Ruark R4 Mk 3

A new music centre with a sleek walnut finish and a big sound

Image: Hugh Threlfall

I haven’t been in technology long enough to be able to bore people about when Microsoft and Apple were cheeky startups, but I do remember Ruark when it was an outlier Essex loudspeaker maker that started producing table radios under the name Vita Audio.

Now look at it. Its elegant, half-timbered products have been described as the Aston Martin of radio; they grace the rooms of the Savoy as well as the kitchens, bedrooms and dens of smart homes all over the world. Ruark may sound like a quantum particle or a frog’s mating call, but it is derived from the name of the co-founder, the late Brian O’Rourke. His son, Alan, now runs the company, but the influence of O’Rourke senior – a furniture maker who produced radio and TV cabinets in the 1950s and 1960s – remains centre stage. Ruark does wood, as well as audio, beautifully. A couple of years ago I enthused about its R7, a modern stereo in the form of a 1960s, G-Plan-style radiogram, which duly became a design classic.

This is the R4 Mk3, a slimmed-down comprehensive update of the 2008 R4 music centre. In its sleek walnut finish (although the black and white versions look great too) it’s ideal for anywhere in the house – short of a ballroom, perhaps. It has Bluetooth aptX for easy streaming from all the usual devices, as well as audio and optical wired inputs (in fact, the optical feature makes it a great TV soundbase, which it isn’t really designed as). But I was particularly delighted to see the CD slot. There are still times when you just want to stick in a CD and go about your business rather than get involved in all the complication of the supposedly more convenient streaming.

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Improving an already excellent product can stretch the imagination, but the Mk3 has some great new features, such as a small but well-shaped remote that gives a clear blue signal when it successfully contacts the mothership; this may seem a small thing, but it’s very satisfying in practice.

And the sound? The big, downward-firing speaker and the air hole alongside it are a declaration that this machine is designed to make a big sound, but it’s one that is never thick or heavy. Vocals remain light and clear despite the big bass.



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