Ruark Audio MR1

Desktop speakers that are a cut above the competition

Image: Hugh Threlfall

It is not Technopolis’s mission to be mean about the county of Essex; I was born and bred there and have great respect for many things about it. However, when it comes to world-class audio, I’ve always opted for products that were made in Silicon Valley and Japan or Oxfordshire and Dorset. Southend-on-Sea certainly didn’t strike me as an obvious HQ for a brand so brilliantly on the money that it’s hogging the best real-estate on my page for the second time in just a few months.

Last October, Ruark Audio’s furniture-sized R7, a modern take on radiograms, starred in our Superior Interiors edition. This time, it’s these desktop speakers with built-in amplifiers, the MR1s, available in a pleasing matte white or black, as well as walnut. Whatever the finish, these squat (17cm x 13.5cm x 13cm) cabinets look neat and sound remarkable. I was honestly quite shocked when I tried them; there are a lot of similar products (listening to music while you work is clearly a widespread habit), and while most are OK, few make you stop and stare. But the refinement and spatial sophistication of the MR1s suggest first-rate loudspeaker design and engineering, which is what Ruark, a small family firm, specialises in.

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As I discovered last month while reviewing the Q Acoustics Concept 20s, some speakers provide optimum audio when the listener forms an equilateral triangle with them. With the MR1s, forming this magical arrangement from your office chair becomes an option; on my desk they were a metre apart, with me at the centre, a metre back. And my, does this setup work beautifully with them.

I am not sure whether this is because Ruark favours linear class A-B stereo amps rather than the more common digital ones, or if it’s because it uses neodymium magnets in the drive units rather than the ferrite systems, or if it’s something else altogether. In any case, the results are marvellous. The MR1s can receive music by Bluetooth (the latest aptX version), but this seems pointless on a desktop, especially as wiring them in by USB gives you the chance to insert a digital-analogue converter (DAC) in the line, refining the raw computer input and giving the speakers something better to work with. Hi-fi on your desk, then – and as an Essex man I feel compelled to say, “Proper hi-fi”.

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