Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.
If you’re in the market for a good affordable turntable, you’ve undoubtedly come across Fluance. The Canadian-based audio company makes some of the best and most popular “bang-for-your-buck” turntables. It combines high-quality components (drive units, enclosure technologies, crossovers and wood cabinets) with a cool retro-inspired aesthetic, and it’s able to keep the price down by stripping away some of the more advanced, lesser-used features.
Fluance has only been in the turntable business for the last four years. The company dates back to 1999 and really built its reputation on hi-fi speakers and home theater speaker systems, but decided to go into turntables because the team had so many in-house vinyl enthusiasts. Today, you can get an entry-level turntable with a built-in phono preamp for as little as $200, or you upgrade to something a little higher-end. Either way, you’re not spending more than $500.
All of Fluances turntable models start with “RT” followed by a number (ranging from 80 to 85). The RT stands for “Retro Turntable,” and the numbers don’t indicate any specific value. They do indicate a general trend though: the higher the number, the nicer the turntable.
All of Fluance’s turntables look similar. They have engineered MDF wood plinths that are available in either a piano black or walnut (except RT80, which only has the black finish). With each model, from the RT80 through to the RT85, there are iterative fashion and performance improvements. Each turntable is fitted with a different cartridge from Audio Technica or Ortofon. Moving up the series each of those cartridges are able to provide better audio performance with increased channel separation, clarity and sound accuracy.
Entry-Level Versus Reference Lines
Fluance’s turntables can be separated into two categories: entry-level and the reference line.
The two turntables that makeup Fluance’s entry-level line are the RT80 and the RT81. Both turntables have built-in phono preamps and can be plugged directly into a pair of powered bookshelf speakers, or a powered amplifier and a pair of passive bookshelf speakers. The main difference between the RT80 and the RT81 has to do with the specific components that impact sound quality. The RT80 has a hollow body while the RT81 has a solid body, so the latter is heavier and better at canceling out vibrations. The RT80 has a conical cartridge so it’s more forgiving yet lacks some performance.
The four higher-end turntables — the RT82, RT83, RT84 and RT85 — are what Fluance refers to as its Reference line, and they have a couple more notable differences over the more affordable RT80 and RT81 turntables. First, they don’t have a built-in phono preamp. Second, they have a three-foot design, as opposed to the four feet on the RT80 and RT81, to reduce surface contact and minimize distortion. And third, their motor has been moved to the outside of the platter, further away from the cartridge, to help reduce noise from being picked up by the stylus.
When comparing each of the Fluance’s Reference turntables, they’re all pretty much the same except for the cartridge and platter: the higher the number, the higher quality the cartridge and platter. All four turntables were designed to be more customizable and offer a more pure analog signal. Fluance has developed its own stand-alone phono preamp, the Fluance PA10 ($80), to use with any turntable in its Reference line.
The RT80 is the of the company’s base model and most entry-level turntable. It has a built-in phono preamp so it is easy to incorporate into an existing audio system or hook up to powered bookshelf speakers. It has a hollow body plinth and an Audio Technica AT91 cartridge.
The RT81 was the company’s original flagship turntable before it introduced the Reference line. It’s essentially an upgraded version of the RT80. It has the same built-in preamp, but includes a rubber mat, a solid body plinth and an Audio Technica AT95 cartridge.
The RT82 is the most affordable turntable in Fluance’s Reference line. It has the key upgrades over the RT81, such as a three-foot design and a motor that’s been moved to the outside of the platter, and doesn’t have built-in phono preamp. It has an aluminum platter, a rubber mat and an Ortofon OM 10 cartridge.
The RT83 is essentially the same turntable as the RT82, but with an upgraded cartridge. It has the very popular Ortofon 2M Red cartridge which is known for providing a flat-frequency response without coloration of the sound.
The RT84 is the same the previous two Reference turntables, but with an upgraded cartridge. It has the Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge which has a nude diamond stylus resulting in even greater dynamics and resolution.
The RT85 is the best performing turntable in Fluance’s current line. It has the same Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge as the RT84, but also has a heavier acrylic platter. The platter helps provide better speed consistency, and it also eliminates the need for a platter mat.
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.