The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

Ruark’s new R1 Mk4 DAB radio and Bluetooth speaker is pleasingly old-school, with cutting edge audio

We tune in to to find out if the R1 Mk4 makes the right waves

David RS Taylor
Thursday 11 March 2021 17:57 GMT
After some tweaks to the design, we see if its sound delivers
After some tweaks to the design, we see if its sound delivers (The Independent)

TV has taken on an even bigger role in our lives over the last year or so, with Netflix subscriptions and iPlayer binges the norm as we while away the hours at home.

With so much choice, it can be easy to neglect other forms of entertainment, but time at home, safe from work colleagues with different (see: terrible) tastes, should prove the perfect opportunity to rediscover radio.

Podcasts have become a huge part of how we consume radio, and services like BBC Sounds have tried to merge a traditional radio feel with the production values of high-budget podcast series.

Read more: We put the portable and budget-friendly KitSound Diggit 55 speaker to the test

However, it’s difficult to beat the warming effect of turning on the radio in the morning as a companion for your breakfast, before you go about your day (at the moment, most likely in the same room).

Lauded British audio brand Ruark first released the award-winning R1 radio 15 years ago, with a design that has remained as relevant as it was in 2006.

Now on Mk4, there have, of course, been tweaks and design changes, but the spirit of the radio has stayed the same on the whole, with evolution, not revolution, on the cards.

The potential rediscovery of radio by the wider public means that a modern speaker focused on the format needs to deliver. So, does the R1 Mk4 prove a good companion to your morning coffee?

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Ruark R1 Mk4


Output: 9W

Frequency: 55 Hz - 20 kHz

Weight: 1.5kg

Wireless options: Bluetooth, DAB, DAB+, FM tuner

Buy now £229.95,


Each version of the R1 has been praised for its design, but the Mk4 deserves more plaudits than any of its predecessors. Although the design essence of the R1 has stuck around here, a rather big change for the Mk4 is the discarding of the R1’s wood cabinet. For some, this might be a bit of a shame, but there’s a good reason: by replacing it with a moulded polymer body, Ruark has been able to give the radio an updated profile.

It certainly feels more modern, the makeover offering slightly softer lines and a more flowing shape. There’s still a wood element for enthusiastic traditionalists, with the Mk4’s appealing grille, and the new light cream and espresso finishes are both great choices.

Read more: 11 best record players for spinning your favourite vinyls

There’s something charming about the R1’s OLED display. It shows the basics – time, alarm, programme information – and does so in a way that feels like an homage to old-school presentation. The screen’s high-contrast OLED is, understandably, super clear, and auto dims to adapt to the light in any room – perfect for when you’re trying to get some sleep without blue light attacking your eyes.

Besides this, the trademark RotoDial control on the top of the speaker is easy to use for flicking between preset stations, adjusting the volume and manual retuning. A remote control is an optional extra, in case the R1 is on the bedside table and you’ve rolled away in the night on your new double kingsize bed, for instance.

Added bonuses come in the form of connectivity. Input and output jacks are joined this time by a port for charging and playing audio from USB-C devices. If wires aren’t your thing, the R1’s Bluetooth connection is easy to set up and stable – we didn’t experience any drops in connection, even walking through to another room.

Read more: We put Bang & Olufsen’s newest Beosound portable Bluetooth speaker to the test


It’s easy to forget, when listening to the R1’s audio output, that this is primarily a radio. The sound is clear and crisp thanks to Ruark’s NaturalSound+ driver doing what it says on the tin, producing faithful, high-quality audio. The inside of the moulded body benefits from some expert acoustic treatment, the cabinet’s tuned reflex enclosure giving any bass some added weight. The radio’s adaptive EQ also ensures that this is the case at any volume. It’s all seriously impressive for a tabletop radio.

The DAB and FM tuner are joined by DAB+, meaning even higher quality and stronger audio from your favourite stations. The R1 also supports most Western and Eastern languages, with multi regional FM connectivity – handy for the international market, or if you love it so much that you plan to take it with you everywhere you go (the built-in real time clock will also help with any jet lag).

Back to top

The verdict: Ruark R1 Mk4

There’s a reason each version of the Ruark R1, going back to 2006, has enjoyed effusive praise. It looks great, and sounds even better. This is, at its core, a radio, but contains such quality audio tech that it can do more than enough as a standalone Bluetooth speaker.

Ruark has made upgrades, both aesthetic and technological, to the Mk4 that elevate the R1 series to new heights. The tech comes with a price tag, but one minute looking and listening to the R1 will allay any concerns over the purchase. It’s pleasingly old-school, with cutting edge audio. If you’re looking for a double threat bit of audio kit, then the R1 Mk4 must be near the top of the list. It’ll help you fall back in love with radio.

Is the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd gen Bluetooth speaker worth its hefty price tag? We find out

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in