For those of you who don’t follow my articles, I am a lover of all things analog. I have dipped my toes back into the world of vinyl and was lucky enough to get my hands on the Fluance RT81 to review. In short, it was a beast of a performer, and at $249 was budget friendly. Well, Fluance has announced an upgrade to its popular RT81, with the new RT81+. Is it the new performance King of the Fluance Line? Priced at $299, it’s still budget-friendly. Let’s discuss.
What’s New With The Fluance RT81+?
The RT81 will be a hard act to follow. It packed a lot of value into that turntable, so the RT81+ has some big shoes to fill. So what’s new with the Fluance RT81+?
New Cartridge – Audio Technica AT-VM95E
As I suspected when I reviewed my RT81, Fluance has decided to move from the discontinued Audio Technica AT95E (elliptical) cartridge. The Fluance RT81+ replaces it with the more versatile AT-VM95E (elliptical). While the AT95E was a decent cartridge in its day, it was stuck with limited replacement options when it was time to replace the stylus.
The AT-VM95E, on the other hand, gives you many options when it’s time to select a new replacement stylus. If you like the stock elliptical cartridge, you are in luck. Replacements are cheap, under $40. But if you want to tinker with your sound and see what other styluses sound like, you can just swap out the stylus without changing the entire cartridge.
All-in-all, the AT-VM95E offers six different styluses types including conical, elliptical (green and black), elliptical nude, Microlinear, and Shibata. The AT-VM95E really is one of the most versatile cartridges out there, and one of my favorites.
Improved Platter For Superior Vibration Isolation
If you have ever bumped a turntable or stomped a bit too hard next to one, you know that vibrations can make a turntable skip. In the turntable world, you damp vibration with mass and isolation. Well, Fluance has addressed that by upgrading the aluminum platter with additional damping material and adding a 3mm acrylic turntable mat.
Now let me say that with a grain of salt. I checked the specs, and the new platter is 13 grams heavier than the old one. That’s not a lot of additional mass. But that extra 13 grams could be some rubber damping that could impact vibrations. I will have to check that out and report back.
What Stayed The Same With The Fluance RT81+?
The old adage of “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!” rings true here. Fluance didn’t mess a lot with a fantastic product. The RT81+ maintains its heavy MDF plinth, a trio of rubber feet, an s-shaped aluminum tonearm, and a built-in pre-amp. It also maintains the swappable headshell in case you want to move from the AT-VM95 line up, and don’t want to mess with swapping cartridges all the time.
In short, the Fluance RT81+ is a huge value.
The Fluance RT81+ is a slight upgrade to their tried and tested RT81. There is a $50 difference between the RT81 and RT81+. But for that $50, you get the AT-VM95E cartridge, an acrylic platter mat, and a slightly better damped platter.
In my opinion, the Fluance RT81+ will still be at the top of my budget turntable picks.
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