Blog

things that have caught our eyes and ears

The Science of Sound

Whether you’re listening to Bach, Haydn or even St Vincent, you can often find yourself being calmed, inspired or pumped up from music. But have you ever contemplated why this happens? As designers and engineers of audio products, we know the importance of sound and how sound quality impacts greatly on the user’s experience of music, which in turn affects so much more than sheer listening experience. So, here’s the science behind your listening.

How music affects the brain

Music has played an important part in every human culture, both past, and present for multiple millennia’s. Music today has evolved from basic sounds to something more complex that we now live alongside daily.

Like any sound, music arrives at the ear in the form of sound waves. The external ear collects sound waves, and the ear canal funnels them to the eardrum. As the waves strike the eardrum, they cause it to vibrate. The vibrations are relayed along the chain of tiny bones in the middle ear until they reach the third bone, the stapes, which connects to the cochlea.

The cochlea is filled with fluid that surrounds some 10,000 to 15,000 tiny hair cells, or cilia. Vibrations of the stapes send fluid waves through the spiral-shaped cochlea. The fluid waves produce swaying movements of the hair cells. In turn, these cells release chemical neurotransmitters that activate the auditory nerve, sending miniature electric currents to the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe of the brain.

When music reaches the temporal lobe, the area of the brain tasked with auditory and visual processing a number of things happen. It’s important to emphasize this area is integral to sound processing, meaning it transforms noise into something we can understand as music. Then secondly, as sound flows through this part of the brain and we realise that it’s music it causes dopamine to be released. Dopamine is an interesting chemical because it induces pleasure and joy, which in-turn improves our mood and reduces anxiety.

Health benefits of music

Music reduces stress and anxiety

Research has shown that listening to music, at least music with a slow tempo and low pitch, without lyrics or loud instrumentation, can calm people down, even during highly stressful or painful events. Music can also prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels - all biological markers of stress.

Music decreases pain

Music has a unique ability to help with pain management, it’s not clear why music may reduce pain, though music’s ability to trigger the release of dopamine may play a role. This is because, stress and pain are closely linked, with reductions in stress directly impacting on the effects of pain on the body.

Music can improve the immune system

More so, music has the ability to physically alter our well-being, music has been found to improve our immune system. The reason for this is twofold, firstly because music lowers our stress levels i.e. cortisol levels, which in turn promotes an uplift in our immune system. Secondly, music increases the production of the cytokine hormone which reduces inflammation which in-turn improves our general health.

Music helps memory

Lastly, music has been shown to have strong mental health benefits. Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory.

This is one of the reasons why Ruark supports the charity Nordoff Robbins whose work is based on music therapy. With the charity helping people with autism, dementia, strokes and terminal illness.

As you can see listening to music has some important health benefits. And if you’re like us, listening is as much about art as it is science. That’s why you should listen to your favorite audio on the highest quality audio system you can buy.

Shop our product range.

68 Years of Heritage, Defined by Audio and Family

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.

Our story

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
What Hi-Fi?

“No matter what I asked the Sabre to play it coped well and gave a consistently enjoyable performance on all sorts of material”
Hi-Fi Review

“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.

Brian Retires

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.

Connecting Your Ruark To The Latest Smart Devices

We know how busy 21st century living is, and sometimes it’s easier to ask your voice assistant to do all the hard work; like putting on your favourite song or making your reservation at that hot new restaurant in town. We’ve now made it even easier for you to relax after a hard day’s work with our voice assistant set up guide.

We’ve had a lot of questions lately about our product range, and whether they can be connected to the Amazon Dot, Echo or Google Home voice assistants. And the answer is yes, you can easily transform any Ruark product into a voice-assisted, connected device in the following ways;

Connecting Ruark Products to Voice Assistants

For any of our legacy products that are not Bluetooth enabled it’s simply a matter of connecting a cable from your voice assistant into the auxiliary input or line in, located on the back of your Ruark product. Select ‘AUX’ as the source on your Ruark, then ask you voice assistant to play your favourite song. You will need to purchase the cable separately and depending on which input you choose, you will need either a 3.5mm stereo jack to jack or a 3.5mm jack to phono.

