When Riva Audio announced its first foray into multiroom audio, the two-speaker lineup it calls the Wand series, our interest was understandably piqued. The young company’s excellent Turbo X was our favorite portable speaker of 2016, impressing with a beautiful sound signature in a small and versatile package. As such, taking time to review both the larger Riva Festival and smaller Arena speakers was a no brainer.
After spending a few weeks getting to know the Festival at home and in our audio testing room, we can happily say that the same versatility we loved in the Turbo X and the new Arena speaker shines through in the company’s largest model. The Festival’s massive soundstage will fill even the biggest rooms with beautiful stereophonic audio, and it offers an outright dizzying array of input options while remaining simple and easy to use. Those features, plus Bluetooth connectivity and the option to link up with other Wand series speakers, with or without Wi-Fi, help Riva give market leader Sonos a run for its money.
Out of the Box
Due to the Festival’s all-in-one design, there’s not much to the unboxing experience. Inside the minimalist packaging you’ll find three basic ingredients: The device, a power cable, and an instruction manual for setup and operation. The speaker rises from the box sheathed in cloth to prevent scratches, and pulling away the wrapping reveals a shoebox-sized rectangle of sound.
Features and Design
The Festival’s large, rounded exterior is surrounded by a stout metal grille. Our review unit is a glossy piano black, but it also comes in white to match your decor. The overall design of the speaker is a bit utilitarian, but the sleek gloss finish and minimalist design make the Festival seem appropriately placed in even the poshest living rooms.
The top of the Festival houses four buttons for volume control and song skip, arranged in a rectangle around a central play/pause button with an LED ring around it. Large labels make it easy to discern the function of each button. Bluetooth pairing is done by holding the skip-back button for three seconds, while holding skip forward for three seconds changes the input. The LED ring around the play/pause button changes colors to indicate source, a welcome feature indicating the speaker’s intuitive design.
On the speaker’s base are two threaded mounting screws for use with the optional Festival stand, a stainless steel and glass pedestal that runs a pricey $200 — we’d stick to your counter or entertainment stand instead.
Around the back, you’ll find an optical audio port for connecting to a home theater system, a USB port for charging mobile devices or connecting a storage drive for high-resolution audio playback, a 3.5 mm audio input, and a switch to initiate Away Mode. Away mode allows you to connect two or more Wand speakers together without a home Wi-Fi network to create an impromptu multiroom setup on the go.
The Festival’s sleek gloss finish and minimalist design make it look at home in even the poshest living spaces.
That’s a good indication of what allows the Festival (and its Arena sibling) to standout from competitors like the equally priced Sonos Play:5, namely a plethora of wireless playback options from an impressive array of audio sources. For Wi-Fi streaming, the Wand speakers support Google’s Chromecast and Apple’s AirPlay, as well as Spotify Connect and DNLA. Adding in Bluetooth, 3.5 mm, and optical audio inputs makes the Festival among the most versatile all-in-one multiroom speakers we’ve tested. The Wand series speakers play nicely with just about any interface — from Windows 10 and Android to OSX and iOS – almost instantly.
Under the hood, the Festival features a wood enclosure that houses seven custom-built ADX drivers and four passive radiators positioned in the front, left, and right positions. It uses Riva’s Trillium Audio digital signal processing (DSP) technology in concert with a patented six-channel amplifier pushing 200 watts to combine for a wide and powerful soundstage which easily fills all but the biggest rooms.
Setting up the Riva Festival for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is simple and intuitive. Once the speaker is turned on for the first time, it will automatically go into setup mode. Regardless of whether you’re using iOS or Android, the Riva Wand app will guide you through an easy process to connect to your home network, after which the speaker is ready to stream via AirPlay, Spotify Connect, or Google Home.
Once all your speakers are linked it’s easy to group them or stream audio to each individually over Chromecast or Airplay. We particularly liked the ease of Spotify Connect from our Moto X Pure Edition phone, allowing us to choose where to direct audio without ever leaving the Spotify app.
