on 6 January 2012
This is easily the best radio I've ever owned. I bought a first generation Pure Evoke-1 years ago and found DAB thin and tinny compared with FM but DAB radios have improved over the years and this one looks and sounds gorgeous. It's a bit boomy and bassy for speech, I could probably fiddle with it and get it better, but the standard, out of the box default settings are perfect for music, classical and popular.
My only niggles are some of the user interface stuff. The volume knob is hopeless, it's almost impossible to set the volume to a level you want, it always overshoots and goes too loud or too quiet. I went for the full radio/battery pack/carry case option and the carry-case handle is set in the wrong place to balance the battery so it always feels like it's going to fall out of the case. The ambient light sensor to dim the display in low light is good but the station 'prune' function has defeated me. I assumed it was a way of making a 'favourites' list by pruning all the DAB stations you don't want which, with only 5 presets, it really needs, but it doesn't seem to do that and Vita haven't replied to my enquiry to tell me what it does do yet.
So Ruark/Vita are brilliant at what they do best, making beautiful looking and sounding equipment, but they haven't yet got their heads round the user interface which more experienced manufacturers like Roberts Radio and Apple mastered years ago.
on 18 September 2010
Update Feb 2015...
5 years on, I was pleased to see this radio in the Bristol Hi-Fi show. The original model (which I own) was branded Vita rather than Ruark, but it is basically the same radio. There have been a few minor improvements but Ruark assured me that nothing drastic had changed. They've added Bluetooth support, which is a really nice idea.
Original review follows...
I purchased one of these with some trepidation because it was to replace a much-loved Tivoli Model 3. I needn't have worried - the Vita R1's sound quality is definitely in the same league. It sounds great on DAB, but it's good enough to reveal that extra sparkle which FM gives you.
Build quality seems pretty good. The whole thing is basically a sturdy and compact loudspeaker enclosure. You can turn the volume full up without any of the horrible grating noises you would get from something cheaper.
So, more that happy with the quality, but how about ease of use? Here it really blows the old Tivoli away. Everything seems well thought out, from the layout of the controls to the menu system. There are some nice little touches, for example you can set the alarm to run for over an hour, which solves the problem of sleeping through the 7am news bulletin then being switched off just when the 8am starts! Best of all, there's an ambient light sensor which dims the display so you don't feel it's glaring at you after lights out. Seems they really made the effort to design something easy to live with.
FM and DAB are treated equally. You can set the alarm to wake you up to either, and there is much the same information presented because the radio understands RDS. Vita have not skimped on the FM: the auto scan works well, there is a mono mode for less interference, and with a good signal it sounds to me more detailed and natural than DAB. This is of course a limitation of DAB and not the radio's fault.
My only disappointment was the telescopic aerial which can flop around, poke you in the eye, and generally get in the way. The manual says to fully extend it, but at 65cm long, it's plain ugly and not what I want right next to my bed. I imagine they chose a telescopic because the radio can be upgraded to portable with an external battery pack. For me however, that is too much of a compromise, and anyway, I don't know anyone who carries their alarm clock/radio around with them during the day!
I would have deducted a star but for that fact that the aerial is detachable with a standard fitting. I replaced it with a wire antenna which dangles down the back of my bedside cabinet, gets just as good a signal, and is not going to injure me when I fumble around in the dark. Problem solved.
on 12 September 2013
The Ruark R1 has a stunning sound quality for a table radio.
If the sound quality from your radio is important to you then look no further. If the sound quality is important then you'll also probably want to listen on FM rather than DAB. The DAB and FM signals here are supposed to be fair - but the Ruark R1 pulls them down easily. To get the best from DAB the aerial needs to be fully extended (true of any radio!). If your signal is weak then the R1 does allow connection of an external aerial. This is my first DAB radio - with the 2015 FM switch off looming it seemed sensible to replace my old Roberts with a DAB enabled radio.
Operation is a little quirky but easy enough to live with - the manual only has a few pages and it is well worth reading them! The volume control seems quite wobbly, which seems odd in a radio at this price point - not really sure what the designers were thinking of here. The operation of the volume control is, as others have noted, also unusual, it functions more as a "nudge" control than a rotary control, once you have got the knack of using it is surprisingly accurate. The alarm setting is straightforward - I do not understand why others have a problem with it. The dedicated SLEEP button is very useful and has a sensible range of times. Another dedicated button is the INFO button. This allows you to change the DAB information on the display and is vital for getting rid of the annoying and inane scrolling text that the DAB stations inflict on us. I usually just show the date!
