not a surprising omission.
If you are looking for a first real turntable, either for yourself or someone else, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete, user-friendly, and frankly, good-looking turntable for a couple of hundred dollars. The Fluance RT80 Classic is a no-brainer choice if you’re on a budget.