Riva Turbo X Bluetooth loudspeaker system

Music servers and computer audio
ADX/Riva Turbo X

On the inside, the Turbo X is fitted with three proprietary ADX 60mm full-range drivers, plus four proprietary ABX dual-piston bass radiators. Powering this array is a three-channel amplifier with a total of 45 watts RMS output power, plus processing circuitry as needed to support the Riva’s three main playback modes. These modes include: Normal listening mode (in essence, a three-channel stereo mode), Trillium Surround mode (an astonishingly effective simulated surround mode intended for home theatre or gaming applications, but also excellent for music listening), and Turbo EQ mode (essentially a ‘kick out the jams’ mode that applies both special EQ and dynamic compression setting to allow the Turbo X’s to produce output levels as high as 100dB). Additionally, the Turbo X offers a Speakerphone mode when paired with Bluetooth capable smartphones, and a Phono mode that allows the AUX analogue input to be reconfigured as a phono input.

As you can imagine, the Riva lends itself to several real-world playback applications. First and foremost, it is a very fine-sounding Bluetooth speaker and speakerphone. Next, though, the Riva can be connected, via included cables, to the analogue outputs of disc players, Blu-ray players, or even flat panel televisions, making the Turbo X a lovely little single-chassis TV speaker that can do a fairly convincing imitation of a surround sound system: not bad for a speaker roughly the size of a box of tissues. The unit is not supplied with a remote control, but Riva offers its Ground Control app through the App Store and through Google Play. The Ground Control app supports volume up/down/mute functions, provides controls for the Trillium Surround and Turbo EQ modes, monitors battery life, manages audio prompts, and allows user to set the app’s background colours.

The real proof of the Riva Turbo X’s merits come not in its features, but rather in the listening, where my assessment is that the Turbo X offers best-in-class performance for products of its size, type, and price. For my listening tests I primarily ran the Turbo X via Bluetooth connections to an Apple iPad Air 2 tablet and from a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone loaded with lossless PCM files. With both devices, pairing with Riva proved easy to accomplish, so that I was able to get under way within a matter of seconds from starting the pairing process.

From the outset, the Riva distinguishes itself from other compact Bluetooth speakers through its admirable smoothness, generally full-bodied sound, energetic upper bass, and—when the Trillium Surround mode is engaged—through its surprising wide, deep soundstages. As an example, listed to ‘Wicked Game’ from Chris Isaak’s Heart Shaped World [Reprise] and listen to the Riva’s sweet, silky smooth rendition of the song’s soaring guitar lines, Isaak’s lilting crooner’s voice, and the loping bass pulse that gently drive the song forward. What the Riva does so well (and that lesser Bluetooth speakers barely do at all) is to allow the guitar riffs to float upwards on the air, while Isaak’s voice fills (yet does not overpower) a broad and expansive soundstage, even as the bass manages to sound deeper and more solid than seems possible given the Turbo x’s compact size. It’s with sheer depth and width of the stage that many listeners—this one included—find particularly pleasing and compelling.

But enjoyable though listening with the Trillium Surround mode engaged can be, there are certain songs—especially those involving overlaid voices—where Normal mode lends a heightened degree of focus and definition that is very desirable. A good illustration might be ‘Who by Fire’ from Leonard Cohen’s Live in London [Sony], where Normal mode does a better job than Trillium Surround mode in terms of drawing out the gritty textures and subtle inflections of Cohen’s deep baritone voice. Where Trillium Surround mode gives the sound greater depth and width, Normal mode gives the presentation greater resolution and a tighter sense of overall focus.

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