Review: Ruark Audio R5

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This week we reviewed the British Ruark Audio R5 wireless hi-fi system. Sold for €1290, this compact system features a 2.1 channel stereo configuration and includes a DAB, DAB+ and RDS FM tuner. Its network audio player (Ethernet/WiFi) provides access to online streaming services and Internet radios. The Ruark Audio R5 speaker also features an aptX HD compatible Bluetooth receiver to stream music wirelessly from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Lastly, the Ruark Audio R5 compact hi-fi system also includes a CD player, which is a rare feature these days.

With its elegant silhouette, aluminum feet and light gray finish, the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker has a very appealing industrial feel.

Designed first and foremost for playing music in your living room, the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker can also be placed under a television and used in lieu of a soundbar. This is a growing trend that has proven to be effective with other wireless speakers such as the Technics Ottava F SC-C70EG-S, Naim Mu-so 2, Roberts Stream 67 and McIntosh RS200.

Ruark Audio R5: the brand

Ruark Audio is a British family business founded in Rayleigh (Essex) in 1985 by Brian O’Rourke and his son Alan, both passionate about music. Father and son worked together for 14 months to launch their first two models of compact speakers in 1986. Named Sabre and Broadsword, they were acclaimed by retailers and the specialized press. 

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The Ruark Sabre and Ruark Broadsword compact speakers, released in 1986.

The following year, they created a prestigious floorstanding speaker called Accolade. Sold for £2500 a pair, they were praised by audiophile magazines and cemented Ruark’s reputation in the high-end audio market.

A contemporary ad for the Ruark Accolade speakers. The tagline was “They’re worth the odd sacrifice”!

From 1988 to 1996, the team expanded and Ruark proved to be an innovative brand with the release of the Talisman, Crusader and Equinox models. Praised by critics across the world, the company established itself as a reference in the domain of monitoring speakers. 

Encouraged by this success, in the spring of 1996 Brian and Alan decided to invest in a new facility at Southend-on-Sea which is still used by the brand today. Two new models were introduced to celebrate Ruark’s relocation: Icon and Sceptre, designed to replace the Sabre and Swordsman speakers. With an inverted driver configuration (woofer above the tweeter), these speakers strengthened Ruark’s reputation for innovation and design.

The Ruark team in front of their facility at Southend-on-Sea.

Ruark entered the home theater world in the late 90s with its first center speaker named Dialogue One (1997). It was followed by several successful home theater speaker packs, in particular the Prologue pack (1998) and the Vita 100 pack (1999).

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The Ruark Vita 100 System home theater speaker system (1999) featured 5 satellite speakers and an amplified subwoofer.

In 2000, Brian O’Rourke decided to hand over the reigns of the company to his son and son-in-law. This year also saw the release of the limited edition Excalibur speaker, designed by Alan O’Rourke. Nearly 300 pairs of this impressive floorstanding speaker boasting exceptional dynamic performances and a price tag of over £8000 were sold worldwide.

The mid-2000s marked a turning point for the British manufacturer. The BBC’s ongoing promotion of the DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio standard encouraged Alan O’Rourke to use the brand’s expertise in hi-fi speaker production to develop a high fidelity radio.

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Launched in 2006 after 14 months of development, the Ruark R1 radio was a success.

Research and development began as early as 2004. The Ruark R1 DAB radio was released in 2006 and was dubbed “The Aston Martin of DAB radios” by The Sunday Telegraph. 2007 saw the release of the Ruark R2, voted “Product of the year” by What Hi-Fi?. In 2008, the Ruark R2 concept was applied to the Ruark R7, an all-in-one stereo system with a silhouette inspired by 60s furniture design featuring a radio tuner, a CD player and an iPod/iPhone dock.

All four of these products are available today in their third version, under the references Ruark R1 MKIII, Ruark R2 MKIII, Ruark R4 MKIII and Ruark R7 MKIII. The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker is part of this prestigious lineage. It combines the acoustic formula and design of the Ruark Audio R7 MKIII in a more compact package.

