Review: Riva WAND Series Wireless Multiroom Audio System
Think of the Riva WAND series of whole-house audio speakers as a convenient and easy to use gateway into the world of multiroom audio.
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Riva Audio Company Info
Designed to provide a balance between high quality audio and convenience, the Riva WAND (Wireless Audio Network Design) Series is made up of two wireless speakers: the Riva Festival and Riva Arena.
The Festival is the larger of the two products. It offers more power, deeper bass, and more precise sound. The Arena is the smaller of the products, and it trades some audio quality for portability and convenience.
Features & Setup
The Festival has plenty of audio options, including Wi-Fi streaming, a USB input, DLNA, an optical input, and an aux port. The Arena provides a similar set of features, minus the optical port. Unique to the Arena, this speaker also offers a battery for the speaker, and it claims about nine hours of power.
Both speakers also come with an “Away Mode.” This mode allows the speakers to form their own network, independent of any Wi-Fi to allow homeowners to use their speakers pretty much anywhere, as long as they have audio stored on their devices.
Getting into the actual setup, after opening the box it literally takes about two minutes to setup. This is no exaggeration — both the Festival and Arena speakers will be streaming music in under two minutes. Immediately after connecting them to a power source, I turned on my Google Home app, which transferred my Wi-Fi settings to the speakers. Boom. Done.
There are some setup options that can be done once the basic configuration is finished that includes the naming and grouping of speakers.
- WAND Series includes the compact Arena speaker and the Festival full-range speaker.
- Wireless options like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay and Chromecast Built-In.
- Digital audio options such as DLNA, built-in Spotify Connect, and high-resolution audio compatibility.
- Available in a choice of black with titanium grills or white with silver grills.
MSRP for the Arena is $249.
MSRP for the Festival is $499.
MSRP for the optional Arena battery pack is $99.
Integrators can also adjust equalizer settings, speaker placement, and chain multiple speakers using the “Away Mode” to pass audio between WAND speakers and beyond the limits of a home’s Wi-Fi range.
A switch on the rear of the speaker enables the “Away Mode,” and the trickiest interface I dealt with during the setup was activating the Bluetooth mode, where I had to hold the “play” button down until the light pulsed, indicating I could now pair or connect my phone.
Performance & Conclusions
Riva is specifically targeting an audience looking for high quality audio, and you’ll be able to appreciate its efforts. The Arena, a portable speaker about the dimensions of a large reusable water bottle, projects great audio. I expected feeble lows and tinny highs, but found the speakers held up really well, even in an outdoor patio with the acoustics of a wet paper bag.
The Festival had me using FLAC files and Spotify’s “Extreme Quality” option to make the most of it, and it definitely triggered that “new toy” thrill. Expect the Festival to bring out the finer, subtle detail and instrumentation you don’t usually notice, and expect to enjoy some albums all over again.
The true strength of the WAND family is its versatility. It provides several connection options and balanced audio across quite a few settings: I personally tried them in an unfinished cement basement, a living room, a bedroom, and an outdoor patio, for example.
The audio range never seemed to skew towards or against any particular type of audio; the speakers clearly played everything I could throw at it, from audiobooks to classic rock to electronic and hip-hop. Nothing came across as lackluster or disappointing, and I only adjusted settings out of curiosity, never necessity.
Regardless of whether users are on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, they can play local files, use streaming services or play content from media servers. The Bluetooth range is pretty strong; I was able waffle between Spotify playlists from all around the house. The Wi-Fi streaming is my favorite for the Festival because it provides plenty of range; it delivers great quality, and features the exact same interface as a Chromecast. I should point out that it does in fact have Chromecast built into it.
The portability does in some sense limit the functionality of the speaker. If you opt for the battery, expect to use Bluetooth because of the convenience of carrying around a good speaker will likely extend the Wi-Fi capabilities of the speaker operating on battery power.
As a whole-house system the Festival and Arena speakers performed very well, and I was able to stream music, podcasts and audiobooks in a variety of locations. The Festival was set up in both a bedroom and living room, while the Arena was set up just about everywhere: bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, an outdoor patio, and a basement. Every song that I played sounded great, and the weakest setting for the Arena speaker was an outdoor patio, and I was still more than content to stay outside by a campfire and listen to lossless audio.
Other than running into an issue when the Arena was running on its battery, and it could not find my Wi-Fi signal, which persuaded me to use Bluetooth, it was able to find the Wi-Fi signal without any issues.
I’ll also say I didn't need to use the WAND app itself most of the time. I had some issues with the app finding speakers on my network, even while other apps like Spotify could find them. The WAND application always seemed to come back with a “No speakers found” message. The app is vital for some of the advanced functionality, and I did end up keeping the WAND app on my phone for adjusting settings, but I mostly interacted with the speakers with the apps I already use: Samsung’s music app, Google Play and Spotify. Points to Riva for allowing that communication between popular apps and the speakers.
My major impression of the system overall is how easy the WAND family was to use. In any situation I found there were always two or three different ways to play what I wanted to listen to. I was even able to connect the Festival to my television,as an improvised soundbar via the optical input. I also toted the Arena speaker and battery around as I did chores around the house, and was infinitely more convenient than my headphones or wired speakers.
The Riva products easily played audiobooks, Spotify music, locally stored MP3 and FLAC files to provide complete user versatility. Riva has done a good job of providing integrators with a turnkey choice of speakers that meet a variety of audio lifestyle aspirations.
CE Pro Verdict: Riva WAND Series
- Easy to use
- Many connection options, lots of connection options
- Good sound quality provides a lot of listening joy
- System requires users to turn on Bluetooth each time it is used
- The optional battery limits Wi-Fi range; Bluetooth was preferred option
- While Chromecast, Spotify found the Riva speakers easily, the app struggled a few times to connect
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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