The Ruark Audio R2i stereo system is the cute little brother of the Ruark Audio R4i modern-day music centre.
(This product was previously known as the Vita Audio R2i.)
While it lacks the R4i’s CD player, a few ports and some of its audio oomph the R2i is more compact and a whole bunch cheaper.
Like the R4i, however, it’s a design classic in waiting. Its small footprint and super sound quality mark it out as a real alternative to the domestic hi-fi.
The Ruark Audio R2i’s radio offers DAB, DAB+ and FM Tuner with RDS. As with the R4i its auto scan works well at quickly tuning in digital stations, and you can pre-set up to five.
The integrated iPod dock is universal (supporting and charging all Apple iPod and iPhone models released from 2004 onwards). iPod shuffles connect via the auxiliary input rather than the top dock.
The R4i features a USB port for playback of MP3 and WMA music files on its front, but there’s no such function on the R2i. As I’d consider USB playback to be a minority option the loss is not great, and the R2i’s looks benefit from not having this spoiling its frontal looks.
There’s also a stereo headphone output and auxiliary input on the front.
The LCD display shows off the clock, mode or radio details, as well as the volume.
The R2i features the Vita Audio’s innovative RotoDial control at the top of the unit. On the R4i the Rotodial pops out as a remote. On the R2i it’s locked in place, and you get a more regular credit-card–sized (in comparison rather dull) remote control instead.
The big difference between the R2i and R4i is size.
While the R4i is more compact than a wiry system with separate speakers it is a bit of a solid block, measuring 450mm wide and 255mm deep. To be fair, this does enhance its sound quality as well as take up desk space.
The Ruark Audio R2i’s footprint is much smaller, measuring 340mm wide and 185mm deep. With its lack of integrated CD player it’s also a little shorter at 120mm compared to the R4i’s 145mm.
It’s available in three cool colours: a £279 Walnut veneer plus glossy £299 Dream White and Midnight Black lacquers.
The R2i doesn’t spoil a living space with one of those annoying antenna cables that are usually just pushed out of sight anyway. Instead it has a removable telescopic radio. Reception was good in our tests.
As with the R4i, the only cable present is the power lead.
While the R4i boasts its own impressive 80W Class AB amplifier and an integrated active subwoofer (with back-mounted bass level control if you’re a real audio tweaker), the R2i is meeker with just a 20W output.
That said, the R2i should be loud enough for most rooms. I didn’t dare pump the volume to its max.
Sound quality is excellent but not as rich, warm and detailed as from the R4i.
Aside from the 80W vs 20W output difference the quality of the R4i’s audio components is superior, giving greater levels of detail; and the subwoofer adds another dimension of low-frequency reproduction, giving the sound greater depth and scale. Obviously you pay handsomely for this difference – although you also get a CD player thrown in, as well.
(It would be lovely if Ruark Audio offered an R3i with the compact size and price of the R2i, and the sound of the R4i but with no CD. However, some of the R4i’s sonic superiority is down to its increased cabinet size that helps it create a larger soundstage, much in the same way that larger speakers sound bigger than smaller ones.)
If you’re after the best sound quality from this type of unit the R4i is noticeably finer. But the R2i offers an acceptable quality that beats most other iPod speakers in the hi-fi stakes.
While most users won’t modify their audio settings either on the iPod or the speaker system the R2i boasts selectable tone settings so you can tweak audio output depending on your type of music and audio tastes.