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Review: RIVA S - High Performance Mobile Speaker

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  1. moedawg140 Contributor
    Review: RIVA S - High Performance Mobile Speaker
    The saga continues in the portable speaker landscape for RIVA Audio!  The introduction starts off with the RIVA Turbo X, as the speaker was a heralded success last year, enthralling listeners with high quality sound worldwide, and the RIVA S continues in this tradition, albeit in a different – yet satisfying way.  I visited the RIVA headquarters again to find out what was new with the team, especially since I missed this year’s CES and RIVA’s unveiling there.  The previous RIVA review that discussed the Turbo X, goes into detail about the RIVA team: Christine McKibban, the Chief Marketing Officer, Donald North, President and Chief Engineer of Audio Design Experts, Inc. (RIVA, ADX, Trillium), and other integral staff members.  Shortly after the Turbo X review, RIVA hired the newest team member: Nick Ayo, Customer Experience Specialist.  Nick is a great addition to the team, and is an all-around courteous and important piece of the team.  Also the tour of the facility was shown as well in the Turbo X review, if you are interested.  Now, it is time for something new, something unified.
    A thank you for RIVA: I am gracious for being able to listen to RIVA S as well as receive RIVA S’ in exchange for my opinion.  This review is going to be a little different – usually a reviewer/poster will write or post with regards to one device/piece of audio equipment especially if it’s part of a chain.  Meaning, one pair of headphones, one DAP (digital audio player), one IEM, etcetera, are usually evaluated.  These components of audio equipment may be compared to other relevant audio equipment, but it’s rare when two pieces of self-sustained audio equipment are discussed.  Basically, one is great, two is better.  What do you mean by that, Maurice?  Come along with me, and let’s find out, together…
    RIVA S in glossy black, RIVA S on demonstration stand
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    RIVA S in white and gold, RIVA S' internal circuitry
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    RIVA S' rear, I/O Cover, I/O Cover over I/O ports to protect from moisture
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    Another angle of the front and rear of the RIVA S
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    All three color cases: black=red lettering case; white and silver=teal lettering case; white and gold=white lettering case, RIVA AUDIO carabiner
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    CES Innovation Award: 2015 Honoree - Portable Media Players and Accessories
    The RIVA S exudes quality.  Déjà vu!  True, the RIVA S embodies the same level of quality construction as the Turbo X, all in a smaller package.  Same slick-in-nature capacitive buttons.   Same amount of speakers (seven).  No gaps – and a score increase to IPX4 water resistance!  Same USB charging port for devices such as smartphones.  Same luxurious LED glow.   There are new options in a new RIVA Audio app such as the new ability to turn on the RIVA S from the app itself! 
    As before with the Turbo X, placing the RIVA S 3-6 inches away from the corners of a wall is best for acoustic resonance, and slightly increased bass response with the sound bouncing off from the wall on both sides of the speaker.  Having the speaker near a wall would be the next best option, and then from there having it away from a wall would be the least acoustically optimal position.  You will still experience a nice and balanced sound, but will not have as sufficient bass response away from the wall as if you placed it 3-6 inches away from the corners of a wall.
