September 2019

Style AND Substance

“Our products give that feeling of ‘look at me’ because they’re so eye-catching”, says Alan O’Rourke, MD of Ruark Audio…

I n 1985, Alan O’Rourke and his father, Brian,

were making loudspeaker systems in a small industrial unit in Essex; many hours were spent evolving the sound and these speakers soon became highly regarded by music lovers across the country. And Ruark

Audio was

born. “We’ve still got people now that are using our speakers, and they’re thirty- odd years old,” chuckles Mr O’Rourke (pictured above with his dog, Archie). “I guess it was about 2004-2005 when we saw a

change in the market, by then stereo was starting to decline and everyone was concentrating on what we called ‘home theatre’ back then. When flat panel screens came out people were spending all their money on these, so we had to adapt to the market.” In 2006, Ruark Audio launched the R1 tabletop

DAB radio, followed by the R2 stereo the following year and then the R4 in 2008, which the company referred to as a ‘one box’ stereo system, with its iPod docking capability.

“I think the R4 was popular because it was so simple – you plug it in and away you go,” says Mr O’Rourke. “It really did drive the market.” However, by 2014, consumers’ desire to dock their gadgets had faded away and the company updated the R4 to include Bluetooth capability. He adds: “By then people liked the idea of no

longer holding their device and streaming from their laptop or phone, and obviously that’s what most people do now.” In the same year, the R7 came along, which is the company’s flagship model, with its Sixties-style design and furniture-grade build.

More than just a speaker

Skipping ahead, the R5 High Fidelity Music System, described as the perfect ‘all-in-one’ system for music and design enthusiasts alike, was launched earlier this year. “I think our products are quite different and they give that feeling of ‘look at me’ because they’re so eye-catching,” continues Mr O’Rourke. “Customers want objects in their home that

just look great. Like with all these voice assistant speakers, they are just objects, covered in black

Ruark Audio’s R7, with its Sixties-style design and furniture-grade build

Right: The R5 High Fidelity Music System.

Below: The R4 Mk3. 27

simultaneously for easy listening. Mr O’Rourke confirms that new connected products will be coming out next year. Beyond that, he also believes that voice control is here to stay in the mainstream, despite consumers’ slow adoption to the nature of speaking to audio devices.

Expert retailers To reach the end consumer, Mr O’Rourke says that Ruark Audio prefers to deal with the smaller, specialist retailers to ensure the best advice is given in the right setting. “But, as you know, the indies are struggling,” he says. “These days, with

cloth, they’re not attractive to have around the home. So I think people are becoming more conscious that we are a ‘throw away’ society so they’re buying stuff that they’re going to keep for a long time.

“The issue at the moment for companies like us is

where do we go next? People do want connectivity and that’s why I think people like Bluetooth because they can put everything on their phone and it’s so easy.” Multiple products in the Ruark Audio range now have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Spotify Connect built-in, plus other music streaming services and the ability to link-up other Ruark speakers so music can be played

everything being connected, you really do need someone that knows what they’re talking about. For example, people expect to plonk a product down anywhere in their house – away from the Wi-Fi router – and when they get a rubbish signal they blame the product first of all. So you need to explain about all the settings or perhaps using a Wi- Fi extender to ensure they get a good signal. “Some of our retailers do really well because

they are proactive; they’ve got nice shops and they don’t feel too overly technical. But the shops that we see doing well are the ones that are just going that extra mile in terms of customer service to make everything feel comfortable.”

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