Riva Audio/ADX Audio
One of the most thought-provoking and entertaining demonstrations at CanJam had absolutely nothing to do with headphones or earphones. Rather, it was the demonstration of the new Riva Turbo X high-performance mobile Bluetooth speaker. Let’s be honest: Most Bluetooth speakers would scarcely quality as good or even decent listening devices, at least not by audiophile standards. But the Riva, quite frankly, is different. Granted, it’s not going to challenge a good set of small monitor speaker powered by an also good integrated amp/DAC or the like. But, on the other hand, it costs only $349.99, and what it does do is to produce vibrant and astonishingly full-bodied (if not genuinely full-range) sound, complete with (and this is the ‘special sauce’ that set the Riva Turbo X apart from the herd—believable and surprisingly three-dimensional stereo imaging. Yes, really. Not bad when you consider that we’re talking about a device that is only 9.1 x 4.1 x 3.5 inches in size.
Led by the colourful and charismatic rock impresario turned consumer electronics company developer Thomas “Rikki” Farr (Chairman and Chief Creative Officer) and Donald North (President and Chief Engineer), Riva Audio/ADX Audio set out to build a Bluetooth speaker that was not just incrementally but dramatically better than competing products that have gone before. (In case you are wondering, ADX Audio developed many of the core technologies and special sound-processing algorithms that are used in the Riva Turbo X). Based on a brief introductory listen, our impression is that they have succeeded brilliantly. The ‘Eureka!’ moment came when North handed us a Riva Turbo X that was playing and we discovered that, even when held at not quite arm’s length, the little Riva box still continued to produce uncanny, 3D soundstages.
Our thought is that the future hi-fi enthusiasts of our world will have to start somewhere with devices that show superior sound quality is its own reward. The Riva Turbo X could represent just such a starting point device, and one that won’t break the bank.
The centrepiece for the Schiit Audio demonstration was the combination of the firm’s extremely powerful flagship Ragnarok integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier ($1,699) as shown in conjunction with the firm’s very soon-to-be released flagship Yggdrasil high-res PCM DAC ($2,299). The concept is that the pair will offer state of the art performance at a price that falls a tick under $4,000 for the package, which is not at all unreasonable for the performance capabilities on offer.
In a brief conversation with designer Mike Moffat, we learned that the Yggdrasil does not and is not likely ever to support DSD decoding, as Moffat firmly believes PCM is the fundamentally superior digital audio solution in terms of practicality, widespread market acceptance, and sheer sound quality.
As was the case at CES, Sennheiser’s CanJam demonstration served first to expose listeners to a broad spectrum of Sennheiser models, and second to introduce Sennheiser’s newest Momentum-series headphone: namely, the Momentum Wireless ($499).
Based on a brief listen, we think the Momentum Wireless is one of the best sounding and most effective of the wireless, active noise-cancelling headphone’s we’ve yet encountered.
Sony seems to have so many sales channels and brands-within-brands that it can at time be difficult to keep track of all the firm’s high-res digital audio and headphone offerings.
Even so, the firm’s CanJam display centred on a few key products: the slim-line NWZ-A17 64GB Walkman high-res digital music player ($299.99), the PHA-1 portable headphone amplifier/USB DAC ($599 list, $248 street), and the MDR-Z7 high-res headphones with 70mm drivers ($699).