    RIVA Under Armour-type UNRIVALED shirts in Gray and Black: very comfortable
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    I met up with the RIVA team at AXPONA this year, and here is their demonstration room
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    Internals of the RIVA S and Turbo X
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    The RIVA S and Turbo X utilizing Phono Mode with turntable
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    RIVA's Donald North, President and Chief Engineer
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    RIVA's Christine McKibban, Chief Marketing Officer
    RIVA's Nick Ayo, Customer Experience Specialist
    Mr. North, Ms. McKibban, Maurice, Mr. Ayo
    RIVA Turbo X - Phono Mode at AXPONA 2016
    RIVA S - Phono Mode at AXPONA 2016

    Mr. North RIVA S TrueWireless Interview at AXPONA 2016
    Here are the prices of audio equipment used in the review:
    iPhone 6 (Space Gray, 128GB): $849.99 or $399.99 with a 2-Year Contract
    RIVA S High Performance Mobile Speaker: $249
    RIVA Turbo X High Performance Premium Mobile Bluetooth Speaker: $299
    Questyle Audio QP1R Golden: $899 USD
    Software applications used
    TIDAL HiFi – Lossless
    Spotify Premium – Extreme Setting
    Neutron Music Player – 320kbps
    Inside the package
    The RIVA S contains:
    RIVA S in black, white and silver or white and gold
    Charging adapter
    Four worldwide outlet adapters
    RCA to 3.5 mm cable
    3.5 mm to 3.5 mm AUX cable
    Travel/carrying case with RIVA AUDIO embossed carabiner
    Welcome with start and shortcut pamphlets
    Pictures galore
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    Continent/area outlet adapter installation procedure
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    Easter eggs
    Check out the shortcut pictures below for keycodes that can be inputted for extra features:
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    All of the shortcut features are welcome additions, but my favorite shortcut features are:
    Power Mode: Much like Turbo Mode, but without a dedicated button like the “T” button in the Turbo X.  For a +4dB increase in sound, hold the "Bluetooth" and “Mute” buttons.  You can alternatively press the center button in the RIVA Audio app to enable Power Mode.  I would suggest using the app to implement the Power Mode.
    TrueWireless: Two are better than one, let's work and play in unison!  Enable for independent channel functionality.  Via TrueWirelsss, one connected RIVA S is the left channel and one connected RIVA S is the right channel.
    Power button on the RIVA Audio app: Pressing the Power button when you have connected to the RIVA S previously will turn off and on the speaker!  The Turbo X did not have the feature, and it is nice to have the RIVA S implement this feature.
    How does the RIVA S sound?
    Clear, and highly resolute with a sound signature gravitated towards clarity throughout the entire volume range and balance with regards to the frequencies being presented to the listeners.  The bass is not very plentiful, but emits an adequate amount when placed at a corner.  I would say the RIVA S has more of a reference quality bass sound, but because of its size, does not have the most visceral of bass.  The midrange and upper midrange are where the RIVA S comes alive, emoting blissful-sounding music in its admittedly miniscule package.  The treble is plentiful, not screeching to the ears, but osmosis clear in its presentation and conveys vibrancy throughout the upper-end of the discernible frequency range.  There is sense of space with the RIVA S, and using the “S” – Surround button helps to dial in just a little more realistic soundstage to your listening area.  TrueWireless does not utilize Surround Mode, but the two speakers are the surround and the soundstage, no need for the dedicated Surround Mode in this case.  Overall, the seven drivers work in unison to create as clear and crisp sound as possible.
    Here's my first listen of the RIVA S
    RIVA S and Turbo X sound quality comparison
    There are a few differences between the Turbo X and RIVA S speakers.  The bass difference from the two speakers are the most apparent to my ears.  Placed in a corner with wooden walls, and I could feel the walls vibrate with the Turbo X.  Not so much with the RIVA S.  There is a quality of the bass sound, but not so much a quantity of bass, especially when compared to the Turbo X.  The midrange and upper midrange are supremely clear with the RIVA S, and are not as warm as the Turbo X’s slightly warmer midrange.   The treble is full of effervescence with regards to both model speakers, but the slightly creamier treble shines through with the Turbo X.  Spatial qualities become more apparent the louder you turn both model speakers up.  At quieter volumes, both emit a convincing level of soundstage and layering.  One Turbo X performs well in this regard.  One RIVA S does a good job with conveying space, but not nearly as much as the Turbo X.  The gap closes when not only using two RIVA S’ in TrueWireless, but also closes when you place both of the speakers in the most optimal position to your ears.  One to the left and one to the right of you.  One to the corner and other to the corner.  You are free to move them to find that sweet spot and stick to it, or change on-the-fly if you so choose.  If you turn up the volume of both RIVA S’ via TrueWireless, you will be greeted with a sufficiently loud volume for the overall small size of both speakers.  However, the Turbo X, added with the Turbo Mode, emits volume that is loud enough for most entire houses to hear a loud to very loud volume, based on where you are relative to the speaker.
