Price (RRP): $1,999
Manufacturer: Ruark Audio
Ruark Audio is a British maker of high-fidelity radios and music systems. It’s best known for a range of products which combine modern digital technology and a decidedly retro aesthetic. It calls its top-of-the-line R7 music system a “High Fidelity Radiogram”, for goodness sake. Radiogram is a word I haven’t heard much since the early 1970s. Here we’re looking at the next model down, the Ruark Audio R5 High Fidelity Music System.
What is the Ruark Audio R5 High Fidelity Music System?
Okay, it looks old-school. The review one had the walnut veneer around the body with the ’60s style “Camira Lead Grey” fabric over the front. You can also order it with a soft grey lacquer finish. Look a bit closer and you see rather more modern aluminium straps underneath for support and an integrated heatsink for the amplifier.
But underneath that oldish look we have a music system that includes:
- a still slightly old-school CD player (but it also plays CD-ROM content, such as MP3, AAC and WMA files on disc),
- an FM and DAB+ radio tuner,
- Bluetooth connectivity, with support for the aptX HD codec,
- Wi-Fi or Ethernet networking, with support for Spotify Connect, Tidal, Amazon Music and Deezer, plus DLNA compatibility for use with content on your local network,
- a USB port for playing back audio media and for charging devices,
- an optical digital audio input,
- stereo analogue inputs,
- a turntable input,
- an OLED front panel display to keep you informed about what’s going on,
- a programmable alarm clock with once, daily, weekend and weekday settings,
- stereo analogue outputs, so you can use a more powerful amplifier and speaker combo,
- a headphone output (3.5mm) so you can listen privately.
We also have a system that imparts a sense of confidence, simply by its weight. The thing weighs 9.5 kilograms. It’s clearly well-built. The Ruark Audio R5 is large, but not enormous. It measures 520mm wide, 300mm deep and 142mm tall.
Inside the unit are two forward’s firing full range 75mm speaker drivers with neodymium magnets and a downwards firing 130mm subwoofer. The bass reflex port also fires downwards. Those aluminium supports hold the body up by a centimetre or so, allowing them to do their work.
They are driven by a Class A/B amplifier. Ruark Audio says that its “nominal output” is 90 watts. I’m assuming that’s for both channels combined.
The Wi-Fi is specified as being 802.11a/b/g/n, which means dual band. The supported file formats are MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and WAV. (Does anyone still use WMA? I suppose so, since it’s so widely supported.)
The Bluetooth connection supports not just the standard stereo SBC codec, but also the AAC preferred for Apple devices and the aptX and aptX HD which give higher performance with certain Android devices.
The system also supports multiroom operation when the unit is combined with other selected Ruark Audio devices.
I’m now going to talk about something I usually only mention in passing: remote controls. You see, the Ruark Audio R5 has the best remote control implementation I’ve ever seen. Why such a bold statement? Because it’s the first I’ve seen which fully replicates the controls on the main body of the unit.
Apart from an CD eject button on the front, all the controls are in one cluster on top of the Ruark Audio R5. They consist of a ring of buttons – skip forwards and backwards, play/pause, menu, back, source, preset and on/standby. In the middle of them is a knob which you rotate for volume or to navigate menus and press to select things. The play/pause button doubles as a mute button for things like analogue sources.
And the remote? First, it connects wirelessly, so you can just leave it on your bench or coffee table or the arm of your couch and never have to point it.
Second, it’s identical to that control cluster. You only have one set of controls to learn because both work exactly the same way. The only problem using the remote can be that, given the size of the display – around 60mm diagonally – it can be hard to see menu items from across the room.
But there’s an app you can use if you prefer. The Android version has a rating of only 3.3/5 stars, with a number of comments claiming connection difficulties. All I can say is that it worked smoothly for me. I could change sources, set the volume, choose radio stations by name, assign presets, adjust the bass, treble and subwoofer levels.
Setting up the Ruark Audio R5
The Ruark Audio R5 comes double-boxed, with ample polystyrene packaging within the inner carton. It’s further contained in a cloth sack. Cloth? It feels like a sturdier version of the microfibre cloth used to clean eyewear.