Ruark R2 Mk3

SoundMag - - Contents - By What Hi-Fi?

You don’t get many all-in-one sys­tems of this cal­i­bre. The Ruark R2 Mk3 sys­tem, now in its third it­er­a­tion, re­mains a staunch favourite at What Hi-Fi? It’s not just be­cause it’s beau­ti­fully de­signed, nor that it has an im­pres­sive set of fea­tures lurk­ing be­neath that sleek chas­sis.

It’s be­cause the R2 Mk3 is both a gor­geous look­ing sys­tem packed with stream­ing fea­tures, while also de­liv­er­ing an ef­fort­lessly mu­si­cal and richly de­tailed per­for­mance.


For a unit that could fit on top of your kitchen counter or bed­side ta­ble, this R2 goes ad­mirably big and wide. The spa­cious sound­stage is pop­u­lated by a sat­is­fy­ingly meaty and warm bassline, a soar­ing top end and a tal­ented midrange that makes voices sound solid and in­ti­mate in the same breath.

It’s a cap­ti­vat­ing pre­sen­ta­tion. The rich­ness is dom­i­nat­ing, but a snappy han­dling of rhythm and a good sense of when notes should start and stop pre­vents the R2 from ever sound­ing thick or sludgy.

The punchy rhythm gives a great deal of at­tack and wal­lop to songs. It also goes hand in hand with fi­nesse and an agile de­liv­ery. Tom Waits’s God’s Away on Busi­ness is han­dled with ex­per­tise, with the rasps and croaks in his deep, rum­bling voice laid bare.

Play Richie Kotzen’s You Can’t Save Me, and you can feel the ten­sion in the plucked strings and the im­pact of drums be­ing hit. The amount of in­sight is im­pres­sive once you get past that rich tone.

That full-bod­ied pre­sen­ta­tion will suit all kinds of songs, al­though it’s worth not­ing that the 3.5mm wired con­nec­tion sounds a touch more solid and def­i­nite com­pared with Blue­tooth-streamed songs. Ra­dio sta­tions have a great deal of weight and dy­nam­ics to them, with voices clear and fo­cused.

The R2 has a ‘3D sound’ mode that makes the sound big­ger and bolder, whilst still keep­ing the tonal bal­ance in check. We’d rec­om­mend keep­ing it on for max­i­mum en­joy­ment.


Ruark is the mas­ter at de­sign­ing prod­ucts that har­mo­niously strad­dle the line be­tween mod­ern and retro. The hand­crafted wooden cab­i­net and steel front panel fit to­gether beau­ti­fully, with the crisp OLED dis­play fur­ther adding to the el­e­gant and classy de­sign.

The smooth, rounded edges of the R2’s de­sign look beau­ti­ful. It’s ev­ery inch a pre­mium-feel­ing prod­uct. You can get the R2 in three fin­ishes: rich wal­nut, soft white and soft black.

There are two 3.5in driv­ers on ei­ther side of the dis­play, and two small ports un­der­neath the unit. The large clock dom­i­nates the OLED dis­play, but the song and sta­tion in­for­ma­tion un­der­neath are sharp and easy to read. The R2 comes with a tiny, slim re­mote con­trol, but part of the sys­tem’s charm is us­ing the unit’s Ro­toDial con­troller. Use it to change vol­ume, switch be­tween sources, con­trol play­back and more.

The dial and sur­round­ing but­tons re­spond swiftly to all presses (with very sat­is­fy­ing clicks, we should add), and it be­comes in­tu­itive to use in mere sec­onds.


Gone is the iPod dock found on top of the Award-win­ning R2i; the R2 Mk3 is fully packed with the lat­est stream­ing fea­tures. Along­side FM, DAB and in­ter­net ra­dio giv­ing you ac­cess to hun­dreds of ra­dio sta­tions, the R2 fea­tures Spo­tify Con­nect.

The R2’s built-in wi-fi swiftly con­nects to your home net­work, and thanks to DLNA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, it will recog­nise any other mu­sic stored on the same net­work, whether on lap­tops or NAS boxes. There’s also Blue­tooth with aptX, for higher qual­ity stream­ing from a suit­able smart­phone like the shiny new Sam­sung Galaxy S6 or Edge+.

Phys­i­cal con­nec­tions in­clude a pair of ana­logue in­puts, a USB type A port for charg­ing your smart­phone and for play­ing stick-stored files, and a 3.5mm jack for hard­wiring mu­sic play­ers.

Ruark gets clever with its 3.5mm head­phone port, re­mem­ber­ing the vol­ume used for it – in­de­pen­dent of the vol­ume of the main speak­ers.

That means you won’t get deaf­ened when you next plug in your head­phones, as the R2 will re­mem­ber the last set level.


Delv­ing into the menus will give you tone and loud­ness lev­els, net­work set­tings, date and time set­tings, dis­play bright­ness con­trol, and set­tings for two alarms. Sim­ply twirl the Ro­toDial to scroll through all op­tions.

A re­cent soft­ware up­grade also gave the R2 multi-room pow­ers: you can link up two R2s to­gether us­ing the in­struc­tions in the menu.

Ruark has a ded­i­cated app in the works to stream­line the multi-room fea­ture fur­ther, but for now it rec­om­mends us­ing third-party apps.


We’ll be able to fully test multi-room once the app is re­leased next year, but even with­out that fea­ture, the R2 Mk3 is one of the best all-in-one sys­tems we’ve come across.

It’s a gor­geous look­ing sys­tem that will fit into any home, and that lush, punchy sound is just so much fun to lis­ten to. We want one.

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