No matter how involved in high-end audio some of us might now be, odds are our passion for the hobby had modest beginnings. Somewhere along the line, most of us probably heard a component (or an entire system) that convinced us not all audio components are created equal, that some actually do sound markedly better than others, and that sound quality really does matter.
Once individuals are bitten by the sound quality bug, however, our hobby can become expensive—in some cases dauntingly so. While I believe, as do many of you, that the musical rewards ultimately outweigh the costs, I cannot help but wonder about the plight of modern music lovers just discovering high quality sound for the first time. In particular, I’m wondering where ‘audiophiles-in-the-making’ operating on tight budgets might get their start?
Granted, satisfying ‘starting points’ can be found among that rare handful of audio products that offer impressive sound quality at modest prices and perhaps for that reason many of us assume that the best path for beginners is for them to acquire good, well-sorted, entry-level hi-fi systems. But at the So Cal CanJam 2015 event, I heard a product that radically reshaped my thinking on audio ‘starting points’ – a product so convenient, so cool, so affordable, and so fundamentally enjoyable to listen to that it forced me to ask, “What if the best ‘entry-level hi-fi system’ isn’t a hi-fi system at all? What if, instead, it’s an uncommonly good Bluetooth speaker?”
The product that triggered this ‘Eureka’ moment for me was the Riva Turbo X Bluetooth loudspeaker, which sells for a sensible $349.99 in the US or about £229.50 in the UK. These prices might seem a bit steep as Bluetooth speakers go, but once you hear the Riva Turbo X, I think the price will start to make perfect sense.
I suspect some dyed-in-the-wool Hi-Fi+ audiophiles are probably rolling their eyes about now and thinking, “Has it really come to this? Has Hi-Fi+ fallen so low that it now publishes blogs about—blecchh!—Bluetooth speakers?”
Frankly, that point of view is perfectly understandable given the severe sonic limitations typical Bluetooth speakers exhibit (in fact, calling their sound ‘mediocre’ would pretty much be an act of kindness and generosity). Happily, though, the Riva Turbo X is no typical Bluetooth speaker; on the contrary, it offers up a sound sufficiently pleasing to stop even veteran audiophiles in their tracks to give the little speaker a more careful listen. Though the Turbo X is certainly no threat to full-on high-end music systems (or even well-sort entry-level audio systems), its performance is more than good enough to represent something better—way better—than the mediocre norm. In short, its performance can gently, but persuasively, open closed doors, wallets, and minds, and that’s what makes all the difference.