Fluance’s RT85 Turntable Is a High Value Proposition Page 2

Set-Up and Sound

Thanks to the outstanding instruction manual even a novice can take the RT85 out of the box and within a few minutes start spinning records. I repeated the same “tap test” that turned the Thorens ‘table into a big low frequency drum and unfortunately, this ‘table responded the same way. The plinth is lively to say the least, while tapping on the platform upon which the ‘table set indicated that the elastomer feet were quite effective at isolating the system from footfalls and the like.

While this sort of impulse test does not mean the ‘table will perform like a drum it does mean that in a system with speakers that go low, the low frequencies traveling by air through the room will have a mild sonic effect but more significantly, so will vibrations produced at the stylus/groove interface.

Not surprisingly then, the turntable’s overall sound was on the somewhat warm but very pleasing side—something noted in the customer reviews on the Fluance website.

I started with the ORG double 45rpm reissue of Ella Fitzgerald sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book (ORG 055) recorded in stereo in 1956—don’t let the date fool you: the sound is quite well-extended top to bottom and dynamics beat most of the compressed stuff released now. The track “You Took Advantage of Me” has a massive and deep kick drum that enters following Ella’s intro. The RT85 reproduced it with reasonably effective control and very good extension, resulting in a pleasing kick drum sound. Ella’s voice floated nicely and stably between the speakers, sibilants were cleanly reproduced, and the strings were mellifluous and had plenty of sheen. Anyone replacing a plastic turntable with this one and first playing this track would be pleased with his or her purchase.

Band of Horses’ Acoustic at the Ryman (BRWN003) recorded live to DSD in 2013 at the famed Nashville venue and mastered by Bob Ludwig with lacquers cut by the late Doug Sax provided a good test of the RT85s. The music’s robust bottom end excites the cavernous hall. On the best analog front ends the bass remains firm and separated from the hall’s warmth. On the worst it turns into running mud. Here Bill Reynolds’ stand up bass attack is pretty well controlled and the hall contours, including the room’s reverberant field, stands behind in convincing relief. Warm, but not too warm!

I tried a Milt Jackson track featuring Ray Brown on bass, Monty Alexander on piano, Teddy Edwards on tenor “saxaphone”(sic) and Dick Berk on drums recorded live at Shelly’s Manne-hole in Hollywood August 1st and 2nd 1969. It’s on a 1972 Impulse compilation (Impulse-1972) aimed at attracting to jazz the boomer generation. The black and white jacket combines a psychedelic illustration on back and R.Crumb style writing on front. Artists include Pharoah Sanders, John and Alice Coltrane, and Archie Shepp.

The Jackson track convinced me that this turntable, despite the lively plinth, which I hope Fluance addresses in future designs, provides good performance for the money. Jackson’s vibes were reproduced with pleasing attack, and a generous sustain that made it sound convincingly metallic and not at all soft, Alexander’s piano was equally well presented and Brown’s bass was well-extended with clean, controlled attack—all of which produced attractive “rhythm’n’pacing” as they like to write in Stereophile, plus the small club’s acoustics were convincingly portrayed in the space around the instruments.


A $200 cartridge included in a $500 turntable package isn’t necessarily a good value, especially if the ‘table has serious mechanical and/or performance deficits. Here you get a servo-controlled motor that produces outstanding speed consistency and accuracy, a nicely machined 3 pound acrylic platter riding on a well-designed and quiet bearing system and an arm that gets the job done and will treat your records kindly.

With the exception of a layer of smooth, evenly dispersed warmth added most likely by the lively undamped plinth, the RT85’s well-balanced minor sins are those of omission—for instance expect modest not explosive dynamics.

The RT85 is an especially attractive purchase for the casual listener who wants a good looking sweet sounding, easy to set up and use turntable. Is it worth twice the cost of the RT81, which comes with a built in phono preamp and an Audio Technica AT95E? I’d say “yes” not just because of the better Ortofon 2M cartridge (though the 95E is better than its $50 price indicates), but especially because of the servo-controlled motor that produces far better pitch stability and control.

The competition would include the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Esprit SB, which for $100 more gives you a fully adjustable (SRA and azimuth) carbon fiber arm, and a better damped plinth but comes with a less costly Ortofon 2M Red. You’d have to spend around $200 to upgrade the stylus to the Blue and by then you’d be into it for $300, which for some would be a budget-buster, plus the RT85 looks better, if that matters to you.

All-in-all then, the Fluance RT85 represents very good value for the money, and with the Ortofon 2M Blue pre-installed will produce very good out of the box sound.


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!

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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

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