This week, Ruark unveiled its rather jaunty R1S radio, adding to the Scottish company’s ever-expanding range of small hi-fi products.
I haven’t had a chance to listen to the new Ruark R1S yet, but given our positive experience reviewing the company’s other radios – including the five-star Ruark Audio R1 Mk3 – me and the wider Which Hi-Fi? team has high expectations of it.
For me, this is mainly because the one-box RS1 seems poised to solve one of the few problems I’ve had with using Ruark’s other affordable radios and smaller speakers – their lack of network streaming. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for manufacturers to get away with omitting streaming support these days, even on the more budget products. And Ruark has clearly acknowledged that with its inclusion in the RS1.
This is especially true of the Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2, which were my go-to desktop stereo speakers for years and the ones I’d pair with my turntable.
To be clear, these are still very good speakers, and the reasons I bought them and worked with them for so long are quite simple and hold true to this day. I originally loved them because their diminutive size and lower-than-expected price meant they were the best option my 20-year-old self could afford and would fit into my tiny shared flat.
As an added bonus, they look stunning, with a beautiful premium wood finish and a about-cool woven retro grille. But most importantly, they sound pretty damn good, even by today’s standards. Our audio experts agree with me on this point, giving them the best desktop speaker crown ever Which Hi-Fi? Awards since 2018 (one year after the launch of the speakers). That’s right, nothing has come close to beating them in four years.
Our review says it all:
“Gorgeous looks, sleek design and features, sound quality enhanced in every way – the Ruark MR1 Mk2 rockets straight to the top of our favorites list.”
Trust me when I say, our team doesn’t give such high praise very often and that’s a big reason I’ve stayed with the Ruark’s for so long. But moving into a house, a process that saw me re-evaluate all my hi-fi and home theater kit, meant the lack of network streaming really hit home.
Bluetooth is fine for casual listening, but when non-“true hi-fi” companies are bashing similar home speakers with the feature, like the Sonos Era 100 that we gave a perfect five-star rating to earlier this month, its absence undeniably ages the product.
After using products like the Era 100 for a while, I’ve become too accustomed to using things like Spotify and Tidal Connect as my primary streaming service at home, even when I’m working on my home computer.
You can see a good guide to why network streaming is so important in our Tidal Connect guide. But the Cliff Notes is that streaming over Wi-Fi can be a gateway to much higher streaming quality than over Bluetooth. Services like Connect take it a step further, allowing you to stream audio directly from the provider’s servers to the device/speaker, further improving the amount of data that can be sent, without losing much in the process.
On a speaker that sounds as good as the MR1 Mk2, its absence is an omission I’m finding increasingly hard to ignore.
This realization then led me on a broader journey about how much I’d like Ruark to deliver a more holistic update to the MR1 Mk2 (it’s now knocking six years old) and thinking about what other features I’d like my imaginary MR1 Mk3.
There are plenty of open goals to achieve. For example, given that the Mk2 is still marketed as a desktop and TV speaker setup, it would be an easy win for Ruark to add HDMI and USB connectivity. Even if it doesn’t add HDMI 2.1, the latest standard, for Dolby Atmos, having more connection options beyond optical would make the speakers much more flexible for home office or cinema use.
This could also allow the new MR1s to target an underserved market, if Ruark manages to keep its price down, where most of the competing products, for example the KEF LSX II, which are similar to the one I’m imagining in my head, far outperformed. cost more.
And it’s this line of thought that keeps haunting me when I go home and look at the currently empty slots next to my TV, record player and computer – at that point I feel a slight pain for Ruark to play one of my favorite sets. update desktop speakers.
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