AVForums goes 'back to the future' with the British Manufacturer’s latest design
On a wet Tuesday afternoon, we made our way to the Century Club in London’s West End for the launch of Ruark Audio’s new R7.Although the British manufacturer had shown the R7 to selected journalists at the Bristol Sound & Vision Show, that particular sneak peek was embargoed until the official launch this week. Now, after three years in development, Ruark were finally ready to release preliminary details of their new flagship product. They had promised us something revolutionary and, with the new R7, they certainly delivered on that promise. The R7 made quite an impact when it was unveiled, sporting a decidedly retro design that would undoubtedly make Austin Powers feel nostalgic.
The genesis of the R7 goes back to late 2004, when Ruark realised that whilst the DAB radio was growing in popularity, it appeared the sound quality in radios and other small audio systems was often rather poor. Seeing a gap in the market and based on the belief that they could do better, Ruark made the surprising decision to diversify from their traditional loudspeaker base. They decided to use their expertise to design a small range of quality radio-based products and since launching the R1 in November 2006 they have gained a strong foothold in this fast growing market. Starting from their initial DAB/FM radio-based products, Ruark have also gone on to add features such as iDevice docks, Bluetooth, WiFi and Internet radio.
Three years ago Ruark began development on an entirely new concept, taking their established radio-based products and music centres and combining them to create a product designed to imitate the classic radiograms of years gone by. The R7 clearly takes its inspiration from the 1960s and Ruark hope that its unique looks and impressive audio quality, will deliver a revolutionary music centre in the true spirit of the classic radiogram. Ruark pointed out that in some respects, the R7 completes a full circle for them, as Brian O’Rourke, one of their founding fathers, worked for some of the original British radiogram manufacturers in the 50s and 60s, helping them to design and manufacture their products and cabinetry.
The R7 clearly takes its inspiration from the 1960s...
There’s no denying that the R7 looks unique and its retro features certainly brought back memories to those of us of a certain vintage. The R7 is crafted from real walnut, aluminium and glass, with a central section that features a high performance CD player that plays standard and MP3 discs. There’s also built-in Bluetooth with lossless aptX music replay and DLNA Wi-Fi, to allow for streaming audio from a host of devices. Of course, there’s a DAB+/FM radio and an Internet radio, so the R7 can receive radio stations from all over the world. In addition, auxiliary devices such as a TV, DVD player or turntable can be connected using digital or analogue inputs and the legs can be removed to position the R7 beneath a TV.
Everyday functions such as volume and source selection can be controlled from the front panel, but with the unique RotoDial radio link remote in hand, controlling all the R7’s functions is easy, with the high contrast fluorescent display, providing clear visual feedback of input and source information, even from afar. With latest generation RF communication, the new RotoDial remote does not need to be pointed during operation and so can control the R7 whilst sitting on a table or even from an adjoining room. Although we did notice that the special docking section for the remote does look rather like an ashtray when the remote itself has been removed for use.
To create the R7’s sound, Ruark Audio have used lessons learned from their long history in high-end audio. The cabinet has been painstakingly tuned and chambered to provide the ideal low colouration housing for the drive units and electronics. For optimal stereo performance, new dual concentric drivers were developed with tweeters mounted centrally in the bass-mid unit. This configuration, combined with bespoke crossovers allows for a wide and smooth frequency response, both on and off axis. The long throw subwoofer unit has a powerful magnet system for clean tuneful bass, whilst the system is powered by high-fidelity Class A-B linear amplifiers and a high capacity power supply. Whilst a crowded room full of journalists is hardly the best place to test audio quality, the R7 certainly sounded impressive.
There’s no denying that the R7 looks unique and who knows, it might well start a trend for modern equipment with a retro twist but its design is also something of a gamble. Whilst the R7’s quality, pedigree and audio performance certainly aren’t in question, its unusual design might struggle to complement the more contemporary styling of modern audio and video equipment. Ruark Audio believe that in the R7 they have a product that defies expectation and one that they hope, like the radiograms of old, will be appreciated and enjoyed by people for many years to come. Only time will tell but if you fancy flashing back to a time when London was swinging and England were World Football Champions, the R7 might just be the ticket. Anyone who does fancy a blast from the past will get their chance this autumn, although this particular trip will cost around £2,000.
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