Bargain hunting is one of the great pleasures of being an AV enthusiast. Quite often, shopping for speakers represents the best opportunity to maximize the price-performance ratio of a sound system. In that context, and due to their attractive price, the Fluance Signature Series towers ($700/pair) are sure to get the attention of any cost-conscious audio enthusiast searching for full-sized floorstanding loudspeakers.
Typically, my procedure for identifying speakers to review involves listening to a demo at a trade show. I want to know if it’s worth going through the effort. Unpacking, setting up, and evaluating large tower speakers takes time, so I try to avoid mediocre products—good sound quality is my main prerequisite for accepting a speaker for review. However, in the case of the Fluance Signature Series, the sheer popularity of a thread regarding their initial release convinced me to give them a try.
Specifications and Features
Before we get into the details, it’s worth noting that the pair of Signature Series towers featured here is the second pair that I have evaluated. The first pair, which I checked out back in February and March of this year, turned out to be defective. At the time, my measurements indicated there was some issue with the crossover, and those observations were substantiated by other reviewers. When I emailed the company to ask about it, I was told—without any discussion—to return the speakers.
To its credit, Fluance issued a recall and offered to update any towers it had already sold. Now, the “fixed” version of the speaker is shipping, and I accepted a pair to review.The Signature Series tower is a 3-way design with dual 8-inch woofers, a 5-inch woven-glass midrange, and a 1-inch neodymium silk-dome tweeter. Inside the cabinet, there are two separate driver enclosures; one for the woofers (featuring twin ports), and one that’s shared by the midrange and tweeter. These speakers hold the distinction of being both the least-expensive and the largest tower speakers I have reviewed.
At four feet tall, it is an imposing speaker with an aggressive look to it, so don’t count on it disappearing into the background. It comes with integrated outrigger-style feet that can be used with spikes, and the front grill attaches magnetically to the 1.4″-thick front baffle. Aesthetically, these towers combine a piano black-gloss finish up front with a brown wood-grain finish on the sides—they look like they could be $1000 towers. Fluance offers a lifetime parts and labor warranty on this speaker.
The Fluance Signature Series tower is a serious-looking speaker. Photo by Mark Henninger
Maximum power handling of the Fluance flagship is rated at 200 watts (90 watts minimum). The tweeter crosses over to the midrange at 2.7 kHz, and the midrange hands things over to the dual woofers at 530 Hz. The specified frequency response is 35 Hz to 20,000 Hz, and sensitivity is listed as 89 dB/W/m. This is an 8-ohm speaker that can be bi-amped if desired. It weighs 62.4 pounds and measures 47.24″ (high) x 10.9″ (wide) x 15.4″ (deep).
For this review, I eschewed room correction and the use of subwoofers. I’ll gladly discuss the impact that using those tools has on a system in the comments, but since Fluance says, “Mastering precision and sonic accuracy, the Signature Series uses only premium components that ensure high fidelity sound, transporting the concert into your living room,” I figured I’d treat these speakers as standalone, audiophile tower speakers designed to work in a system on their own, with no EQ or DSP processing.
Step one of any speaker review is unboxing the merchandise. The double-boxed packaging was easy enough to open, but unlike some competing products, it did not include any visual or written directions to assist with the process. Likewise, the minimal manual did not offer any insight into how to assemble the speakers—namely attaching the outrigger feet—and while it’s not all that difficult to figure out, the process could be a bit more intuitive.
I set up the Signature towers in my 2-channel listening room, with a Pioneer SC-85 AVR running in Pure Direct mode and a PC running Tidal—with a lossless-streaming subscription—serving as the primary source.
I connected the speakers to the SC-85 using two 10-foot segments of Monoprice 12-gauge oxygen-free copper speaker wire. Compared to all other speakers I have reviewed, these speaker terminals are over-built and under-designed. It was a pain in the butt to connect the cable, mainly because the thick jumpers between woofer and midrange/tweeter terminals nearly filled the hole where the wire goes. The frustration was compounded by how little leeway the fastening nut offered—it fell out far too easily. I felt like I needed three hands to wire these speakers up.