Ruark Audio R5: packaging and accessories

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker comes in a thick cardboard box and is held in place by blocks of polystyrene. It is also protected by a thick fabric pouch. The British manufacturer includes two radio antennas: one wired and one metal telescopic model. The Ruark Audio R5 also comes with an RF remote control, a user manual that includes several languages and a warranty card.

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker comes with all the accessories necessary to make it a plug & play product.

Ruark Audio R5: presentation

Ruark Audio R5: design

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker is a genuine 2.1 stereo hi-fi system featuring Class A/B amplifiers with a power output rated at 80 watts RMS. The British manufacturer has designed the Ruark Audio R5 like a true acoustic speaker. Its real wood cabinet is very rigid to reduce unwanted vibrations and houses two proprietary 3” wideband drivers. Situated at the front of the speaker, these drivers feature very light voice coils and powerful neodymium magnets which ensures excellent dynamic qualities.

With its cabinet boasting a matte lacquer finish, aluminum feet, and Camira Lead acoustic fabric, the Ruark Audio R5 is very elegant.

They are accompanied by a 5” long throw bass driver, situated underneath the speaker. This configuration allows the Ruark Audio R5 compact system to provide a wide frequency response, with deep, lively, and realistic lows.

The Ruark Audio R5 features a down-firing bass driver and bass-reflex port.

Ruark Audio R5: control interface

The control interface on the top of the speaker allows you to manage all of the speaker’s functions, from audio setup menus and source selection, to playback and volume settings. The manufacturer also provides a circular remote control with the same functions and buttons that have a similar layout. A free control app can also be downloaded on iOS and Android smartphones, as well as tablets.

The well designed circular remote control has a similar layout to that of the control interface situated on top of the Ruark Audio R5 speaker. 

Ruark Audio R5: radio and CD

Designed to provide access to a multitude of audio sources, the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker features an RDS compatible FM radio receiver, paired with a DAB/DAB+ digital radio receiver. Its OLED display uses white text on a black background and displays the time, as well as the name of the radio station or the title of the song being played.

The slot-loading CD player is built into the front of the speaker. It can play standard audio CDs, but also recordable CDs (CD-R) containing MP3, WMA or AAC files.

The Ruark R5 speaker features a slot-loading CD player. The Eject button can be found in between the slot and the headphone output (3.5mm mini-jack).

Ruark Audio R5: LAN/WiFi, DLNA

Naturally, the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker features an Ethernet and WiFi network controller, which is essential for audio streaming. Because it is DLNA compatible, it can play music stored on a computer or NAS and shared over the local network. It can also use the home network to access thousands of web radios, or to connect directly to Spotify as it is compatible with Spotify Connect. The Ruark Audio control app also provides access to Amazon Music, Deezer and Tidal.

The Ruark Audio R5’s network connectivity can also be used to connect the speaker to other wireless speakers from the brand to build a multiroom system.

Ruark Audio R5: Bluetooth aptX HD

The British manufacturer has also given the Ruark Audio R5 wireless audio system a Bluetooth receiver. Therefore, it is possible to stream music wirelessly to the speaker from a smartphone, a tablet, a computer or a DAP with a Bluetooth emitter. It can stream music stored on the device’s memory, as well as tracks played via the app of an online music service or via YouTube. Better still, compatibility with the aptX HD codec ensures high-fidelity transmission up to 24-bit/48kHz with all compatible devices. This is ideal if you want to listen to high resolution tracks wirelessly via Qobuz, which isn’t supported by the Ruark Link app.

Ruark Audio R5: connectors

Lastly, the Ruark Audio R5 wireless audio system gives the user the possibility to connect multiple analog and digital sources. Its connectors include:

  • an RCA Line input to connect a DAP or an external audio player;
  • a phono input with an integrated preamplifier to connect a turntable (with a MM cartridge);
  • an optical digital input to connect a UHD 4K television or an OLED TV;
  • a USB port to connect a USB flash drive or a USB hard drive containing audio files.
All of the Ruark Audio R5’s connectors can be found on the back at the left-hand side.

