“For many of our customers – reads the Ruark Audio website – great sound is not always the most important priority. In an era in which we want our homes to have a precise style, every object must earn its place and appear well in the place in which it is placed ”. Yet the English company, born in the early 1980s, today produces some of the best multimedia speakers, Dab radios and compact hi-fi systems on the market, awarded by critics and customer reviews. The R3 is among the most recent: not just a speaker, but a true hi-fi system in a single block. In the Ruark family it is the third from the top, after the demanding R7, a true sonic mobile, and the R5, very similar in appearance, but larger, more powerful and versatile (and expensive).
The version we tested is finished in walnut, which gives the R3 an even more classic feel, while still compatible with most décor styles. The footprint is not excessive, but not negligible: at 16.7 x 42 x 22 cm and over 5 kg of weight, the R3 requires a solid shelf or cabinet and some space around it. Which could increase if, given the many inputs available, it were decided to keep it next to another device.
For the rest, the front panel is in rough gray fabric, the feet in metal. The finishes are excellent, the feeling is of a solid and well-built device, destined to last over time. Also because it is not very complex: a classic 30-watt class A / B stereo amplifier, two 75 mm wide-band bass reflex speakers, a slot-in CD player; everything else is done by electronics.
There is FM radio, for older stations, but the Dab standard offers much better sound quality; there is the cd player for those who still use them (and there are many, especially in the age group that this device is likely to target), then there is no shortage of Bluetooth with aptX and a Usb-C port to read files from memory sticks or hard disk. The R3 has an optical digital input, for use with TV for example, and an analog one, perfect for the turntable, as long as it has a built-in phono pre or if you use an external one. On the back there is also an analogue output and a minijack for headphones.
To all this must be added the ability to connect to the home network, both via Ethernet and wirelessly. The Ruark R3 can access files stored on a NAS (through the DLNA / UPnP standard), internet radios, as well as Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon. Supplied with a remote control to control the various functions, small but well done. The R3 can also be controlled via what the company calls Rotodial, a series of controls grouped in a circular structure on the top panel. For those who use it next to the bed, fumbling a little in the menu you will find an alarm clock, with snooze, and a timer to fall asleep to the music.
Once the box is opened, it only takes a few minutes to start listening: just fix the extendable antenna with the supplied key, and you can start with the radio. The Ruark starts with loudness and 3D Audio activated; for sound purists it is blasphemy, but a quick comparison with the results obtained by deactivating them will convince anyone that the company’s choice makes sense. The 3D Audio function, in particular, recreates an unexpectedly wide and deep stereo image: for example listening to the beautiful live Montefiore of the PGR, the feeling of space is remarkable, both in the music and in the presence of the audience, as noted in Vampe Cups O Tabula Rasa Electrified.
The loudness function is equally well calibrated. At not too loud volumes, such as those at which the R3 will likely be heard most of the time, it increases the power of the low frequencies and adds a hint of liveliness to the highs. It is worth leaving it always active, because the result is pleasantly correct, and does not diminish the agility with which the Ruark makes the rhythm of the most demanding songs (not even the usual Massive Attack of Inertia Creeps, to say).
Some perplexities – more theoretical than practical – arise when reading the list of supported file formats: both by connecting to the network and from the rear USB-C port, the Ruark arrives in fact 24 bit / 96 KHz but only with AAC. FLAC and WAV are limited to 48kHz, and AIFF is not supported. Rather, it is worth noting here that the Undok app, while beautiful to look at with those covers that take up almost the entire screen, is not without small bugs and uncertainties. The best sound in our test is with CDs, but the difference when using networked files is very small. Great Spotify Connect, but strangely Ruark does not offer compatibility with Apple’s Airplay, which is almost always present in this price range and performance.
We like it
- Nice design, great construction
- Spacious and immersive sound
- Convenient the rotodial
- Great connectivity
- Good CD player
We do not like it
- External power supply
- High price
- The display does not show the covers
- Support for a voice assistant is missing
- Poor multiroom support
The Ruark R3 costs in Italy 749 euros in the list: a price in line with the English one, and which nevertheless leaves room for different alternatives. Like a soundbar, which perhaps will play music less well but will have the only missing connection to the R3, which is an Hdmi Arc port for smoother integration with the TV. Or a pair of wireless speakers (the usual names: Sonos, Bluesound, but also AudioPro, Yamaha, Sony), which can be integrated into a multiroom system and perhaps equipped with a voice assistant. Or even an all-in-one micro-system, for example Denon and Marantz, which have an integrated CD player and are able to provide a more credible sound stage than the R3. Or finally, crossing the Ocean, try with Klipsch: the sound setting is different, but the Fives active speakers are a great solution, with the same retro charm, wood and fabric. For those who prefer a single speaker there is The Three, albeit less powerful and less versatile than the R3. But no one is as snobbish as the Ruark.