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Ruark R1S review: The best DAB bookshelf radio goes online

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £299
inc VAT

With internet radio and streaming on top of DAB+, the Ruark R1S replaces the R1 Mk4 as the best bookshelf radio


  • Superb design
  • Excellent sound
  • Great content options


  • Not as good as top streaming speakers
  • OKTIV is slower than service-specific apps

The Ruark R1S is the fourth iteration of the R1, which has spent nearly 15 years as one of the best bookshelf DAB radios on the market. In fact, we’ve only had one criticism of it: if Ruark can build a DAB+ radio this good, why doesn’t it build an internet and streaming version to rival the Roberts Revival iStream 3 or Revo SuperConnect?

Well, finally, Ruark has done just that, transforming the superb R1 Mk4 into the R1S, with DAB+, internet radio and Bluetooth connectivity, plus built-in streaming from Amazon Music, Deezer and Spotify.

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Ruark R1S review: What do you get for the money?

The Ruark R1S costs £299 and that outlay gets you a compact bookshelf radio that looks pretty much identical to the beloved R1 Mk4, though in a rather cool slate grey unit rather than the light cream or espresso of the existing model. It measures 130 x 135 x 175mm (WDH) and is a reassuringly weighty 1.5 kg without the optional BackPack 3 battery.

It uses the same ingenious rotary dial control scheme as the R1 Mk4, with the same 2.5in OLED display. Used just as a DAB radio or Bluetooth speaker, it even works in the same way, with the dial handling volume and rotating through the options when you’re in a menu, then clicking down to select. The keys surrounding it work for station, track or preset selection, switching between sources and setting alarms.

Like the R1 Mk4 before it, the R1S has a 3.5 auxiliary input and a headphone out at the back, along with a USB Type-C port for playback from a USB memory stick. Unfortunately, this only appears to work with sticks formatted to FAT32, so I was unable to test this out with any of my larger than 32GB Type-C memory sticks.

Where the R1S differs from the Mk4, of course, is in its internet connectivity and streaming capabilities. Not only does it support internet radio, but podcasts and music streaming through Amazon Music, Spotify and Deezer. This makes it the first R1 that can double as a streaming speaker, though not as a smart speaker as there’s no microphone and no Alexa or Google voice controls built-in. Instead, you interact through the physical controls, the remote or the OKTIV companion app. 

Ruark R1S review: How easy is it to use?

Internet and streaming radios are always more complicated to set up than basic DAB radios, but the R1S makes things as easy as possible with a streamlined setup process that takes you through selecting your language and timezone before connecting to a network, either through a PIN or password or WPS. The latter worked without any trouble, which isn’t always the case.

Once that’s done, it’s easy to scan for DAB+ stations and switch between them using the buttons and dial. It’s a similar story with Bluetooth and auxiliary sources. With internet radio stations, however, it grows a little more complex. You can browse through stations by location, scroll through popular stations or use the “Discover” option to find stations by language or genre, but with just the dial to work with, it’s a bit slow going.

It’s much, much easier to find stations and add them as presets using the OKTIV app. This is also the only way to stream music via Amazon Music or Deezer, though Spotify users can also use Spotify Connect from within the Spotify app. This found the R1S without any problems, and I had no connection issues while streaming.

OKTIV is a relatively new app for internet radios and streaming devices, which offers roughly the same features as the more familiar Undok, but inside a slicker and more modern UI. You can browse through your internet radio and DAB+ stations, as well as podcasts and streaming services from inside a single interface, and in practice, it feels faster and more intuitive. You can switch between a Jazz station in Chicago and your own playlist on Amazon Music or Spotify with ease, and the consistent approach helps keep things simple. You don’t really need to step outside the one app. 

Ruark R1S review: How does it sound?

On the DAB+ and internet radio side of things, it’s hard to fault the sound. Listening to a mix of rock, pop and jazz, it’s impressive how much presence and power you can get out of a relatively small wooden box with a single driver. I’ve heard more articulate bass from the Revo SuperConnect Stereo, but it’s still lively and warm, while there’s a nice depth of tone and clarity elsewhere. The dynamics and textures you get in small group jazz sound great, even at relatively low volumes, while more aggressively-produced pop and rock songs also sound brilliant with a bit more volume to work with.

I was also impressed by how well the R1S handles classical music, coping well with complex, highly orchestrated works, and by the richness and authority it gives to dramas and factual programmes on Radio 4. Whether you’re on DAB+ or internet sources, this little radio can do it all.

I wasn’t initially so confident about how the R1S tackled music streaming services, but with a little EQ adjustment and some time for the sound to settle in, I think it’s more than good enough. The bass can become a little too prominent on Amazon Music, so you might want to pull it back a bit in the EQ, but there’s plenty of detail and the sound’s more expansive than you might expect. I used the R1S for a few days instead of my usual Sonos Play:1, and while the Sonos sounds deeper and richer in A/B comparisons, the R1S never embarrassed itself. Feed it just about any genre and you’ll get rich, dynamic sound.

Ruark R1S review: What could be improved?

OKTIV is a big improvement on the older Undok app we’ve previously seen with Ruark, Revo and Pure Internet radios; it’s easier to navigate and more consistent, and it’s snappier when switching between modes or sources or stepping back from your selected internet radio station to check out others in a list of search results.

However, it’s still slower than the native Amazon or Spotify apps when browsing through your library, new music or playlists, sometimes taking thirty seconds or more to populate a list with album names and artwork. The features for discovering new music also aren’t quite as good as in the native apps, where you get a more visual approach. 

All the same, OKTIV feels like a step forward in making internet radios as easy and welcoming to use as the best multi-room streaming systems.  

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Ruark R1S review: Should you buy it?

If you’re in the market for a compact bookshelf DAB radio and streaming speaker, then the Ruark R1S is an excellent choice. It looks fantastic and it sounds great. Its only serious rival is the Revo SuperConnect, and that’s considerably more expensive in both its mono and its stereo forms.

And while you could save cash by buying the excellent DAB+ only Ruark R1 Mk4, I’d argue that the streaming and internet radio features are well worth the extra £60, especially if you live in an area where DAB reception can be patchy. Either way, the Ruark R1S does for internet and streaming radios what the R1 Mk4 does for DAB+. You can’t ask for more than that.

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