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Ruark R5 review: A well-connected throwback

Our Rating :
£1,099.00 from
Price when reviewed : £999

The R5 is a supremely versatile home audio system that beautifully blends legacy features and modern technology


  • Great range of connectivity options
  • Sounds superb
  • Looks classy


  • Pricey
  • Lacks AirPlay 2 or Chromecast support

Ruark has designed and manufactured audio equipment since 1985 when it was established by father and son Brian and Alan O’Rourke. In its infancy, the company produced loudspeaker systems for audiophiles, creating uniquely-styled cabinet speakers for the Hi-Fi market. As the audio marketplace evolved, so did Ruark, and by the mid-2000s it had branched out into Home Theatre speaker systems and digital radio.

In 2006, the company launched its first tabletop radio, the R1, which was dubbed the “Aston Martin of DAB radios” by the Sunday Telegraph. The R series has since seen numerous entries and iterations of its speakers, with the line up now including the R1 Deluxe Bluetooth Radio, the R2 Streaming Music System and the R7 High Fidelity Radiogram.

The R5 sits towards the upper end of Ruark’s home audio range and fuses the company’s audio expertise, modern design and an abundance of connectivity options. It sounds great, too, and makes a great choice for design-conscious music fans.

Ruark R5 review: What you need to know

The R5 borrows heavily from the company’s flagship model, the R7, a modern interpretation of the furniture-cum-radio/record players that graced affluent households in post-war Britain.

Gone are the R7’s legs but just about everything else is intact, albeit in a more compact package. That’s not to say the R5 is dainty. It measures 52cm wide, 30cm deep and 14cm high and it weighs a hefty 9.5kg.

With a multitude of inputs and ports and support for most of the major streaming services, including (gasp) a CD player, the R5 offers connectivity and flexibility surpassing the vast majority of home audio systems and Bluetooth speakers you can buy today.

Ruark R5 review: Price and competition

The Ruark R5 is marketed at music and design enthusiasts with deep pockets. While not quite as dear as the R7, which will set you back a cool £2,300, it’s still a significant investment at £999

At these sort of prices, the main competition comes from the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation, which costs £749 at John Lewis. It’s a futuristic, cuboid home speaker that delivers impressively refined and loud sound. Its selection of connection options isn’t quite as extensive as the R5’s though and it trades a vintage aesthetic for a more brutal modernist design.

Closer to the R5 in terms of shape is the Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation, which you can buy for £1,299, and which we were mighty impressed with when we tested it in 2019. The original Mu-so can still be bought new from Amazon for under £1,000 and that was nearly as capable.

When you get close to paying four figures for a home audio system, you may wish to consider buying a set of cheaper speakers rather than an expensive all-in-one. You’ll miss out on some features but the trade-off is you’ll get audio in more than just one room of your house. Harman Kardon’s Citation series is well worth a look, with its Google Assistant-controlled Citation One and Citation 300 impressing us when we reviewed them. You could alternatively pick up a set of five Echo Studio speakers or five Sonos One Gen 2 units and still not spend as much as the Ruark R5.

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Ruark R5 review: Design and build quality

As noted above, the Ruark R5 is a legless, shrunk-down version of the R7, which isn’t a bad thing; the remastered Radiogram has a very distinguished look.

Like the R7, the R5 is available in two distinct finishes. We reviewed the soft-grey lacquer version, but there’s also a soft walnut veneer variant. I personally think the walnut veneer is the classier of the two but the soft grey is likely to better suit most modern homes. Despite the thick protective coating present on the soft grey version, you’ll want to be careful when moving the R5 around as a whack against a table corner is liable to chip the lacquer. Both models come with lead-grey grille fabric, which works far better on the grey unit than the walnut one.

The R5 is raised about an inch above whatever surface you place it on by two railings attached to the base. This gives the subwoofer, which is mounted on the underside of the R5, a gap for the low frequency sounds to come out of. On the front of the R5 you’ve got a decent-sized, monochrome OLED display, which can be adjusted in brightness to taste. It’s a nice, clear display that’s easily readable from any angle.

