Fluance claims this batch of turntables is meticulously designed under the strictest standards and packed with audiophile grade technology offering an unparalleled analog experience.
Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Turntable
- Gloss Finish
- Acrylic Platter
- Speed Control
- Detachable Power Cable
- Supplied Cartridge
Of the four reference turntables in their lineup, Fluance sent me the top-end RT85 for review. As far as turntables go, my experience has been from a DJ’s perspective. I have the traditional DJ set-up of two Technics SL1200 MK2’s and a mixer. Most of my vinyl listening is in the form of me spinning discs for fun, scratching occasionally and for lack of a better description, beating the crap out of my decks. I’m rough with them but they’re built like tanks and have never let me down in the 25 years I’ve had them. So, I’m happy to see what a high-fidelity turntable would offer in comparison.
Now, I had no gauge on what to expect. I haven’t sat down recently and put a record on, just to listen for an entire afternoon – we just had our second child a few months back, so time spent with my other “children” (my Technics) has been few and far between. But when I have the chance I’m actively mixing, not just sitting and listening. A few of my friends own entry-level hi-fi turntables from the likes of Pro-Ject and Rega. And they are absolutely smitten with them, so it was now my turn with the RT85.
RUBBER BELT DESIGN:
Continuous Loop (4.5 x 915 x 0.6mm) 0.17 x 36.02 x 0.02”
DC Motor with Servo Controller, analyzes motor speed 500 times/sec
Under-mounted 7-point silicone isolation with decoupling isolation ring
33 1/3, 45 RPM
SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO, WEIGHTED:
Acrylic, 12” Diameter (30cm), 0.62” (16mm) Height, 3lbs (1.5 kg)
WOW AND FLUTTER:
Static Balanced, S-Type Aluminum
3.95 oz (112g), adjustable
PIVOT BEARING, CUING LEVER, ANTI SKATING:
yes, yes, yes, Adjustable
36 AWG Litz Cable / 7 Strand
EFFECTIVE TONEARM MASS:
0.99 oz (28.2 g)
OVERHANG/ EFFECTIVE TONEARM LENGTH:
0.76 inches (19.2 mm)/ 8.82 inches (224 mm)
H-4 Bayonet Mount
2M BLUE SPECIFICATIONS
Moving Magnet (MM)
STYLUS/ CANTILEVER/ MOUNT:
0.3 x 0.7 mil/ Aluminum/ Half-inch
FREQUENCY RESPONSE/ CHANNEL SEPARATION/ CHANNEL BALANCE:
20-25,000Hz/ 25dB at 1kHz/ 1.5dB @ 1kHz
OUTPUT VOLTAGE/ WEIGHT/ HEADSHELL WEIGHT:
5.5mV/ 0.25oz (7.2g)/ 0.35oz (10g)
RECOMMENDED TRACKING FORCE/ VERTICAL TRACKING ANGLE:
0.035 – 0.063oz (1.0 – 1.8g)/ 20°
No – Separate Phono Preamp Required
100 – 240V AC (50/60Hz)
12V / 500mA
GENERAL DIMENSIONS (W x H x D):
16.5 x 5.5 x 13.75” (419.1 x 139.7 x 349.25mm)
Fluance, Turntable, RT85, Ortofon, Belt Drive, Turntable Reviews 2019
My initial impressions were favorable. At the entry level, Hi-Fi turntables usually follow a minimalist aesthetic, where they appear to be stripped down to the essentials. To this end the Fluance RT85 follows suit, however it is beautifully finished. The main plinth is a multi-layered wood chassis, nicely finished in gloss black. It is supported by three rubber spike isolation feet; two up front and one in the rear, with the front right adjustable for level. A precision servo-controlled belt drive motor features a speed regulating optical sensor that continuously measures and adjusts variances in linear velocity and acceleration within a few hundredths of a percent at a wow and flutter of 0.07%. Apparently, the decoupling of the drive from the plinth calms motor vibrations and prevents noise from reaching the stylus. The S-shaped tone arm, counterweight, speed selector, belt loop, and fittings are also all black. Around back are gold-plated RCA outputs, power, and ground.