Connecting Bluetooth Enabled Products to Voice Assistants

For those that own one of our Bluetooth enabled audio devices, connecting an Amazon Dot or Echo is easy. Simply select the Bluetooth source on your Ruark product, open the Alexa app and select ‘settings’. Then find the device you wish to connect and select, ‘pair with device’. Your voice assistant will then connect to the Bluetooth speaker and notify you when paired successfully.

So there you have it, it couldn’t be easier to connect your Ruark Audio product to your home network and explore the joys of voice activation with a little help from the Amazon Echo, Dot and Google Home.

Discover our audio range today.

Award Winning, Design Conscious Sound

We already know that Ruark products are best in class, but award recognition for our products is always welcome.

We were delighted for our MR1 to pick up not one, but two new awards. The first was at the recent Trusted Reviews awards where the MR1s were voted “Home Audio Product of the Year”. What Hi-Fi then also voted the MR1s “Best Desktop Speaker”, in their Stereo Speaker category. These awards prove that our products well and truly pack a punch in both design and audio quality. Ruark founder Alan says “the wins are a great tribute to the hours of hard work and attention to detail that goes into designing and bringing to market each and every one of our products. The first generation of MR1 were probably our best reviewed product to date so it was quite a feat to produce a new generation that would outperform their predecessors. I’m pleased to say that these recent accolades are testament to what we first set out to achieve.”

Award Winning Performance

The MR1 Mk2 is so much more than a desktop speaker. By day, its aesthetics are effortless in a drawing room but come the night, it can form part of an audio system for those raucous house parties. Aside from the obvious, the newest incarnation of the MR1 surpasses all the quality attributes of its award-winning predecessor and in a new, more stylish shell, available in both Rich Walnut and Soft Grey, adorned with a wonderfully organic British sourced fabric grille.

The MR1 Mk2 also makes an incredible companion to a vinyl collection as its driver emits both stunning voice tones and powerful bass. By pairing it with a turntable you can transform the MR1 MK2 into a superior and stylish compact analogue playback system for 21st-century living.

The MRK1 Mk2 also includes Bluetooth with aptX technology allowing you to stream and play music with CD-like quality. An Optical and Analogue input allows add-on devices such as Google’s Chromecast Audio, the Amazon Dot or Apple’s Airport Express to be easily connected, but significantly MR1 Mk2 makes a brilliant sound system for flat panel TVs, making viewing a much more enjoyable experience.

If you’d like to learn more about our awards discover our Trusted Reviews award and our What HiFi review today.

Shop the MR1 MK2 online.

Discover the Making of R7

Meet Alan, MD, father, audio lover and founder of Ruark, and discover the team that crafted the stunning new R7 in our latest design film. The story shot in our home town of Southend on Sea explores the R7 design process and the craftsmanship that goes into every element of the new R7’s production.

The R7 Reimagined

As always, Ruark’s desire for each and every product is to deliver exceptional audio in a quality and beautifully engineered body. The reimagined R7 stays true to its roots in physical appearance at a quick glance, but many elements have been completely re-engineered to make our new R7 Mk3 Radiogram the best in its class.

With its honed aesthetics, improved analogue circuity and latest digital technologies for streaming and multi-room, R7 Mk3 is a sound system that builds on the heritage of the previous R7s and will satisfy even the most discerning listener.

The new R7 sports two new colour combinations with a brand new Rich Walnut finish and Soft grey lacquer option. The form of the new R7 has also been refined with a slimmer cabinet body and legs. The crowning element of this quintessentially British product is the grille fabric which was hand milled in Britain which both is aesthetically pleasing and performance driven for audio. As always, the R7 is more than an audio system, its unique ability to both be part furniture part sound system makes it feel alive within the home and enhance any room.

The precision and passion of our team has ensured that this R7 is the finest radiogram we have ever produced. With over 30 years of audio heritage, this product embodies the soul of what Ruark has come to symbolise.

Discover the story.

Find out more about R7 today!

Page 2 of 9