Fluance’s RT85 Turntable Is a High Value Proposition

Canada-based Fluance’s $250 RT81 reviewed here a little over three years ago was a pleasant surprise. It offered reasonably good mechanical and sonic performance as well as useful convenience features and attractive looks. Fluance’s new RT85 Reference turntable doubles the cost to $499.95. Is it twice as good?

It doesn’t take a turntable forensic genius to note that the RT81 is manufactured at the same Taiwanese factory that produced the $1099.99 Thorens TD 402 Direct Drive Semi-Automatic turntable that back in November took a review beating here.

It turns out, so the company claims, that the review sample was meant only as a photography sample and should not have been sent for review. That explains at least the loose tone arm bearings that contributed to pretty miserable sound.

That $1100 turntable included a $50 ATVM95E cartridge. The $499.99 Fluance RT85 comes with a $236 Ortofon 2M Blue. How can Fluance manage a $236 cartridge in a $500 turntable? Perhaps as the old joke goes, they lose money on each one sold, but make it up with volume.

Of course, that’s not it but no doubt Fluance has chosen a relatively low margin business model that gives consumers high value. This is a vinyl-centric website not a business site so back to business!

The Fluance RT85’s plinth-mounted servo-controlled D.C. motor isolated via a six-point rubber decoupling ring and powered by an outboard “wall-wart” type power supply drives the 12”, 3 pound acrylic platter at either 33 1/3 or 45rpm, via a flat belt placed around its periphery. The spindle bearing protrudes from a plinth opening hiding from view the bearing’s support structure, which must be relatively high mass given the ‘table’s almost 17 pound total weight. The plinth itself, available in either gloss wood or gloss black finish, though of relatively high mass MDF (compared to wood) can’t alone account for most of that weight even considering the platter and motor weight. The plinth sits one three height-adjustable elastomer feet.

As you can see in the photos, the combination of a tapered spindle base that appears to be of brass and a brass bush within the platter hole add both precision and stability to the platter/bearing interface—a nice enhancement considering the ‘table’s price point not to mention the $236 cartridge!

The static balanced “S”-shaped approximately 8” arm terminated with an H-4 Bayonet mount head shell has an effective length of 224mm, an overhang of 19.2mm and a relatively high effective mass of 28.2grams by my calculations, the arm is slightly too heavy for the cartridge’s relatively high compliance, putting the system’s resonant frequency at around 7Hz or one Hz below the ideal 8-12Hz range. However, in practical terms it is not problem). The pre-installed cartridge is sensibly set for Löfgren B alignment.

The arm is not adjustable for either VTA/SRA or azimuth but at this price point it can be argued that rigidity is preferable to adjustability.

Fluance gets props for its specification-rich, well-written instruction manual. The arm features the same defeatable auto-start/end of record stop system found in the far costlier aforementioned Direct Drive Thorens TD 402.

Speaking of which, please look at these Platterspeed app measurements:

As you can see, the low-pass filtered results (green line) are remarkably consistent and even the raw frequency results are within a small range. The numbers back up the chart. These are outstanding results at this price point and beyond and of course the platter spins at the correct speed (1.2Hz lower than spec is a meaningless difference).

Accessories include: a tinted, hinged dust cover, a bubble level, 90pf low capacitance RCA output cables, and a ground wire. A protractor is printed on the manuals back page, which, if you carefully cut out and punch out the spindle hole, should be reasonably accurate. The RT85 does not include a built-in phono preamp, which I think is a good idea. It keeps the cost down and lets the buyer choose his or her own. The RT85 comes with a two year parts and labor warranty.


Mdnicke2's picture

How do you think this would compare to the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Espirit or X1?

Michael Fremer's picture
Without a direct comparison it's pure speculation. However if you want a fuller range of adjustability the Pro-Jects offer it. And as I recollect, neither Pro-Ject has as lively a plinth. Of course the X1 is considerably more expensive. Had I the opportunity I'd do a comparison between the Carbon Spirit and this 'table but I don't.
Brian Kvalheim's picture

Which app are you using in this review that I see in the screenshots?

malco49's picture

i have a 2204 pro-ject debut lll with several tweaks including upgraded Ortofon OM 20 stylus , projuect speed box and acrylic platter. i too was wondering how it would compare with a pro-ject debut carbon.