    Mute - inadvertently pressing it
    If you don’t hear any beeps when pushing buttons, it can mean that the speaker may be set to Mute, so make sure to check the Mute icon to see if it is illuminated, meaning you won’t hear button presses/confirmations.  Also, it can mean that you are pressing buttons on a 2nd RIVA S that has its button disabled (which would disable all button-pressed action). 
    TrueWireless – let’s get it working
    If you aren't able to get TrueWireless to work for any reason and can't seem to re-pair, try these steps:
    1. Make sure music from source is paused.
    2. Forget/unpair 1st/primary RIVA S from phone/device (even if it says connected), and 2nd RIVA S if shows as connected on Bluetooth settings as well.
    3. Turn off and on both RIVA S'.
    4. Pair with primary RIVA S.
    5. Press and hold "S" and "-" on primary RIVA S until it says "TrueWireless".
    6. Press and hold "S" and "+" on secondary RIVA S until it says "TrueWireless".
    7. In a few moments, you should hear on both "TrueWireless is paired".
    8. Play music and enjoy!
    (This works if even if you have one RIVA S and can't connect to it, just omit the 2nd RIVA S pairing/repairing/TrueWireless instructions).
    I also explain in the videos below how to enable TrueWireless and give a little explanation as well.
    TrueWireless with troubleshooting explanation pictures (iOS 9.X)
    RIVA S in white gold is connected after pairing to Bluetooth and RIVA Audio app, both RIVA S' aren't connected after non-use, RIVA Audio app shows both RIVA S', attempting to connect to white gold RIVA S
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    Connected to RIVA S via RIVA Audio app, shows on Bluetooth screen as connected to RIVA S via RIVA Audio app, Spotify not playing track, showing RIVA S as turned off (red power button denotes RIVA is turned off)
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    Turned on RIVA S via RIVA Audio app power button (RIVA's BATT toggle switch is turned on), shows both Bluetooth and RIVA Audio app are connected, track able to be played, now connected to white and silver RIVA S
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    Connected to white and silver RIVA S, able to play track, changes to white and gold RIVA S, shows on RIVA Audio app as connected and turned on to RIVA S white and gold
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    Activated TrueWireless but unable to turn off (or on) via RIVA Audio app, TrueWireless Pairing prompt when attempting to select TrueWireless from app, disconnected white and gold RIVA S, clearing  RIVA Audio app
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    Showing white and gold RIVA S is available to connect, connected TrueWireless to white + gold and white + silver RIVA S, shows TrueWireless activated, connecting to white and gold RIVA S via RIVA Audio app
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    TrueWireless with troubleshooting explanation videos 
    RIVA S - Part 1: TrueWireless Setup ​
    RIVA S - Part 2: Troubleshooting ​
    RIVA S - Continuation of Part 2: Explanation of TrueWireless 
    ProTip: Make sure not to mix up the power ports!  It's easy to get mixed up with the AUX port - just remember the power port is next to the BATT toggle switch:
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    RIVA S and Turbo X comparisons
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    White +silver and white + gold RIVA S'
    QP1R connected to Turbo X, and both RIVA S' via two 3.5mm splitters and three 3.5mm to 3.5mm AUX cables - thoroughly engaging and wholeheartedly enthralling presentation
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    Suggestions for use
    I would suggest the Turbo X for those that want a one-stop solution to high-fidelity music in an elegantly created box.  The RIVA S is great for those that want very good sound quality out of a smaller package, albeit at a less-sonic performance rate than its older sibling.  I would suggest purchasing two RIVA S’, as one can go to you and one can go to your loved one (my wife wanted the white and gold instead of the black since I already own the black Turbo X).  Once they use it for a while, you can use your loved one’s speaker as a secondary TrueWireless speaker.  Win-win for you! *Virtual high-five!*
    If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading!  The overall sound of the RIVA S is like Mighty Mouse – packs a great wallop in a miniscule package.  With two connected tandem, you’ve turned your setup into the Mighty Mouse twins!  If you are in the market for a great sounding portable sounding speaker, the RIVA S is an energetic vehicle to take you to the auditory Graceland.  Two RIVA S’ in your stable are even better in my opinion.  You have the 90 day no questions asked return policy, so if you want some portable speaker fun, I would wholeheartedly recommend one RIVA S for portable delight, and two RIVA S’ to work in full, delightful unison.  Happy listening and dancing, everyone!
