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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.

To compensate for this difference, the Riva S has a “power mode” that adds about a 4dB boost in volume, plus a degree of its own dynamic compression. Don’t overuse this feature if you intended to run on battery power, because engaging power mode can slap you with 40-percent battery-life penalty. With great power comes great responsibility.

Vinyl has enjoyed a major comeback in the past few years, but most powered speakers—especially portable ones—haven’t taken this trend into account. The Riva S has. Plug one end of the provided 3.5mm-to-stereo-RCA cable into the speaker’s Aux input and the other into your favorite turntable. Before you drop the needle, hold the “+” and “-“ buttons down for 5 seconds. The Bluetooth button will turn orange and you’ll now be in Phono Mode. This bypasses the Aux input’s automatic gain control and adds up to 9dB of gain to the speaker’s output to compensate for a turntable’s weaker signal. The Riva S isn't outfitted with a true phono preamp with an RIAA EQ curve, but it does allow you to connect a turntable to a very small speaker system; and yes, it works with TrueWireless, too. You could set up your turntable with a Riva S on either side and jam to your vinyl collection just about anywhere (you’ll need power for the turntable, of course). 

Finally! Two Bluetooth annoyances solved

The Riva S is the first speaker I’ve tested that address two of my biggest perpetual complaints about Bluetooth speakers: concurrent device pairing and relative speaker volume.

Put the Riva S in Party (Multi-User) Mode by pressing the Bluetooth and “–“ button, and you can pair two active Bluetooth sources with it. Party Mode is simple and smart. The Riva S will start playing the first source you send it. Initiating a stream from a second Bluetooth source won’t override the first; but if the first source is paused or stopped, the second source can start streaming audio anytime. There are no cryptic error messages to decipher, and there's no need to un-pair and re-pair one device at a time. Party Mode and worked flawlessly in my tests. The Riva S can "remember" up to eight Bluetooth relationships, with the last-connected device being remembered first.

Concerning volume, if you’re using an Apple device, your iOS volume maps exactly with that of the Riva S. In other words, 40-percent loudness on your iPhone corresponds to 40-percent loudness on the Riva A. This is critically important because the Riva is voiced to add loudness contouring when it’s playing at low volumes (to compensate for the way bass sounds at lower volumes), and a loudness defeat when it’s playing near it’s limit (to protect the drivers).


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