On the top of the R5 you’ll find the RotoDial, which is Ruark’s jazzy name for its control hub. It’s bang in the middle of the unit and is a very easy way of operating the system. A central control knob handles menu navigation and also volume adjustments, plus there are individual buttons for moving between audio sources, presets, playing/pausing, skipping tracks, entering the main menu and turning the R5 off.

Included in the box is a remote control that exactly replicates the RotoDial, meaning there’s no need to relearn a second control scheme. The remote relies on radio frequencies rather than infrared so doesn’t need to be pointed at the R5, which is handy if you’re not currently in view of the system. Should you want a third option to control the R5, there’s also the Ruark Link application (available on both iOS and Android) which will let you manage the speaker system from your phone or tablet.

Ruark R5 review: Connectivity and features

To say the R5 is a well-connected home audio system would be an understatement. Physical connections abound, with an Ethernet port, optical input and USB input port that supports a variety of codecs. There’s a pair of stereo phono inputs and outputs, a 3.5mm headphone out and even a pair of phono inputs for connecting a turntable. With vinyl making a resurgence, the inclusion of the phono inputs is really pleasing to see, particularly for someone that was a teenager in the 1990s when all the cool kids carried record bags and trips to the record shop were a weekend staple. The only thing the R5 is lacking when it comes to connections is an HDMI input.

Those with a vast collection of compact discs will be delighted to learn that the R5 incorporates a CD drive and there’s also detachable DAB-FM antenna, which is another welcome trip down memory lane. With up to 30 station presets across DAB, FM and internet radio, you’re able to access your favourites with ease.

Naturally, a range of music streaming services are supported, too. Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer and Amazon Music can all be accessed through the R5’s source menu and via the Ruark Link application. I wasn’t overly keen on the app, finding it clunky to use and prone to disconnecting. Bluetooth proved the easiest way to listen to music online via the R5 and the system supports the aptX HD codec, which is great for those streaming high-resolution audio.

Sadly, the R5 lacks AirPlay 2 or Chromecast support, which is something the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation and Mu-so 2nd Generation both offer. This means you can’t connect it to other speakers to create a multi-room set up unless they’re a compatible Ruark speaker such as the R2 MK3 or R7 MK3.

READ NEXT: Harmon Kardon Citation 300 review

Ruark R5 review: Audio quality

The Ruark R5 is a great-sounding home audio system. Its combination of two 75mm full-range drivers and integrated subwoofer with a 125mm driver deliver excellent sound representation regardless of your chosen genre or music source.

First up, I dug out a few old CDs – Björk’s Post, Hot Fuss by The Killers and Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned by The Prodigy. The R5 was temperamental when reading the discs – most likely due to their condition – but once the music kicked in I was very impressed. “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Björk highlighted where the R5’s strength lies. It represents vocals superbly, the Icelandic songstress’ unmistakable voice was wonderfully nuanced and the big band brass that punctuates the riotous chorus was possessed of both clarity and clout.

“Girls” by The Prodigy, on the other hand, illustrated the R5’s only real audio weaknesses, its overly-polite bass. The distorted bassline of the track didn’t have the impact you’d expect from a speaker of the R5’s size, which led me to turn up both the bass and sub levels in the system settings. This made for a far more punchy listen with a pleasing amount of weight in the low-end.

That experience played out again when I was listening to a range of electro-focused internet radio stations. At default settings, the R5 wasn’t quite hitting the spot but once I cranked up the bass and sub I got a far fuller, more authentic dance experience.

READ NEXT: Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation review

The R5 goes loud enough to fill a decent-sized room with sound and the quality of the audio doesn’t dip as you start pushing the volume up. It’s not as in your face as the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation but this isn’t a system designed with raw power in mind. It instead opts for elegance combined with high-fidelity sound reproduction and delivers on both of these counts.

Ruark R5 review: Verdict

The R5 is a delightfully crafted home audio system that sounds superb while simultaneously feeling nostalgic and modern both in terms of what it can do and how it looks. Whether it’s worth £1,000 of your hard-earned money is really down to how much value you place upon its legacy features.

If you’re going to get regular use out of its CD player, DAB/FM radio and turntable input you’ll be hard pushed to find a system that incorporates them in such a neat and attractive package. If those inclusions are surplus to your requirements, the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation, which comes with Chromecast built-in and AirPlay 2 support, is the better option.

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