One minute review
Canadian audio specialist Fluance has the latest in ‘themed variation’ that all turntable brands are dealing with – it’s the RT85N. It is a nice looking record player and comes with a pre-assembled (and very acceptable) Nagaoka cartridge. It is easy to set up and has some operational benefits in the form of automatic start/stop and automatic speed change.
So far, so good. However, the Fluance RT8N has significant competition and doesn’t have the audio chops to deter rival turntables.
The turntable does a good job with sound staging and dynamics, but the low frequencies are too prominent. ‘Bass’ is the predominant aspect of the Fluance’s sound and it undermines its competence in detail retrieval and overall organization. Too much of a good thing is too much, it turns out – and there are some price-matching rivals that are more balanced, balanced and ultimately more convincing than the RT85N turntable.
Not sure if you should sacrifice sound quality for an easy setup? Read on for our full Fluance RT8N review.
Fluance RT85N: price and availability
- now available
- $499 (about £440 / AU$700)
The Fluance RT85N is on sale now for $499 in the US. The company’s website clearly puts a lot of thought into exchange rates as at the time of writing it lists a UK price of £441.09 – which is nothing more than precise. Using the same process, we estimate an Australian price to be around AU$700.
For this kind of money, some of the turntable industry’s truly great batters are in formidable presence. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo comes at a similar price point, as does the Rega Planar 2. None of these alternatives are as thoroughly specified as the Fluance RT85N, but they both have big brand cachet on their side. And that’s before you hear them in action…
Fluance RT85N: design
- Nagaoka MP-110 cartridge pre-assembled
- Choice of three finishes
- acrylic dish
The Fluance RT85N is a functional-looking record player. A choice of gloss black, gloss white or ‘natural’ walnut, as the finish of the skirting board adds just a little bit of visual punch – even if the Fluance website can’t quite decide whether the skirting itself is made of MDF or real wood. Whatever it is, there’s nothing luxurious about the way it looks or feels. It is professionally finished, but that’s about it.
Dimensions: 5.5 x 16.5 x 13.75 inches
Motor: belt drive
Phono Preamp: No
Speeds: 33 , 45rpm
Stylus: Nagaoka: MP-110
On top of the plinth is a hefty, beautiful acrylic sheet, which is belt pulled around at 33.3 rpm or 45 rpm. The motor that moves the belt is energized and checks the rotational stability of the platter up to 500 times per second.
It’s easy to attach the headshell (which comes with a pre-assembled Nagaoka MP-1110 moving magnet cartridge) to the S-shaped aluminum tonearm. Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is adjust the anti-skate and counterweight controls.
There is a rotary knob on the bottom left of the plinth – it’s marked ‘off/33/45’ and you won’t be surprised to learn it’s the power control and speed switch. Most price-comparable belt drive alternatives insist on letting you play around with the belt and its position on the pulley to adjust the speed at which the platter spins, but the RT85N is a little more sophisticated than that.
There is a small recess at the back of the plinth. This is home to a mains power outlet, stereo RCA outputs, and a grounding pole. There’s also a switch that turns the ‘auto start/stop’ function on or off – here too, and unlike many rivals, the RT85N offers an extra level of simplicity. Flip the switch to ‘on’ and the platter will begin to spin as soon as it detects the cartridge is over the vinyl; once the stylus reaches the lead-out groove, the tonearm returns to its rest and the platter stops spinning. It’s a really useful feature.
Everything on top of the plinth is covered by a hinged, tinted dust cover. The plinth itself is supported by three oversized, rubber stud feet – like the platter, they are designed for optimum resonance rejection. They are also adjustable, so getting the baseboard perfectly level shouldn’t be too difficult.
Fluance RT85N: audio performance
- nice soundstage
- Overconfident low frequencies
- One-sided sound
Going from ‘opening the box’ to ‘listening to a record’ isn’t a long or overly complicated process – Fluance gives explicit instructions and there really isn’t that much to do. So it won’t be long before you’re ready to hear what the RT85N is all about.
Bass is what it’s all about – that much is immediately apparent. With a heavy reissue of PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love spinning, the low frequencies dominate to an almost uneasy degree. The Fluance digs deep and hits hard, has a lot to say about texture and tonal variance – but above all, it puts bass in the spotlight.
It doesn’t help that authority and control are far from absolute here, especially when it comes to bass decay – so rhythmic expression and tempo management are compromised. The low-end presence drags with tempos and bogs down recordings, almost as if the LP was spinning just under 33.3 rpm (which it isn’t).
It follows that the midtones have a job of their own. This is a record that has been mastered to put the vocals at the center, but when the vocals are accompanied by abrasive analog low-end keyboard sounds (like it is during Down By the Water) it becomes a secondary element. The midrange, if given the chance, is detailed and actually quite articulate – but you probably won’t discover this unless you’re listening to material with little or no bass.
All this is compounded by the extremely cautious nature of the RT85N’s peak performance. As with the mids, a fair amount of detail is extracted from the highs, but the Fluance sounds unwilling to attack high-quality information appropriately, and as a result is also captivated by the dominant and dominant bass.
This overshadows the turntable’s rich dynamics and soundstage. That’s a shame, because the RT85N creates a large, well-defined and completely convincing soundstage, organizes it well and gives every part of a recording a little breathing room. However, the overwhelming nature of the Fluance’s bottom end means that any definition of the soundstage becomes almost irrelevant. The bass is so intrusive it sounds like it’s center stage even when it isn’t.
Should I buy the Fluance RT85N?
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
Not convinced by our Fluance RT85N review? We’ve selected three more turntables to choose from.
First assessment: April 2022