A connected speaker for CD and radio fans.
Compact hi-fi systems that make streaming from the Internet easy cost ten cents a dozen. But if you’re a fan of broadcasting or CDs, adding streaming to your setup can be a tricky business, involving additional components or a completely separate system.
The Ruark R5 is a relatively compact all-in-one system that seems completely designed to address this specific problem, covering pretty much all the bases for CD or radio fans looking to switch to a more modern connected device. It’s expensive at around $ 2000, but that compares favorably to the cost of putting together a component and speaker system that could match capabilities, sound, and aesthetics here.
There’s a good old-fashioned antenna for hooking up FM, DAB, and DAB + broadcasts, but you can also hook it up to Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable to get Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music, or internet radio. There’s a built-in CD player, as well as RCA, phono, and optical inputs if you want to connect a deck, turntable, or TV, or there’s Bluetooth for streaming straight from your phone. And if you have a large collection of digital music files, you can play them from USB, data discs, or your home network via DLNA.
There’s no getting around the fact that it looks a bit dated, with its wood veneer and gray fabric, but I really like that about the R5. It’s an old hi-fi aesthetic, but with a satisfyingly clicking dial and smooth, quiet operation instead of chunky buttons and buzzing gears. I also really enjoy that the remote is a mirror of the built-in controls, making it easy to select presets, search for channels by name, or fine-tune the sound without getting up.
And it sounds exactly how it looks; safe, expensive, warm. Perhaps a touch too polite according to your tastes. Its ability to fill a room with crystal clear music is extremely impressive given its size, and it only seems to open up as the volume is turned up. Its strength is unapologetic in the midrange, where fans of strings and vocals will find a wonderfully detailed and naturally separate sound. There is a lot of bass present and it is delivered convincingly, but modern metal and dance left the R5 sounding a bit breathless.
Obviously the easiest way to get music out of this is to simply stick a CD, and you will get very good results if you do. But I was also impressed by some of the more contemporary font options. The R5 supports Spotify Connect, which means that as long as it and your phone (or tablet or PC) are on the same network, you just have to open the app and play music. It also supports aptX HD, which means that many Android phones will be able to send high-quality audio from any application.
On the other hand, not everything is so slick. The UNDOK smartphone app you need to use to access Tidal, Deezer, or advanced music search features is ugly and not always stable. And the R5 doesn’t support Google Cast or Apple AirPlay, so Spotify and UNDOK are the only ways to get music from your phone over Wi-Fi, with enough Bluetooth for anything else.
For that reason, the R5 might be a bit limited if streaming is your main concern, and it might be better off with a more robust or Cast-compatible system that you can connect a CD player to. But if CDs and radio are the most important thing to you, and the connectivity features are available primarily for Spotify and to fill some of your preset slots with playlists rather than live stations, this is a solid and extremely strong option. capable.