We tested the Riva Festival both in our A/V testing room and at home over the course of several weeks. At home, the Festival was placed on a TV console in the living room, with a smaller Riva Arena placed about 30 feet away in the kitchen. We listened to both speakers together and separately throughout the testing period, just like you probably will at home.
We rarely encounter wireless devices as pleasant to use as the Festival speaker.
We rarely encounter devices as pleasant to use as the Riva Wand series speakers. Anyone connected to our home and office Wi-Fi networks could almost instantly play whatever audio they wanted wherever they wanted, regardless of whether they had an iOS or Android device. In fact, the five roommates in our large Portland, OR household found themselves listening to music a lot more often in general because it was so easy to just reach for their phones and rock out, which definitely elevated the fun factor in common areas during our review period.
Pairing the speakers in Away Mode is also quick and painless via the included instructions, and makes it easy to take multiple Wand series speakers anywhere for a multi-speaker experience with or without Wi-Fi. Sure, Away Mode isn’t a feature that many will use often with a speaker this large, but it is nice to have the option for the occasional outdoor party or camping trip, and it’s something most competitors just don’t offer.
The overall fidelity projected by the Festival’s seven drivers is impressive, easily moving sound into all corners of even the largest spaces.
Both the Festival and its Arena counterpart lean toward the heavy side when it comes to bass, which is the opposite of the sound profile we typically experience in all-in-one speaker systems. That said, sound is never too boomy. The accented lower-mid range on Kaytranada’s Glowed Up, for instance, sounds like it’s being played on a much larger system. Fans of electronic music like DJ Rashad’s Don’t Drop It will love that the Festival offers enough potential volume to sustain a full-on dance party.
The overall fidelity and power is impressive, easily moving sound to all corners of the room.
More balanced songs like jazz recordings sound crisp and clear. The cymbal and snare drum brush work on classic albums like Ahmad Jamal’s Live at the Pershing (But Not For Me) is reproduced with more than enough shimmer above the warmer upright bass and piano tones.
We particularly love the sound of live rock recordings on the Festival, as opposed to our preference for jazz on the smaller Arena speaker. The Who’s Baba O’Riley from 2015’s Live in Hyde Park sounds alive and energetic, the perfect complement to the Festival’s wide soundstage.
When compared to Sonos’ flagship multiroom speakers like the Play:1 and Play:5, the audio performance of both Wand series speakers is noticeably warmer, while offering broader stereo imaging. When playing the Festival side-by-side with the Sonos Play:5, the Festival offered a significantly wider audio image due to its side-facing drivers, along with a boosted lower-midrange. Which audio experience you prefer may depend on how you plan on spending your listening time. When sitting directly in from of each speaker we prefer the crisper upper register and tighter bass of the Sonos, but the much wider stereo imaging of the Festival is vastly preferable when moving around the house.
Every Riva product features the same two year limited warranty that guards against manufacturer defects.Our Take
The Riva Festival is an excellent full-sized multiroom speaker that will fill even the largest spaces with high quality audio. The speaker’s intuitive design and wide array of playback options makes it easy to listen to almost anything.
Is there a better alternative?
As you may have surmised, the Festival’s biggest is the equally priced Sonos Play:5, which offers a tighter overall sound profile, but doesn’t have the same room-filling stereo image or connectivity options. Though the Sonos doesn’t offer Bluetooth streaming, it is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa devices (though you can’t access Alexa directly as with the Sonos One) and can even be used as part of a surround speaker system with Sonos’ PlayBar or PlayBase speakers, and the Sonos Sub subwoofer.
Other high-end multiroom speakers worth considering include slightly more expensive options like the Bose Wave SoundTouch and the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin, both of which compete in terms of audio quality and offer flashier designs if that’s your thing.
How long will it last?
The overall build quality of the Riva Arena is very high, and the many input options means it should integrate easily into a larger multiroom system to use for years to come.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking to buy a large multiroom speaker that offers great sound and excellent ease of use, the Riva Festival easily ranks among the best options on the market.