Ruark Audio R5: key specifications

  • 2.1 stereo configuration
  • 2 x proprietary 3” full-range drivers
  • 1 x 5” long throw low-frequency driver
  • Class A/B amplifiers
  • Output power: 80 watts RMS
  • DLNA wireless audio streamer (Ethernet/WiFi)
  • Multiroom compatible with the Ruark MR1 MKII, Ruark Audio R2 MK3 and Ruark Audio R7 MK3 wireless speakers
  • Compatible with Spotify Connect
  • FM (RDS), DAB and DAB+ radio tuner
  • Web radios
  • CD player compatible with MP3, AAC and WMA formats
  • aptX HD Bluetooth
  • Phono input (MM), RCA line input and optical input
  • Powered USB input (5V/1A)
  • Headphone output

Ruark Audio R5: listening conditions

To review the Ruark Audio R5 speaker, we connected it via WiFi to our local network provided by the router and satellite of our Netgear Orbi RBK50 pack. This allowed us to listen to audio files stored on a computer and shared over the local network, but also to access web radios and stream Deezer and Amazon Music via WiFi. To listen to FM and DAB radio stations, we screwed the telescopic antenna into the back of the R5.

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker’s OLED screen displays the name of the radio station (FIP Nantes) and its slogan.

We were also able to listen to audio files saved on a USB flash drive that was connected to the USB port of the Ruark Audio R5. This review was also the perfect opportunity to take some of our CDs off the shelf to test the wireless speaker’s CD player.

Lastly, we connected the optical output of our OLED TV to the optical input of the Ruark Audio R5 using a NorStone Jura Optic cable. As a result, we were able to enjoy the R5’s acoustic qualities on a couple of Netflix programs and check if it was possible to use it as a soundbar to replace the audio system of a television.

Ruark Audio R5: initial setup

When we first turned on the Ruark Audio R5, we had to follow a few steps to configure the speaker and enjoy all of its features. The control knob on the top of the speaker was used throughout this process to select the different options by rotation. Each step was confirmed by pressing the top of this control which is “clickable”. 

First step of the setup: choosing the language of the interface.

After choosing the language, the user is prompted to accept the terms and conditions, then to pair the remote control. Once the latter is paired, you can use it to continue the setup. You can then choose the format of the time displayed on the Ruark R5’s screen (12h or 24h), activate the automatic update system or leave it deactivated, then connect the speaker to the local network.

Pairing the remote control to the Ruark Audio R5 speaker only takes a couple of seconds.

After selecting the home WiFi network’s SSID, the user is asked to enter the password. To do this, you must scroll through and select the characters from a large table, which isn’t very practical. Thankfully, the control knob is reactive and precise.

Ruark Audio R5: network selection menu.

We would have preferred it if Ruark Audio had offered a direct WiFi connection between the speaker and the smartphone via the app so that the latter could directly communicate the network connection settings to be used, as is the case with many rival wireless speakers. 

Once it is connected to the local network, the Ruark Audio R5 speaker is fully operational. You may then download the Ruark Link app which allows you to control the speaker intuitively using a smartphone or a tablet.

After a few minutes, the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker is operational.

Ruark Audio R5: Ruark Link app

The Ruark Link app can be downloaded for free on the Google Play Store and the App Store. When the Ruark Audio R5 speaker is connected to the local network, it can be configured and controlled using the smartphone’s touchscreen.

For example, the Ruark Link app lets you change the language of the user interface, program an automatic standby mode, adjust the EQ settings (lows, highs, subwoofer) and set the date and time displayed on the speaker’s screen.

Thanks to this app, it is also possible to access web radios, online music services such as Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music and Spotify, as well as the FM and DAB radio tuners. You can also play music stored in the device’s memory, access music shared over the local network, play an audio CD… Simply put: select any of the music sources provided by the Ruark Audio R5 speaker.

The Ruark Link app is the best interface to use to configure the Ruark Audio R5 speaker.

Finally, the Ruark Link app lets you control multiple Ruark Audio wireless speakers and group them in different areas of your home to create a multi-room audio system.

