With the resurgence of vinyl records in recent years, turntables have made a major comeback. For those looking to get into vinyl or upgrade their setup, the Fluance RT85 is an attractive option. Fluance is a Canadian audio equipment company that has earned praise for their turntables that offer high quality and performance at more affordable prices compared to many competitors.
The RT85 sits toward the higher end of Fluance’s turntable lineup as their current flagship model. With a sleek, contemporary design available in glossy black or walnut finishes, the RT85 makes a stylish statement in any listening room. Under the hood, it steps things up over Fluance’s more basic models with features like an acrylic platter, integrated cartridge, premium components, and precision servo motor to deliver sound quality on par with turntables costing much more.
In this review, I’ll take an in-depth look at the design and build quality of the RT85 turntable. I’ll examine what features come included right out of the box and how easy or difficult the set up process is. And most importantly, I’ll evaluate how the RT85 actually sounds across a variety of musical genres and compare its overall performance to competitors.
Design and Build Quality
Sporting the same basic design as other turntables in the Reference lineup, the RT85 has a sleek, contemporary appearance with a flat silhouette. It’s a fairly clean design, but not as minimal as the in vogue minimalist designs seen on turntables like the U-Turn Orbit or Pro-Ject Debut Carbon.
Materials and Aesthetics
The MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) board serves as the base for my Fluance RT85, giving it a sturdy and vibration-resistant foundation. You’re looking at two classic finishes: a deep Walnut or a sleek Piano Black, both of which can complement most home decors gracefully. The finishing touch is a clear dust cover with smooth hinges, protecting the turntable without hiding what lies underneath.
The RT85 feels robust, with its solid construction and the weight to match. Its feet are designed for excellent isolation, absorbing vibrations to ensure a cleaner sound. These aren’t just functional; the feet with their thoughtful design actually contribute to the overall visual appeal of the turntable.
Platter and Tonearm Details
The acrylic platter is a standout feature — it’s heavy and perfectly balanced, which is crucial for consistent speed and minimal vibration. The tonearm boasts precision, with an adjustable counterweight allowing for accurate needle pressure on records. Every component, from the platter to the tonearm, seems to be crafted with performance and durability in mind.
Setup and Usability
I find that getting a new turntable up and running can be a mix of excitement and challenge. With the Fluance RT85, my experience leaned more towards the excitement end, thanks to its thoughtful design focused on ease of use and some handy features.
Unpacking and Initial Setup
Unpacking the RT85, I noticed everything was securely packaged and organized, which made identifying all the parts straightforward. The instruction manual was clear, guiding me through each step. I attached the platter and the belt, and set the adjustable feet to ensure the turntable was level using the included bubble level.
Ease of Use
Once assembled, using the Fluance RT85 was quite intuitive. The turntable has an auto-stop feature, which means it will stop spinning once the record ends. This is a convenient perk I appreciate for those times I’m not right by the turntable when the music stops. The anti-skate setting was preset, but I could tweak it if needed, ensuring the needle tracks smoothly across my vinyl without any hiccups.
The RT85 comes with RCA cables, allowing me to easily connect it to my speakers or amplifier. And I must say, the anti-skate and adjustable feet are small details that have a big impact on the listening experience. They contribute to the overall stability and sound quality, making this turntable a solid choice for its price point.
Sound and Performance
Of course, all of the design elements and premium build quality would mean little if the RT85 failed to deliver where it matters most – sound reproduction. To evaluate the turntable’s sonic capabilities, we listened to a variety of musical genres, from intricate classical recordings to lush R&B to punchy rock. The goal was to hear how the RT85 rendered intricate details, dynamic transitions, stereo imaging, and tonal realism across different recordings.
After extensive listening sessions switching between the RT85 and comparably priced turntables, one thing became readily apparent – this is where the RT85 truly shines. For a turntable at this price point, the sound showcases clarity, precision, and an engaging musicality exceeding expectations.
Cartridge and Stylus
The RT85 is equipped with an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, which is a significant step up from entry-level models. This cartridge is known for its nuanced sound reproduction and has a reputation for bringing out a dynamic range in vinyl record playback. The diamond elliptical tipped stylus brings out the crispness in the high frequencies and a level of detail that I find makes listening to vinyl a rich experience.
Motor and Drive System
The belt-drive system of the RT85 works smoothly, providing consistent platter speeds with minimal vibrations. The motor’s precision ensures a stable frequency response, reducing fluctuations that could affect the sound. This setup is essential for maintaining the integrity of the audio output, and I appreciate how it faithfully delivers the warm, vinyl sound we all love.
