An excellent $500 turntable, BMW car audio (Week 34, 2022)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 34, 2022

Q. I have been reading through your audio equipment recommendations and I like the looks of the Cambridge Audio AXR100 receiver for my Dynaco A-25 speakers and Velodyne subwoofer. For a turntable I was considering the Fluance RT81 or the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB “improved by LP Gear” with the Vessel A3SE cartridge. However, they both have built-in phono preamps, which I wouldn’t need, and neither of them has a cueing lever or auto shutoff. The Music Hall Classic is a possibility but at $698 with the cartridge upgrade, and it has a built-in phono preamp as well. What do you recommend?

-W.T., Minnetonka, MN

A. The Cambridge Audio AXR100 is a solid receiver choice and a good match to your speakers and subwoofer. As for the turntables, the Fluance RT-81 and Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB both have cueing levers, and the RT81 has automatic shutoff to stop the platter from turning at the end of the record. The AT-LP120-USB has been discontinued and the replacement is not as nice as its predecessor, so I recommend you go with the $249.99 Fluance RT81 if your budget is $250. The RT81 really is the class act among $250 turntables these days, and it is remarkable and commendable that Fluance has held the line on the price since its introduction several years ago. The only demerit I give the RT81 is for the tonearm and cuing lever, which lack a substantial feel. The turntable more than makes up for it with its fine sound and the classy-looking walnut wood base, which looks shiny, rich and deep.

Many audiophiles feel the built-in phono preamps found in inexpensive (under $500) turntables limit sound quality even when they are bypassed, and I understand your desire for a purist audiophile turntable without an integrated phono preamp. Fluance has the answer for you with their $499.99 RT85 Reference turntable. It takes the RT81, deletes the phono preamp and adds an edge-driven acrylic platter and an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. The end result is a $500 audiophile turntable with pristine and pure sound quality that exceeds expectations. The RT85 sounds significantly better than the RT81 and is competitive with notably more expensive turntables. The excellent 2M Blue cartridge, a $249 value on its own, is undoubtedly a big contributor to this exceptional sound.

The only caveats are the insubstantial tonearm, which the RT85 shares with the RT81, and that I found it to be susceptible to vibration from footfalls. If this happens in your room you can isolate the turntable on a $19.99 IKEA APTITLIG butcher block placed on audio isolation feet. These feet can be found for $15 a set on Amazon. This $35 turntable isolation stand will improve the sound of most any turntable that will fit on it, so if you are looking for a cheap and fun upgrade, give it a try! See the turntables at

Q. I have a 2012 BMW 335i and want to play music from my phone via Bluetooth. Do I need an adapter to do this?

-T.W., Watsonville, CA

A. As a 2013 BMW owner I can answer this question and then some! In the navigation system there is a Bluetooth Audio setting for streaming music. BMWs of this vintage with navigation will also store music from the CD player under the “Music Collection” tab. Just put in the CD and it will prompt you to copy the CD to the hard drive for convenient playback whenever you want. It is one of my favorite features of the car.