Riva Turbo X review

So loud that it goes up to 11

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Our Verdict

The Riva Turbo X lives up to its hype: it's super-loud, and lasts for absolutely ages on a single charge. It's far from cheap though, so if you're after for value for money you may want to look elsewhere.

For

  • Loud
  • Tight, deep hi-fi sound
  • Battery lasts for ages
  • Handy app

Against

  • Expensive
  • Quite heavy for a portable speaker
  • Carry case costs extra
  • Pointless phono mode

The Turbo X, the latest offering from Californian company Riva, is a mega-loud Bluetooth speaker that, its makers claim, is capable of banging out tunes at a whopping 100db and can run at slightly lower volumes for an epic 26 hours before it needs charging up.

Just so we're clear: 100db is very, very loud. And 26 hours is a pretty long time. But can the Turbo X deliver on these claims, or are they just marketing hype?

Design

The first thing you notice about the Turbo X on taking it out of the box is that it's fairly heavy for its size. That can be a good sign – quality audio components tend to have weight – although it might put you off if you're thinking of taking it on a hiking holiday.

The speaker features a metal grille wrapped around a glossy plastic body, with seven capacitive touch buttons on the top. These glow blue, and dim after a while, but thanks to a proximity sensor they light up again as you reach for the unit.

Riva Audio Turbo X review

The back panel has an on/off button, DC-in, a 3.5mm mini-jack aux input, and both micro and standard USB sockets. The panel has a rubber cover which is kept on the bottom of the unit, for making it splash-proof if you're using the Turbo X outside by the pool, or in the rain.

Under the hood are three 60mm full-range powered drive units – one on each side and one on the front, and four passive radiators – two on the back and two on the front. These handle the low end, and aren't actually powered by amplifiers, but are moved by the air displaced by the drivers that are.

This requires some skilled cabinet tuning, but done right it can make tiny drivers sound much bigger than they are, and play way lower than they would on their own.

Performance

Switch Turbo X on, using the push button on the back, and the unit goes straight into pairing mode. It tells you this – "Turbo is in pairing mode" – in a rather posh-sounding lady's voice. She informs you again that "Turbo is paired". All quick and easy.

The Turbo X is LOUD. In fact, most likely in homage to the comedy classic This is Spinal Tap, it actually goes up to 11. Not just 10, like most bluetooth speakers, but 11, for if you need that extra push over the cliff.

To get to 11, you need to engage Turbo mode. No posh woman here, oh no; to let you know that the Turbo X is in Turbo mode it plays the sound of a revving engine. Seriously. This is amusing once, then it's just annoying. Fortunately you can disable this, and the posh woman, and the Turbo X will just beep to let you know what it's doing instead.

Riva Audio Turbo X review

What Turbo mode actually does is compress the bass slightly, so that it doesn't distort as it gets loud. Lots of Bluetooth speakers do this to protect them from being damaged when they're overdriven, but it often means that the bass just drops away, giving a harsh, tinny sound with loads of mid and treble and no low end.

The Turbo X doesn't suffer from this problem, managing to hold its sound without distorting, and without losing its depth and thump. It's one of the only Bluetooth speakers I've heard that still sounds good turned up as loud as it can go.

The Turbo X has a tight, balanced, hi-fi quality sound. The bass is deep and solid, but not boomy or overpowering. Placed near a wall or in a corner as Riva recommend, it's more than capable of filling a room with sound. Sat on my own in a small room I had the speaker at just 3 of its 11 possible volume settings, and it was loud enough that I had to turn it down when someone came in to speak to me.

Riva Audio Turbo X review

As well as Turbo mode, there's a Surround setting. Using patented 'Trillium' technology, the Turbo X 'enlarges audio images giving multi-dimensional surround sound'. This is meant for use when watching films and playing games, and is barely noticeable when playing music. It gives a slight sparkle to the highs, and does give a slightly wider image when watching films. I wouldn't exactly call it surround sound though.

Like most devices these days, the Riva Turbo X comes with an app. 'Groundcontrol' is a simple affair, and it actually works really well, and comes in really handy. It doesn't try and rope you into using it to play all your music, like a lot of similar apps do.

It gives you a software version of all the hardware buttons on the unit itself, and enables you to change the name of the device and choose if the Turbo X talks to you or beeps at you. It also tells you what level your battery is at.

You can switch Turbo off from the app as well, although you can't turn it back on again. Basic, but useful, and – oddly – the Android version is way more stable than the iOS version, which often couldn't tell that the speaker was actually connected and already playing music.

Battery

So in terms of sound quality, and particularly volume, the Turbo X does indeed do what it says on the tin. But what about the battery? I gave it a full charge and set about draining it.

I got well over 20 hours out of the Turbo X before it needed recharging. Not quite the 26 hours claimed, but for a fair bit of the time I had it cranked to 11, and I also used it to charge my phone, twice. I was also able to power a Pioneer DJ controller I use with my iPad from it, making it ideal for mini rave use. It won't charge or power stuff once it's down to 29% or less though.

Despite lasting almost an entire day before it runs out of power, the Turbo X takes just three hours to go from flat to fully charged.

Riva Audio Turbo X review

The Turbo X has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve. It works as a speakerphone, with noise- and echo-cancellation technology. This works okay – the person I was talking to sounded great through the speaker, but I had to sit very close to it, or they would struggle to understand what I was saying.

The speaker also has a phono mode, so you can run a record player straight into it and listen to vinyl. Clever, but pretty pointless: it has no earth, so you still need a pre-amp to deal with the ground loop hum, and most of those convert the phono signal into a line level signal anyway.

In fact, most people who take turntables out and about with them tend to take two, and a mixer – and if you're going to all that trouble you may as well take a decent set of PA speakers as well. I love my vinyl, but I just can't imagine a situation where I'd want or need to listen to it on a speaker like the Turbo X.