pl | en

REVIEW | LIFESTYLE AUDIO | All-in-one system

Ruark Audio

Manufacturer: RUARK AUDIO
Price (in Poland): 4890 PLN

Contact: 59 Tailors Court, Temple Farm Industrial Estate Southend on Sea


Provided for test by: AUDIO CENTER POLAND

RUARK AUDIO is a British company that was set up in 1986 and used to specialize in loudspeaker design, while since 2006 it has been very successful in the field of all-in-one systems and Bluetooth speakers. It offers both small MRX speakers and the fantastic floorstanding R7 Radiogram system. The R5 is the latest company device, based on the top-of-the-range R7 model.

And it all began with a Wife…

| Something for people

cannot really recall when it was exactly, but one day the Wife of one of your editors asked whether she could have some little radio in the bedroom, on her bed side, something similar to the Tivoli One that we have in our living room. One cannot deny such a request and the small oblong Cambridge Audio Go Radio model was not only accepted but also loved. The FM Radio was equipped with digital and not analogue (like the Tivoli One) frequency synthesis, so it was easy to use. The only disadvantage of the Go Radio that one had to accept was that its volume level was set quite high, so one could not listen to music quietly.

A year or two passed and the same Wife asked another question – would it be possible to connect something to her radio in a way that would enable her to listen to CDs. There could be only one answer to that, as peace at home is an important thing, so the Denon DCD-50 CD player was put under the Christmas tree. It is small and nice, and it can be used in a horizontal or vertical position. It is equipped with a slot loading CD player, so it is easy to use in such conditions. So, no wonder it was loved as much as the Cambridge Audio model before.

Everything flows, according to a classic, although it probably does not refer to any human being on the day I am writing these words, when the temperature is (again) predicted to reach 95º F. Anyway, things do flow. One day, the main character in this story asked whether it was possible to arrange for something bigger than the Cambridge Audio device to stand on the shelf next to her bed side. I think you all know already that there was only one possible answer to that request. However, the task appeared to be a little more complicated, as the device was to combine a few different features: be nice, functional and sound well, and be bigger than Go Radio.

There is a wide choice in the audio market, as Naim and Bowers&Wilkins both make perfect all-in-one systems, while the offer of the classic audio company – JBL is truly breathtaking. However, when I saw the R2 Mk3 Ruark Audio model, I knew I was at home.

It is because, you know, it is a company that made a complete about-turn in 2006. Because of that, almost all stereotypically thinking people condemned it to a rapid fall. Why? The specialist audio firm that had been offering very good loudspeakers for years suddenly ceased to manufacture them and started offering portable FM/DAB radio – the R1 model. What is important, it was more expensive than products sold by its competitors. The decision that I am writing about here was made by Alan O'Rourke, the son of the company founder and its CEO since 2002.

It seems that he was not totally convinced that what he was doing was a good thing, so the R1 model was to be sold under another brand name, Vita Audio, which was not a good idea. Fortunately, the R1, launched in 2006, was a huge success and it changed the image of the Ruark Audio company forever. However, it was as late as in 2012 that they decided to return to the Ruark Audio brand. Today, twelve years later, they only offer wireless loudspeakers and all-in-one systems, referring, in their philosophy, to something that has already disappeared from our surroundings – a piece of furniture that used to be called “radiogram”.


Granada radiogram from the 1960s. Photo: Musik- och teatermuseet,

RADIOGRAM is a piece of furniture with a turntable and radio receiver installed – the name was created by combining the words radio and gramophone. In the USA, such a system was called a console and in Poland – Radiola. From the outside, a radiogram looked like a classic British chiffonier. After raising the upper shelf, it was possible to access the turntable and opening the front door gave one access to the radio. There were, however, different versions and types of the device – some of them had doors on top only and some – only at the front.

The radiogram was most popular at the time when hi-fi was developing, i.e. after 1947. At the end of the 1960s, when small portable transistor radios were invented, such systems were no longer practical and thus quite quickly ceased to be produced. In 2012, the Marantz company made a reference to radiograms in the American language version, by offering a great all-in-one system called the MS7000 Consolette. It was just a suggestion of a “console” and not a real radiogram, but it was already known that such devices came into fashion again. In 2014, the Ruark Audio company presented the most beautiful system of this type so far, the R7 model.

Ruark Audio R7 MkII. Foto: Ruark Audio

| R5

The R5 is the latest addition to Ruark Audio company’s offer. It is a smaller version of the R7 Radiogram supermodel. As we can read in company materials, “it offers everything that we could expect from this type of a product plus excellent sound”. It is a classic all-in-one system, i.e. it combines a signal source, amplifier and speakers in one housing. The word “classic” also characterizes its looks well, as the R5 simply looks great.

The way it looks | The housing is made of veneered MDF board and two finish versions are available – natural Rich Walnut veneer and Soft Grey lacquer (we are reviewing the latter here). In cheaper models offered by the company, including the R2 that is proudly owned by the Wife, speakers are covered with metal mesh, which makes the systems look a little more modern. When it comes to the R7, however, the company took a different direction – towards the 1950s, as it covered most of the front panel with woollen fabric featuring a classic British stitch. Let me remind you that a similar direction was taken by the Cambridge Audio company in Yoyo systems.