I did not love these clunky, clumsy, overbuilt speaker terminals. Photo by Mark Henninger
The speakers were placed seven feet apart—as measured from the tweeters—and four feet ahead of the front wall. Each one was located two feet away from the respective side wall, and they were toed in slightly. In this configuration, my listening position is eight or nine feet back from the speakers and perfectly centered, which is my standard arrangement for 2-channel listening. It has yielded excellent results with a wide variety of speakers—both bookshelves and towers—that had price points ranging from a few hundred bucks up to high four figures.
Not only are the Signature Series towers tall, but the tweeter and midrange are located fairly high up on the front baffle. This places the apparent acoustical center a bit higher than ear level, which is unusual, but certainly not a deal breaker. It’s worth noting that tall high-end speakers (e.g., Focal, Wilson) typically tilt the tweeter and midrange toward the listener, whereas these speakers fire straight forward.
I’ve often joked that with tower speakers, people are actually paying for the enclosure’s height—speakers by the inch—but with these Fluance towers, you surely get a lot of cabinet for your money.
The midrange and tweeter are placed up high on these towers. Photo by Mark Henninger
Performance and Listening
When powered by the SC-85 (rated at 135 watts/channel with an 8-ohm load), I did not run into a performance ceiling in terms of output. Having said that, a dedicated 200 watts/channel amp could be expected to extract 2 or 3 more decibels from these speakers, as compared to a decent AVR running in stereo mode. Not a huge difference, but AVR owners seeking high output may wish to think about buying speakers with slightly higher sensitivity than these.
I started the speaker evaluation with measurements, which quickly confirmed that Fluance fixed the issue found in the first review pair. With a properly functioning crossover, the in-room response of the Signature Series towers was within the parameters I’ve come to associate with good sound. A gated measurement from one meter away confirmed that the upper bass, midrange, and treble are well-behaved on axis as well as 30 degrees off axis.
So, are these good-sounding speakers now that the crossover is fixed? I must admit, overall they are better than I expected, given the fiasco of my first encounter with a pair. But that’s partly because my expectations were quite low to begin with. Mind you, the sound quality is not revelatory. Rather, I’d say these speakers are reasonably capable for the money. The big-deal feature here are the twin 8-inch woofers, which should (in theory) offer robust bass performance for a passive speaker system.
Unlike the defective review pair, these Signature Series towers delivered a broad soundstage with good imaging. Granted, every properly functioning speaker I’ve reviewed could at least pull off that trick, but these towers can now join the all-inclusive club of good-imaging speaker systems. Clearly, whatever was wrong with the crossover has been fixed, which was also reflected in noticeably improved frequency response measurements compared with the defective pair.
An average of multiple in-room measurements—taken around my listening position—offered perspective on Fluance’s frequency-response specs. Of course, there were the usual issues with room interaction in the bass department—peaks and nulls.
With the dual 8-inch woofers pumping away at 35 Hz, a cluster of eight measurements showed that throughout my listening position, the measured bass response was down by about 10 dB compared to higher frequencies. This poor bass response appears to be at least partly due to room interactions. A measurement taken one meter away from the speaker showed a response that was in line with the listed specs.
Twin ports on the back of the Signature Series towers. Photo by Mark Henninger
When measured from one meter away, the -3 dB point was a subwoofer-deep 30 Hz, which actually beat the anechoic spec. I also heard and felt that bass, so I know it exists. The problem was that regardless of what the one-meter measurement showed, I found it a challenge to successfully integrate these speakers into my room.
Without the help of measurement, room correction, and EQ, I fear it would be easy to wind up with an unsatisfying result using these speakers. It’s also worth noting that I have found numerous other tower speakers to be more cooperative when used in the same position. Now, that doesn’t mean these Fluance towers won’t slot into some other room just fine; it just means that they don’t sound all that great in my room, and getting them to behave requires EQ and elbow grease at a minimum.
On the bright side, response above the Schroeder frequency (300 Hz in my room) was quite flat, staying within a +/-3 dB window up to 19,000 Hz. I know the following statement will sound funny when discussing huge towers (with dual 8-inch woofers that have extension to 30 Hz), but these speakers could use the help of a subwoofer or two.
Clustered, averaged, smoothed frequency response (above Schroeder) of the Signature Series towers, in my 2-channel listening room.
Subs would help smooth the in-room response of these towers, which would allow for much more flexible placement options. Also, as you will read, the bass coming from these Fluance towers was not as textured and dynamic as I’m used to hearing; a sub could add some needed texture and grip to the down-low proceedings.
