20 Ruark R5 aA few months ago I wrote about the Plus record player that puts speakers, amplification and wireless tech in a single cabinet with a turntable on top; a complete vinyl system in just one box. The reader reaction was immediate and exceptional, and everyone had just one question; where can I buy one?

It seems lots of people want good quality music… simply; one box that does it all. And so to Ruark’s R5 that, like the Plus, does it all. Except the R5 is based around CDs rather than vinyl. Ruark, a family-owned British hi fi brand, started up in 1986 when CDs began to clobber vinyl, and the company heritage is all digital.

First and foremost the R5 is simple. It’s a single box with a display and a CD slot at the front, nicely tactile controls grouped intuitively around a selector wheel on top, and inputs and outputs at the rear – enough to satisfy the needs of about 99 per cent of people.

The user guide is logical, helpful and detailed, the set-up is dead simple. It only took minutes before I had the R5 hooked into my wifi and, thus, all the music on my computer and my phone, not to mention Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music and Tidal. There’s an optical connection for the television, a USB handling MP3, AAC, WAV, FLAC and WMA and a phono connection as well as RCAs in and out.

I started the R5 up by tuning it to DAB+ radio, then found ABC Classic where I lucked into Emma Kirkby and the Westminster Cathedral Boys Choir singing Mozart’s Regina Coeli. It stopped me dead in my tracks. The singing was clear, precise and detailed, the playing by the Academy of Ancient Music pure and wonderfully realised. It was spine shiveringly good. The R5 didn’t sound like a $2000 system, it could have cost twice that. A wow moment.

Now it had my complete and undivided attention. I hooked in my portable music player through Bluetooth aptX-HD and ran through my audition tracks. The sound was just a tad too bass-oriented for me. And then I discovered the tone controls. Okay they’re basic, but they’re good enough to lift the sound off the bottom and bring in beautiful detail up high. Tone controls are becoming uncommon these days but nothing is as handy for improving comprehension from the television; reduce bass, increase treble and you’ll be amazed how much clearer voices become.

20 Ruark R5 cPlaying a CD is simply a matter of putting one in the slot, but the R5 doesn’t play SACDs or DVD-Audio discs. If you’re into it there is a multi-room capability synching with up to seven other Ruark connected models. There’s also FM tuning and internet radio. Finally there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front panel.

The R5 has two 75 mm full-range drivers and an integrated 125mm long throw subwoofer driven by a class A-B amplifier with enough horsepower to fill a large room. Turn the volume to max and there’s no distortion; you can feel the air moving out front. There’s a loud setting to enhance the bottom end but like all loud buttons should be, this only works at lower volume levels.

There was a single problem with the test unit. The remote control, which is a hand-held version of the controller atop the R5, wouldn’t connect and even with help from the importer and a second battery I couldn’t get it working. It frustrated me to the point of annoyance. But jeez Louise the R5 sounds good for $1999.

First published by smh.com.au June 2019.


Tags: ,