What it plays | A classic is a classic, but the R5 is a modern audio system inside. The device offers a few different sound sources. It can be ground FM radio, DAB radio and, thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity, after logging into our home network we have access to Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Tidal and Deezer streaming services, and Internet radio. The Bluetooth connection makes it possible to listen to music from mobile devices. One of the things that make the R5 different from other such systems is its slot loading CD player. There is also some good news for turntable lovers – the R5 is equipped with a phono stage for MM cartridges.

The front panel features a large and clear OLED display that has a lot of information on it. When we listen to FM radio, it displays a clock on the top, RDS below and signal strength yet further down. In practice, it is comfortable to listen to all FM stations with signal equal to or higher than 7/10. If we want to listen to music through headphones, we can use the mini-jack input on the front panel. Let us add that the R5 can also operate in the company’s Multi-Room system mode.

How it is controlled | After taking the radio out of the box, you need to plug it into a power supply socket. A question whether you want to start the setup process will then appear on the display. Click “Yes” and follow the instructions. It is really simple, even in the case of a wireless connection – almost all new routers offer the WPS function which makes it possible to pair the R5 with a Wi-Fi device using one button.

WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) is a standard which allows us to create a secured wireless connection in a home network. The function is offered by a lot of modern routers. It makes it easier for us to securely connect a computer or another device to a wireless network. WPS is a concept invented by Wi-Fi Alliance, first offered in 2006.

If you want to carefully follow the procedure of connecting the R5 to the Internet, you can use guidance available on YouTube.

The system is controlled using a comfortable, unique looking set of buttons with a knob in the centre. The buttons are placed on the top panel, they are convenient and it is easy to learn how to use them (the Wife is nodding her head). The set of buttons also looks like a UFO. However, the R5 and R7 offer something more – a remote control that looks exactly the same as the control panel in the system, but is mobile. During the installation, you will be asked to pair the remote control with the system.

The Ruark Audio company has also prepared a special Ruark LINK application which allows us to fully control the R5 using Android or iOS devices. It is not necessary in everyday use, but may come in handy in two cases – when we want to use streaming services (Spotify, Tidal, Quobuz) or when we want to set up a multi-room system at home, consisting of Ruark Audio devices, e.g. the R2 MkIII and MRX. In practice, the R5 is easy and pleasant to use. It does not differ from classic, pre-Internet audio systems. And when we want something more, it is ready for it.

Two words about the technology | The R5 is a system designed for people who do not want to deal with classic audio too much or for those who already have their main system, but would like to have something nice in their bedroom, kitchen or living room. However, it is different from devices targeted at the mass audience. The technologies used in it are just one side of the equation. The other side is classic audiophile engineering – amplifiers and speakers, and the Ruark Audio company specializes in these fields.

The R5 features two Ruark Audio full-range drivers with the diameter of 75 mm each and neodymium magnets. One can see one more driver from the bottom, a 125 mm throw driver with an integrated amplifier, operating as an active subwoofer; the two drivers at the front are powered using classic AB class amplifiers (nominal output – 90 W). The menu lets us adjust the tone colour and subwoofer power, and turn in enhanced 3D sound processing.

The CD player is designed for both classic CDs and CD-Rs with MP3, ACC and WMA files. The display will show CD-Text. Let us add that the Bluetooth connection is equipped with the latest version of the system: aptX HD, giving us theoretical resolution of 24 bits (96 kHz). You can read more about the system in our review of the Cambridge Audio Alva TT turntable. The manufacturer also informs us that the R5 has been built using top-class “elements designed for audio systems”.


There are as many ways of using the R5 as there are users – each of them will consider a different source to be the most important one. I assume that I would use Tidal most often, then FM radio (or DAB) and finally – CDs. However, it is quite possible that I would use the Bluetooth connection just as often. And this is where I actually started listening to the system.

My laptop was the source, as I was listening to music sitting on a couch next to the device, writing the introduction to this test. Tidal was the source, but it was played from the computer via Bluetooth, not directly from the R5. After the devices had been paired, the name of the artist and track title were shown by the display of the R5.

The sound of such a combination is amazing. One can imagine the sound of the R5, looking at this through the prism of old mini hi-fi sets (those who are more than ca. 25 years old) or with reference to small wireless speakers made by other companies (those who are less than 25 years of age). None of this, however, will even roughly reflect what the Ruark Audio system sounds like. The most accurate point of reference here would be the Tivoli One radio. It represents a very similar way of thinking about sound and very similar sensitivity..

Everything that is shown by the R5 is very large, with tonal balance set low. You can naturally change this, adapting sound qualities to the place where the device is located – we will return to this later – but, independently of the settings, we will get pure and deep sound. There is a soul in this sound and this is no chirping or buzzing. It is hard to expect such well-balanced sound even from small separate sound systems.

