Since Riva first hit the streets with its Turbo range of Bluetooth speakers, there has been something of a buzz about the company. Part of that might be the backbone of Audio Design Experts, Inc. (or ADX, for short), with a dream team of former rock’n’roll impresario Rikki Farr and audiophile überengineer Donald North. But ultimately it came down to the products themselves, which delivered more of the musical goods than it should have been possible to achieve, given the size of products and the costs involved. These little gems have been used everywhere by enthusiasts, even to the point of one of them winding up in the cabin of the cars of several members of the team as both music and phone device.
There’s a limit to Bluetooth technology, though, and in the home there are better paths up the same mountain. Although Bluetooth can sound relatively good now, it’s still a limiting factor in performance, especially in a home context. Apple provides a potentially better solution in AirPlay, but not everyone wants to be involved the Apple ecosystem. Another useful solution is Google’s Home and/or Chromecast systems. These are chronically under-appreciated by the audiophile community, but – used wisely and appropriately – they can be an affordable and surprisingly high-performance musical pathway to access music both in the home and online. I guess the resistance by the audiophile community is that anything that cheap and that easy to use just can’t be any good!
Riva’s new WAND system takes full advantage of the power of Google. There are two models in the current WAND line-up; the Arena tested here, and the larger Festival model. There is likely also a subwoofer waiting in the wings. Like the Turbo models that launched the brand, both models use the company’s patented Trillium DSP system to create a stereo sound from a single loudspeaker, but the Arena is larger (somewhere between the size of a large desktop loudspeaker and a small standmount monitor) and can support up to 24bit, 192kHz resolution.
The Arena comes mains powered as standard, but there is an optional battery pack that fits beneath the standard box, which is good for 20 hours if you play carefully and quietly. This snaps into the base of the Arena and is charged through the Arena. It also allows the Arena to charge phones or tablets while playing (with a concomitant drop in playing time).