In many music genres, these towers offer enough bass extension, coupled with sufficiently competent performance, to make listening an enjoyable—if not exhilarating—experience. But I would caution against comparing the Signature Series to competently designed towers I’ve reviewed in the past, like Kilpsch’s RP-280F, GoldenEar’s Triton Five, the SVS Prime tower, or PSB’s Imagine X2T—all of which admittedly cost more, but they are smaller and sound better. In particular, the Klipsch RP-280F towers come to mind when I think of a tower with dual 8-inch woofer—they trounce these Fluance towers while not costing a lot more. Overall, I could not escape the feeling that the bass output of the twin eights was not as crisp and rewardingly tactile as it should be.
For example, the Signature Series towers lacked the tightness that adds appropriate tension to percussion, a flaw that got more and more annoying as I went through a playlist of my favorite test tracks. Daft Punk’s “Disc Wars“—from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack—is a perennial go-to for scrutinizing a wide variety of qualities in a speaker. It’s a bass monster, and it includes the London Symphony backing the carefully produced electronic sounds. The tympani in that track should be bracing, not bloated as I heard from the Fluance. Any speaker pair that can ace that track is okay in my book, but these towers couldn’t quite hack it.
These power-hungry towers gladly accepted all the watts my AVR could feed them, but somehow failed to convert those electrons into compelling musical energy. As “Disc Wars” played, I was far away from experiencing goose bumps, which is one informal method of judging fidelity. I figured perhaps more juice might help, so I turned the AVR’s volume way up. No luck with that; even a quick switch to a dedicated 200-watt amp—the Classé Sigma AMP5—failed to conjure subjective listening magic. Whatever made these speakers less than inspiring, it was not caused by a lack of power.
The intro to Bassnectar’s “Science Fiction” was the closest I came to feeling excited about the sound of these towers. Before the deep dubstep-style bass lines kicked in, the swirling synthesizer sounds were genuinely exciting, possessing clarity and definition that was surely abetted by the dedicated 5-inch midrange driver. But, once the electronic bass kicked in, I felt disappointed by the lack of visceral impact and once again wished for a subwoofer.
I was having a hard time enjoying my typical test tracks, so I thought I’d cut the towers some slack and feed ’em a few easy-going classics. Riders on the Storm, Hotel California, Strawberry Fields, Bohemian Rhapsody, Brain Damage, and numerous other “audiophile” rock staples sounded quite good—likely because the mixes from that analog, vinyl-record era did not make the same demands in the deep-bass region as modern electronic music does. While the sound quality of these tracks was not up to the “you are there in the studio” quality I have heard through great systems, the Fluances rendered these classics in a more-than-serviceable manner.
The strong point of these towers is how relaxed they are when handling midrange and treble. The smooth-yet-detailed sound they conjure compliments human vocals and guitars; they provide what I’d call an easy-listening experience. At modest levels, the speakers provide an agreeable presentation with most music; you could use them to listen to jazz in the background all day long and be quite happy with the result.
The Fluance Signature Series speakers offer performance that appears to be in line with their $700 price point, but they do not rise to the fidelity available from some other brands. What they lack in overall finesse, they compensate for in sheer ostentatious size and—depending on your taste in towers—good looks.
Crucially, Fluance claims these towers compete with models from other manufacturers that sell for twice their price, a claim I cannot agree with. Indeed, I feel they are inferior performers when compared to all the towers I have reviewed, including those that cost under $1400 per pair.
I did not enjoy reviewing these speakers twice, and I probably would not have requested a pair to review if I had heard them first, but some good did come out of this exercise. In the end, I concluded that the Fluance Signature Series towers are not bad speakers, but they are also not all that great.
I grant that these could be exactly what someone else is looking for—tall and macho towers that will visually dominate a room. I can’t deny they measure well—the company clearly worked to get its crossover right—but as with many other speakers, adding a subwoofer or two plus a dollop of EQ would likely address complaints about the quality of the bass. As I mentioned early in this review, I didn’t do that here because I decided to evaluate these speakers in a classic 2-channel audiophile configuration.
If I were asked for a recommendation regarding the Fluance Signature Series towers, I would first point to some alternatives, but I also would not try to stop anyone from trying them out.
Windows 10 PC with Tidal (source)
Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR
Classé Sigma AMP5