Ruark R2 Mk3
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.
BUILD AND DESIGN
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.