Ruark Audio MR1 full review
Anything goes in the world of modern desktop speakers – including baby speakers modelling as classic big monitors. The Ruark Audio MR1 speakers are based around the traditional wooden box, with two drivers a side: a mid/bass woofer (but here only 75 mm across) and little soft-dome tweeter.
Helping in efficiency and bass extension are little reflext ports on the underside of each cabinet, with tall rubber feet on the underside letting the speakers breathe below.
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Continuing the classic speaker theme is the choice of finishing materials. Like regular hi-fi speakers, this one’s made from MDF with a real wood veneer. We tried the walnut version, in beatifully figured dark grained hardwood. You can also find them in black or in white.
The right speaker is the boss here, featuring a multi-purpose twiddle knob on top and all the system electronics inside. That includes a Bluetooth module that can take on aptX, and a linear Class AB amplifier IC module.
The left speaker chains from the control speaker with an included cable terminated in RCA phono plugs. Just be sure not to mate the right speaker with any hi-fi kit with line-level phono inputs.
We found a couple of anomalies in use. You cannot pair over Bluetooth when a jack is plugged into analogue input. We also found you cannot easily switch between Bluetooth and analogue inputs – returning to the BT source required re-pairing our MacBook each time we returned, which was quite infuriating.
And like many such speakers, there’s no indication of current volume setting. That’s a setback in usability in the real world, when we need to know how loud something is likely to be – before we press play.
As frustrating, the speakers switch themselves off when you sleep your Mac, for instance, and you often must go through the pairing dance again to get your music back.
Build quality is simple but outstandingly good. The wood grain was nicely matched between veneer sections, and the control knob, while a little plasticky, was easy to spin.
Ruark Audio MR1 review: Sound quality
Compared to any other Bluetooth speaker we’ve heard, the sound of the Ruark MR1 came as something of a revelation. They had a clear and insightful midrange that let us hear right into the character of a spoken or singing voice.
Thanks to the aptX codec compatibility and use of a traditional linear amplifier, playing Radio 3 AAC we heard a smooth, artefact-free sound that just invited us in. We’re not choral fans but the way it captured the aethereal grace of a choir performing in a real acoustic space was quite beguiling.
The MR1s were quite hard to upset with more sizzling uptempo material as well. Even the grandiloquent guitar rock of Muse failed to unsettle the little Ruark’s stately manner. Thumping bass riffs and rippling fuzz guitar were all in place, a little downscaled from a full hi-fi system, but everything in place and in balance.
Listen more deeply into the clear midrange, and you may yet hear a trace of plumminess in male voices, but nowhere near enough to confuse or detract.
Especially with high-res music material, the Ruark MR1 had a knack of disappearing almost physically, two near-point sources replaced by a lush and sweetly detailed soundstage.