Riva Turbo X Wireless Music System

High End in Miniature

Equipment report
Music servers and computer audio
Riva Turbo X
Riva Turbo X Wireless Music System

All the drivers and electronics were designed in-house. The transducers are 60mm units with dual neodymium magnets, 25mm voice coils, and a frequency response of 60Hz–16kHz. The passive radiators have full frames, bobbins, spiders, and surrounds so that their motion remains pistonic. Many inexpensive passive radiators are simply diaphragms covering a hole. The drivers face in opposite directions (left and right active speakers, front and rear passive radiators) to cancel vibration. The enclosure is braced as well so that most of the energy generated by the transducers is launched into the room as sound rather than as enclosure vibration. Each of the three active drivers is powered by a 15W Class D amplifier from Texas Instruments.

So what caught my ear at the Newport show demo? For starters, this tiny system effortlessly filled the hotel room with full-bodied sound. There’s a cognitive disconnect when you look at the tiny Turbo X and hear truly deep and well-defined bass along with wide dynamic expression and a huge soundstage; it seems to defy the laws of physics. Not only that, but the Turbo X had a smooth and natural balance that seemingly conveyed lots of musical detail. It sounded like a quality separates system, not a $299 wireless speaker.

Exploring the Turbo X at home, I became even more enamored of this diminutive audio system. Not only does the Turbo X offer surprising bass extension and dynamics for its size, it has an extremely resolving and nuanced sound that beautifully communicates musical expression. The tonal balance is just right, with a clean and subtle treble. The top end lacks the hard sizzle (and rapid listening fatigue) of other compact portable systems. Despite its subtlety, the treble was surprisingly refined and resolved. Cymbals sounded like metal shimmering, not aerosol spray cans. The midrange was truly exceptional, with very low levels of coloration. Vocals seemed to “get out of” the Riva’s tiny enclosure, existing in space. This midrange clarity is no doubt due in part to the full-range nature of the drivers; there’s no crossover or discontinuity between disparate drivers. I listen to a lot of music on my desktop through a single full-range driver system (the amazing Audience 1+1 V2+) and I greatly appreciate the virtues of a full-range crossover-less transducer. The Turbo X has a coherence and openness in the midrange that you really have to hear to believe.

I noticed a significant difference in the bass response depending on where the Turbo X was located. When out in the open on a table, the bass was adequate. But with a wall behind it, such as on my desk, the boundary reinforcement really helps the Turbo X achieve its full bottom-end potential. Riva recommends placement near a wall or corner. On my desk, even a hard-rocking album like Jeff Beck’s Performing This Week . . Live at Ronnie Scott’s, with Vinnie Colaiuta’s cannon-like kick drum and Tal Wilkenfeld’s center-of-the-earth bass guitar, didn’t faze the Turbo X. Usually, turning up a portable speaker system results in mushy bass, clipping, enclosure vibration, and other signs of distress. Not the Turbo X—it reproduces bass and dynamics better than some small bookshelf speakers. Commendably, the bass was clean and articulate, with good pitch definition. I could hear individual notes, not just the fuzzy mush that is typical of small wireless speaker systems.

Another amazing thing about the Turbo X is that its tonal balance doesn’t change much when you are off-axis from the unit’s front. You can walk around the room and hear essentially the same balance no matter where you are. There’s a bit more treble sparkle and openness if the Turbo X is positioned near ear level, but I suspect that the system was voiced so that you don’t need to be on-axis.

The Riva Turbo X is fun to use, rewarding to listen to, and makes a great second system for audiophiles. But more importantly the Turbo X is a glimpse into the high end for the mass-market listener. It brings audiophile values to a product that fits the way in which many non-audiophiles listen to music.


Frequency response: 60Hz–16kHz
Maximum SPL: 92dB at 1m (conventional mode); 99dB at 1m (Turbo mode)
Inputs: Bluetooth, USB audio, line-in (stereo mini-jack), USB data
Audio codecs supported: SBC, AAC, aptX
Battery life: 6+ hours at maximum volume; 26+ hours at 75dB
Drivers: Three active, four passive radiators
Dimensions: 9.1" x 3.5" x 4.1"
Weight: 3.5 lbs.
Price: $299

17835 Newhope St, Studio A
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 427-0086

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