Ruark Audio R7 mk2 review

“And now,” as Monty Python memorably had it, “for something totally other.”

Think you’re using the crest of the retro wave together with your brand-new turntable?

Think again. If you want just a little of modern antiquity, Ruark’s outstanding R7 mk2 is the place it’s at.

Design

Back within the sepia-tinted pre-decimalisation day, the radiogram used to be a staple of the nation’s front rooms.

Half radio/turntable/amplifier/speaker, part large and awkward-to-dust merchandise of furnishings, the radiogram eventually advanced into the stereogram – and then headed for obscurity as hi-fi manufacturers around the globe began a drive towards separates.

Aside from being necessary set-dressing in any TV drama set in the mid-20th century, obscurity is the place the radiogram has languished ever since. That is until Ruark had its large concept.

Obviously, reinventing the radiogram for the 21st century isn’t something to be rushed into.

This is a product that needs to function on a few levels: it must make sense as a decorative piece of furniture each bit up to it needs to paintings as – for want of a better description – a track centre.

Features

In terms of technology, the R7 mk2 ticks most boxes. Radio is roofed thanks to DAB, DAB+, FM and web radio capability. The slot-loading disc pressure performs both CDs and MP3 discs.

Integrated wi-fi allows streaming each from a DLNA house community and aptX Bluetooth. Auxiliary inputs come with optical, coaxial and two pairs of stereo RCAs, whilst outputs extend to a USB socket and a 3.5mm stereo headphone output.

The 160W overall power comes courtesy of sophistication A/B amplification, and is deployed to drive a few 14cm dual-concentric drivers (hidden in the back of fabric grilles) and an 20cm downward-firing subwoofer.

Bass presence is given additional impetus via pair of bass-reflex ports that vent from the bottom of the cabinet too.

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Build

Ah yes, the cupboard. A big a part of the unique radiogram’s place in our collective hearts pertains to its serve as as furniture, as ornament – and Ruark intends the R7 mk2 to ship as much visually as it does on an audio stage.

The metre-wide cupboard is impeccably built, elegantly designed and smoothly finished.

In truth it seems and feels almost precisely like a super-sized version of each other product in Ruark’s range – the shiny black legs solely including to its aesthetic enchantment.

Judged purely as a £2000 piece of furniture, we’d be expecting it to feel a little extra sumptuous – but then again, when you buy groceries for a sideboard, would you bemoan the loss of web radio connectivity?

And the option (at extra cost) of an audio-visual mount that allows the Ruark to beef up a TV above and a set-top box, console or Blu-ray player below solely increases its ‘high-performance furnishings’ credentials.

The R7 mk2 is controlled via Ruark’s puck-shaped faraway control – there’s a recess on best of the cupboard the place the far off can sit down when no longer in use. It’s an RF somewhat than infra-red device, so will work from a special room.

The Ruark connects rapidly and relatively painlessly to our wireless network – the display, which is bright and legible, guides us through the once-only set-up wizard.

And from there on it’s a simple task to modify inputs, save favorite radio stations, make bass/treble adjustments and so on.

Sound

We get started with web radio, and perennial office favourite FIP.

The French station’s 128kbps movement is strong, and when the track shifts (because it inevitably should with FIP) to Madeline Peyroux and her smooth-as-warm-butter reading of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love, the Ruark sounds blank, detailed and proper at home.

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There’s enjoyable fluidity to the presentation, the languid tempo treated with real self belief.

Easy listening simply doesn’t get any more uncomplicated than this – if your song taste runs to the airbrushed and unthreatening, the R7 mk2 encourages you to position your feet up and wallow.

Mixing it up a bit, we transfer to the CD power and a disc-borne reproduction of The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. It’s a gorgeous overwrought recording, with results piled on best of each other like an aural wedding cake.

The HDCD encoding (keep in mind that? It’s not moderately as unfashionable as the Ruark but it surely’s not some distance at the back of) delivers really extensive dynamic range, and with regards to low-frequency attack it is a fiercely testing album.

It’s too fierce for the R7 mk2, which is flustered by way of the levels of attack and not able to offer the ample low frequencies this type of body and solidity the recording requires.

Consequently the album’s power and depth is somewhat neutered, and the limits of the Ruark’s convenience zone are outlined as though by way of a Boundary Commission.

Results are in a similar fashion combined after we transfer to BBC Radio 3 via the (grippy, strong) DAB receiver.

The simpler, the sparer and the smoother the piece of music (a few of Freddie Hubbard’s less frantic recordings, as an example), the extra authority and more figuring out the R7 mk2 reveals.

Up the ante, regardless that – Radio Three is rarely a ways from some National Philharmonic of Russia bombast – and its irresolute way with low frequencies, somewhat congested soundstage and lack of decisive dynamics come to the fore.

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This is the case around the board – whether or not the usage of optical, coaxial or analogue inputs, or track stored on your home community (the Ruark has a take hold of of most standard-resolution report sorts, together with PCM, FLAC, AAC and MP3).

The R7 mk2 is a deft and detailed (if relatively narrow-sounding) performer right until the moment the going gets worrying or bassy, when its composure deserts it.

If you set low-frequency punch, solidity and presence excessive in your list of must-haves, this Ruark isn’t going to warrant a place to your shortlist regardless of how decorative it seems to be in your house.

But where the R7 mk2 is concerned, we are at all times going to end up coming again to the way it appears.

Because judged in absolute phrases – as an amplifier, CD participant, radio, streamer and stereo speakers – there’s merely no means it may possibly compete towards alternative equipment on the similar kind of money.

It doesn’t have the low-frequency rigour, it doesn’t have a particularly vast soundstage and it doesn’t deal with high-resolution audio.

But, in fact, that choice equipment looks like a stack of hi-fi that requires a rack and a lot of cabling, as well as desiring more mains sockets. It received’t be a work of furniture.

Verdict

We’re not asking the Ruark to perform like a ‘regular’ £2k device, in fact – you’re paying a top rate for that cabinet, and Ruark’s general presence.

But we need it to succeed in an appropriate common of performance – and we will be able to’t assist however to find the R7 mk2 wanting.

We’re not even ready to indicate a similar, but better-performing, alternative – because right now the R7 mk2 is primary in a field of 1.

There are pros and cons, in fact, within the compromises the Ruark calls for. If you'll reside with them, then dive proper in: the Ruark R7 mk2 is simply the best-sounding item of furniture we’ve ever heard.

See all our Ruark reviews

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