I don't drive. Which means I haven't listened to the radio in years. But thanks to the Ruark R2 Mk4 music system, I have been tuning in to my favourite FM radio stations (don't do this, pick the internet radio option instead) for the past few days. But it's not just a radio, the R2 also supports streaming services, as well as Bluetooth and USB-C connectivity. And it sounds fantastic, too.
- 2x 75mm Ruark NS+, 18W amplifier
- Frequency response: 55Hz to 20KHz
- DAB/DAB+, FM with RDS (87.5MHz to 108MHz) and internet radio
- 3.5mm headphone output, 3.5mm line-in, USB-C port (FAT32), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0
As you can probably tell from its Mk4 designation, the R2 is not Ruark's first rodeo, I mean radio. The UK audio firm calls it a smart tabletop radio, to be precise. The new version is slimmer than its 2015 predecessor. It's compact enough to fit comfortably on a bookshelf or kitchen counter. It also sports an elegant facade with wooden grilles that give it a timeless look. There's even a telescopic antenna for that old-school vibe. The “RotoDial” controller at the top lets you switch the audio source (e.g. Bluetooth, internet radio, FM/DAB radios, and selected streaming services), adjust the volume, recall your preset radio stations, and even configure up to two alarms, all without having to pull out your smartphone. For those thinking to place the R2 besides the bed, you'll be pleased to know that it has a USB-C port that can charge your smartphone.
The R2 isn't a smart speaker like the ones from Google or Amazon. It doesn't support voice commands. You do get several streaming services — Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer — but not Apple Music, which I subscribe to. Besides the FM radio, and internet radio functions, I mostly used the R2 in Bluetooth mode paired with my phone. The LCD screen shows key information, such the time, source, as well as the song being currently played. The R2 also has a companion mobile app, Undok, which lets you connect and control the speaker. I'm not a fan of this app. It is functional — there's even multi-room audio if you have more than one Ruark speaker. But I found the app less than intuitive compared to say, the Sonos app, especially if you're new to it.
The R2 was my first encounter with Ruark Audio speakers, and boy, was I surprised by the sound quality from its two 75mm NaturalSound+ (NS+) drivers. The R2 sounds lovely, with warmth and plenty of detail. The soundstage is relatively wide, and there's sufficient volume to fill my living room. There's even a Loudness setting that significantly increases the volume and clarity, but at the expense of the bass. The bass isn't as punchy as the Marshall Acton III that I tested recently. However, the R2 sounds more refined, encompassing, and less in-your-face. The Marshall is, as you'd expect, probably better for rock-and-roll, but I prefer the R2 for everything else. You can also adjust the bass and treble using the RotoDial or the app.
The Ruark R2 Mk4 is not for everyone. While it does a great job of replicating the classic radio experience, and adds some modern features like Bluetooth and streaming services, I would have liked AirPlay or Chromecast support, for starters. The lack of voice controls may also be a deal-breaker, especially given its premium S$799 price tag. But the vintage looks, and excellent sound quality are good reasons to pick it over the often bland-looking speakers that you find today. Get it now from Lazada, and Shopee.
Note: Review unit provided by Ruark Audio.
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