Fidelity Imports, Ruark, Q Acoustics, Gold Note, QED

On the 12th floor of the Schaumburg Renaissance hotel, visitors found a cluster of Fidelity Imports rooms that highlighted one strong foreign brand after another.

To my eye, the most unusual newcomers in the diverse collection were three Ruark products. Beyond a small single-cube wireless speaker (the R1 Mk4 Bluetooth Radio, $399), there was a hefty-looking unit that approached the size of a small desk. Dubbed the R810 High Fidelity Radiogram ($3999), its form calls to mind stereo consoles from the 1950s. Sitting on tall polished-chrome legs, the R810 gives off that popular midcentury-modern vibe while also looking spiffily updated for our times.

Ruark got its start in the mid-80s, scored high marks with dynamic-driver stereo speakers like the Templar and the Equinox, and then somehow ambled into obscurity. The family-owned British company decided to build its comeback around great-sounding single-box stereo systems, and those are now making their way across the pond. (All the same, word has it that Ruark will soon start manufacturing “traditional” passive stereo speakers again, with an initial launch predicted for High-End Munich next month.)

Between the R1 cube and the R810 quasi-console sits Ruark’s toteable $1699 R410 Integrated Music System, roughly the size of a Naim Mu-so and seemingly designed to go toe to toe with it.

But I especially dug that R810. A piece of furniture and a complete music system rolled into one, it has an HDMI eARC input for connecting a TV, is Apple Airplay and Google Chromecast compatible and offers built-in support for Tidal, Qobuz, Apple Music, Deezer, and more. The unit sports an off-center vertical screen, roughly the size of an iPhone Pro Max, on the fascia. Quirkily enough, the combined volume and input knob isn’t mounted on the front but on the top of the veneered cabinet, where it could get in the way of whatever else you wish to place there—perhaps a turntable or a CD player, as long as we’re being retro.

Via the R810, Dominique Fils-Aimé’s “Birds” sounded enchanting and enveloping no matter where I stood or sat in the room. Considering the R810’s console aspirations, that excellent dispersion and the resilient soundstage are on the money.

Next door, more British products beckoned—especially a pair of Q Acoustics 5050 floorstanders ($1999/pr). The model occupies a mid-range position in the company’s catalog. Despite being only 40’’ tall and weighing just 48lb each, the 5050s didn’t throw a milquetoast presentation. On the contrary. Two “C3 Continuous Curved Cone” drivers per side proved very good in the distortion-reduction and dispersion department. Each speaker’s floating tweeter is isolated from the baffle, allowing it to respond to the signal without having to take any guff from the adjacent bass-midrange drivers.

Via QED cabling, the Italian-made Gold Note IS-1000 integrated amplifier with a built-in streamer ($6299) drove the 5050s with poise. From Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G Minor, performed by the Royal Philharmonic, all the way to Cedric Burnside’s “Hill Country Love,” the combo sounded tight, enthusiastic, and involving.

woodrow's picture

This is a comment with regards to the room for Fidelity Imports on their handling of Q Acoustics line. I get that the 5000 series is the newer, afforable line, and that you'd want to promote. But the fact that they didn't have any of the Concept line, ready to be listened to, is a darn shame. This was a particular model that I was hoping to get an audition for, and it was not to be.