In terms of audio output, the Fluance RT85 turntable truly shines. It offers a sound quality that rivals much more expensive setups. The soundstage is broad, giving each instrument space to breathe and creating a live performance feel right in my room. The clarity is impeccable, with no noticeable distortion even at higher volumes, making my vinyl records sound fresh every time I listen.
Connectivity and Accessories
In my experience, setting up the Fluance RT85, I found its connectivity straightforward, with a focus on maintaining audio fidelity. Here’s a rundown on how to connect it to other devices and the accessories that come with it or you can opt for.
Connecting to Other Devices
The RT85 offers gold-plated RCA outputs for a reliable and quality connection. I used the included RCA cables to connect to my system’s phono preamp. Remember, this turntable requires a phono preamp to work, as it doesn’t have a built-in one. This means you can pair it with your choice of preamp, be it from NAD, Rega, or Pro-Ject, which could already be a part of your existing hi-fi setup or a new addition.
Included and Optional Accessories
Out of the box, the RT85 comes with a few necessities. RCA cables and a ground cable are included, which are essential for connecting to a phono stage. The turntable is equipped with a platter mat, which helps in damping vibration and improving the overall sound quality. While the basic accessories cover most needs, I might consider upgrading components like the platter mat or the phono stage for an even more refined listening experience, although, for many, what’s included will suffice.
Fluance RT85 vs RT82 Comparison
The Fluance RT82 is my top recommendation as a ~$300 record player. While there are the RT83 and RT84, they are the same as the RT82 with the exception of the cartridge they come with, so it makes more sense to compare the RT85 to the RT82.
The Fluance RT85 differs from the RT82 in several ways:
- Platter: The RT85 features an acrylic platter, while the RT82 has an aluminum platter.
- Cartridge: The RT85 is fitted with the 2M Blue cartridge, providing better performance, while the RT82 features the Ortofon OM 10 Elliptical Diamond Tipped Cartridge.
- Motor and Speed Control: The RT85 offers better speed stability and a more refined cartridge, making it a premium turntable compared to the RT82.
These differences contribute to the RT85’s superior build quality and performance, making it a more expensive option compared to the RT82.
Comparison with Competitors
When comparing the Fluance RT85 to its rivals, it’s clear that it holds its own in the turntable market. Starting with the cartridge, the RT85 features the revered Ortofon 2M Blue. This cartridge is well-known for its detailed sound reproduction and superior tracking ability.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO is a worthy adversary, and available at a similar price point. The Debut Carbon EVO includes an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, which is a step below the 2M Blue in the Ortofon line. While both deliver crisp, audiophile-worthy audio, the 2M Blue is noticeably refined compared to the Red, giving the RT85 an overall edge in sound quality.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP5X is another contender with its fully manual operation and a more utilitarian design. Although it comes at a lower price, I personally preferred the sound coming out of the RT85.
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
|Ortofon 2M Blue
|Ortofon 2M Red
In my experience, while each of these turntables brings something special to the table, the RT85’s choice of cartridge ensures its standing among high-end options. Hearing the nuances in my favorite records is essential, and with the RT85, there’s a noticeable clarity and depth that makes the listening experience more immersive. The competition surely gives it a run for its money, but for those looking to step into the audiophile world without reservation, this turntable maintains a strong position.
With its precision components, thoughtful engineering, and reference-quality sound, the Fluance RT85 makes a compelling case as one of the best turntables for under $500. During listening tests, it consistently exceeded expectations for clarity, detail, and engaging musicality at this price point. There is a liveliness and intimacy to the presentation that allows listeners to connect with their favorite recordings in a fresh way.
If there is any area where the RT85 falls slightly short, it is solely in physical aesthetic compared to some competitors. With its flat profile and underslung platter, the RT85 has a traditional hi-fi look rather than the sleek, contemporary designs that are trendy presently. For some vinyl enthusiasts, the RT85 may come across as a little safe or boring visually next to flashier models with glossy acrylic frames or vibrant colors.
However, make no mistake – one spin with the RT85 makes it clear that Fluance kept the focus squarely on substance over style. Given the outstanding musical performance on offer, the classic muted look quickly fades into the background once the record starts spinning.
For those looking to get the highest quality turntable sound possible for the money, the RT85 should be at the top of your list. There is also little need to further upgrade the turntable itself, and any money would be better spent elsewhere such as the speakers or preamp.