Riva Turbo X Bluetooth speaker: AR-RIVA
1st July 2016
The latest in a long line of Bluetooth speakers, Riva claims that it is different, combining a high feature count and sound quality. Paul Rigby reviews the Turbo X to find out
And so the march of the stand-alone powered Bluetooth speakers goes on. The popularity of this genre of device seems to be, if anything, actually increasing as source devices that feed the things, proliferate.
Inside the Turbo X is a meaty 45W amplifier plus a suite of seven speakers and various sound processing modes. The first of those, you won’t be too surprised to hear, is called Turbo. This mode increases output levels by about 6dB. The only downside is that this mode is heavy on the internal battery. Although six hours in this mode is still possible, which is not too bad.
Above and below the logo on the top of the chassis are two tiny holes. These are noise-cancelling microphones, which help give the Turbo X speakerphone abilities. Which leads into Conference Mode that focuses on the vocal dialogue range and distributes it through three speakers that, says the company, are more “natural sounding”.
Trillium Surround mode is next. The company says that this mode appears to offer a three-dimensional soundstage. We will see.
To manoeuvre around the features in this box, you are presented with a top plate-mounted, touch-sensitive control interface including power on/off, that Trillium Surround mode switch, input switch, volume and a Turbo switch.
Other key combination commands includes a Key Lock option, smartphone operations commands and a phono option.
The rear of the chassis offers a power socket, auxiliary analogue input, USB mini-port for software upgrades, battery on/off switch, battery status light, iPod/iPhone charging port.
Measuring 105 x 230 x 89mm and weighing in at 1.6kg, the Turbo X can be yours in white or black.
There is a sense of professionalism about the design of the Riva. An example of this can be found when you want to link a device to it via Bluetooth. I did this with my iPhone 6S. Entering the Settings section of my phone, the Riva immediately popped up in the ‘possible’ list. Tapping on the Riva name, the pairing occurred quickly and the Riva issued forth a voice which said ‘Riva is paired’, which is nice and obvious (you can replace the voice with tones but the choice is appreciated). Secondly, the relevant app – which I had yet to install – popped up on my iPhone’s screen ready for me to download. This is a tiny but superb addition. I don’t know how often I’ve reviewed a device where the associated app had to be found in the App Store via a long search that involved filtering through irrelevancies.
Once loaded, the app, which can be tweaked in terms of colour presentation, is simple and straight-forward to use, providing all necessary track information plus obvious control buttons and a large central volume wheel. In addition, there is a surround feature button plus Turbo button (both with feedback sound samples so you know they are on/off). An Android app is available too, incidentally.
To begin, I played Kylie Minogue’s All the Lovers from her Abbey Road Sessions album as a MP3 from my iPhone, a fairly common file standard to play from a phone. In the basic music set-up with every other Mode turned off, I was impressed by how the structure of the soundstage was created by this little speaker. Minogue’s voice is the most important part of the song and the Riva agreed so it lifted the vocal up above the backing and never allowed the voice ever to become muddied or masked, which was a blessing. There was plenty of detail, for a MP3. The delicate acoustic guitar strum and string bending sound effects were easily heard here, the tambourine was suitably delicate and there was more bass than I expected.
The Surround EQ option is a good one. The soundstage was effectively widened and stretched, allowing the sound to relax and flow with more ease. There is, of course, no ‘surround’ sound in the classic sense but the sense of depth and spacious qualities of the sound were readily apparent. Sonically, the sound was both mature and rich in detail.
Kicking in the Turbo button (which moves the maximum volume read-out on the app to 11, while adding a revving engine response sample from the Riva. Oh, you guys…) allowed this small speaker to easily fill a large room with sound at maximum volume, even though, in the maxed out mode, it also exposed the limitation of the speakers slightly, making the sound just a tad hard and brittle. Retaining the Turbo but lowering the volume a touch regained the excellent sonic balance of the Riva. In fact, the Riva with Surround and Turbo on and not pushing the value to 11 (10 at a push) was the best possible sound combination and provided a rich, mature sound. One that I’m not particularly used to from a ‘mere’ Bluetooth speaker.
I also connected my Astell & Kern AK120 via the Line In port and played Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff at 24bit/96kHz. Again, I was impressed with the Riva’s voicing strategies because both Marley’s and the Wailers’ vocals were seen as the priority here. The vocal clarity from all was of a high quality with there was absolutely no blurring or smearing from the backing instruments. I was especially impressed with the bass which never boomed, even at high volumes and never seeped into other frequency areas or masked other instruments. That said, there was a half decent bass presence here. Good for a speaker of this type. This emphasis on precision and focus gave the Riva splendid musicality that kept the music moving and never let the groove dissipate, as it where. On a similar level, Marley’s track, Jamming, which is all about bass, never lost control at the lower frequency end while the midrange remained detailed, for a speaker of its type, with an admirable transparency.
This is not a cheap speaker. In relative terms, buying the Turbo X is quite a financial commitment, when you compare it to the competition. What draws me to the product, though, is not the facilities – which are numerous – or the design – which is neat, stylish and user-friendly – but the voicing of the sound. That is, how the sound is structured, how it has has been built and how it is presented to the ear. The Riva understands its own limitations and the liitations of its hardware category and so does the very best with the facilities in its possession. As such, you always feel that you are getting top value for money. You never feel let down or disappointed by the sound output.
RIVA TURBO X WIRELESS BLUETOOTH SPEAKER
GOOD: design, feature count, focused and clear sound output, vocal performance