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Vita Audio R4 review



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The Holy Grail for any audiophile is a proper hi-end Hi-Fi system. The sheer quality of sound and sense of immersion that you get from a top quality setup is enough to send shivers down the spine. Unfortunately, having half a dozen separates, a pair of speakers, and all the other paraphernalia that goes with such a setup is just not practical for most of us, let alone kind to the wallet.

Also, with mp3 players now able to accommodate entire music collections the need for umpteen different playback devices has pretty much disappeared. The result is the popularity of high-end all-in-one audio systems, like the Meridian F80 has sky-rocketed and the Vita Audio R4, is the latest example.

Like most of these new all-in-one devices the R4 features an iPod dock, a CD player, (which, in addition to regular music CDs, plays MP3 and WMA discs), FM and DAB radio tuners, a 2.1 speaker setup, and of course an amp to power the whole lot. In fact, about the only thing that sets this apart from its competitors is the inclusion of a USB port on the front. This allows you to plug in a USB thumb drive and playback whatever mp3s you have thereon. It's quite a useful feature but we're not sure it's really necessary and we'd prefer to have the port on the back to reduce clutter on the front.

Apart from this minor quibble though, the R4 is generally a nice looking device. It continues the same curved cubiod theme developed by the R1 and R2 and is available in the same gorgeous glossy white or walnut veneer (which only costs £499.99) finishes as its little siblings.

However, to fit in all those extra features, the R4 has had to seriously bulk up. Its foot print is a whopping 255 by 450mm, which crucially makes it too deep to fit on your average bookshelf or window sill. Obviously we wouldn't recommend you actually put a device like this on a window sill but if space on your sideboard, say, is at a premium you'll need to double check your measurements before opting for the R4.

Round the back, things are fairly barren with just an auxiliary input and output, the aerial socket, power switch, and a subwoofer level dial. As you'd imagine the latter adjusts the volume of the subwoofer enabling you to boost or reduce the R4's bass response. However, as per usual we found it sounded best left at dead centre.

The R4's screen is another feature inherited from the R1 and R2 but this is something we definitely don't welcome. Viewed straight on it's fine but, being an LCD display, it's viewing angles are mediocre at best and there's obvious backlight bleed which makes text slightly difficult to read. It's not appalling by any means but we've seen better.

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September 10, 2008, 2:22 pm

Yes but how does it plug into my Nintendo DS?



September 10, 2008, 8:50 pm

I auditioned one of these at Oranges & Lemons in Battersea. It wouldn't read any CDs and I was later told that both the units that they had sold so far had been returned faulty. Be warned!

Alan O

September 12, 2008, 3:53 pm

In response to the above post, at Vita Audio we welcome both dealers and customers to contact us should they have any problems. It seems in this case there had been a breakdown in communication! Upon inspecting the faulty units we found that the CD and front panel had become misaligned causing the units not to function but the fix was quickly remedied. We can only assume that this situation arose due to bad handling during transit as so far we've only experienced minimal CD faults and the overwhelming reaction to R4 by customers is they love the sound , style and single box convenience.

bob parker

November 26, 2008, 1:48 am

Mmmmm....Had to return mine to John Lewis today.....CD Tray would not open!!Looks like a triumph of looks over functionality....How disappointing for 500 quid!!!


November 28, 2008, 9:52 pm

Sounds very familiar.

Bought one a week ago - cd's go in and play - but refuse to come out again! Shop assistant tried the one on display in store and same thing happened. Not really the done thing when it costs 𧺬. Now waiting for new stock to arrive middle-end of December! - hopefully fault free. Might just go and get a refund though as reliability sounds an issue. Apart from that the machine looks fantastic and sounds fantastic. Wouldn't have minded another remote control though rather than having to rely on the removable control panel on top if unit.


January 17, 2009, 9:54 pm

Update to above :- Very simple solution to disc not coming out. The front cover of the Vita is only kept in place by magnets. It appears that if during transit the cover has slipped slightly (even by a few mm) the disc operation can be affected. With the help of a credit card this cover comes off very easily and can be put back on correctly alligned. Now the CD player eject works like a dream.

I must add that the Vita R4 is an absolutely fantastic piece of audio equipment, with great sound quality.Don't let the disc problem put you off - it really is a simple solution.

Lester Fish

March 2, 2009, 12:04 am

We're now have to take back our second R4. First one wouldn't read CD's the replacement wouldn't eject CD's - Vita Audio you have a serious problem with this models CD drive

Alan O

May 28, 2009, 4:24 pm

Further to my original posting on the 12th September and in response to comments above we’re pleased to inform that reported problems with R4 CD have now been resolved. The main problem where R4 would occasionally fail to read CDs was tracked down to some faulty FFC (Flat Flexible Cable) connectors. These have now been replaced and upgraded to ensure future reliability.

Since its introduction in August 2008 we’ve sold many R4’s and the feedback from customers has been unanimous that it’s a fabulous piece of equipment. Like our products we also pride ourselves on the service we offer our customers, so should anyone ever experience any problems with any of our products you can rest assured that we will do all we can to help.


June 23, 2009, 4:46 pm

Further to the last posting, I should point out that I bought an R4 at Christmas which had the loading problems referred to by Alan O'Rourke. When I contacted Vita Audio/Ruark, they immediately arranged for collection of the unit and had it repaired within two weeks and then returned to my house (I did not even have to leave the house to get all this sorted!). The repaired unit (which has the new FFC connectors) works perfectly. I can wholeheartedly recommend the unit to anyone: it sounds superb; gets rid of miles of cables under the television set; steals envious comments from friends; capably fills a through-lounge sized room with sound; and Vita Audio have provided me with expemplary after sales service. The unit now works 100% fine. Excellent service Vita. Thank you

Andy A

March 21, 2010, 9:30 pm

I bought my R4 for a christmas present for me. I looked at many others but settled on this due to the fantastic sound quality, and the other half not wanting lots of wires and speakers. I have not been dissapointed by sound in the home, and the unit looks wonderful, like a piece of functional furniture. Down side has been the malfunctioning RC. I have contacted Ruark direct and they have been brilliant. Sent me a replacement RC unit, however the problem remains so they have arranged a convienient pick up, for repair of the main unit. I plug my Laptop into it for music streaming, I also use the DAB CD MP3cd & Ipod dock. All sound great, with a full range of different types of music. Expensive but well worth it for the quality, and customers service if you have a problem. Hoping for a happy ending control wise. Treat yourself!

Andy A

March 31, 2010, 11:48 pm

Further to my previous post, similar to Simon, Ruark have been brillant, the unit was picked up as arranged, and back within a week. So far seems fine. another delighted customer. I couldn't imagine a multinational ever being that good. Buy one.


February 3, 2011, 2:55 am

I was actually after a bit of advice, and am hoping someone can help! iIm torn between the R2i and the R4. What are the main differences between them, aside from the cd slot? Also, I have read a technical review saying the R4 (which I am inclining towards) doesn't handle heavy music such as modern rock/metal (e.g. rage against he machine, system of a down, etc) very well in terms of sound quality. Is this true? Does the R2i handle it better? Am desperate for some help in this decision so thanks in advance!

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