Our Verdict 
Best desktop speaker, Awards 2013. Stylish, well-featured and delivering hi-fi quality sound, the MR1s certainly mean business
For 
Excellent sound
Dynamically strong
Good feature set
Stylish, flexible design
Against 
Very little at this price
Reviewed on

If we were judging on looks alone, the Ruark MR1 speakers would ace it.

All walnut veneer panels (black and white lacquer finishes are also available), metal fittings and fine mesh grilles, the design is one that fans of the Ruark Audio brand will recognise from the R1 MkII radio. 

Luckily there’s plenty more to these compact speakers than just a pretty fascia...

MORE: Awards 2013

Design

Ruark Audio MR1

They’re just slightly bigger than what we deemed the ‘perfect desktop size’ in the  Monitor Audio Airstream WS100, but they’re far from the rather unwieldy size of the Epoz Aktimate Micro.

We certainly can’t see there being a problem finding a place for the MR1 speakers on your desk or shelf – and we’d actively shift a few things around to make room for them if there was.

There are a few added extras of note in the Ruark MR1s. Bluetooth is on board with aptX support for clearer playback and there’s the option to attach the £50 wireless battery pack designed for the R1 radio, too.

This makes them an entirely wireless stereo solution.

Sound

Ruark Audio MR1

But does the MR1’s hi-fi bloodline push it forward here in terms of pure sonic ability? Yes. Yes, it does.

There’s a real quality to their performance that sees the MR1s straddle that boundary between standard audio and hi-fi.

Stream Rihanna’s Stay and the powerful, emotional vocal is delivered with every drop of feeling that was poured into it by the artists.

There’s warmth and texture to voices and a level of subtlety that immediately sets these speakers apart from the rest of the desktop crowd.

Detail is abundant, and even when you give the Ruarks something a little meatier to chew over, such as Bassnectar’s Ping Pong, it doesn’t misstep once, keeping organised and in control throughout.

The bass on show has enough punch, weight and depth to put the MR1s in the same ballpark as the considerably larger Epoz Aktimate Micro speakers.

They shine dynamically, too. The MR1s do a great job of letting the horns in Justin Timberlake’s Take Back the Night create the impact they were hired for, while keeping a toe-tapping hold on the catchy instrumental underneath.

Overall they’re a very musical listen, portraying the full extension of every note from the low-end, all the way up through the treble, so you feel like you’re getting every bit of what a piece of music has to offer.

Switch to an aptX Bluetooth connection from a MacBook Pro and there’s a slight drop in sound quality from the wired connection.

The speakers’ character remains though, and once connected we experienced a stable performance – save for the odd crackle on initial connection.

These speakers are sensitive to placement. We suggest putting them near a back wall – the bass takes a bit of a knock if you don’t. It’s certainly worth experimenting to get the best sound.

More after the break

Specifications

Ruark Audio MR1

On the back of the master speaker (the right-hand one) you’ll find the line-in input and a subwoofer out.

There’s also an attenuation switch, which allows for a range of more high-powered audio devices – including TVs or CD players – to be hooked up to the MR1s, giving them a more flexible usage.

The right-hand speaker also holds the volume dial, which doubles up as a power and input switch. Short presses turn the unit on or off, while a long press will toggle the input between line-in and Bluetooth.

You’ll be able to tell which input is in use via the multi-coloured LED near the dial. There’s a simple and effective remote control, too.

If you forget to turn the MR1s off, they slip into sleep mode after a period of inactivity, and those hooked up to TVs are clever enough to turn on and off with the TV.

Ruark Audio MR1

Unlike many rivals, the Ruark MR1s flex their hi-fi muscles with the more traditional Class A/B amplification rather than class-D.

There are two new drive units too, developed specifically, says Ruark, to maximise the sound possibility from small cabinets.

The MR1s contain 7.5cm mid/bass range drivers and 20mm tweeters, each featuring their own neodymium magnet system for better driver control.

Verdict

We’re seriously impressed with the Ruark MR1s. Not only do they give the larger Epoz Aktimate Micros a run for their money in terms of pure sound quality, they do so from a much smaller, more stylish shell.

Their feature set is admirable, and the ability to go entirely wireless for a small amount more makes the MR1s a very attractive proposition indeed.

MORE: Best Hi-Fi speakers

 

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