Six years ago, Ruark, the estimable family audio company down in Southend-on-Sea, brought out what was basically a small, retro, G-Plan-style sideboard that housed a fantastic stereo. The Ruark R7 – still a hot seller – was a £2,300 hifi radiogram for the 21st century, very British and extremely high quality. I loved it, and would have bought one but had nowhere to put it. (Technology that is actual furniture can be a problem.)
So I was delighted when, a few weeks ago, I saw that Ruark had launched this, the R5, a scaled-down R7 minus the legs. I knew exactly where I could put this model – on a chest of drawers at the end of my bed. The R7 is a metre long, which gives it lovely stereo separation, unique in a one-box system. The R5 is 52cm long, but – as I discovered when I set up the review sample – even with half the R7’s distance between speakers, it produces quite superb stereo. With its multiple connection options, it’s been such a source of pleasure that I’ve taken to listening to music late at night as a change from Netflix-a-thons. The R5 streams services like the blessed Tidal, and although it lacks a colour screen to show album art, as Tidal can, the good, if basic, Ruark Link app does that stuff fine on a phone or iPad. The R5’s sound is really glorious, from a powerful bass to the twinkliest of top notes.
But here’s what surprised me. My French daughter-in-law, who has so little interest in technology that she uses a medieval iPhone held together with Sellotape, saw it and said not only that it sounded formidable, but that it looked beautiful, which it does. One of Ruark’s founders started out in cabinetmaking and its furniture design is good, even if some models – such as the MRx that I tried last year – are an aesthetic misfire for me. The R5 is a triumph on all fronts, though.