With each of Fluance’s four turntables, a different Ortofon Cartridge is supplied. The RT82 includes the Ortofon Super OM10 cartridge; the RT83 and RT84 include the Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge, and the RT85 includes the Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge. Also different is the supplied platter. The RT84 and RT85 feature a frosted acrylic piece which not only looks spiffy but is believed to enhance the sonic qualities because of its high density and greater mass – ‘stable inertia’ to achieve a more consistent speed while also damping unwanted vibrations. The RT82 and RT83 come with a metal platter but can be easily upgraded to acrylic via their website.
Unpacking the RT85 was a lengthy affair. It was well-packed, and every element was carefully separated and supported to ensure that it arrived without issue. Since I run a DJ set-up, I don’t own amplifiers with built-in phono preamps as the mixer acts as the preamp. So, I made sure to request one from Fluance and they graciously supplied one of their own. Fluance also supplies a very detailed start-up guide which I found handy.
The dust cover is a standard plastic cover but with nice looking hinges. I would have liked a soft closing cover for the top end turntable. There is an audible bump when the cover is closed while the needle is on the vinyl.
One thing I was very glad to see was the speed selector. A friend of mine owns a Rega RP1 and it doesn’t have a speed selector which means you have to physically remove the platter and adjust the belt to change the speed. That would drive me nuts!
Aside from the Fluance supplied preamp, other associated equipment was my trusty NAD 326bee for amplification, powering Q Acoustics 3050i floor standing speakers which I reviewed not too long ago. Once I was all set up it was time to give this puppy a run through!
At first, I took to running through some of my favorites. Everything from hip hop to some funk classics. From the start, I noticed that the recommended counterweight for the tonearm and cartridge made the tone arm really light. It might be my DJ bias, but I prefer a bit more weight than the one recommended by Fluance and I was concerned the needle might skip across the surface of the vinyl. I rechecked my set up; made sure the plinth was level, rebalanced the tonearm, reset the required tracking force and anti-skating values. I’m sure I’m in the minority here but I just prefer a slightly heavier arm. It might be to the detriment of my vinyl but adding a touch more weight was easier to live with.
The vaunted ‘speed regulation’, was a curious note for me initially in that the RT85 seemed to spin fast when the tone arm was lifted only to settle down after a few seconds later before properly regulating the speed. The only way to mitigate this was to lift the tonearm and remember to wait a few seconds for the speed to regulate and then place the needle down. It’s not a deal breaker but it is noticeable and mildly irritating.
I had to fight the urge to touch the vinyl as I normally do and kept the dust cover on for most of my listening, so I wouldn’t give it a shot.
While the RT85 is quite substantial in appearance, I did find that having only three isolation feet rather than four made the deck susceptible to wobbling or tipping over if nudged by accident. Again, unfairly compared to the Technics which is much heavier and planted on four feet, I realized I couldn’t be as hard on this turntable as I am with my DJ gear, as sometimes the needle would jump or even worse, I would fear flipping the turntable deck itself! So, I backed off.
I realized that I needed to give the RT85 a fair shake so reached out to a couple of friends who owned turntables to gauge their listening habits and then set up a vinyl listening party of sorts to have them over for a Sunday afternoon of listening.
As luck would have it, we had a fair bit of snow on the Sunday afternoon in question so my buddy Dave—who owns a pickup truck—was the only one who was able to conquer the weather and make it over. Armed with a stack of vinyl and a case of beer, he arrived ready to give the Fluance a listen. I reset the counterweight back to its original weight, cracked open a beer and then took a back seat and let Dave take control of music selection and control of the turntable. His initial impression was that the build quality was superb and that the RT85 truly looked classy. He too, however, felt that the tonearm was loose and not as weighty as we would have liked so we added a few grams back to the tonearm again.
Dave’s musical tastes differ from mine but since I asked him to listen, I was glad to have him play what he preferred. He also drinks different beer too.