What I also fail to see is why manufacturers of equipment that is likely to be used in a bedroom do no give the option of turning the lights right down or even off! Believe it or not, we are not all afraid of the dark! The auto-dim feature takes the display down almost far enough (but not off) but the blue illuminator on the top is still too bright. I cover it with a bit of black cloth at night or you could use the nice bag that the Ruark R1 is packaged in. In a town or a city you may not notice the light.
Playback through the AUX socket is excellent - so no difficulties for plugging in an MP3 player using a 3.5mm to 3.5mm jack cable. The sound will be mono, this is not a docking system, mono sound but a better quality than many docking systems can ever hope to match (except the Ruark R2 perhaps!)
So, a few minor gripes, but the Ruark R1 still gets five stars on the quality of the sound, the wonderful design (looks much better in real life than the pictures) and the ability to pull down FM and DAB signals with ease.
on 15 December 2011
This radio feels solid and well built, looks good and the sound is by some margin the best I have heard for something this size. For my personal preference the tone is a touch too 'warm and rich' but there are controls to fine-tune the bass and treble and details in the music are revealed that just aren't there on most radios. The sound is good at low volumes but it can also be turned right up and still sound great. So in many ways I would definitely recommend this quality little radio.
My reasons for only 3 stars maybe won't apply to everyone but they were important to me and meant I returned the radio as I couldn't justify the cost with these irritations.
Firstly, one of my favourite stations, Radio Scotland, simply wouldn't play for much of the time. This was a shock since it has always played well on an older Roberts DAB Radio sitting alongside. Others have commented on the Vita's excellent reception, but it certainly doesn't compare with Roberts, so unless you have good reception in your area you may have problems with some stations.
Second, I found the volume control irritating, slow and imprecise. Adjusting the volume is not immediate, there's quite a lag in response and then suddenly it races up or down so that you often have to turn it back again. Since no one else has mentioned this it could be a fault with my particular one perhaps, but although I got used to it a bit, I never found I liked it, whereas previously I've never even noticed a volume control, you just use it without thinking!
Third, I think at this price a way should be found to have 10 pre-set buttons. I find five limiting. But more irritating was that when I turned the power off overnight (as I like to do in case it's still draining power in standby as radios often do) I found all the pre-sets had been lost. This didn't happen when turning if off for shorter periods during the day, but again, it's not something I've experienced with the Roberts.
Finally, the comments above on excellent sound are based on DAB performance because I could only get a handful of stations to tune-in on FM, despite some fiddling with manual tuning. I don't have fantastic FM reception here, but it's good enough for the Roberts and a Portable Sony to pick up the main stations all the time, but sometimes with interference. But the Vita didn't find them at all.
So my conclusion is that if you can get the stations you want, then you will almost certainly be delighted with the the sound of this radio and it should become a real favourite. But be aware of the drawbacks I encountered. If I could get Radio Scotland I would probably have kept it, but the truth told it was a little more money than I had really wanted to spend anyway, so I expected everything to be right. Three stars may seem a llittle harsh, but at this price I think the basics should be perfect so it certainly wasn't getting four stars.
on 13 January 2013
I bought this radio from Peter Tyson. The service was exceptional and their delivery system is, without doubt, the best I have come across. Reading the reviews of this radio on Amazon is confusing. Most people love it but some are very critical. Those who don't like it haven't, I suspect, spent time reading the instruction book and working out how the various option menus work. My radio, for example, sounded a bit ordinary at first, but the treble and bass were set at maximum and required to be re-set. I agree that the central knob is a bit unusual, and probably could have been a simple rotary control, but it works fine when you get used to it. The backlight can be set to dim (very dim indeed ) automatically when the bedroom light is switched off ( no need, then, to drape towels over the radio as some seem to do). I did find an odd glitch with the light however. If the sleep mode is set, the light dims as mentioned, but when the radio turns off at the end of the sleep period, the light returns to full brightness - a bit annoying to be woken up because the room is suffused in blue light. I fixed this, however, by fiddling with the various backlight options but am not sure how I achieved it - I will contact Ruark to see if I have overlooked something - all is well and perfectly acceptable, but the system is not as good when in sleep mode. Setting the alarm is fine, although it requires a few clicks of the OK button, but that is because it presents you with an impressive array of options - again, the booklet covers the operation of this without trouble. This radio, therefore is excellent, and prospective purchasers shouldn't be put off by reading the negative reviews.