SneezyAchew's picture

If one wanted to upgrade their tonearm down the line to one fully adjustable, would that be feasible? Do you have any recommendations as to what could work well here? Thank you.

Michael Fremer's picture
I wouldn't recommend doing that. Better to just replace the entire thing.
Fsonicsmith's picture

I have a feeling Mike won't answer your question. Besides being broad and vague, it contains inherent contradictions. No deck that "meets all of [Mike's] criteria, should one even exist, comes with a cartridge and likely does not come with a tonearm either.

I have a soft spot for people who ask earnest questions, use real names, and post a photo to-boot. So my answer to the question I THINK you meant to ask is that there is one that is pretty close-an in my humble opinion based upon Mike's own past reviews, the table that comes to mind would be the GEM Dandy Polytable and Super Polytable 12. Do a search of Mike's reviews and you decide. There are no doubt others that come close to the question I THINK you MEANT to ask. Certainly the Marantz TT-15 comes close as does the VPI Scout.

Dr. R2's picture

Purchased the RT85 based on the review and love it! I paired it with a Cambridge Audio Duo. I broke it in with the MoFi remaster of The Band - The Band and an original Stereo (AS-63) McCoy Tyner - Today and Tomorrow. Excellent clarity, good low end and great dynamics! Thanks again Michael!

Slaughts's picture

Hi,Thought I would add my comments to this as I have first hand experience of both. Firstly I will point out that I have recently revived my vinyl collection and was looking to replace a Rega P5 / RP700 with a turntable with a removable headshell. I am a bit old school SME Arm Shure V15, and Stanton 681EEE combinations in the past. I read good reviews of the Fluance the added attraction of the Ortofon Blue in the price won the day, set up was easy but I was not happy with the sound nor the fact that when a light carbon cleaning brush was very lightly applied the turntable stopped completely! I returned the turntable but was now without as I had sold the P5.

So on the hunt again I was drawn towards direct drive units Technics SL1500C and the Thorens TD402, I had always fancied a Thorens so that was my choice, in setting up I did notice some parts were shared with the Fluance, the perspex lid and brackets. I replaced the Audio Technica cartridge with an old Pickering XV15 D625E which is far better than the AT-VM95E. Have found it difficult to obtain a spare angled headshell for the straight arm the Reloop Turn 3 headshell is very similar to the Thorens as works well. Now looking to change the cartridge to a Grado Prestige 2 Gold. With regards to some reports of background hum from the TD402 I did experience this but found it to be AC hum from my Audiolab 8000 which was sighted beneath the turntable, as soon as this was re-sighted the hum was gone. Fully tested the TD402 is excellent, tracks the Pickering at 1g, great turntable!

The_Chemist's picture

Yeah, bet me on that one! I have bought numerous Hanpin manufactured turntables. Most have had loose arm bearings. Some have even had speed issues. They put out slop!

Love your reviews Michael!

jahnghalt's picture

Mr. Fremer rightly and tactfully avoided speculation on this.

I'm reminded of a recent comment on a vinyl playback forum. One, who worked retail audio recounted the margin (90 points!) on a certain moving magnet cartridge "back in the day".

(this, of course, helped dealers to pay for the customary installation)

Fluance may not be getting 90 discount points on this particular pickup, but 75 for three-figure quantities may not be out of range.

MN-HiFi's picture

Michael, regarding your calculation of a 7 Hz natural frequency, I'm using 28g for effective tonearm mass (per Fluance website), 7.2g for the cartridge mass (per Ortofon website), and a compliance of 20. I'm calculating a 6 Hz natural frequency. Could you please share how you got 7 Hz? I'm a little surprised that using the formula on the Ortofon webpage results in the 2M Blue being in the "questionable" area so I'm questioning the 28g effective mass number. Any thoughts or tips?

