A good Bluetooth/wireless (WiFi) speaker (RIVA Arena)

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by Wildcat, Sep 20, 2018.

  1. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier Subscriber

    I was poking around looking at Bluetooth speakers so I could take something on the trip with me that wasn't similar to what I have (a small Philips which I use on my bike). I wanted something with fuller sound. Several months ago, I caught a video of Michael Fremer's where he had received a wireless speaker called the RIVA Festival. The bass through that thing was incredible--he played a short snippet of a Bill Evans track and it had some serious bass to it, even through his phone's microphone.

    RIVA also makes a smaller version, the Arena. It is a little pricey purchased new, but I found a used one with the optional battery pack for less than half the price of a new one. The battery pack attaches to the bottom like a base, and can run up to 16 hours at moderate volume.

    What's neat is that the this is a wireless speaker that runs on WiFi. It has Chromecast Audio built in, and operates as a DLNA renderer. In addition, it also offers AptX Bluetooth (which has better sound than standard Bluetooth). The Arena can stream up to 24-bit/192kHz and, if used as a pair with another, you can switch modes so you have a discrete left/right pair. (It has a quasi-stereo mode since it has speakers on the sides in addition to the front.) It also offers an "away" mode where it creates its own wireless network, so it can be used via smartphone over WiFi. Connectivity options are plentiful here. It can use RIVA's WAND app to play back music, but the app is required to change a couple of the speaker's settings. So far I have used it as a DLNA renderer using JRiver, streamed from the phone (using Pandora, Tidal or BubbleUPnP), and used Google Home to control volume and pause or stop the music.

    So far it is sounding pretty good. It has a nice full range, and I can live with it as a portable. Power is claimed to be 50 watts--it can push out a nice full sound, but I have no way of verifying if it is that powerful. (I guess with class D amps, anything is possible.) Depending on placement, I can detect bass as low as the mid 40Hz range. (If I can't hear it, such as when it is out on the patio table, I can certainly feel it in the cabinet.) It definitely fulfills the tasks I intend to use it for, and at the used price I paid, is equal to or less than more expensive, smaller speakers that sound plasticky and constricted.

    One thing I've had to do is set it up a couple of times on the network, but luckily that only takes a minute or so in the Google Home app. I've also had a couple of times when I've had dropouts. It's not my WiFi--I get a strong signal for a Chromecast Audio all the way out in the detached garage which plays for hours without a hiccup. But once I move it elsewhere, it works fine. I had it playing 24/192 yesterday evening for almost two hours (network activity was about 10mbps, going to the speaker) and it played without a hitch. Other than that, it has proven to be reliable for the week or so I've had it.

    Here it is next to a CD case for scale. The optional battery is attached to the bottom here.



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