Update 18th January : Re backlight issue. Ruark have been very helpful. I was sent a firmware update file together with full instructions and updated my radio easily ( note you will need a USB A(M) to A(M) cable and a 32 bit computer to do this). The minor glitch is now fixed and the light works beautifully.
on 9 May 2013
My radio is the crutch on which I hobble through my working day, so having a reasonably good one is very, very important to me. For years I used a big-brand Japanese clock radio and was perfectly content with it, and so, when it eventually gave up the ghost, I tried to find the nearest modern equivalent. The new model that I selected was marvellously slick to operate, but the quality of its sound was so tinny that I soon found myself reluctant to switch the wretched thing on: its shrill, metallic timbre made me wince. I did some research in hi-fi magazines, took a deep, deep breath and upgraded to this much-praised, if much pricier R1.
From the moment that I began unpacking it, I was all but sure that I wasn't going to regret my extravagance. The reassuring weight of it - the superior materials of which it was made - its immaculate, luxurious finish: everything about it inspired confidence. And when I screwed in its telescopic aerial, put it on top of my fridge, plugged in its little transformer and began tuning its DAB presets, my confidence turned to wonder and joy. Audio has been an enthusiasm of mine for the best part of half a century, and I once spent a year as an AV technician: and in all my audiophile experience, I've never, ever come across a piece of equipment that astonished me more than this little wooden box. That such a pure, warm, lifelike, velvet-smooth sound could be achieved for just £159 is something that, before I heard the R1, I would have thought completely out of the question.
In countless hours of listening to the BBC's 3, 4, 4Extra, 5Live and World Service broadcasts on DAB, I've never been less than delighted with the R1's performance. Speech has sounded as natural as though Jim Naughtie were in my kitchen with me, and as for music: well, I'd need to be a poet to do the R1 justice. The R1 has had me standing at my draining board with my eyes flooded with tears, feeling scarcely less overwhelmed by the beauty of Mozart or Debussy than I was when I heard their works in the Festival Hall or Covent Garden. If there are radios in heaven, this must surely be what they're like.
The ergonomics of the R1 are a touch unusual but straightforward, the instruction manual is lucid, the alarm facilities are ample and the display is state of the art. If quality matters to you and it isn't outside your price range, this is a radio that you'll simply love.
on 30 December 2010
I agree with the other reviews of this product, having struggled for a couple of years with a Pure DAB radio the Vita is just so much better.
Easy to use, clear large display, excellent sound, attractive appearance, excellent finish.
Yes, it is more expensive than other apparently similar products, but worth every single penny!
on 23 March 2013
I have had this radio for nearly 3 months now and found it features and options to be generally excellent but the sound quality, although good by radio alarm standards, is not so good in absolute terms.
In its default setting it is very bass heavy, this can be adjusted easily by switching off loudness and reducing the bass level, which gives a better balance. However, I still find the sound very boxy and a little boomy with bass sounds sometimes overly coloured. Ones view of the sound will probably depend upon what one is used to - it is a step up from many clock radios but compared to a good sound system (costing say £500 plus) it will inevitably disappoint. The better ones main sound system the more the disappointment.
A £160 or so may not be a lot but when most radio alarm clocks cost maybe £50-60 I had expected better sound from the Ruark.
The display light auto-adjusts according to the ambient light but it is much too bright at night when on standby. Fortunately there is a setting to have the backlight switch off when in standby. This option still leaves the display visible and readable at night but produces very little glow. The downside of switching the backlight off is that the display cannot easily be read during daylight or when a bedroom light is switched on, one has to peer very closely to see the time, although a click of a control will bring the backlight on for a couple of seconds, allowing one to then easily read the time.
The backlight can also be set to switch off after a second or two when the radio is playing although, unfortunately, this feature does not have any affect when the alarm is playing: one only gets full brightness then.
Volume rises gently when the alarm sounds and in the alarm settings one can adjust the volume level one wants the alarm to rise to, as well as set what station should play, the duration of alarm, 15, 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes, and the frequency, weekdays, weekends, every day or just once.
