Sound+Picture magazine overview
This overview initially appeared in Sound+Picture journal, considered one of What Hello-Fi?’s Australian sister publications. Click here for more information on Sound+Image, together with digital editions and particulars on how one can subscribe.
We don’t recall a product ever ‘coming good’ throughout a overview to the fairly similar extent as did the Ruark R3 Compact Music System. It positively alarmed us once we first turned it on. However by the tip of our time with this streaming tabletop music system we had been utilizing it every day for pleasure as a lot as for evaluation. Be part of us in our journey with this timeless design from a UK firm which has made this style of sensible radiogram-like music system one thing of a specialty.
Construct & amenities
The R3 is a table-top audio system (£629, $790, AU$1299) which stands some 42cm throughout and 17cm excessive, bringing collectively CD replay, reception of DAB+, FM and web radio, streaming by way of community and Bluetooth (with aptX), Spotify Join, Tidal and different music providers… just about every thing, in brief, that the fashionable music world has to supply.
You may plug in further sources – there’s one optical and one analogue enter, additionally a minijack headphone output and a ‘line out’ at full degree, so you possibly can run the entire gamut of sources right into a hi-fi amp or a recorder.
Ruark’s nice talent is in providing this probably overwhelming profusion of sources in a pleasant field – old-style, you would possibly even name it, with its gray material grille and walnut casing, although a extra modern-looking soft-grey lacquer end can be obtainable.
On high is the corporate’s longstanding Rotodial for management, whereas a small infrared distant can be included, together with app management from a sensible gadget. And if it’s going bedside, you’ll be able to avail your self of the helpful alarm clocks, snooze and sleep timer features.
Ruark’s different talent is sound high quality. This can be a firm we are able to nonetheless bear in mind of outdated as Ruark Acoustics, making tremendous British loudspeakers with thrusting names like Sabre and Swordsman by the 1980s and 1990s. Then within the 2000s when digital radio was trending, Ruark developed the little R1, which the UK’s Sunday Telegraph hailed as “the Aston Martin of DAB radios”.
Such was the R1’s success that conventional loudspeakers fell by the wayside (although “by no means say by no means”, says proprietor Alan O’Rourke), and the reinvented Ruark Audio now has a variety of radio and streaming options, from the most recent Mk4 model of the R1 ‘deluxe’ as much as a big four-legged radiogram of the long run, the extremely fascinating R7 Mk3.
So Ruark has a heritage of hi-fi sound, and we’ve loved a lot of its gamers previously, so had been trying ahead to this new R3.
We had no issues establishing the R3; we gave it Ethernet and connected the antenna required for radio reception; this will likely confuse newbies by flopping round loosely, however we knew from earlier Ruark visits that there’s a particular aerial spanner within the packaging for this very goal!
We started our listening by sampling its expertise with radio. We chosen digital radio and, being contemporary from the field, the R3 scanned Sydney’s airwaves and located some 70 obtainable DAB+ stations all awaiting choice by way of a shuttle of the R3’s high Rotodial. And all had been sounding fairly disagreeable – very spitty within the treble, artificial-sounding, with voices skinny of their midrange content material, and music lumpy within the bass.
We modified to web radio – it was no higher, certainly barely worse on low-resolution stations. We had been nervous by this, to be trustworthy: it was not the sound we anticipate from Ruark units, which usually current a heat pleasant radio sound.
We hastened to the tone controls by the menus. There are 4 components to the tone controls: bass and treble adjustment, a loudness possibility which was ‘on’ by default, and – ah! – a ‘3D’ possibility. This 3D possibility was additionally on by default. Switching it off went a protracted method to eradicating the unreal spittiness from the radio sources.
We additional tamed the treble by a couple of notches, left the loudness on, and stored the bass in its central place. This introduced the radio sections again to what we’d anticipate from Ruark – full and pleasant, only a teeny bit fizzy up high however now not distractingly so.
The distant management has three giant preset buttons, which can be found individually for every supply, so three for FM, three for DAB+, three for web radio. You retailer them by merely urgent and holding the button when listening to a station.
However in reality there are 10 presets for every kind of radio; you’ll be able to entry the remaining by urgent and holding the ‘preset’ button then urgent the left-right buttons to succeed in presets four to 10. Recall them the identical manner, with out the holding. It’s simple, versatile, and really helpful.
For these with lower than 20/20 imaginative and prescient who can’t learn the small lettering on the entrance show throughout the room for supply choice (not to mention the tinier menu choices), there’s a helpful free app obtainable for management. That is Undok, the management app from Frontier Silicon, maker of the sensible module inside the R3.
We’ve lengthy loved Undok, and are happy to see it again after an unexplained hiatus. Undok managed the R3 successfully, although not completely. For instance, there’s entry to bass, treble and loudness, however not the all-important ‘3D’ possibility, for which you’ll want to make use of the distant and/or Rotodial to modify on or off.
App quirk two: we tried to rename the R3, however it refused to alter to ‘Ruark R3’… but once we jokingly tried ‘Simon’, that was OK. Seems which you can solely decide a one-word title, e.g. Ruark.
