Who kicked whom up the backside? What was it that inspired British speaker builders -- or at least one of 'em -- to stop being boring? My earlier dealings with Ruark are virtually non-existent, but I had wedged the company unceremoniously in the mental cubby-hole reserved for about 80 percent of British box-makers. I had presupposed a long, non-illustrious future for the brand, producing competent, unexciting, utterly average, typically British loudspeakers. This in itself is no crime. Neither are Emmerdale Farm, Cilla Black albums nor Wimpy burgers. Conversely, they don't exactly set the pulse a'racing. So it is with a measure of surprise and glee that I report on Ruark's latest, a speaker which won't be mistaken for a product from (fill in the blank). It's the Equinox, a speaker which might, though, be mistaken for something more Italianate.
Yes, it's a box, but the cosmetics have been addressed with skill. And how. It's a mix of what's called 'rich walnut' (which looks like cherry) and contrasting areas of black, with a smart sloped baffle and an integral -- truly integral -- stand. But let's back-track, because the aesthetics are as much a case of form following function as of salesman seducing punter.
After only a cursory examination, the Ruark might be written off as but another trad-box with sexy trim. It is, after all, a mid-sized, rear-ported two-way on a stand so you might think that Kessler's gone all unnecessary just because he's looking at sculpted edges. The 18-litre enclosure is a bass reflex type constructed from 25mm Medite panels with 30mm baffles front and rear, measuring 880x250x340mm (HWD) including the stand. The front baffle is finished with a Meridian-like plate that positively begs to be exposed; listeners who abhor grillecloths will love the look, not a zillion miles away from an SL-series Celestion. Inside, the cabinet features multiple figure-of-eight bracing and reinforcement panels, while all the cabinet walls are faced with acoustic foam with 'sonafil' as the centre fill material. Fitted to the underside are three downward pointing cones which make contact with the toplate of the stand. The speaker only rests on the stand, the cones isolating the speakers from external energy while improving mechanical coupling. Two safety bolts are fitted as per the Celestion SL700 to prevent the speaker from being knocked off its perch; they hang free and do not actually fix the speaker to the stand.
Ruark has used a Scanspeak-made, 25mm hand-treated fabric dome tweeter in the Equinox, its constituent parts consisting of a hexagonal aluminium wound voice coil on a Kapton former, a vented magnet system with its own rear chamber and ferrofluid cooling for increased power handling. Below this is a 165mm air-dried, treated pulp paper coned woofer with an undamped pure rubber surround. Some damping has been designed into the cone, and a specially formulated lacquer reincorces the neck of the cone. The woofer features a 40mm long-stroke voice coil wound on a Kapton former, with a large vented motor assembly fitted to a low reflection die-cast magnesium chassis; its contours were shaped to promote free air flow. The vented pole piece reduces pressure build-up, improves the cooling of the voice coil and it's domed to concentrate the magnetic flux.
That's it. Because the crossover is in the stand.
No, this isn't just a case of Ruark being wierd for the sake of it. Apparently, it sounds better, and for a number of reasons. By siting the crossover in the stand, where it's also decoupled within, the crossover's inductors are spared any exposure to the magnetic radiation from the outsized lump on the back of the woofer and the assembly enjoys total immunity to any vibrations or resonances within the cabinet. The speaker section connects to the crossover/stand assembly via a dedicated single-point, four-core Cliffkon professional cable. The crossover point is 2.8kHz, with second order electronic/third order acoustic low and high pass filters. Its 11 elements are hard-wired, the shopping list consisting of Ruark/ICW polypropylene capacitors, high precision ceramic power resistors and air core inductors in both legs of the crossover. At the base of the pedestal, or the bottom of the crossover as it were, are 4mm, four-way, gold-plated binding posts for single or bi-wiring connections from the amplifier.
Ruark's stand designing efforts didn't stop with creating an orifice to accept the crossover. Its primary task is to position the tweeter at a height of 30in above the floor, ideal for a 'normal' seating position. I suppose the stand is so appealing because it's a one-piece item that looks neither undernourished nor overly massive, a rigid steel support finished in black wrinkle-textured epoxy resin paint and pre-filled with a mix of lead shot, resin and sand. The bottom steel plate is set into a bevelled wooden plinth with is fitted with spikes that screw through the base plate and can be adjusted from above; they're capped with gold, to match the screws holding the drivers to the baffle -- the one tacky aspect of the speaker and suitable only for the kind of aesthetically-challenged vermin who think that shell suits are sharp and that diamonds look good on a watch dial.
Equinox numbers read like those of any number of Britboxes, with a frequency range of 45-20kHz +/-3dB in free space conditions. The impedance is a safe 6 ohms, sensitivity a medium 87dB/1W/1m and the recommended power amplifier range a standard 20-150W RMS. Naturally, I strapped these to 300W Krell monoblocks for the sheer obscenity of it all. But I also used 'regular', less costly power houses like the 60W/ch Copland CSA14 integrated amp, the affordable Acurus 250 and a 12W/ch tube amp, all of which drove the Ruarks with better-than-adequate capabilities. Just in case you were thinking that this £1749 per pair speaker might be beyond the grasp of your existing amplifier. Admittedly, it benefits from the high damping factors and unbridled power of a behemoth, but you can get away with a lot less.Read more about the Equinox on Page 2.