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Riva S Bluetooth speaker review: A portable, wireless speaker for music lovers

Theo Nicolakis | March 8, 2016
The small and lightweight Riva S is a music-lover and audiophile’s portable dream-come-true.

Two Riva S speakers can make a stereo pair

I found the Riva S to be a feature-rich speaker that could be used in many situations where other Bluetooth speakers would be out of their element. Some of these features are automatic, while others are enabled by pressing combinations of the Riva’s capacitive touch-control buttons or via the spartan Riva Mobile App (iOS only right now; Riva says an Android version is in development).

TrueWireless is my favorite Riva S feature. It enables you to add a second Riva S via Bluetooth and play both as a stereo pair. When you set the Riva S into TrueWireless, the first (master) speaker always acts as the left channel and the second (slave) acts as the right channel. The master speaker’s buttons remain functional while the slave’s are defeated. Riva recommends you keep the pair within 10 feet of each other and in the same room to prevent any latency or interference problems.

The team at Riva also fine-tuned the sound in TrueWireless mode. Because both speakers playing together can yield up to a +7- to +8dB increase in loudness, the Riva S loads a different volume level table to keep the Riva’s sound optimal at all volume levels and configurations. That’s attention to detail.

The Riva S is rated IPX4 for water resistance. That means it can take an occasional pool-side or shower-water splash, but it won’t serve as a true in-shower speaker or survive being submerged in water. You must affix a rubber cover (cleverly stored on the bottom of the unit) to the rear ports before exposing it to any water or all bets are off.

The speaker can also function as an echo-canceling speakerphone, thanks to tiny microphones built into the top of the unit. You can accept, reject, and end calls without touching your phone—just press buttons that are also on top of the cabinet. While in speakerphone mode, the Riva S applies a special EQ setting that boosts mid-range frequencies, so you can hear voices more clearly. In my real-world tests, the speakerphone feature worked well; but perhaps unsurprisingly, the people on the other end of my calls said I still sounded like I was on a speakerphone.

The speakerphone wasn’t flawless, however; I couldn’t use Siri, a fact that I confirmed with Riva. I couldn’t hear Siri’s audible prompt, nor could I speak any commands though the Riva S. I had to unpair the speaker in to use Siri. 

Unlike many Bluetooth speakers, which compress a music source’s dynamic range, the Riva doesn’t. While that’s great for audio quality, it also means that “hot” recordings (tracks whose dynamic range was highly compressed during the mastering process so that they peak at maximum amplitude more often) will come across really loud, while recordings that haven’t been mastered this way will sound quiet.

 

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