Boomer's picture

I'm new to Analog Planet and just love your website. I purchased the Fluence RT85 a few months ago and was wonder what your thoughts would be of replacing the orto blue with an orto bronze. Do you think it would improve the sound quality on my vinyl records? Thanks in advance for your response.

Boomer's picture

Michael, I'm a novice at trying to find a better listening experience with my vinyl records and could use your experience of better setting up my sound system. After reading your articles on the different cartridges dated 10/22/2013, what are your thoughts on if an Ortofon bronze or and Ortofon black would be worthwhile to putting on my Fluance RT85 turntable. Or would they be overkill on a $500 turntable? Thanks in advance.

Jora Lebedev's picture

I was wondering if the effective mass specification for the tonearm is accurate as it seems pretty high.

If it is accurate, it might be a great inexpensive table to use with one of my favorite cartridges, the Denon DL-103. You could sell the Ortofon and pick up a Denon. High quality affordable turntables with high mass tonearms are pretty thin on the ground.

Thoughts? Anyone tried it?

Doctor Fine's picture

Yes I tried this combo for the specific reason of how inexpensive a LOMC setup it would be.
It was a mixed bag.

On the one hand the Denon (mine has an upgraded fine line on a ruby cantilever from Soundsmith) WORKED well, no obvious mistracking or problems of any sort.
And most importantly---ZERO HUM---plus very attractive sound quality showing all the benefit of LOMC versus MM (I compared to Ortofon Super OM30).

However in direct comparison to my own Technics SL1210M5G/Denon using a modified armtube with an 19gr headshell and heavy counterweight---the Fluance sounded pretty THIN.
The lack of sheer heft was apparent in the smaller presentation.

The Technics throws a huge fat soundstage.
The Fluance sound miniaturized in comparison.
It's all THERE.
But it all just sounds much smaller.

My experience.
My set.
The Doc.

Doctor Fine's picture

I tend to believe Fluance is close to correct in spec-ing the RT82 arm at 28 grams.
My Denon NEEDS around that much mass to get good bass from the cart.
I added a heavy headshell and a rear armtube counterweight booster to beef up the arm tube mass on my own RT82---but it wasn't NEEDED so I took it all off.
Running just stock the little Fluance got its best sound out of my Denon carts with no added mass necessary or wanted.
So I tend to believe it IS a high mass arm!

RustyAlmaza's picture

Which app are you using in this review that I see in the screenshots?

Audiolad's picture

My son is a first time buyer of turntables, and he first thought the Rega P-3 was his choice. I finally convinced him to look at this turntable, and I'm happy you've given it a good review.

kchalpin's picture

I think the tapered spindle base will definitely give it both precision and stability to the platter/bearing interface. Will be purchasing this soon. click here

jacobs's picture

this is really cool i love this

SophiaThornton's picture

The “S”-shaped 8” arm with an H-4 Bayonet mount head shell is a solid choice.
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SophiaThornton's picture

Effective mass calculations show a slight mismatch with the cartridge—any audible impact?
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MasonHart's picture

The 12” acrylic platter driven by the servo-controlled D.C. motor sounds impressive.
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MasonHart's picture

Overall, the Fluance RT85 seems like a high-value proposition, especially for audiophiles on a budget.
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bellidity's picture

A little costly but worth it. Says my friend at Furnace Victoria who own this beauty.

Kyzer's picture

I love the quality of this turntable, worth the buy. commercial painters

bellidity's picture

I'd say it is actually worth it. My friend at Landscape Design Pros tells me to ignore the cost because its epic!

marky1234567890's picture
AsheySalamey's picture

you're a nice one. almost as wacky as a wigwam. de-luxe cleaning service picture booth in la los angeles live entertainment

Inner West Windscreens's picture

I love turntables!!! This review of Fluance's RT85 turntable highlights its high value proposition, making it a compelling option for vinyl enthusiasts. Kudos from Inner West Windscreens!

eric348's picture

This is fantastic! It's great to have the opportunity to share various viewpoints and truly learn from them, potentially working together with other users. I'm excited to see more of this in the future. also you can check out
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