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.

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 Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan 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."