With more and more of us working remotely, now is the perfect time to give your home office a sonic upgrade. And you don't need to go for big boxes to get premium sound – the best computer speakers will fill your home office with sweet sound without taking up much space.
The Award-winning KEF LSX wireless speakers might be small but they pack a big sound and plenty of cutting-edge connectivity. They may not be cheap but they more than deliver thanks to top-class performance. The more affordable Ruark MR1 MK2s are fantastic desktop speakers blessed with a gorgeous design and superb audio.
Both models boast built-in amplifiers, and despite the diminutive proportions are packed with processing tech and support for hi-res audio.
But which of these speakers deserve a space on your desk or kitchen counter? Read on to find out the differences and work out which is best for you...
KEF LSX vs Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2: price
The KEF LSX's RRP is £999 ($1249, AU$1995). As a premium product, they're rarely discounted but you might spot the occasional price drop or flash sale. We've listed today's cheapest KEF LSX prices below.
On a tighter budget? At around £330, the Ruark's MR1 Mk2 Bluetooth speakers are significantly cheaper than the KEFs. Again, they're a premium product and very much in demand at the moment, so prices rarely dip below the RRP.
*Winner* Ruark's MR1 Mk2
KEF LSX vs Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2: design
We loved the original Ruark Audio MR1 desktop speakers when they arrived in 2013, but the Mk2s are a cut above. Whether you go for the walnut wood veneer or the gloss grey cabinets, you'll find they're beautifully made. A gorgeous rotary dial sits on top of the main unit and allows you to switch between inputs.
If space is tight, the MR1 Mk2s, at 17cm tall and 13.5cm deep, are the perfect size for a home office, kitchen or bedroom.
Both these speaker systems are billed as 'wireless' but there is a key difference between the two. The left and right Ruark speakers are connected by a stylish braided fabric cable while the the KEF speakers talk to each other wirelessly. In other words, the KEF speakers don't have a joining cable – just plug each speaker into the mains and you're good to go. The KEFs are fully active, while the Ruark system is a powered set-up.
- Active vs passive speakers: what's the difference?
At 24cm tall, the KEFs are bookshelf-friendly but a little larger than the Ruarks. They're also a whole lot more powerful (200W vs 20W) because what you're getting is a carefully-crafted, scaled-down version of the magnificent KEF LS50 Wireless speakers – complete with KEF’s distinctive Uni-Q driver array.
If style is a priority, you'll appreciate KEF's woven fabric-wrapped cabinets and striking coloured tweeters. There's even a fabric-less glossy white variant for those who want space-age-looking speakers to match their Apple Mac.
Either way, you're in for a treat. Both models are well-built and suitably-luxurious for the money. It's a dead-heat in the design stakes.
KEF LSX vs Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2: features
Don't be fooled – they may look like standard speakers but these are really all-in-one systems, complete with built in amplification and wireless connectivity galore.
The KEF LSX can stream music via wi-fi or ethernet using DLNA or Tidal, all from within the KEF Stream app. Spotify Connect, Roon, aptX Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 are also on board.
Want even more? You can hook the LSX speakers up to a TV or mobile device, and there's a subwoofer output for adding more bass. KEF has even gone to the trouble of building a separate app dedicated to setting up and tweaking the system's sound output.
The Ruark MR1 Mk2s aren't quite as versatile in that they are Bluetooth-only (no wifi). That's not to say they're light on connections: you get Bluetooth aptX for high-quality streaming, an optical input that can support hi-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, a 3.5mm auxiliary input and a subwoofer output.
It's likely you'll be controlling playback and volume through your smartphone or laptop but you do get remotes with both models. The Ruark remote is basic and nowhere near as classy-looking as the speakers themselves.
There's no question that the heftier, pricier KEFs are more state-of-the-art but the Ruarks work as wired or wireless speakers. With the optional battery pack (£60), you can make the MR1s portable, and use the right speaker as a totally-wireless mono speaker.
So, two great pairs of speakers that deliver seamless streaming experience but which is better? If they're within budget and want the flexibility to accommodate any source, you can't argue with what's on offer from the KEF LSX.
*Winner* KEF LSX
KEF LSX vs Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2: sound quality
Back in 2013, the first-generation Ruark MR1s were the closest any desktop wireless speaker had come to sounding like proper hi-fi. The second-generation Mk2s up that sonic appeal even further, delivering a gloriously-spacious soundstage that gives each instrument room to breathe. Sound is rich in detail and timing is superb. Close your eyes and you'll soon forget you're listening to 17cm-tall bookshelf speakers.
Fancy a bit more oomph? The LEF LSX speakers produce a wonderfully coherent sound that reflects their ability to punch out a broader range of frequencies. They're more expressive and rhythmically astute, and there's greater detail on show, along with the dynamic discretion KEF is renowned for.
Whether your space is big or small, the best computer speakers should fill it with smooth, articulate sound. Both the KEFs and the Ruarks fulfill that brief so it really comes down to personal choice. The KEFs have some serious firepower, while the Ruarks sound exceptional for the money.
Put simply, this a win-win. But, with the much higher price, comes noticeably higher quality audio performance. For sound-per-pound value it's very close but for overall quality, it has to the KEF LSX.
*Winner* KEF LSX
KEF LSX vs Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2: verdict
Working with a healthy budget? Stunning sound meets elegant looks in the KEF LSX wireless speakers. Their extra connectivity and power add up to superb value for money. They're sure to please the discerning listener and might just be the best computer speakers on the market right now.
If you need to stick to a tighter budget, Ruark's miniature marvels take some beating. At around a third of the price, the MR1 Mk2s are arguably the best sound-per-pound option in the computer speaker category. Their rich, warm sound is matched by their classy wood design. A fantastic pair of multi-Award-winning wireless speakers.