It is obvious that midrange was the focus here, thanks to which also the radio comes across excellent, as, in the end, the thing that makes it exceptional and different from streaming services it is the fact that it is associated with reporters. This is good, however – it is full, dense midrange that is completed by surprising higher bass. Although the manufacturer talks about a “subwoofer”, it is rather a metaphor. However, the additional driver proves so useful that both music usually played by RMFMAXX, big commercial radio from Krakow, and the sublime sounds of the ECM record label from Tidal made sense, had the drive, density, fullness – it was simply great.

It was equally amazing how well the R5 sounded with headphones. While listening, I mainly used the AKG Y50, as it is a “cert” – and I got equally well-balanced sound. And when I played Ed Sheeran’s latest single Beautiful People (feat. Khalid) I could only murmur: “oh, fuck!” What is important, the R5 sounds equally well when we sit on the side – and this is probably the way it is going to be listened to. It fills the room with strong, low sound without tiring treble.

Settings | The R5 offers a few levels of tone colour and spatiality control. I think that the 3D setting can be left turned on, unless we are sitting in front of the device and want to get stronger foreground. 3D sets it far away into the depth, because of which it becomes intangible. However, if we are sitting outside the axis, 3D should be turned on.

The amount of highs and lows will depend on your requirements and on the location of the device. I have not talked about it yet, but there is something about the proportions of Ruark Audio systems that makes them fit the existing situations perfectly well. My Wife’s R2 MkIII simply ideally fitted the book shelves on the wall next to the bed, as if its width had been planned. In such a place, one has to be careful with the amount of lows – you can even set them at ‘0’. When it comes to highs, you may set them at ‘0’ or ‘+2’. As for Loudness, I would turn it off.

As for the R2 fitting the size of shelves in our bedroom, it can be explained in some way, but the fact that it also fitted a niche in the upper part of my grandmother’s cupboard that we have in our living room was something magical for me. You know, the cupboard that I am talking about came with my grandmother Hela to Nowa Huta in the early 1950s. It was already quite old then. It was not a cool, wooden piece of furniture decorated with intarsia from the antique “Gdańsk” collection, but an ordinary, cheap, white-painted cupboard that her family could afford to buy.

When she was allocated a flat in the more recently built part of Nowa Huta, the cupboard was put in the cellar, as it was too large – this was a 24 m2 flat. And it stood there for (almost) the next forty years. When I was moving out, I only took the upper part of the cupboard, as the floorstanding part was falling apart. I planned to put it in full view of everyone, on a large table in the living room. To make it look decent, I decided to paint it, however.

While having my paint mixed, I asked for a bluish grey colour and started renovating the piece of cupboard two hours later. I initially thought that there was something wrong with the light, as the colour was not right and then I hoped everything would go back to normal after the paint dried up. However, things got even worse the next day and the colour of the cupboard was the same as presented in the photos. Now we have got used to it and cannot imagine a different paint, but then it was something crazy.

Anyway, the piece of cupboard has a niche that would be half-covered with lace and used to keep pots, plates and containers in the past. It is hard to believe, but the R5 ideally fits in it. It sticks out at the front a little, but when it comes to its width, it seems to be designed for the piece of cupboard. When placed there, it requires the following settings:

Bass: +6
Treble: +2
Loudness: Off
3D: On
Sub woofer Level: +2

When I put it on the windowsill, I had to increase the subwoofer level and sometimes I also turned on the Loudness mode.


By giving up the classic development path of an audio company, Ruark Audio risked a great deal. It was not known in 2006 what direction the audio world would take for people from outside the audio ghetto. Besides, it was not known how people devoted to the brand would react to the change. It appeared that Alan O'Rourke is a visionary and he found a place for himself with such powerful companies as JBL.

He offers all-in-one systems that are as functional and convenient as devices sold in supermarkets, but look and sound a great deal better. It is the top shelf of what we can get when it comes to this type of devices. We will need more such companies and products in the future, whereas we can already get what they will offer from Ruark Audio, here and now.

Technical specification (according to the manufacturer)

• Slot loading CD player (plays CD-Audio, MP3, AAC and WAV music discs)
• DAB/DAB+, FM Tuner with RDS, Internet radio receiver
• aptX HD Bluetooth receiver
• Two 75 mm full-range drivers with neodymium magnets
• Integrated active subwoofer with a 125 mm-long throw driver
• Total output power: 80 W
• One RIAA gain stage turntable input (RCA connectors)
• One stereo analogue input (RCA connectors)
• One digital optical TOSLINK input
• One stereo analogue output (RCA connectors)
• USB charge 1.0A and playback port
• 3.5 mm mini-jack headphone output
• RJ45 Ethernet port
• Functional alarm clock
• Spotify Connect, Tidal
• OLED display
• Remote control
• Supported file formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, WAV
• Dimensions (H x W x D): 142 x 520 x 300 mm
• Weight: 9.5 kg


Reference system 2018

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC