It's the British Sonos! Ruark R5 wants to slay the multi-room giant AND the Naim Mu-so

Lavishly hand-tooled wooden cabinets on the outside, cutting-edge wireless connectivity on the inside… and yes, that's a CD PLAYER on the front…

Ruark R5

Ruark has long made high quality speakers that are very popular with people who shop at John Lewis. People who value craftsmanship, and consider a radio to be the most essential part of any audio package. Old people, is what I'm saying. 

However, recently a new Ruark has been born that keeps the wooden cabinets and classic design elements, but adds some much more cutting-edge internal tech, including multi-room and streaming services. The pricing on the Ruark R5, its latest speaker, is a fair bit above Sonos and in line with the Naim Mu-so – which it also very slightly resembles – but my gosh, you get a lot for your money.

The Ruark R5 from various angles

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The Ruark R5 from various angles

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Old-school values, new-school tech

Okay, so the Ruark costs £1,000 but just look what you get for your money:

New school

Bluetooth: AAC, aptX, aptX HD

Streaming over Wi-Fi: Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music via Ruark Link app plus Spotify via Spotify Connect

Multi-room compatible with other R5s and also Ruark's MRx, R2Mk3 and R7Mk3

Internet radio

Optical digital input

USB input


Old school

A turntable input (dual phono with RIAA pre-amp)

A DAB/FM radio

A CD player! Yes, sales of CDs may have fallen off a cliff but there are still millions of them out there in people's homes…

A dual phono line in

A line out. What is this even for? Connecting a tape deck

That is way more stuff than what you get with Naim's perennial T3 favourite the Mu-so, or with any Sonos speaker we can think of. 

The only obvious shortcoming is that there is no support for either AirPlay or Chromecast, nor for Apple Music. That leaves iOS users having to rely on Bluetooth although really, AAC Bluetooth is perfectly adequate, sound-wise.

For streaming, Ruark has taken a similar approach to how Sonos used to do it, with services delivered direct to the speaker, controlled by its Link app. Sonos has now modified that approach and also supports AirPlay 2 and Alexa voice control, but those were only added in the last year.

Yes, that is a CD player. A multi-format one, in fact

Unlike Sonos, the R5 doesn't support every streaming service you've ever heard of, plus a number that you have not. It just goes for the ones that most people actually use (other than Apple Music).

The sound, from what I've heard of it, is very much in line with Ruark's older speakers. It's not overtly bassy, although the dedicated subwoofer does ensure there's bottom-end presence. In fact in general, I'd say it's got quite a classical sound, with the class A/B amplifiers and 2.1 speaker array serving up something quite transparent and accurate. Since Ruark launched the R5 in a hotel bar full of well refreshed journalists, I'll have to get back to you with a definitive judgement on that one, though.

The inclusion of aptX HD for 24bit high-res streaming is very impressive. Although there are not many aptX HD sources available yet, it's handy future-proofing. Shortly, this could make a perfect pair with Cambridge Audio's Alva TT aptX HD turntable, although there is also a proper, pre-amped turntable input on the R5 as well.

The addition of an optical digital input means this could also make a very handy soundbar for your TV.

• Available from spring 2019, the Ruark R5 costs £999 via Ruark's 'select dealer network', plus John Lewis and Selfridges

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.