The Ruark R2 Mk3 is an all-in-one music system for the modern home. No CD player, no separate clutter-creating speakers, just one box full of wireless music electrickery.
Wi-Fi opens up a world of internet radio, Spotify Connect, DLNA streaming and multiroom audio, while Bluetooth offers easy wireless connection to your mobile devices. Then there are some enduring favourites – DAB and FM radio, line inputs and USB – to round off a thoroughly tech-crammed package.
But all that would amount to zero if it sounded like a rabid squirrel trapped in a bag of spanners. Thankfully, then, it doesn't...
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The R2 looks classy, with an uncluttered metal front panel that's home to a three-line OLED display, two 3.5-inch drivers, a 3.5mm headphones socket, a 3.5mm line input and a shiny on/off button.
A curvy casing wraps around the top and sides, and it's available in a choice of walnut, matte white lacquer or matte black lacquer. The one I tested had the white finish, which I'm still undecided about. I guess maybe I'm more a glossy kinda guy.
The reason for the minimalist fascia is that the main controls are neatly grouped around the RotoDial on the top. The large knob is used to change the volume as well as for navigating the menus and, when pushed in, to select menu options.
The buttons around it give access to source selection, presets, the dual-alarm settings and more.
Around the back you'll find an RCA phono line input, a USB socket that can be used for charging or attaching media storage, and a telescopic radio aerial.
Although the R2 Mk3 has an alarm function, you might find the unit itself too big for a bedside table, and it'd probably take up a little too much kitchen worktop for most people. This is more a bedroom hi-fi, or possibly even a living-room stereo solution for anyone looking to save space.
The final part of the package is a small plastic remote control, which is a little neater than the credit card-sized remotes that still get bundled with so many audio products. But it remains disappointing on a system with so much class, and costing such a lot.
As with the R1 Mk3 and R4 Mk3, there are no real complaints with setting up and operating the R2. It's a joy, with the RotoDial providing tactile navigation through settings or for just changing the volume.
The remote control does a decent enough job of the basics – on/off, volume up/down and changing tracks or stations – as long as you're not one of those people who's repulsed by blister buttons. I can live with them, but please try harder next time, Ruark. It also isn't instantly obvious which buttons should be used to navigate up or down within menus.
Getting decent radio reception wasn't a problem at all, and the R2 Mk3 even picked up a good signal in a part of my house where others before it have struggled. The Wi-Fi range was similarly impressive – not once did I have a connection drop-out while streaming.
Sound quality is exceptional from such a small unit. Sat alongside the more expensive Tivoli Audio Music System 2+, the Ruark R2 Mk3 not only matched it for premium build and surpassed it for playback options, but also blew it away sonically.
The Ruark doesn't have quite the depth of bass displayed by the Tivoli, but what low-end it has remains far tighter. The treble and mid-range also largely stay as a cohesive whole, even at very high volumes, where other systems pull apart with screechy treble and a flabby bottom end, or retreat into the mid-range and lose all detail.
You can buy a lot more hi-fi quality for £400 – but you won't get it in a neat, impeccably connected all-in-one package such as this.
Whether you want to listen to standard radio or delve into internet radio, connect your phone or trawl through all the music files on your computer, or even if you want to hook up to a Spotify account, the Ruark R2 Mk3 can do it. And do it well.
The Ruark Audio R2 Mk3 is an incredibly versatile all-in-one music system that sounds as good as it looks.