UNBOXED: Reviewing the RIVA WAND Series Wireless Speakers
It’s not easy for a company to jump into the wireless multi-room audio space today, especially considering the ground they’d have to make up against the likes of the Sonos’s and Klipsch’s of the world—among plenty of other big-name brands. But RIVA Audio decided to accept that challenge, grab it by the horns, and put their absolute best foot forward in their attempt to disrupt the space. The result is their RIVA WAND series of multiroom speakers and accessories, which prove to be a very viable competitor in this market.
The two flagships in the RIVA WAND line are the RIVA ARENA and the RIVA FESTIVAL. If we’re talking about direct comparisons to the biggest name in this space, the ARENA is akin to the Sonos Play:1, and the FESTIVAL would be more in line with the larger Play:5.
The game changer in the RIVA WAND series, though, is the inclusion of an external battery accessory. Designed specifically for the splashproof ARENA speaker, the $99 battery attachment snaps onto the bottom of the speaker, connecting through an I/O port, to provide up to 20 hours of truly wireless audio. It’s this exact type of accessory that I—and plenty of other Sonos customers—have been screaming for. True, the Sonos speakers aren’t designed as splashproof speakers, but the idea of being able to put the cord away and place the speaker wherever you want it seems so obvious and is such a missed opportunity by Sonos. RIVA, though, gets it, and they get huge bonus points in my book for developing the batter accessory—even if it is a little pricier than I’d have hoped for.
Accessories aside, there’s plenty to be excited about with the RIVA WAND series. Starting with the audio quality, RIVA didn’t skimp on their WAND speakers. The ARENA has 50 watts of power and 6 ADX drivers packed into the tiny body—three drivers and three passive radiators—and a patented three-channel amp that work together to produce a crisp, clear audio profile. The FESTIVAL adds an additional ADX driver for a total of seven—three woofers, three tweeters, and 4 passive radiators—and doubles the amplification to six channels. The result, in both cases, is an incredible, booming sound that filled the space I tested the speakers in.
And in terms of connectivity options, RIVA really outperforms every other speaker in the multiroom category. On the back of both speakers, you’ll see a 3.5mm jack and a USB Type-A slot, neither of which are available on a Sonos speaker. And the USB slot doubles as a charging port if your phone happens to need a little extra juice. The FESTIVAL also adds an optical input. And, of course, you have your Bluetooth and WiFi connections as well. The user might not get a whole lot of use out of the traditional connectors, but the fact that they’re there makes this feel like a more complete set of audio products.
Through their app, RIVA gives the user the ability to alter the sound settings on each speaker, providing a truly personalized listening experience. They also build in a few presets, including their patented Trillium tech, which provides a “stereophonic” sound in each speaker. The presets were cool, but the most value and personalization is definitely gained by toying with the settings yourself.
On the topic of the app, the one complaint I had about the RIVA WAND system was the actual setup of the speakers. As an Apple user, I don’t (didn’t, rather) have Google Home on my phone. There was simply no need for it. But, in order to set up the RIVA WAND system as a multiroom system, the Google Home app is required, which means you’re bouncing from that app, to your settings app, and back to the RIVA WAND app just to get everything connected. It wasn’t the most fluid or stable experience.
Lastly, there’s the design of the speakers. The FESTIVAL and ARENA come in a glossy black or white, and they’re simply gorgeous. The curved edges of the product and stainless steel accents are easy on the eyes. The rubberized buttons on the top of the product leave a little to be desired from an aesthetics standpoint, but these speakers won’t stick out like a sore thumb in any environment.
In all, the RIVA Wand series is an easy-to-recommend alternative to some of the bigger names in the wireless multiroom speaker market. The price point on the ARENA ($249) is a little higher than some other options out there ($149 for the Sonos Play:1) but the FESTIVAL falls right in line with the market ($499, same as the Play:5). And the added benefit of a portable battery makes the use case for these wireless speakers that much more flexible.