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Review: Ruark R1 MK3 Tabletop Radio

by Paul Strauss
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Last month, I had the opportunity to test out the Ruark Audio MR1 Bluetooth audio system, and thought it offered very good sound for its size, and an excellent, substantial build quality. Now I’ve got the Ruark Audio R1 MK3 Tabletop Radio sitting on my desk, and it’s equally as compelling.

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Like the MR1, the R1 has been available in Europe for a while, but has only recently made its way to the U.S. Unlike the MR1 system the R1 is a single box, but it still offers plenty of volume for bedroom, office or kitchen. Measuring in at 6.7″ (H) x 5.1″ (W) x 5.3″ (D), and wrapped in walnut veneer (or black or white lacquered wood), it’s about the size and heft of a nice bookshelf speaker. But this is a completely self-contained audio system, with its own amplifier, a built-in FM radio tuner, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a headphone output, and it even works as an alarm clock.

The display on the R1 is easy to read, thanks to a high-contrast OLED screen that can be read from any angle. This can display not only clock and station information, but also offers up artist, track and title information on stations that broadcast using RDS, and also via Bluetooth devices.

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Around back you’ll see a spot for connecting the telescoping FM antenna, as well as a line-in for external devices, a headphone jack, and even a 1.0 amp USB port for charging smartphones or media players. The inclusion of said USB port, combined with alarm functionality make the R1 the perfect bedside radio.

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Beyond its good looks, the R1 sounds good too, offering warm and clean sound that isn’t overly tinny or boomy. I was pleased that the analog broadcast FM radio was totally enjoyable in this era of digital sound, though FM itself has some limitations in terms of high frequency response and dynamic range. Upon connecting my iPhone via Bluetooth, I was immediately greeted with some of the high highs that FM lacks. In the U.K., the R1 includes DAB/DAB+ digital radio capability, and I kind of wish that the U.S. variant included HD Radio.

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I particularly like the intuitive control scheme on the R1. Context is selected using hard buttons, while a pushbutton scroll wheel in the middle lets you make choices and confirm their entry. Simple and easy, the way I like it. The dual alarm is extremely easy to program too, and lets you set things like duration, volume, radio station, and even if it’s a one-time alarm for a specific date, or an everyday alarm. I also love how the audio gradually fades in so it doesn’t give you a heart attack when it’s time to wake. And the snooze feature includes a countdown timer so you know how much more time you have in bed. Keep in mind that the alarm only works with the FM radio or a buzzer.

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Overall, Ruark Audio has done a great job with the R1. It looks great anywhere, and offers up a complete audio system in a single box. It sounds great, especially with local audio devices, but it’s always nice to have the FM radio too as a source of content discovery, and to hear things like news, traffic and weather. The R1 is available in the U.S. from the Ruark Audio USA website for $299.95(USD). Buyers in the U.K., Europe and Australia can find it here.

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