Ruark have been described as “the Aston Martin of DAB radios”, which certainly sets the bar pretty high. The Ruark R1 is their entry-level model- so how much bang do you get for your buck? We put it to the test with another of our rigorous in-depth reviews. Read on to find out whether it's worth your money.
Related: Best DAB Radio with Bluetooth
Build & design
Sleek and modern is the order of the day for the Ruark R1. It might not be all bells and whistles, but that just means you’ve got a bigger range of options for where to place it. Whatever your home decor, you should find that it slots in nicely to your living room- especially since it’s available in black, white, or wood-effect.
As for controls, the R1 uses something that Ruark call the “RotoDial”. This looks a little like a hockey puck, and can be found on the top of the unit. Most DAB radios tend to have pretty plain control systems, so it’s refreshing to see Ruark spent some time getting this right. The RotoDial is nice and simple to use, as all the buttons are clearly laid out. Just click what you want to do, and you should have no trouble working the radio.
Lastly, let’s talk about the display screen. One issue we’ve had in the past with DAB radios is that the screens can be pretty small. That means you’re often left squinting at the display if you want to check what song is currently playing. Not so with the Ruark R1. Thanks to the jumbo-sized text, we could easily read it from right across the room.
Ruark make big claims about their sound quality. Back in the day, they made huge speaker units that cost thousands of pounds, before making the switch to DAB radios. We have to admit, we were skeptical about whether they could deliver on these claims when the R1 is such a small device. You can imagine our surprise, then, when we turned the radio on and were met with the same audio quality you’d get in a top-of-the-line speaker. Even when we turned the volume up to 11, the sound quality was nice and clear without any audible distortion.
First up on BBC Radio 2 was “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins. If, like us, you’re something of an audiophile, then you’ll already know this is quite a demanding track. There’s lots going on throughout, from the deep, bassy robo-backing-vocals to the high-end of the vibraphone riff that powers the track. With such busy songs, there’s a risk that everything will collapse into a murky blur. Not so with the Ruark R1, though- all elements of the track were clearly separated. Music to our ears!
Next up was another track that lesser speakers can struggle with: Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster”. With Stevie taking musical cues from tourmate Bob Marley, there’s more than a fair bit of bass to this song. So, could the R1 keep us jamming? We’re pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint. Again, that stellar separation is instantly noticeable, almost as if the DAB radio is engineering each track on the fly. So far, so good- the R1 gets top marks for sound performance.
Ruark haven’t overstretched themselves with the R1. It does what it does perfectly, but that does mean it’s a little light on extra features. That being said, there are a few points to mention here. Most significantly, it comes Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream pretty much anything from your phone or tablet straight to the speaker. Setting this up was an absolute doddle, and while Bluetooth does compress audio, it still sounded great to our ears. It also means that you can easily tune into internet radio stations or stream your music through the Ruark R1.
One optional extra worth mentioning is the Ruark BackPack, a rechargeable battery that straps onto the rear of the unit. If you want to enjoy the Ruark R1’s incredible audio quality on the go, then this is an absolute must-have. Essentially, it turns the radio into the best Bluetooth speaker on the planet- and you’ll still have access to all your favourite digital radio stations, too!
The only real downside to the Ruark R1 is the fact that there’s no option to add a remote control. This seemed a bit odd to us, especially since Ruark make a dedicated remote for their Bluetooth speakers. It might also be a bit annoying if you’re planning on placing the digital radio away from you, as you’ll have to get up to change the station. However, it is possible to plug your smart speaker into the R1 via the aux input and control the radio with your voice.
Ruark R1: The Verdict
For sheer audio quality, the Ruark R1 is incredible value for money. While the lack of a remote might put some people off, we really can’t overstate just how breathtaking this DAB radio sounds. That’s all the more impressive when you look at the size of the R1. It’s a truly compact model, and you’ll therefore have no trouble slotting it neatly into your existing decor.