Ruark Audio R5: DAB/FM radios and web radios

The first time the DAB tuner is selected, the Ruark Audio R5 initiates a search for radio stations that are then automatically memorized: there are 39 across the Nantes region, which have used the DAB+ standard since July 2019. With the telescopic antenna half extended, the reception is excellent. Switching from one station to another can be done quickly by clicking the next (>>|) or previous (|<<) buttons on the speaker’s control interface or the remote control.

You can access web radios, as well as DAB and FM tuners via the Ruark Link app or the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker’s control interface.

With FM reception, the quality is much lower, probably due to the thickness of the walls in our premises. The crackling rapidly made us switch to web radios. Generally, web radios are selected by country/region or by genre. We quickly launched FIP Nantes and found that the transmission quality was not as good as it was with the DAB standard. The AAC+ codec used by DAB+ is more efficient and not as lossy as MP3 and AAC, which are frequently used for web radio transmission. 

Ruark Audio R5: CD player

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker’s CD player features a slot-loading mechanism on the front of the speaker. The speaker automatically switches to CD mode when a disc is inserted, but it is possible to select this source using the control interface, the remote control or the app.

When a disc is inserted into the CD player’s slot, the Ruark Audio R5 speaker automatically switches to CD mode.

The disc is quickly detected and the album information can be displayed on the screen if the metadata is present on the disc (which wasn’t the case on our “old” discs). Skipping from one track to another is also quick. The player can also play the tracks in shuffle mode, and repeat a single track or the entire disc.

Ruark Audio R5 : network audio player and USB

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless music system can play audio files stored on a computer or NAS that is connected to the same local network. Playback can be initiated via the Ruark Audio R5’s control interface by choosing “Media player” as the source and then selecting “Shared media”. The speaker then accesses the different music servers present on the local network. Then simply navigate through the different folders and albums to choose the music you want to listen to.

Via the Ruark Link app, it is very easy to browse through the audio files shared over the local network and play them on the Ruark Audio R5.

Since the Ruark Audio R5 speaker is DLNA compatible (DMR mode – Digital Media Renderer), it is also possible to select music from a computer or network audio streamer (via its dedicated application) and then choose the Ruark audio R5 as the playback device. 

The back of the Ruark Audio R5 system also features a USB audio port. It is therefore possible to connect a USB flash drive to play music. 

Note!
The Ruark Audio R5 cannot decode all audio formats: it can only handle MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and WAV codecs (up to 24-bit/44.1kHz). Moreover, in USB mode, the flash drive or hard drive must be in FAT32 format in order to be readable.

Ruark Audio R5: Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music, Spotify

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker can directly access 4 of the most popular online music services: Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music and Spotify. These services are also natively integrated into the Ruark Link app. Once the account’s username and password have been entered (via the interface with the control knob or via the app), you can access the main menu of the selected online music service. There, you will find the latest tracks and albums, recommendations and playlists.

Amazon Music is accessible via the Ruark Link app.

Ruark Audio R5: Bluetooth aptX HD

The Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker features a Bluetooth receiver. This means you can wirelessly stream your music without using the app and the local network. This is particularly useful if you want to play your music via the Qobuz app, for example, especially since the Ruark R5 is compatible with the aptX HD codec. The only drawback we can point out is the absence of NFC compatibility.

The Ruark Audio R5 speaker is compatible with the aptX HD codec via its Bluetooth connection.

Ruark Audio R5: optical input

Via its optical input, we connected the Ruark Audio R5 wireless speaker to the optical audio output of an LG OLED TV. By setting the TV’s audio output to PCM format (the Ruark Audio R5 cannot decode Dolby Digital or DTS), we were able to test its performance with movie and TV show soundtracks.

Ruark Audio R5: listening impressions

When listening to the radio, we preferred the stations that broadcast in DAB+. We enjoyed an expansive soundstage and wonderful smoothness. The restitution was balanced and vocals were well-defined with both music and radio shows.

