Founded in 1985, renowned British loudspeaker-maker Ruark Audio has never sold its products in Singapore until this month, when it finally landed here.
I reviewed its MR1 Mk2 Bluetooth stereo speaker system. It is designed to be your computer speakers, used with a turntable, or as an easy way to improve the audio output of your television set.
It comes as two rectangular compact speakers, each measuring 17cm tall, 13cm wide and 13.5cm deep. It does not take up too much space on a tabletop or TV console.
It is available in grey lacquer and walnut veneer (version tested) finishes, with each speaker fronted by a milled grey fabric front grille. Its classic looks and high build quality means it will fit elegantly in your study or living room.
The active electronics reside in the right speaker. It has a black knob at its top that lets you adjust the volume and toggle among three audio input modes – digital optical, auxiliary and Bluetooth aptX (for CD-quality music streaming). It does not have built-in Wi-Fi.
A small infrared remote that looks like a fan remote lets you choose the audio source and adjust the volume.
At the rear of the right speaker are optical and auxiliary input ports, as well as output ports for a subwoofer and the passive left speaker.
Included in the package is a braided speaker cable to connect the right and left speakers for stereo audio output. You can also use the right speaker as a lone speaker for mono operation.
Inside each speaker is a long-throw 75mm neodymium woofer and a 20mm dome neodymium tweeter. The right speaker – presumably – has a linear amplifier with 20W of output.
Connecting your smartphone to the MR1 is a cinch. Press the knob to go to Bluetooth mode, as indicated by the speaker’s LED status system. Go to your smartphone’s Bluetooth panel to look for the MR1 option and tap on it to connect.
Streaming my Apple Music playlist to the MR1 was an “ear-opener”. Whether it was classical music such as Vivaldi’s Spring or pop music from JJ Lin or Adele, the MR1 delivered sound that was much richer and more detailed than that of my personal Apple HomePod, which has pretty good audio quality. I could easily make out the different instruments at play and also heard clear vocals, strong bass and sharp highs.
It was amazing to hear such detailed sound from speakers so small. This audio quality is something I usually associate with proper sound systems, instead of two small speakers.
I connected the MR1 to my study room’s TV via the digital optical line. And a whole new world opened up when I heard the audio while playing the Fifa 20 football simulation game on my Xbox One gaming console.
The sound was so good I started to wonder how I had managed to get by with my TV’s internal speakers all this time. The commentary was lively and every kick of the ball sounded beefy. Playing shooter games, such as Gears 5, was even more dramatic, with every bullet screech and explosion sounding ever so realistic.
Watching movies on Netflix with the TV hooked up to the MR1 felt like I was watching them in a movie theatre.
Perhaps the only downer is that the MR1’s bass lacks the kind of oomph you get from a proper sub-woofer. But I am nitpicking here.
Also, at $699, MR1 might seem a tad expensive, when you can get a 5.1-channel sound system for around the same price.
But you will not be getting the MR1’s compactness and ease of installation. Not to mention, it will immediately up the audio output of your TV.
Pound for pound, I think the MR1 is probably the best value-for-money Bluetooth speaker set in the market.
• Classic design
• Small footprint allows for easy placement
• Impressively detailed audio output
• Great value for money
• No built-in Wi-Fi
• Bass lacks the oomph of a subwozofer
Woofer: 75mm neodymium
Tweeter: 20mm neodymium
Connectivity: Bluetooth aptX, digital optical, auxiliary input
Weight: 3.5kg (two speakers)
Value for money: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5 [ST Tech Editor’s Choice]
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