As with packing your shopping at the supermarket, the key to a product such as the Ruark Audio MRx is less about how much you can fit in, as it is about the state of what comes out when you get it home.
Thankfully, the MRx is not only an impressively designed, feature-packed one-box wireless speaker that lets you stream music in a number of wired and wireless ways – it sounds great, too.
The MRx shares the Ruark family aesthetic of clean, minimalist lines and retro styling. Build quality is excellent, with nicely curved edges and a quality finish. You can get the MRx in either our review sample’s Soft Grey lacquer or a Rich Walnut veneer. Both finishes come with the same fabric grille, with the control dial smack in the middle.
Under the damped enclosure, Ruark has fitted two 7.5cm full-range drivers powered by a 20W class A/B amplifier. There are also twin reflex ports at the back, so we’d take care not to shove the speaker right up against a wall.
What’s really neat is that the Ruark MRx can be placed in landscape or portrait mode, with the sound adjusting itself according to the orientation. You can even link two MRx speakers to create a stereo pair. Simply flick the switch at the back to move between a mono, stereo or left/right configuration.
We particularly like the aluminium stand that comes with the MRx. It helps prop the speaker up (in both orientations, another nice design touch) and saves the finish from being scratched.
Unlike other Ruark products, the control dial is front-facing rather than sitting on top, but that makes it easier to see which source you’re using, thanks to tiny LEDs – orange for aux, blue for Bluetooth, green for network (wi-fi) – that light up accordingly.
Once you connect the speaker to the internet (either via wi-fi or wired ethernet) you can play songs from any NAS drive or laptop connected to the same network. You also get internet radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal and Deezer built in, with support for Amazon Music coming soon as well.
Other inputs include a combined 3.5mm aux and optical input, aptX Bluetooth, and a USB port for playing stored media.
Altogether, that’s a long and varied list of features packed into one £400 box, even if some may bemoan the lack of AirPlay 2. If you feel you’re missing out not being able to chat to your speaker (we didn’t), you can even add a Google Chromecast dongle or Amazon Echo Dot using the aux input to give the MRx voice control powers.
Everything can be controlled via the Ruark Link app, which is neatly arranged and simple to use. All the sources are handily collected in one page, making it easy to switch between your Spotify playlist, NAS drive, favourite radio station and smartphone-stored music.
You can also set up a multi-room system using two or more MRx speakers – and other compatible Ruark products – making it a viable alternative to the likes of Sonos.
Don’t judge this Ruark’s sound quality straight out of the box – the speaker needs a few days of running in to come into its own. The initial thinness gets evened out the longer you play it, though the MRx does tend towards a lean presentation.
We start with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain playing over wi-fi, and what strikes is just how clean this Ruark sounds. There’s sophistication to the way it delivers detail (of which there is plenty) and the level of clarity for this kind of wireless product is fantastic.
That iconic bass line is tuneful and has decent enough weight behind it to keep up that mounting tension. But it’s the tautness of the strings and precision of the jangling tambourine that really stands out.
It’s a well-organised delivery, too. There’s ample space to let full-blown orchestral scores and big, rocking riffs breathe. And the MRx is fully capable of filling a room with a loud, large-scale performance without distorting.
It’s worth noting that setting the MRx to mono mode gives it a bit more solidity and focus, while stereo mode delivers a more pleasingly open and wide sound.
Power 2 x 75W
Inputs aptX Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux, optical digital, USB, ethernet
Finishes Rich Walnut, Soft Grey
Dimensions (hwd) 18 x 30 x 18cm
Switch to a more recent recording, such as Lorde’s Writer In The Dark, and the Ruark shows off just how transparent it really is. It will plainly lay out the differences in production, and even the quality of the source.
Playing songs over wi-fi (whether from our NAS or Tidal) sounds more refined and well put together than when streaming songs over Bluetooth. That’s not entirely unexpected, but wireless speakers of this kind, and at this price, don’t usually tend to spell out the differences so overtly.
The MRx possesses the kind of transparency we’d expect from more expensive hi-fi separates; to hear this kind of lucidity in a £400 wireless speaker is impressive.
But, for all its refinement, we wish its presentation was more solid and dynamically expressive. While it’s very clear throughout the midrange, the MRx needs more body to fill out its lean sound.
We’d love to have heard some of that natural warmth and those subtle dynamics we so like in Ruark’s Award-winning MR1 Mk2 desktop speakers. It would flesh out the MRx’s sound, lending more weight and impact to songs, and simply making it a richer, more engaging listen.
It is admirable what Ruark has accomplished here, though. Matching the kind of refinement, transparency and clarity you’d associate with pricey hi-fi kit with many – and varied – ways to stream music is a real feat for a £400 one-box solution.
- Sound 4
- Build 5
- Features 5
See all our Ruark reviews