Fluance RT85 turntable review

Vinyl continues to grow in popularity as more music fans turn to records for listening. My Forbes colleague Matthew Leimkuehler reports record sales up 12% in 2018 in the U.S., and that doesn’t include used records—which are a booming business. That means turntables continue to be popular purchases. And as more record collectors look to upgrade from entry level turntables to something more capable, a Canadian audio company is making waves. Fluance was known for making high quality speakers, but in 2016 it launched a pair of turntables. They were very well received and now the company has released four more, including: the Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable. 

Features aimed at the audiophile market

Fluance RT85 turntable review

The RT 85 takes on a new market for Fluance, those who are ready to dip their toes into audiophile territory. 

This means the RT85 gets some high-end features that you won’t find on many consumer turntables. This includes a motor that’s isolated from the plinth to reduce motor vibrations that could reach the stylus. An optical sensor analyzes the speed 500 times per second, resulting in speed variation of just 0.10% and wow/flutter of only 0.07%. The S-Shape aluminum tone arm offers superior tracking. An acrylic platter adds mass that contributes to speed consistency, cancels reverberations for better low and mid-frequency response and reduces static. With the acrylic platter, there is also no need to use a rubber mat.

Fluance RT85 turntable reviewA trio of adjustable, resonance dampening spike feet (the spike design minimizes contact with a surface that could transfer vibration) complement its solid MDF plinth. The RT85 is heavy, but when it comes to turntables, heavy is good.

The icing on the cake is an outstanding cartridge. Fluance pairs the RT85 with an Ortofon 2M Blue. This is the entry model for the Danish cartridge maker’s audiophile lineup, featuring a nude elliptical stylus (a whole diamond instead of a diamond tip bonded to a metal mount). 

You won’t find a pre-amp on the RT 85. This turntable is made for connection to a PHONO input, whether that’s to a pre-amplifier or to a receiver with a PHONO input.

Fluance RT85 specifications

  • Solid, audio grade MDF plinth
  • Two-speed belt drive, DC servo motor is isolated, speed control delivers 0.07% wow and flutter
  • High density acrylic platter
  • Ortofon 2M Blue elliptical cartridge
  • S-Type aluminum tonearm
  • Adjustable counterweight and anti-skate
  • Optional auto-stop
  • Gold-plated RCA connectors
  • Adjustable, resonance damping spike feet
  • Removable, hinged dust cover
  • 41.9 x 34.9 x 13.9 cm, weighs 6.4 kg.
  • Glossy finish in black or walnut
  • 2-year warranty
  • Includes power adapter, 3 foot RCA cables, 3 foot ground wire, 45 adapter, bubble level, gloves

Audio performance that makes the most of your vinyl investment

My own turntable is a pretty decent one, equipped with an Ortofon OM10 cartridge and acrylic platter; it retails for almost exactly the same price as the Fluance RT85. Guess which one sounds better?

It really wasn’t even a contest. I have the turntable hooked up to an 80s vintage Pioneer SX-6 receiver (trying to keep the listening experience as authentic as possible). While I have been pretty happy with my existing setup, the Fluance RT85 delivered a listening experience that was clearly superior. 

Fluance RT85 turntable review

A big part of that is the cartridge. The Ortofon 2M Blue sells for about three times what the Ortofon OM10 on my turntable goes for—that alone makes the RT85 a bargain. After several weeks of using the RT85 the cartridge still isn’t fully worked in, so it’s only going to sound better. But the results really were incredible. Playing records on the the Fluance RT85, there is a noticeably stronger bass presence and everything sounds more dynamic. There was less static. There was no rumble in between tracks, even with the volume cranked up. I found most of the older, used records in my collection gained a new level of energy with details in the music I hadn’t noticed before, while new pressings were almost digital in their precision. I know “digital” is a bad word when talking about records, but what I really mean is the playback was virtually flawless. In addition, the RT85 delivered superb tracking, even on warped records.

Fluance RT85 turntable review

Do I have any complaints about the Fluance RT85? After all nothing is perfect … 

Well if you want to be picky, the piano black gloss finish looks fantastic, but it shows fingerprints and smudges like no-one’s business. There’s clearly a reason Fluance includes the white gloves in the box. So be prepared for a little more dusting and cleaning if you want to keep this turntable looking its best. My only other “complaint” is actually more from my wife’s perspective. Records played on this turntable just sound so great that I’ve been pawing through my collection every chance I get, listening to records (usually at very high volume) to hear just what I’ve been missing. And constantly dragging her into my office to hear just how good it sounds—something that people who aren’t obsessive about music don’t always appreciate … 

The flagship in an expanding Fluance turntable lineup

Just a few years ago, Fluance was known for making speakers. In 2016 the company expanded its product range. This included the largest and most powerful Bluetooth speaker I have ever reviewed (you can read about that one here), and a pair of turntables. I reviewed the Fluance RT81, which remains an excellent turntable for vinyl beginners looking for an upgrade from their first record player.

Those first two Fluance turntables are still available, and offer a great option if you need a turntable with an integrated pre-amp for connecting to a compact stereo or portable speaker. They have been joined this year by the RT85 at the high end, and three additional Reference series models in between. 

High end features and components like acrylic platters and the included Ortofon or Audio Technica cartridges separate the various models. However, all the Fluance turntables share a familiar design approach that includes the solid MDF wood plinth and S-Type tonearm.

Should you upgrade to the Fluance RT85?

Fluance RT85 turntable review

The Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable offers an audiophile-level record listening experience without breaking the bank. If you enjoy listening to records and have (or plan to buy) a stereo system that can take advantage of this turntable’s output, you’re not going to be disappointed.

For casual listening or for record collectors on a budget, the RT85 is probably too much turntable. However, Fluance offers multiple options at lower price points and there’s a model that suits virtually every situation. All of them are well designed and impressively equipped for the price. 

Whether you’re upgrading an existing record player or turntable, or looking to start a vinyl collection, Best Buy has you covered with turntables from all the best known audio brands—including Canada’s own Fluance.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. I have been writing about technology for several decades for a wide range of outlets including Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, MSN, About.com, Kiplinger, and GeekDad. I’m in my 10th year as a senior contributor for Forbes with a focus on reviewing music-related tech, Apple gear, battery power stations and other consumer electronics. My day job is with the Malware Research Center at AI-native cybersecurity pioneer CrowdStrike.