by Justin Kaehler
Audio company RIVA is hoping to “rescue the world from mediocre audio” with its new TURBO X bluetooth speaker. It’s a mission statement for founder Rikki Farr, a man who is part of rock’n’roll history: a record producer who also built industry-leading concert audio systems for bands like The Who and Metallica. For him, the TURBO X is going to bring authenticity back to music, to help bring back a time when sounds were analog and clear—not compressed and overdriven.
The TURBO X system itself is compact: it’s about as big as a one-liter water bottle and has an old-school iPod appearance. It outputs 45 watts RMS, claims an impressive 26 hours of battery life (depending on volume), and can get Bluetooth signals from up to 33 feet away. Set up is a snap, taking less than a minute to sync to your iPhone 6. (A RIVA app offers additional remote control capabilities, but isn’t necessary.) On first listen, the TURBO X delivers some big sound; this system highlights surprising new sonic details that typically get buried. For EDM enthusiasts and those chasing big bass, the speaker lacks a little low-end rumble. However, inline with Farr’s mission, classic rock and funk feels warm and clear—as does music that leans heavily on acoustic guitar.
To gain more technical insight, we enlisted the help of LA-based record producer Dean Dichoso to give the RIVA TURBO X a listen. Dichoso has a ton of movie and major label credits to his name and is a self-professed geek when it comes to Bluetooth speaker systems. We start with the TURBO mode turned on to boost sound output to its 100 dB maximum and play an uncompressed, technical, modern rock track. Just seconds into the song, Dean comments that the speaker doesn’t “overhype the top end… and doesn’t crumble under low-end transients” and has good amplitude on the lower end of the spectrum too.
Dichoso notes that the unit artificially limits the sound to protect its electronics. (The TURBO X does in fact have a mastering limiter, protecting the system while giving the listener the impression that it’s hitting harder.) There is a “pillow” between 6-8 kHz, plus a few little issues in the 250-400 Hz range, which he feels muddies the sound a little. On to some extra-geeky frequency testing: the TURBO X can’t quite hit 30 Hz—that subwoofer rumble that punches you in the chest. Above that, things sound great, with the RIVA accurately hitting frequencies that many other Bluetooth speakers have trouble matching. Especially impressive was its performance at 63 Hz (bass) and 1 kHz (mid-range).
The RIVA sounds like music coming from a speaker; you’re not going to feel like you’re at a live concert. But, “One of the most impressive qualities of the RIVA is its ability to create clarity in the low end in ways you would not expect a ‘plastic box’ to do,” Dichoso says. (The tweeters also get some high marks.) While EDM isn’t perfect on the TURBO X, listening to classic tunes—especially music recorded and mastered on old analog gear—is ideal.
The TURBO X is a solid Bluetooth sound system, and it’s one that’s winning accolades across the tech and music industries. Since there’s no way to fine-tune the sound to your personal liking—and it depends on the kinds of music you plan to be blasting—it’s recommended that you try before you buy. The RIVA TURBO X retails for $350 online in black or white.
Images of white model by Justin Kaehler, images of black model courtesy of RIVA