They say music is good for the soul, and those words resonate and ring true for the team at Ruark. In fact, they have a heritage and association with music, spanning more than 68 years.
Ruark’s roots go back to co-founder and father Brian O’Rourke whose passion and hobby was to craft all manner of things with his hands. This passion drove Brian firstly to become a furniture maker where he painstakingly learned the woodworking skills, that would ultimately shape his work in the production of radio and TV cabinets during the 50’s and 60’s. Shortly after this period, Brian moved on to work with early pioneers in the British audio industry. As an avid music fan, with a love of superior quality and design, Brian went on to found his first audio company Diesis in 1982 and then Ruark Acoustics in 1985 with his son Alan.
A Family Affair
Like his father, Alan had a deep-rooted love for audio and music, gained in part from his father Brian. Growing up surrounded by audio equipment nourished his interest and enthusiasm in sound. One occasion that Alan recalls fondly is during his early teens when his father worked for a company called Dallas Arbiter who were then the importers of the world-famous Fender guitars and manufacturers of Sound City professional amplifiers and Hayman drums. Alan recalls going to work with his father as ‘a school-kids dream’ further sparking his interest in guitars and forming bands, which later led him to play in local clubs and pubs. Alan then went on to work for Ford & Marconi, where he honed his knowledge and skills in manufacturing and engineering. But his love for audio drew him back to a path that would see him join his father in the industry. Ruark was subsequently formed in 1985 by father and son.
Building the Ruark brand
Financed by their savings, Brian and Alan rented a small unit in Rayleigh, Essex as a workshop to develop and manufacture some of the company’s first speaker systems. With many hours spent tinkering and refining architecture, mechanics and sound the company would soon become an audio enthusiast’s brand of choice.
Their First Product
After almost 14 months of prototypes, testing, and refining, Alan and Brian launched their first loudspeaker systems called Sabre and Broadsword in the summer of 1986. Alan recalls the launch as a time of excitement but also anxiety as they were going up against some already well-established brands such as KEF, Mission, and B&W but their risk of starting a new brand in an already saturated market paid off as Sabre and Broadsword received critical acclaim from Dealers and the Press alike.
“The Sabre is an outstanding loudspeaker that can stand muster in the company of many far more expensive loudspeaker systems”
“No matter what I asked the Sabre to play it coped well and gave a consistently enjoyable performance on all sorts of material”
“Everyone knows that small speakers cannot reproduce bass – don’t they? Someone obviously hasn’t told Ruark, for the Broadswords produce a surprising depth of clean bass without any slop or overhang”
Hi-Fi News & Record Review
Ruark aims for the luxury sector
In 1987, Alan and Brian aimed even further upmarket with the launch of their third product and flagship speaker ‘Accolade’. Costing over £2,500 it was a risky move as the economy was still recovering from a recession, but like Sabre and Broadsword, Accolade went on to gain stunning reviews and established Ruark as a true ‘high-end’ audio manufacturer.
A period of growth
From 1988-1996 the team grew and Ruark further established itself as an innovator with the release of models such as Talisman, Crusader and Equinox. Equinox, in particular, set a new standard as a reference monitor speaker system and was critically acclaimed worldwide. With the success of Equinox and their other models in the Spring of 1996 Brian and Alan decided it was time to scale up, and thanks to their growing success they were able to buy their present factory and premises in Southend-on-Sea. To celebrate this move Ruark also introduced two new models called Icon and Sceptre to replace their popular but ageing Sabre and Swordsman models. With a special drive unit configuration, these models were considered quite unique, further building on Ruark’s reputation of design innovation.
After 18 years at the helm of the company with son Alan, Brian retired to spend time with his wife, Jean. The position of Managing Director was taken up by Alan and Neil Adams (his son-in-law) became Operations Director. As the family patriarch, Brian continued his passion for audio and design within the company, until his passing in 2002.
A Modern Ruark
With the end of the century fast approaching and with the rising interest in ‘Home Theatre’, Ruark launched their first dedicated ‘Dialogue One’ centre channel speaker in 1997, followed by their Prologue and Vita speaker packages in 1998 and 1999 respectively. All these systems were critically acclaimed but with the advent of flat-panel TVs, Alan and his team noticed that attention was increasingly turning to vision rather than sound! Even so, Alan and Neil persevered making loudspeakers but it was the BBC’s constant promotion of ‘Digital Audio Broadcasting’ (DAB) that gave Alan the idea that they could apply their speaker expertise to design a ‘Hi-Fidelity’ radio. Alan had always been a radio enthusiast and what with his Father’s involvement with British radio manufacturers such as Hacker Radio and Dynatron in his cabinet making days it seemed like a destiny that this was something they should do. Work on the first radio project started in 2004 and in 2006 the first R1 was born. The Sunday Telegraph called it “The Aston Martin of DAB Radio’s” and this concisely described what Alan and his team had been striving to achieve. In 2007 Ruark launched R2 which went on to win “Product of the Year” from What Hi-Fi?. This put Ruark firmly on the map in terms of performance and design and has forever changed the outlook and direction of the company.
Fast forward to 2018 and with 23 product reincarnations and dozens of awards, Ruark is now considered one of the finest producers of audio products, with a sought-after brand and countless influential & celebrity followers.
As always throughout Ruark’s history, Alan and his team have set audio quality and design as the highest priorities for the brand, but the major difference is that now rather than just appealing to ‘hi-fi enthusiasts’ these days their products have wide-ranging appeal and are being appreciated by a wide range of customers, many of whom are enjoying quality sound for the very first time.