- Lovely design and build
- Excellent sound
- Wealth of connections
- Flexible placement
- The app can be a little sluggish
- Review Price: £399
- Bluetooth aptX
- Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, internet radio
- Multiroom audio
- Dimensions: H180 × W300 × D180mm
What is the Ruark MRx?
There are few things in life that are as certain as the quality of a Ruark product. For years, the company has proved itself with excellent DAB radios, Bluetooth speakers and all-in-one CD plus speaker-type devices. Now it’s time for a music-streaming speaker: the Ruark MRx.
This is Ruark embracing the online generation, although the device doesn’t disappoint when it comes to delivering all that I’ve grown to love – and expect – from the company. The design is gorgeous, it’s easy to use, there’s an abundance of connections, and it sounds delightful.
At £400, it’s well beyond impulse-buy territory. However, if you can stretch your budget then you’re in for a ride. This is one of the best music systems on the market.
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Ruark MRx – Design and features
You can tell a product is Ruark from a mile away. It’s a look often imitated, but never replicated with panache.
There will be plenty of wood at the top, bottom and sides – a callback to the golden age of hi-fi – but made more contemporary with rounded edges. The ‘Rich Walnut’ veneer makes the most of the retro vibe, but there’s also a ‘Soft Grey’ option. Both finishes come with a non-removable fabric speaker grille, textured like tweed.
There’s always a neat ‘Rotodial’ control scheme, usually a volume knob within a ring of buttons. In the case of the Ruark MRx, there’s just knob and it performs double-duty: rotate it for volume, press it for input selection. Unusual here is that the controls sit smack at the centre of the speaker’s face, as opposed to the top of the device.
It’s a slightly odd look, but it’s practical: the Ruark MRx is designed to switch orientations, either lying flat in stereo mode or standing up in mono. There’s an input to switch sound modes, and the provided stand attaches in either orientation.
As for audio components, there are two 75mm full-range drivers, with a neodymium magnet system based on the one from the excellent Ruark MR1 Mk2. There are also two small reflex ports at the rear for more efficient bass.
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Ruark MRx – Connections
Connections on the rear of the unit includes a single socket to handle both 3.5mm and digital optical input (via a bundled adapter). A USB port means you can play music from memory sticks, but it can also power a Chromecast or charge a phone. Oh, and there’s a power socket for a mains adapter – this speaker isn’t battery powered or portable.
There’s aptX Bluetooth, which is generally better than regular Bluetooth because of higher data transfer rates. There’s Ethernet or Wi-Fi for networked connections.
There’s no remote control, however. I’d have liked a basic wand for pressing play/pause/skip; the only means of control is the Ruark Link app. It has internet radio baked into it, plus DLNA for playing music from networked storage devices. It also has Spotify, Tidal and Deezer, with Amazon Music to follow.
If you have two Ruark MRx units then you can use them in stereo configuration. I tested the speaker with Bluetooth and a variety of streaming services online, and connection was always swift and stable.
Ruark MRx – Performance
Very occasionally I’ll listen to a product so good, so engaging, so musically infectious that I just end up listening at the expense of other things, such as taking notes for a review. The Ruark MRx proved to be just such a product. Every time I turn it on, it grabs my full attention.
That’s not to say it’s the best thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s a realistic, convincing performance with the right balance of a few key ingredients: power, emotion and rhythmic precision.
There’s power on tap, but the Ruark MRx is capable of remarkable delicacy. Once again, the company has managed to squeeze full-fat sound into a small and unassuming box. We’re talking here about a proper hi-fi sound, with the full frequency range on display. It’s a substantial sound with plenty going on between the highs and lows.
The bass is rich but firm, the mid-range clear and direct, and the treble is sweet. You can adjust the balance in the EQ section of the app, but I never felt the need to move past the default. The MRx is flexible with regards to placement, too. You can set it up near a wall without it sounding overwhelmingly boomy.
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The Loudness mode is there to make lower frequencies more audible at low volumes, but it has the effect of compressing the dynamic range mode a little. Turn that off, because the Ruark MRx has a lovely dynamic range, and it shouldn’t be squandered. It can really articulate the differences between layers of low-level bass on the XX’s debut album.
It’s a big sound, too. The Ruark MRx isn’t exactly a small box, but I’ve seen larger rivals struggle to fill the room. What’s more, the MRx can happily reach loud volumes without straining. The frequency range remains coherent, rather than sounding hollow or letting the low end overwhelm.
I definitely prefer the speaker in its horizontal position, on stereo mode, but if you’re short of space, it’s good vertical and in mono too. You don’t get the left/right channels as such, but the speaker is good at separation and instruments don’t end up piled on top of one another.
The only hiccup has nothing to do with the speaker itself but the Ruark Link app, which is a little slow for my liking. Too often I was seeing the spinning loading symbol. It was only ever for a few seconds, and it didn’t freeze or crash, but it proved slow enough to prevent the experience being a threat to Sonos.
It’s less of an issue when using Bluetooth, as you then tend to use the native music app on your phone to control tracks. It’s also fine with Spotify, as the Ruark Link app naturally defers you to Spotify’s own interface. Use Tidal, however, and you operate entirely within Ruark Link.
Still, if waiting a few seconds here and there is what it takes to enjoy this build and sound quality, I can live with it.
Why buy the Ruark MRx?
The Ruark MRx sets an excellent example for speaker manufacturers going down the online music route. It handles a bunch of popular streaming services, but doesn’t assume that you want to entirely abandon the tactile joys of older formats. That variety of sources on offer helps to justify the £400 price tag, as does the gorgeous design and enchanting sound.
If you’re looking for a portable option, B&O Beolit 17 costs the same. It doesn’t sound quite as good, nor does it boast the same wealth of connections, but it has a handle and a battery for portability, and it looks gorgeous too.
The Sonos Beam will also set you back similar money. While it doesn’t display nearly as much subtlety as the Ruark, it’s built to boost your TV’s sound via HDMI, and it comes with Amazon Alexa voice assistance.
A gorgeous and well-equipped streaming speaker for the home.
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