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Audio

Are you ready to upgrade to your first really decent turntable?

The Fluance RT84 turntable looks, feels and sounds like a winner.

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The Fluance RT-84 turntable.

Fluance

Fluance is best known as a speaker company, so when they dropped their first turntable in 2016 I wasn't expecting much. I figured it was just another half-assed attempt to cash in on the vinyl boom, but Fluance's RT81 was very decent. It was and remains the best $249 turntable out there, and now Fluance upped its game with four new models, the RT82 for $299, RT83 for $349, RT84 for $449 and the RT85 for $499.

I opted for the RT84 for this review, but the four new models are more alike than different. They're all belt drive turntables with solid wood bases, and height adjustable pointed rubber feet that make it super easy to level the turntable. The RT82 and RT83 have metal platters; RT84 and RT85 have acrylic ones. All models come pre-fitted with Ortofon moving-magnet phono cartridges. The RT84 sports an Ortofon 2M Red that retails for $99 when sold separately.

It's great that the RT84's tonearm has a removable head shell, which makes it a little easier to replace cartridges in the future. Since the RT84 doesn't have a built-in phono preamplifier I used a Schiit Mani preamp ($129) for all of my listening tests.

Unboxing the RT84 I'm thinking this is a $449 turntable? It looks and feels like double the price. Build quality is exceptional, the machined metal motor pulley, platter bearing, metal "S" shaped tonearm, the heavyweight platter, and hinged clear plastic dust cover, they're all first rate. The RT84 feels more solidly put together than Rega RP1 ($449) or Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($399) turntables, that's for sure. The RT84 is sold with a two year warranty.

One indication of a turntable's sound quality is its ability to minimize LP surface noise. No LP pressing is 100 percent dead silent, but the better turntables keep noise at bay, pushed into the background. The RT84 scored high in this regard, even with LPs I found on the street or bought in thrift shops for under a dollar. They sounded pretty good, not perfect, but very listenable.

The RT84 would be a fine choice for your first turntable, or a nice upgrade over your first budget or hand me down turntable from your parents or relatives. You'll be sure to notice how much quieter and clear all of your LPs and singles sound. Better yet when your music isn't competing with the sound of clicks, pops, and other noises it sounds better. The RT84 frees the music from the LPs grooves, so you hear deeper into your tunes.

If the Fluance RT84's price puts it out of reach, no worries, their RT81 at $249 is still an outstanding 'table, a great way to dip into the wonderful world of analog audio, try it, you'll like it.

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