Sandro Perri “Impossible Spaces”
Kicking things off with a Toronto Artist Sandro Perri. Dave has been into this guy’s music for some time now and with this LP I understood why. I lack any of the genre insight to describe this album. Suffice to say it’s good, really good. Released in 2011, Pitchfork listed it as #38 of their top 50 albums to buy that year, and what a great start to a Sunday listening session. And, it’s a great companion to cold beer. This was the sort of LP that allowed us to turn up the volume to fairly loud levels. I’m not sure how to describe the sound we were hearing other than warm. With source direct engaged on the NAD, we A/B’ed some of the tracks with our iPhones via an Arcam rDAC, the same recording digitally was much brighter, and crisp when compared to the RT85. Digital vs vinyl is not always the best comparison but when we went back to the record it was decidedly warmer and softer.
The Field “Looping State of Mind”
I’d never listened to The Field before, but I think I’m going to have to make a few purchases now. This was great. Dave noted that he was hearing sounds that he hadn’t previously heard on his own setup. This could be partly because he has bookshelf speakers at home and was hearing the larger floor standing speakers in this setup. But it was worth noting. From track to track we found no flaws and were just enjoying the sound. One thing we both noticed was that although the spec of the RT85 mentioned auto stop, it never stopped when the needle reached the end. In some cases, and this is sometimes dependent on the vinyl, the needle would skip right onto the artwork in the center if we didn’t reach it in time. I would like to see this remedied in future iterations.
The Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers”
Dave brought this by as I’m a little embarrassed to say, I hadn’t heard until Spiderman Homecoming came out. I don’t usually listen to classic rock. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just didn’t grow up with it and with all the music out there I hadn’t stumbled across (or paid attention to) it until now. In any case, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking is a tune-and-a-half. I loved it. So, Dave brought the LP by for a good listen too. The air of warmness continued here, so I brought my Technics down to compare. It’s fitted with an Ortofon Concorde MkII Club Cartridge and the difference in sound was noticeable. Hi-Fi purists are sure to eat me alive here but the Technics and MkII were louder and cleaner.
I decided to try a few different speakers to see how they fared in comparison. My Monitor Audio RX2’s are a bit brighter in sound overall and changed the sound from too warm to slightly warm.
Switching out the amp to my Cambridge Audio CXA60 also helped with this a bit. I tried my B&W 683 (s1) towers in place of the RX2’s and that proved to be the best sounding combination.
The Splinters LP on AMAR was very clear via this setup. The highs were crisp, and the bass was very deep and defined. Tracks like D Bridge’s Out of Town just opened up and the frenetic sound came alive. The bass on Danny Scrilla’s ClockWerkz just pounded.
A few days later, I had my aha moment! I took delivery of a pair of Fluance’s new Ai60 Powered 6.5” Bookshelf Speakers (review coming soon). With powered speakers I was able to remove the amplifier from the equation and listen to a full Fluance system. This configuration was just great. Like all around great. Listening back to Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, the warmth all but disappeared and the overall sound was bright and crisp while retaining its low-end grunt. This proves that system matching is key. Potential buyers should look to audition Fluance RT85 with a few different systems first to achieve the sort of sound that they prefer.
At an MSRP of $499.99, FLUANCE’S RT85 presents an interesting proposition. It’s a beautifully constructed and good-looking turntable. It compares well to other Hi-Fi turntables from competitors like Rega and Pro-Ject and delivers top-tier performance at an entry-level price.
- Great Looks
- Full rich sound
- Supplied cartridge
- Detachable Power and RCA Connectors
- Soft Closing Dust Cover
- Less loose tonearm
- Quicker belt speed regulation
There are a few minor sticking points for me which might just be part and parcel with owning a belt drive turntable vs a direct-drive one and as such are moot. I have come to the realization through this review process that I personally am not a Hi-fi Turntable customer which was surprising as I have long lusted for one for my living room. I’m simply too accustomed to a DJ deck.
Dave did not share the same conclusion as me.
He was quite impressed with what Fluance had to offer, especially given that there are lower-priced options within the range. Fluance can only get better from here. These turntables look to kickstart an elevated design language for their line and I’m curious to see how this influences future product.