Hands-on Gear Review

Fluance RT81 Review

Price:   $250 List | $269.98 at Amazon
Pros:  Good sound, fully automatic cueing, great vibration resistance
Cons:  Expensive
Bottom line:  Good sound with the added convenience of automatic cueing and top notch vibration resistance
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Cartridge:  Audio Technica AT95E
Drive Method:  Belt
USB Compatibility:  No
Manufacturer:   Fluance

Our Verdict

Earning one of the top spots on our leaderboard, the Fluance RT81 provided good sound quality and user friendly operation throughout our testing. Its design has clean lines with a lacquered wood base, creating a nice modern meets retro style aesthetic. If you're concerned about good sound quality, you would probably be better of spending $50 more on the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB. However, the Fluance still produces a great sound, so don't be dissuaded if you fall in love with its looks, it certainly backs them up with solid all around performance.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Tuesday
December 5, 2017

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The Fluance RT81 was one of the top models we tested, and one of the best looking. You can certainly upgrade to the likes of the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB and get better sound quality, but all but the most discerning audiophiles will be pleased with the Flaunce.


Performance Comparison


As can be seen in the table above, the Fluance RT81 was one of the best overall turntables that we tested. Below we detail all of the tests we conducted to calculate those overall scores, and how well the Fluance performed in each.

Sound Quality


The Flauncescored just behind the top performers in sound quality, earning a 7 out of 10. . The music it produced had an overall clarity that rivaled that of the likes of the top scoring Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB and the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. Its dynamic range was also impressive, creating a well rounded soundscape with punchy loud notes and subtle ghost notes. However, the top scoring models both had slightly wider dynamic ranges, which made their sound have a bit more depth. This difference is very noticeable when listening to these turntables one right after the other, but when listening to the Fluance in isolation we didn't feel like the dynamic range was stunted, so we doubt anyone but the most selective of listeners would be disappointed with the Fluance.

The Fluance sounded quite good in our testing  falling just behind the top scorers.
The Fluance sounded quite good in our testing, falling just behind the top scorers.

Component Quality


The Fluance does have a slightly lower quality build than our two top models, which earned it a high but not top score of 7 out of 10 in our component quality testing. It has an aluminum platter that is quite heavy but not quite as heavy as those of the top models. We felt that the rubber mat included was a slight downgrade from the felt mats of the top models. Like the vast majority of the models we tested, it uses a belt drive in order to reduce any vibration from travelling from the motor to the platter. The tonearm feels fairly light and stiff, but is clearly inferior to the top scoring carbon fiber tonearm of the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. The AT95E Dual Magnet Cartridge was certainly able to produce a good signal in our testing. One thing we loved was the lacquered wood base, not only for its sturdiness but for its nice aesthetics as well.

The Fluance's tonearm is quite stiff  and it is easy to adjust the tracking force.
The Fluance's tonearm is quite stiff, and it is easy to adjust the tracking force.

User Friendliness


The Flaunce was one of the most amenable record players we tested, earning a high score of 8 out of 10 in our user friendliness testing. It gained points due to its completely automatic cueing function. You can just push a button and the tonearm moves over the record and gently places the needle on its surface. This can relieve a lot of stress if you're worried about scratching your records. This is a feature that neither of the top scoring models have, though both do have a cue lever, which takes some but not all of the stress out of cueing.

Fully automatic cueing makes putting the needle onto the record incredibly simple.
Fully automatic cueing makes putting the needle onto the record incredibly simple.

The Fluance is also fairly adjustable. It automatically detects if your record is a 33 or 45 and adjust its speed accordingly, and has a screw on weight to adjust tracking weight. That is even with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon in terms of adjustability, while the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB has an additional pitch control adjustment, which is nice but certainly not essential.

The Flaunce sports simple controls.
The Flaunce sports simple controls.

Vibration Resistance


The Fluance was the clear winner for our vibration resistance testing, earning the top score of 8 out of 10. We had to really throw a strong hip check into the table holding the Fluance to get it to skip, making it a perfect choice if your vinyl listening will likely be accompanied by rigorous dancing.

Value


Sporting a list price of $250, the Fluance is a fairly good value considering its sound quality, user friendliness, and aesthetics. However, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB lists for just $50 more and provides better sound quality. If your budget can take an extra $50, this is a better overall value.


Conclusion


The Fluance RT81 is a great all-around turntable that offers good sound and a high level of convenience. If you want to upgrade to great sound, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB provides it for just $50 more.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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