Any station listened to before the alarm has no effect on the station the alarm plays.
The accompanying aerial is an eyesore when fully extended but by trial and error, I found the sound, with DAB, did not deteriorate if the aerial was left closed but in an upright position. Turning the aerial vertically downwards, to hide it behind the cabinet, caused a significant fall off in reception and sound quality. People in other reception areas may have different results.
Unusually for clock radios the Ruark has a socket to allow an external aerial to be plugged in, I have not tried this yet but hope to wire it up one day.
There is an irritating blue circle of light on top of the cabinet surrounding the rotary knob for volume and on/off. The light has no useful function and on a radio alarm is absurd. There is no option to switch this light off, I have obscured the light using a black rubber washer normally used as a seal between plastic drainage pipes: this almost completely covers the light and looks to be a normal part of the cabinet.
To sum up a good radio alarm but with a sound quality that disappointed me: it maybe that a more limited frequency range would have given the radio a better sound and that the range chosen by Ruark exceeds what the system can effectively cope with.
In retrospect I probably would not buy this again but would look at the cheaper options for about £50-60, perhaps from Pure.
on 29 March 2014
It's one of a very few radios which allow you to plug in an external aerial. That is essential where I needed to put a radio.
Performance on FM is very satisfactory and extremely clear IF the speaker is pointing straight at you. If you listen off-axis it becomes slightly soft and less clear. That's a shame, and very surprising from speaker experts like Ruark who should know better. It's not a deal breaker, you can of course alter the tone if you want but I do not feel the need to do so - it is not that bad. Just make sure you turn 'loudness' OFF. Mine arrived with it ON.
If you don't need an external aerial socket, there are radios which are better for TALK radio. For example, the dirt cheap Roberts Classic 996, at only £19.78 is beautifully clear both on and off-axis. The Classic 996 is nothing like as good an all-rounder as the Ruark R1 though. I just mention it to emphasise that the Ruark is not perfect if you only want TALK radio.
I am not a fan of DAB but I have to admit that the R1's performance on DAB is the best I have ever heard. With a good FM signal, FM is of course better than DAB but the higher bit-rate DAB stations (R3 for example) are perfectly listenable for quite a long time before they become annoying - especially if you deliberately listen off-axis to reduce the nasty noises that DAB makes. IF we ever get DAB+ here in (third-world radio) Britain, the Ruark is ready for it and I am quite sure it will then sound extremely good. All we need is an enlightened government to give up on the awful DAB system that we currently suffer. In case you don't already know, Britain actually has the worst DAB system in the world - bar none!
Performance on the Aux input, from a good source, is truly impressive, managing to render stereo tracks in mono in an extremely musical manner with a decent frequency range. It plays plenty loud enough for domestic listening - probably not loud enough for party animals though. Bizarrely, on Aux it sounds better OFF-axis. I would hazard a guess that Ruark developed the unit like this and never got around to critically re-checking the sound with the radio as a source.
Construction is excellent, it is clearly a premium product and reminds me in many ways of a 1950s radio - brought up to date. Operation of the controls is OK but I feel it could be better and more intuitive. Why on earth only have 5 pre-sets per band when most car radios manage to use the same 5 buttons to select 10 or even 15 stations per band.
All in all a very good product, especially if you intend to feed a good quality signal into that line-in input or if, like me, you need that external aerial input.
on 24 August 2012
I find that this radio has fantastic sound. Voices are rendered with a lovely tone and music sounds crisp and punchy for such a small unit. My only complaint about the radio itself (the reason for the loss of one star) is that the volume control is unnecessarily difficult to use. It sticks when you turn the dial, so it's easy to change the volume and for the dial not to reset to neutral... meaning the volume continues to adjust! Couple this stickiness with a delay in the response and it can take a few seconds of fussing around to find the desired volume level. How could they get something that is so simple, so wrong? Other than that, a great sounding and smart looking box of tricks.
I also purchased the additional battery and leather carry case. The battery seems to work fine. The handle on the case has been placed so that the unit is balanced when being held without the battery. When the battery is fitted to the radio, the balance is lost and it feels like the unit could easily slip backwards out of the case. This seems to be careless design, since I would imagine that users of the case would tend to have the battery fitted so that they can get out and about! Perhaps a revision for the mkIII?