    Speakers: Three ADX 40 mm full range proprietary drivers. Four ADX custom dual piston bass radiators.
    Amplifier Power: 30 Watts
    Remote Control App: Yes, RIVA Audio App for iOS.  (Android™ is coming soon!)
    Dimensions: 191mm (7.5 in) L X 64mm/(2.5 in) W X 66mm (2.6 in) H
    Weight: 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg)
    Speakerphone: Dual-Microphone with Noise & Echo Canceling Technology
    Bluetooth Range: 33 FT
    Audio Codecs Supported: SBC, AAC, aptX™
    Surround Sound: ADX Trillium™
    Proximity Sensing: Yes
    Battery Playing Time: 13 Hours at 70 dB (Playing time varies with listening levels.)
    Phone Mode: Adds up to 9dB of gain to account for weaker signal from turntables.
    TrueWireless™: Connect two RIVA S speakers wirelessly to create right and left channel stereo.
    Party Mode: Pair two devices to one RIVA S for multi-user control.
    Warranty: 2 year materials and manufacturing warranty
    1 year lithium battery warranty
    RIVA offers a 90 day satisfaction, no question return policy.
    WNBC, Tony1110, jinxy245 and 4 others like this.
  2. twister6 Contributor
    Maurice, your reviews are MORE than just REVIEWS, it's an Epic experience filled with great pictures and informative videos!!!  WELL Done!!! [​IMG]
    moedawg140 and riva audio like this.
  3. Netforce
    Absolutely beautiful review moe!
    moedawg140 and riva audio like this.
  4. k4rstar
    Great review, and it actually got me interested in a product I otherwise wouldn't have been.
    moedawg140 and riva audio like this.
  5. abm0
    LOL, no it's not. Not even close. The Turbo X already drops off hard around 12-13 kHz and the resulting sound is obviously veiled.
    The Riva S improved upon that but the additional treble it brings is not flat and still sounds somehow inadequate compared to a lot of other similarly sized bluetooth speakers. You really, seriously need to listen to these things comparatively before you can properly review their sound signatures. Descriptions like "effervescent" or "creamy" or whatever are perfectly meaningless fluff if you haven't actually compared the speaker to other competitors or to some reference.
    (Also, you have too many pictures that are not of the product or setup itself or that unnecessarily give the same angle on the unit multiple times. This makes the review more "TL;DR" without adding useful information.)
  6. moedawg140 Contributor
    Welcome to Head-Fi, @abm0.  I disagree with everything you have said, but you are free to feel how you want to feel.  
    Instead of responding to each of your issues that you have with my review, I'll say this: no matter what has been said or posted, try the RIVA S out for yourself.  As mentioned in the last part of the review, RIVA offers a 90 day satisfaction, no question return policy.  Try it out - if you don't like it, send it back, no questions asked.
  7. abm0
    Don't get me wrong - Riva got a LOT of things right with these speakers, for better overall fidelity, functionality, battery life, aesthetics etc. than the vast majority of Bluetooth speakers on the market today. They just didn't get the treble right. That still needs substantial improvement in whatever their next generation of products will be.