App quirk three: the bass slider within the app was glitchy, advancing a couple of notches, then leaping again once more, up then again – very odd.
However in any other case the app could be very helpful for native management, for switching sources, for saving presets. One tip for web radio: if there’s a station you’ll be able to’t discover (our local people station, for instance, was not listed), you’ll be able to head to Frontier Silicon’s website https://smartradio.frontier-nuvola.net, arrange an account, hyperlink your R3, ‘handle favourites’, and enter the URL manually. The station then seems underneath ‘My Favourites’. Good flexibility!
Ruark R3 specs
Drivers: 2 x 75mm NS+ full-range
Quoted energy: 30W Class-AB
Inputs: RCA analogue, optical digital, USB-C, FM, DAB+ radio, Bluetooth (SBC, AAC, aptX), Wi-Fi/Ethernet, web radio, Spotify Join, Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music, DLNA/UPnP
Outputs: line out, headphone minijack out
Dimensions: 420 x 220 x 167mm
Radio listening accomplished, we switched to music streaming. For Spotify you employ the Spotify app and level it on the Ruark for playback – we had been happy to search out this works with free Spotify in addition to paid (which isn’t the case for a lot of streaming platforms and merchandise).
And it was instantly evident that for all the opposite inputs – music providers, CD, Bluetooth streaming – the R3’s sound steadiness was fully totally different. Gone was all of the spittiness, gone the bass lumpiness. So we headed again to the tone controls, put the treble and bass again to zero, left the loudness on – and turned the 3D sound on.
And with these sources you need to positively attempt the 3D sound possibility. It provides the sound an actual raise, a widening, an extra enjoyability, although it nonetheless sometimes has deleterious results on sure tracks. We performed Paul Simon’s You Can Name Me Al from Spotify Free and all was good.
However on the subsequent observe, Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard, the janglier right-channel guitars grew to become nastily edgy and synthetic till we turned ‘3D’ off once more. We tried the identical observe from our personal CD-quality assortment despatched by Bluetooth (which helps each AAC and aptX), and this softened the edginess considerably, however it nonetheless sounded higher with 3D off.
The extra we performed, the extra songs reacted badly to the 3D setting, and we ended up maintaining it off, with one notch down additionally on the treble slider to forestall residual fizziness within the treble.
So for greatest sonic outcomes, alter the tone choices everytime you swap from file-based playback to radio, and vice versa – particularly disabling the 3D sound for radio sources. It’s a disgrace the R3 can’t bear in mind your tone preferences for every supply (as it may for enter ranges, that are trimmable for every analogue and digital enter), and we’d go as far as to counsel Ruark ought to merely disable 3D sound completely for FM, DAB and web radio sources, as its results there are notably nasty. Higher nonetheless, a giant ‘3D Sound’ button on the distant management would permit simply toggling of this sound mode, as on, say, a soundbar.
However for those who’re joyful to pop over to the R3 and swap this manually every time, you’ll be able to get pleasure from one of the best which the R3 has to supply, which is appreciable. It’s a pleasant CD participant, for instance, these full-quality recordsdata filling the room with well-balanced sound. And the louder you play, the happier the R3 appears to be; the bass obtainable from the 2 75mm drivers is exceptional as you elevate the extent; its response begins within the 40s of hertz and rises impressively easily.
Mushy recordings get a lift from the treble raise of the sonics right here; Paul McCartney’s My Valentine has not often sounded so well-defined. And as with all Ruark models we’ve examined, the R3 is adept with classical music, and we blasted forth the London Musici’s 1991 Conifer/Technics recording of Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ symphony to substantiate the R3’s adherence to this observe report, pushing up the bass a tad to underpin this dynamic piece.
The R3 proved equally pleasurable from streaming music providers. From Apple Music we streamed Neil Finn’s 2010 solo live performance at Sydney’s intimate Seymour Centre, and the Ruark did a beautiful job of presenting Finn’s voice and the decay of each synthetic and venue reverb as he switched from guitar to piano, serving the latter with each percussive assault and pianissimo softness, as required.
There’s a ‘Music Participant’ possibility which you need to use to play both from USB or from music shares on the community, though sadly the R3 couldn’t see our NAS drive of music (solely our PVR, from which it bravely provided to play episodes of Residence and Away and so on., however in fact couldn’t). From USB it was in a position to play MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and FLAC, the final two as much as 24-bit/48kHz, so no assist for higher-res PCM or DSD.
Be aware that Ruark has chosen to incorporate not a regular USB-A slot however somewhat a USB-C 5V charging connection, very up-to-date of it, besides which you can’t plug in regular USB sticks and drives. USB-C sticks are broadly obtainable, in order that’s what we used. Adapters are additionally obtainable, although once we tried one, the R3 introduced that ‘USB hubs are usually not supported’. Sticks should even be formatted in FAT-32 format.
So fairly the journey we loved with this versatile music system. Whereas we thought its radio sources want a bit of tonal consideration, its highlights are playback from CD, from streaming music providers and Bluetooth, and general it’s an impressively easy-to-use and enticing table-top unit which accesses just about each form of music underneath the solar, delivered successfully underneath native, distant or app management.