Riva S Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

Following the success of their portable Bluetooth speaker, the Turbo X, Riva has decided to go even more compact with their latest introduction, the S. Smaller, lighter, and complete with a ballistic nylon carrying case, the S is just as attractive as the X; made for on the go. But Riva’s S has more up it’s sleeve than just being the Turbo X’s little brother.

Before we talk about the neat tricks the S can do, let’s cut to the chase: yes, the S sounds really good, especially for the size. The highs are clear without sibilance, and the mids are rich and mellow. People who like really intense high frequencies might feel the upper range is somewhat recessed, but for those like me who abhor sizzling snares, the S is refreshingly smooth. As is to be expected in a small speaker, the lows are definitely lacking below ~55-60Hz. Despite this, there is enough low end to support most music for casual listening, and frankly, the S’s low frequencies surpass the quality of most portable speakers of these dimensions.

What makes this sound quality possible is three active drivers and four passive radiators powered by a 30 Watt, three-channel amplifier. The amplifier’s modes include a “phono” mode which adds 9dB of gain to help boost the signal should you choose to connect to a turntable, as well as a “conferencing mode” which enhances the vocal range when taking a phone call via the S’s speakerphone. Riva claims the S makes calls clearer via dual microphones paired with noise and echo cancelling technology. While recipients of my calls through the S said I still sounded like I was on a speakerphone, I’ve heard some terrible messes on other products in this category, so I’ll accept audible and functional as a positive.

In addition to the amplifier modes, the S shares a few more of the Turbo X’s features: IPX 4 splash resistance, silicone feet (one which is removable and doubles as a protective input cover), as well as motion-sensitive back-lit controls. The S also utilizes Riva’s Trillium Surround mode, which is designed to create a larger-feeling soundscape. I found that due to the S’s diminutive size, the “surround” expansion effect was moderate at best, and really only perceptible directly in front of the speaker. Even two feet to either side of center, and I truly couldn’t tell the difference between surround mode toggled on or off. However, for solo listening, it’s a fun feature, and does make music sound a little bit more spacious.

When it comes to power, the S has a claimed 13 hours of use on a full charge, and (in good news for jet setters) is packaged with international power plugs, so you can charge up the lithium ion battery wherever in the world you happen to be. Speaking of charging, the S also boasts a  USB power-out port; so in a pinch on the road, you can use the S to charge the battery on your music device. Obviously, doing so will impact the S’s use time, so this may be a feature you’ll only want to access sparingly.

But if you really want to experience where the S differs from the Turbo X, you’re going to need to purchase two. The S are able to pair and create a wireless stereo set. Unlike some speakers that simply replicate a mono signal across two units, the S designates the first device you pair as the left channel and the second device as the right channel. When used for music, the stereo pair of S function beautifully. The only downfall comes when watching video: the Bluetooth transmission time creates a latency that makes watching video less enjoyable, especially in dialog-heavy sequences. Generally speaking, Riva’s “True Wireless” is most likely to appeal to the music enthusiast who has limited space for a sound system and hates running cords.

Riva also has a companion app for the S which is currently only available for free download on Apple products, but soon will be on Android platforms as well. The Riva app mostly acts as remote control for the S, controlling power on/off, volume, surround on/off, pairing, mute, and track play/pause/skip. While it’s not necessary for the function of the S, it is nice when you want to avoid getting up to fuss with the speaker.

Overall, the Riva S is a solidly-built portable speaker that outshines just about anything in its class. The attention to details like the motion activated control lights, IPX 4 rating, and clean-looking design make the S special in this weight class. Whether the novel pairing aspect is important enough to warrant the purchase of a matching set is a personal decision, and likely for only those in specific circumstances. But for anyone looking for an easily-transportable Bluetooth speaker that sounds fantastic, the S, like the Turbo X, is a great choice.

The Riva S is available in black, white/silver or white/gold and retails for $249 each at rivaaudio.com

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