    For the Turbo X there is pretty much nothing to hear beyond 13k, and for the Riva S the sound is right only when the enclosure is pointed straight at your face - any angle away from that loses substantial treble.
  8. Brooko Contributor
    Just playing devils advocate here, but you realise there is actually very little above about 12 kHz which is really going to affect how you hear your music - most of it is simply overblow or harmonics. And anything above 16 kHz is supposedly more "sensed" rather than heard anyway.  It'd actually be quite interesting to see if there was significant difference (if they were capable of being flat through to 20kHz) between full range, and everything cut past 14 kHz.
    I agree with you on the directionality - but that's the same with practically all Bluetooth speakers I've experienced.  Must try the Riva at some stage.
  9. abm0
    O_o No offense, but you must be pretty old or otherwise hearing-impaired to be making such a claim. We can definitely hear, not just "sense", 16k when we're young enough. Last time I tested myself with pure tones I could clearly hear beeps up to about 17.5k (this was around the age of 30, right after getting tinnitus; before that maybe I could hear even more).
    Some are better and some are worse, and the Riva S falls squarely in the "worse" category on that count. There are dome or vertical cylinder-shaped Bluetooth speakers out there that don't lose almost any treble no matter what direction you're listening to them from, like the Bang&Olufsen Beoplay A1 or the JBL Pulse 2, to name just a couple of recently announced ones.
  10. Brooko Contributor
    No offence taken. Now go actually try it with real music and see how much difference there is. Get someone else to do the "switch" when you cut those frequencies - so you can't see when they're being done. Then post back.

    If my kids (with excellent hearing BTW) don't notice it - I'm pretty sure you're not going to either.

    Notice that I was talking about music - not tones :)
  11. abm0
    Thanks, but I've heard it in multiple comparisons on YouTube already and there are clear differences. If those already come out through compressed YouTube audio, there's no question they can be heard live as well. The important thing is to compare speakers from different manufacturers. Simply listening to a single speaker live is not this ultimate test to end all tests that some audiophiles make it out to be. Having your friend come over with their Vifa Helsinki and blow your Rivas out of the water is closer to how you would find out in the real world if your choice was good enough or not. :p
  12. Brooko Contributor
    If you've already made up your mind and not willing to try, then there is nothing I can do to sway you.
    Enjoy our music.  If you ever get the time to test though, its an eye-opener [​IMG] (or should I say ear-opener)
    jinxy245 likes this.
  13. moedawg140 Contributor
    Appreciate the kind words, Alex.  All I got to say is that you inspire me.  To write good/solid reviews at the pace you do is nothing short of amazing.  Congrats, my friend. [​IMG]
    Thanks, Alan!  I need to bring them to the next meetup, it would be great to hear your thoughts of the RIVA S' in TrueWireless mode! Maybe T.H.E. Show Newport?  Or maybe before - let me know if you are free sometime, we can meet up and pow-wow! [​IMG]
    Thanks for the comment, @k4rstar!  I hope you'll get to listen to one or two, tandem!  
  14. Tympan
    Interesting review! I recently sold my stereo system to replace it with 2 bluetooth portable speakers with excellent results (and I am quite picky)
    The speakers I use are the Beolit 15 which were first introduced in 2012 as the Beolit 12. The Riva struck me as being quite similar looking!!!
    However, the Beolit 15 are $599 a piece and weight 6 Lbs each so I'd be surprised if the Riva sounded as mature. But it's nice to see companies pushing this concept and offering more affordable alternatives.
    I never thought I'd ever give up my stereo system for a pair of portable speakers, let alone with internal digital amplifiers and stream with bluetooth instead of my good old audiophile interconnects!!!
  15. twister6 Contributor
    Maybe not with RIVA S, but you will be pleasantly surprised with RIVA Turbo X.  Give it a shot!
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