Back in the days when Woodstock was making headlines here in the United States, an even bigger rock festival was taking place on the Isle of Wight in England. That festival in 1970 may have been the largest rock festival in history, with 600,000 people. It was organized by Rikki Farr, a concert promoter, and manager who befriended John Lennon in the early days, as well as Led Zeppelin, The Who and many others. Farr went on to become a force in the audio industry, creating music systems for touring bands. Most recently he founded Riva audio, with the aim of bringing the concert experience to the living room.
The result is the Riva Wand system with two products, the Riva Wand Festival and the smaller Riva Wand Arena. We’ve been looking and listening to both, but we’ll focus on the Festival for the moment. Perhaps the most notable feature of the Festival is that it uses a single speaker to create a larger than life stereo image. Riva’s Trillium technology uses three channels of audio to create a more than room-filling stereo experience. I mean that literally. I originally set the Festival up in my dining room, where it almost blew out the walls. I moved it into the living room where it was much more at home. There’s a lot of technology and a lot of speakers built into this tabletop enclosure. The best way to get a sense as to the technology inside is with this exploded component view:
The enclosure contains three woofers, three tweeters, and 4 passive radiators. The 200-watt amplifier creates a thumping 106dB of output without dynamic range compression, while the bass plays down to 38Hz for immersive sound. The Festival supports most hi-resolution music formats up to 24-bit/92kHz, with MP3, ALAC, APE, FLAC, FLAC HD, HLS, WAV, and WMA codec support. Of course, it supports Bluetooth, but it also has Wi-Fi, AirPlay, DLNA, and Google Cast support as well as more specialized connectivity options like Spotify Connect. And yes, it’s worth mentioning once again that Riva’s Trillium three-channel audio technology creates stereo that sounds much bigger than the speaker’s physical size.
Riva makes a Wand app for the system that’s available for both iOS and Android. The app allows you to personalize your listening experience by controlling playback directly from your mobile devices. It provides custom equalization settings. And the app is about to get an upgrade to allow more control over auxiliary inputs such as the USB port, 3.55mm port, and the optical input.
While the sound is astounding, the setup was a bit complicated. As with most of the devices we’ve tried that create their own Wi-Fi networks, there are several steps involved, so pay close attention to the instructions. It’s not an intuitive process. If you’ve been spoiled by quick Bluetooth pairing (which the Festival does as well), you’ll need to spend a little more time getting the most out of the Festival. In addition to the Wand app, you will need to download the Google Home app which will then allow you to use Chromecast with many streaming services.
The top panel has easy to use controls. There are the usual buttons to start, stop, and advance tracks. You can also use the buttons for toggling through the various connections including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, Optical Input, and 3.5mm, the toggle button changes color to show you which connection you’re using.
While the Festival delivers great sound, you can make the experience even better by making a true stereo pair by adding a second unit. And, as you’d expect, you can connect multiple Festivals for a multi-room experience.
For a wireless speaker system, the sound quality of the Festival is astounding. Big, deep bass, and good reproduction and sound separation in the upper ranges. Given the constraints of size and budget, we’d say the Riva Festival comes very close to reaching Rikki Farr’s goal of a lifeline concert experience.
Price for the Riva Festival is $499, and it’s available in black or white.
Here’s Riva’s video describing the Wand line