The Ruark Audio R2i proves that small spaces and serious stereo sound need not be mutually exclusive: it's elegantly styled and solidly made, and can be had in either a more traditional walnut finish or, for an extra £20, glossy white or black lacquer.
There's a larger, easier-to-read display too, while this model also boasts a revised tuner module compatible with both DAB/FM and DAB+ broadcasts (as and when they emerge) plus a usefully flexible suite of inputs and outputs.
iPod dock now included
However, it's the R2i's fitted iPod dock that does most to cement the new model's appeal.
Operated via the company's familiar 'RotoDial' controller (plus a less tactile credit-card style remote), the iPod dock transforms the R2i, turning it into a compact hi-fi system that's an elegant alternative to more traditional mini systems.
Of course, stereo imaging isn't the equal of a more conventional set-up with widely separated speakers, but the R2i's '3D' sound processing mode helps to create a broader soundstage than you'd expect – and besides, how many micro or mini systems are ever installed correctly, with speakers well spaced?
Warm, rhythmic sound
The Ruark doesn't just sound big: it's as tonally affable as its siblings, with a warm, rhythmic sound that's always engaging, even with lower-quality AAC files.
Switch to WAV or Lossless music, and the sound's sufficiently transparent to make the differences plain, too. Radio performance is to the company's usual high standards: a smooth, rich sound that works well even with poor signals.
The only issue is that, while it charges them, it doesn't, as yet, work officially with iPhone – but stick your player in flight mode and that's less of a hurdle.
Couple its hi-fi capability with the fine tuner – lucid, articulate, low on sibilance – and you've got a winning system at an attractive price.