Three active 60 mm speakers, Turbo mode up to 100 dB, Trillium surround sound, and up over a day’s continuous use; this is what Riva Audio are bringing to the table with the Riva Turbo X and why it’s one of the best small form factor Bluetooth speakers out there.
Firstly a shout out to Riva Audio for the review unit which we’ve been testing for just over a week. In this time it’s been put through a battery of tests that have culminated with the score we’ve given the device.
Out of the Box
Let’s address this straight out of the gate; Bluetooth speakers, most of them, are just a little disappointing aren’t they? They either have poor battery lives, although less so now, or they have shoddy build quality, poor overall sound, or just overpowering bass. There is always something about them which forces a consumer compromise. This has lowered expectations across the market and there are now literally thousands of products out there for a similar price point that all deliver almost the exact same audio experience.
The Riva Turbo X is not that product. Not at all. Discard the notion that portable Bluetooth speakers are ten a penny for the purposes of this review as it’s simply not the case here.
With that out-of-the-way, let’s take a look at what we get for our £240. We have the white Riva Turbo X here and it’s top and tailed with a glossy white plastic and wrapped all around in a metallic speaker grille with a thin vertical branding on the front. Aesthetically it’s relatively generic but it’s nondescript enough to fit in with most homes also which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Across the top of the device are the capacitive controls. From left to right we have the power button, Trillium Surround Sound, Bluetooth mode, Mute, volume up and down as well as the Turbo mode. Either side of the Mute button are small pinhole microphones for phone call conversations as well as subtle Riva branding.
Around back we’ve got the continuation of the metallic grille with a slight cut out at the bottom for the I/O. An oddly turquoise-coloured battery button is flanked by an 3.5mm Aux port, micro USB data input, USB output, AC power input and a battery LED indicator. Finally, on the bottom side of the device are some rubber pads for stabilisation (again turquoise), one of which can be removed and placed over the back I/O to make it splash proof – nifty!
Inside the rather nicely constructed box come the well laid out and detailed user guide, a phono cable for the integrated Phono mode, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm aux cable and the AC adapter which is quite large and sadly not too long either which might make it a little difficult to hide for those minimalists amongst you.
Finally, dimensionally we’re looking at 230 mm of length with 105 mm and 89 mm in height and depth respectively. This unit size wise is absolutely portable, but it’s weight of 1.6 kg will have you gasping if you’re the sucker who has to carry it. That weight is required, but thankfully Riva Audio provide a carry case for $30 extra. A plastic bag will do you just fine, or another backpack.
Features & Performance
The setup process here is as easy as it is with any Bluetooth device nowadays, albeit there is no NFC to make it completely seamless. Nevertheless, turn the unit on, ensure the Bluetooth button is illuminated and then find the device on your smartphone and pair it. Alternatively you can download the “Riva Turbo X Ground Control” app from the Google Play Store or iTunes and use that to guide you (we’ll come to the app later). Once paired, simply fire up your music and play.
Here’s what will hit you first and foremost; a flat sound scape that treats each element equally and the quality of the lows, mids and highs are all easily discernible. That alone is a rarity in many Bluetooth speakers at this, or any other price point to be fair. It’s a nice shift from a bass heavy unit out of the box.
As an example, Stevie Wonders’ “Superstition” is crisp, clear and acoustically audible.
Enabling the Turbo mode ramps up the volume and the other frequencies a few notches and provides a more cinematic experience which would be good for larger rooms. Those looking for additional bass will find it here, in this mode and it’s still as crisp and clear as without the mode on; just a gear higher. The Turbo button allows full volume playback of up to 100 dB
Conversely enabling the Trillium surround sound mode is supposed to bring a theatrical tinge to each and every aspect of audio but in our testing we haven’t found too many differences whether that’s listening to music, podcasts or indeed consuming video. There is a slight increase in the crispness of the treble and a spacial sound effect, but not much else, even at higher volumes. This is noticed most when the device is positioned in front of a wall or in a corner.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”When Turbo is enabled there is a tiresome “vroooom” noise…thankfully these can be changed to simple tones.”[/pullquote]
Enabling these features is completed via the capacitive buttons on the top of the device. Each ‘button’ is concave and lights up when the top of the device is approached or touched at all. Touching each button is a strange affair as you’re expecting some tactile feedback; a click, a vibration. Other products have taught us that this is what to expect. Here however there is none of that, and only an audible alert to denote an accurate activity. This doesn’t feel too nice, truth be told and we’d have like to either have conventional clicky buttons, or a haptic feedback response here. Additionally, there are annoying audible alerts accompanying each feature engagement. When Turbo is enabled there is a tiresome “vroooom” noise, whilst pairing delivers a rather obvious “device has been paired”. These aren’t needed and thankfully with the Riva Tuner X Ground Control app, these can be changed to simple tones.
Powering the Riva Turbo X are three active 60 mm drivers each with dedicated 15 watt amplification. These don’t seem like specifically large drivers but they certainly pack some power and with the integrated Trillium platform Riva have delivered, and the custom enclosure to make the most passive sound enhancement, the Riva Turbo X really does provide some quality audio which will appease almost all consumers in our opinion.
Using the Riva Turbo X Ground Control app, not only can the device’s incredibly annoying audible notifications be muted to just tones, but the Turbo mode, Surround sound and other features can be toggles. If you’re averse to using the control pad atop the device, the app is acceptable, but it’s not the most refined piece of software out there; C- here, must do better.
Battery Life[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Basically you can take this to the pool, and spend 8 hours there, for three continuous days”[/pullquote]
Here’s the really killer aspect of this device over and above the sound quality. The battery is rated to last over 26 hours with non-Turbo playback. That’s over one full day of continuous music playback….that’s insane. Basically you can take this to the pool, and spend 8 hours there, for three continuous days. In our testing over the last week we can back up Riva Audio’s claim here; it’s lasted just over 26 hours before finally passing out. Technically more than 26 hours so that’s a tick.
Enabling Turbo mode drastically reduces this battery life, but it’ll still get you through a single day’s tunes, with our testing suggesting an average of 8 hours continuous Turbo playback.
Simply put the Riva Turbo X is a great purchase for those who want a powerful audio device for use during parties, or as a standalone Bluetooth speaker for living rooms. Outdoors, the Turbo mode really helps to deliver a little more widespread audio and delivers some thunderous, but crisp and clear lows.
The aesthetic might not be to everybody’s taste and the annoyance of the capacitive controls not withstanding, there is nothing from an audio perspective to put consumers off regardless of the musical genres they are into. The speaker simply stands to one side and lets the artist’s music speak for itself which is all a quality speaker can do.
At a price point of around £240 this isn’t cheap. Compared to other quality wireless speakers such as those from B&O and Sonos, it certainly is however and it makes it a great alternative. Add on to this the wealth of additional features delivered; Turbo mode, Trillium surround sound, Phono mode (untested by us, but is best for connected pre-amp turntables), splash proof I/O cover, and a beast of a battery, and you have a very compelling package which is worthy of consideration if you’re on the lookout for a product like this.