The Ruark R4 is very stylish looking all in one music system with a retro feel that is an ideal everyday companion in your most popular living space
In eager anticipation of receiving the new Ruark Rseven radiogram Mk2, I am happily kept quiet with a look at the Ruark R4 Mk3, the latest incarnation of the excellent R4 Integrated Music System, that came out in July last year (2015). And I am delighted; no longer with iPod dock (but with 3.5mm auxiliary input at the front and Bluetooth connectivity) the Ruark R4 is a fine all round audio performer in our main living space, in this case our extended kitchen, and now I know what all of the Ruark Audio fuss is all about.
Design and Features
The Ruark R4 is very stylish looking all in one music system with a retro feel that is an ideal everyday companion in your most popular living space. It is low and compact but not bedroom table sized so really it is sitting on a sideboard or other larger shelf or side table. The dimensions are H140 × W440 × D250mm, about the size of a tall set top box or a half width kitchen drawer, on metal feet. If you’re putting it on a shelf, firstly you only need one plug, there are no other wires any where, but secondly it will need to be a good shelf because it weighs in at 7 kg.
The look, in case you haven’t gathered is ‘aesthetically pleasing’ according to my better half who knows more about these things and she is happy to have it in place of the frequent array of boxes and bookshelf speakers that appear on this particular test bench, I mean kitchen sideboard.
The Ruark R4 has a full array of features, including DAB, DAB+ & FM radio, a slot loading single CD player (that does play MP3, AAC and WMA music disks) and aptX Bluetooth. It also has several inputs including USB (that also charges), phono style fixed line in and a digital optical input (that I am using with my Bluesound streaming Node in the main picture) for CD quality streaming input. There is a fixed line out from the R4, not sure why but there you go (recording I guess).
All of this is displayed on an OLED (organic light emitting diode) display screen that has text information from CDs and USB sources and also from DAB music stations. Control is via the new fixed intuitive ‘click to select’ RotoDial control system developed by Ruark that is on the top of the player. It does not remove, unlike the Rseven. There is also, therefore, a ‘less is more’ (my words) remote control that I have read some people find ‘plasticky’ but I like it. As you can see from this picture, my R4 sample is finished in walnut but there are soft black and soft white laquer finishes.
Out of the box, there is not much to do if I’m honest, just get it out, plug it in, screw in the antenna, tune into any DAB station and all the date and time stuff synchronises for you. This is useful for the alarms that are available as well as sleep and doze functions. As you take it out of the box, the five inch down firing active subwoofer emerges with the obligatory hole to allow air to move around (there is no sub output).
The quality and finish of this player is of a very high standard and it has the right feel for this sort of money. The Walnut finish on my product makes it sit particularly nicely in our kitchen
In summary, I’d buy one at this price point, for the kitchen, for the garden, for everyday and for everywhere
Bluetooth (Tidal via Android Nexus 5)
The Bluetooth sound, much maligned on this website, is fine, the soundstage, is surprisingly good, it is not dull or un-interesting as can often be the case. Ruark are talking in their blurb of a 3D enhanced sound. I’m not sure what this means but dinner party chat was very positive when we got to that bit where phones come out during conversation and between courses (check out Noah Guthrie and also Disclosure with Hannah Reid). I don’t believe this R4 is going to host a loud party, it does not stand up to higher volumes.
Optical (Tidal via Bluesound Node Mk1)
We use the Bluesound Node, anyway, most days to stream our music and to get music from my server in the lounge to the other rooms so the optical feed is an excellent feature. Ruark would do well to consider a wireless box of tricks for the Mk4 with an associated App to provide for the dearth of streaming options there are out there these days. Until then the Node is an excellent high quality interface and the optical input is fine.
Couldn’t be better, clearer or simpler to use. Chris Evans Radio 2 in the morning, 6 Music during the day, Radio 4 for news in the evening, Radio 5 Live for football and talksport for football overanalysis and van adverts. The presets are very easy to navigate and flick between, mute when the phone goes , etc. The track data scrolls on the screen too if you’re particularly enjoying a piece of music. I have barely looked at or needed FM but that sounds fine too.
The CD sounds very good. I think this box is not even run in yet so in a few hundred hours time it is going to sound great. I would prefer a bit more bass support from the Ruark but this may come with higher use. When I had the Naim Mu-so I was blown away. I would prefer more low end punch and I’ll be looking for that for as long as I have it.
There is a USB port at the back. It charges phones generally but doesn’t receive iPod music. I put a USB stick in it and the tracks were excellent, though I was not able to move between folders on the USB. A minor grumble.
The Naim Mu-so is a heck of a lot more so I shouldn’t really compare this to that. The R4 is a fine all rounder, as I have suggested, and would sit well in most luxurious spaces. I’m bound to think of the Bose wave radio which is a similar price and is similarly flexible. I have not heard the new ones but you could decide to get one on a well advertised 30 day risk free trial, provided you were happy to receive spurious mail shots for the next five years. I have an original Bose Acoustimass (the bigger brother of the Wave radio) and it doesn’t sound as good as the R4. In summary, I’d buy one at this price point, for the kitchen, for the garden, for everyday and for everywhere.
Ease of Use
Premium Walnut finish
Retro chic design
It had Wifi, an App and could stream like the R2
Played an iPod
For more info: http://www.ruarkaudio.com/products/r4-overview
Ruark Shop: http://shop.ruarkaudio.com/
SRP UK: £649.99