Technology

Ruark R3 Vs Denon CEOL N11 DAB: Which lifestyle Hi-Fi system is best?

Denon and Ruark Audio have both just launched competing high-spec lifestyle Hi-Fi systems that combine tried and tested CD playback with wireless streaming and interior-friendly good looks. They share the same price tag too.

Both have our tech taste buds salivating, but which is most luxe?

The Ruark R3 is the latest in a family of stylish all-in-one sound systems from the brand. Ruark’s R7 retro-systeled radiogram has rightfully been a huge success, but it requires a fair amount of space to accommodate. The step-down R5 too. This new R3 mirrors many of the design notes of both, but is even more compact. It could live happily on a side table or shelf. 

Retro-inflected style for the R3

Ruark describes the R3 as a smart radio, and that’s a good moniker, as it positions it firmly alongside the smart TV in terms of user appeal.

It features a fabric grille, clear OLED display, soothing curved edges and a top-mounted RotoDial controller. 

A full blown entertainment centre, the R3 combines an integrated CD player, DAB/DAB+ and FM tuners, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You can spin discs,stream from Spotify Connect, TIDAL, Amazon Music and Deezer, or listen to The Archers. Whatever you fancy.  

Ruark describes the R3 as a smart radio, and that’s a good moniker, as it positions it firmly alongside the smart TV…

Welcome to the Smart Radio

Rear connectivity includes analogue audio inputs, an optical digital audio input and USB port. It has built in stereo speakers, but no built-in subwoofer.  Ruark’s Managing Director Alan O’Rourke told TLR that it’s been optimised for mid-range clarity. “People will be listening to a lot of radio on this,” he says.

What it lacks is a smart assistant. The R3 doesn’t work with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. For many that might be a deal breaker.

The Ruark R3 is available in Rich Walnut or Soft Grey lacquer finishes, and is priced at £629.

The Denon CEOL N11 DAB is trad modern

The rival Denon CEOL N11 DAB sings from the same lifestyle hymn sheet, but it adopts a mini-system Hi-Fi aesthetic (albeit with scratch resistant top surface). Like the Ruark R3 it combines a CD player with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming plus DAB+/DAB digital radio, with FM/AM option.

Unlike the R3, there’s voice control if you want it. It chats happily with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It also has HEOS Built-In, which means you can include it as part of a whole-home multiroom music system with other HEOS compatible gear, which includes soundbar and smart speakers. It’s also Apple Airplay 2, and Spotify, Amazon Music HD and Tidal ready.

Rear connectivity includes two optical digital audio inputs, with TV-friendly input sensing, so the system can even be used as a soundbar alternative. It also plays tracks from USB sticks or NAS storage devices on your network.  

The CEOL N11 DAB sells for £529, without speakers. However you can buy it bundled with a pair of Denon SC-N10 two-way speakers, for an additional £99. Which puts it right up against the Ruark R3.

Unlike the Ruark R3, the Ceol N11 DAB chats happily with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant…

Multiroom is made easy with HEOS built-in

Ruark R3 vs Denon CEOL N11 DAB – form or function?

When it comes to lifestyle Hi-Fi, both these newcomers warrant an early thumbs up. Neither have been made available for review, so we can’t make any sonic comparison, but specificification wise they’re close.

In terms of pure style, the Ruark R3 has it. The brand has a well deserved reputation for cosmetics and quality of finish, and the retro-inflected design of the R3 is difficult to resist. We love the look of the fabric grille, integrated feet and rotary dial.

However, the CEOL N11 DAB has a clear advantage if you want to integrate your new designer sound system into an existing smart home ecosystem. It’s also an easy choice if you already have HEOS speakers and compatible components. 

About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice, Ideal Home, The Luxe Review, Channel News and the i newspaper. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI, and contributor to industry trade magazine ERT. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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