(Pocket-lint) - British audio company Ruark Audio is best known for its range of DAB digital radios, such as the rather excellent R1 MkIII. However, with more of us turning to music streaming services and with many phones losing their 3.5mm headphone ports, wireless playback is the inevitable way to go.
It's with this in mind that Ruark developed the MRx wireless speaker, designed to fit in with our digital lives, offering a number of ways to connect (there may not be a DAB tuner onboard, but you can still access radio).
No matter how convenient a speaker may be, however, its success will ultimately depend on the quality of sound. And it's here that Ruark impresses with the MRx's big, bold sonics.
A slick British design
- Rich walnut veneer or soft grey
- Grey woven grille as standard
- Landscape or portrait orientation
Ruark Audio products have a similar design aesthetic throughout the range: with wooden, veneer or lacquer finishes at the fore. Also iconic is the company's 'RotoDial' volume and source control. In the MRx all that design language comes together in an attractive rich walnut or soft grey finish, which we think will seamlessly fit into any room of the house.
The RotoDial being placed slap bang in the middle of the MRx's front is rather divisive though. Its placement is mainly because the speaker can be placed horizontally or vertically, so the movement of the dial will change depending on which orientation you choose.
All the connection options you could need
- Myriad connection options: network, Bluetooth, auxiliary, optical
- RotoDial physical control; companion app for fuller control
Around the back the MRx houses physical inputs for Ethernet, auxiliary, optical (the AUX and optical are the same port but Ruark provides an adapter for the latter) and a USB input (to source media). There is also a switch that lets you decide which channel you want the speaker to play if you connect it to a second Ruark product.
The MRx is a fully connected wireless speaker. That means you don't need to rely on just Bluetooth to start streaming your music, although if you do then the MRx supports aptX for CD-quality streaming. The MRx can also connect to the internet, either via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet, which opens up access to internet radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music and files stored on a networked device (NAS) in your home.
With the controller on the front you can change the source between AUX, Bluetooth and network inputs, but for complete control of the speaker you will need to download the companion Ruark Link app (available for Android and iOS). The app gives fuller control of the speaker in a more visual format and is where Ruark-to-Ruark device pairing is possible (with another MRx, an R2 MK3, or R7 MK3).
For a new entry into the app world, it's a slick solution. Our only real gripe is that after our phone locks itself, it takes a second or two for the app to load and provide control over the speaker (it doesn't affect playback at all, though).
Controlled, room-filling sound
- 2x 75mm drivers
- 55Hz - 20kHz range
The MRx is that it can go loud. And we mean really, really loud.
If you're streaming over Bluetooth, not only will the speaker respond to your connected device's volume, but it has its own volume control to amplify things yet further. Some speakers can crack under the pressure of high volumes, but not so with the Ruark: it never once became distorted during our testing.
Whether you choose vertical or horizontal placement, the included stand keeps the main unit from touching surfaces, which also helps reduce vibration. A neat trick.
It's not just the volume level we love, but the overall sound profile too. You can tell Ruark Audio has come from hi-fi roots (the company was founded in 1985 and its first loudspeakers went on sale a year later), because there is a real sophistication to the MRx's sound. The frequencies all come together in harmony.
There's ample bass, too, although the Ruark can't capture the ultra low-end stuff to the same capacity as the B&O Beolit 17, which is its most likely competitor in terms of size, sound and price.
When testing the MRx we've listened to all kinds of music. There are umpteen examples which have displayed the speaker's dynamism: 65daysofstatic's Prisms being a great test for this, going from quiet to loud in short bursts, then kicking in with the beat for an exciting listen.
Canopée by French musical duo Polo & Pan shows how wide and controlled the MRx's soundscape is, too. The song is made up of several instruments, but we can easily place each of them, while vocals are kept central and crisp, with no jostling for position between the bass and treble.
Overall, we're very impressed with the Ruark Audio MRx. It delivers great sound, lots of connectivity and a pleasing design.
The placement of the RotoDial may be divisive and split opinion, but we like how the MRx looks in both vertical and horizonal placement. It's certainly versatile.
However, the competition at this price point is rife. With the likes of the B&O Beolit 17 offering portability and lower-yet bass frequencies for the same money - albeit with far less connectivity options - you might be stroking your chin as to whether British or Danish design is preferable for you. Spend a little more again and the Sonos Play 5 offers a modern design and booming sound.
Where the Ruark will win over prospective buyers is with its sound quality. The dynamism of the sound profile is great, bass isn't overpowering, while volume is massive and the soundscape wonderfully wide. It's all expertly done and easy to recommend.
B&O Play Beolit 17
A comparable speaker in terms of both size and price, the Beolit 17 is Scandinavian design and sound at its finest. It delivers a loud, booming sound and lasts for days - or you can plug it into the wall and use it as a wired speaker. It doesn't have quite the same range of wireless connections as the MRx though, with Bluetooth being your main port of call.
Sonos Play 5
If you've got a little more to spend then Sonos' biggest speaker offers a more sophisticated design and booming sound to boot.