Millie Jackson’s voice was natural and perfectly embodied with the Ruark Audio R5 speaker.

When listening Millie Jackson’s album Still Caught Up on CD, the Ruark Audio R5 provided a precise and realistic restitution. The texture of the singer’s voice was nicely reproduced and the acoustics of the recording immediately immersed us in the atmosphere of the album. The speaker’s size is rather modest and the frontal drivers are quite close to one another. However, the soundstage was wide and the 3D mode amplified this effect while remaining natural. When we closed our eyes, it was as if we were listening to a pair of compact speakers placed about 2 meters apart. A remarkable feat.

The Ruark Audio R5 speaker’s qualities were confirmed throughout our listening session, whether it was with Deezer (Family account, MP3 320 kbps bitrate), files shared over the local network (FLAC up to 24/44.1) or even Qobuz via a Bluetooth connection (aptX HD). 

It is easy to find your Deezer playlists in the Ruark Link app.

This wireless speaker provides a wide and spacious sound field, and even offers a significant amount of depth. Its 5” long throw woofer is most likely responsible. It provides solid lows which can even be very powerful, while maintaining a certain richness that contributes to the overall smoothness of the restitution. In other words, a very British sound.

During the fight between the space farmers and the alien invaders, the Ruark Audio R5 speaker provided an efficient and dynamic spatialization of the soundtrack. The explosions, in particular, were very convincing.

During an episode of the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, we were pleasantly surprised by the Ruark Audio wireless speaker. Even though it doesn’t feature a surround sound mode dedicated to “cinema” sound, it managed to effectively distribute the sound effects around the listening room. The 3D mode revealed its full potential here, with sound effects that seemed to come from behind the viewer. The jazzy soundtrack of the movie Birdman provided us with a different atmosphere, and we were definitively convinced by the R5 with its consistent musicality and distinct dialogues, which really hit the mark.

On the Birdman soundtrack, the Ruark Audio R5 speaker was precise and highlighted the subtleties in the music composed by drummer Antonio Sanchez, ever-present throughout the movie.

Ruark Audio R5: compared to…

Naim Mu-so 2: the Naim wireless speaker impressed us with its design, features and dynamic qualities. It is more versatile than the Ruark Audio speaker, as it features AirPlay 2 compatibility, a Chromecast Audio and an HDMI ARC input. The Naim Mu-so 2 produces a very dynamic and exceptionally neutral sound. The Ruark Audio R5 offers a slightly colored sound that won us over with its richness and smoothness. Moreover, stereo spatialization seemed wider with the R5; music extends across a surprisingly large area given the size of the speaker.

Audio Pro Drumfire: the Drumfire packs more of a punch in the lows thanks to its dedicated 8” woofer. However, spatialization isn’t its forte, unless it is used in a pair for a true stereo configuration. Overall, the Ruark Audio R5 seemed more balanced.

Devialet Phantom: the French speaker displays a more impressive amount energy in the lows, but it isn’t capable of offering stereo spatialization like the Ruark R5. Unless you pair it with a second Devialet Phantom, which would double the price tag.

Ruark Audio R5: conclusion

There is no denying it: the British manufacturer’s many years of experience producing benchmark acoustic speakers can be heard when listening to this wireless speaker. The Ruark Audio R5 is balanced and dynamic. It is capable of offering a wide soundstage despite its compact size and is suitable for movie and TV series soundtracks.

However, it is important not to turn the bass EQ settings up too high, otherwise the sound will be significantly unbalanced. The manufacturer has even included a Loudness setting which wasn’t really necessary for listening to music but was very interesting on movies and TV series, especially for watching movies at night and at low volume. 

Here are the settings we used for music: 

  • 3D: on
  • Loudness: off
  • Subwoofer level: +2
  • Bass: 0
  • Treble: -2

What we liked:

  • The width of the soundstage and the richness of the lows
  • The balanced sound
  • The very functional app and pleasant remote control
  • The CD player

What we would have liked:

  • Compatibility with high resolution audio formats
  • An integrated Chromecast audio
  • NFC compatibility

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