Review: Riva Turbo X

With all the talk of latest-gen graphics cards and 4K monitors these days, you get the distinct sense that audio equipment gets short-shrift in gaming circles. Most of us will typically use a sound system already connected to the television setup, or, for us PC gamers, a packaged set of desktop speakers and woofer, and call that good. If you can plug in a nice set of headphones, so much the better.

But given that games increasingly support Dolby surround, and in many cases use audio to spectacular effect (see Alien: Isolation, for example), it’s worth looking into the world of audiophilia to round out your gaming setup. The RIVA Turbo X is a heavy-duty Bluetooth-enabled speaker that offers tons of surround sound output and easy portability.

It’s also a sharp-looking device. At 9.1” x 3.5” x 4.1,” it’s a solid 3.5 pounds, with a glossy finish on the top control surface, which features recessed, capacitive buttons for power, surround, Bluetooth, mute, volume, and a “turbo mode.” Rubber strips on the bottom of the case keep it planted firmly where you leave it, and a perforated grille surrounds the unit on its sides.

Inside things get more interesting: the unit houses three ADX 60 mm full-range drivers, and four ADX custom dual-piston bass radiators, drawing 45 watts of RMS power. Put together, this creates an impressive range and a decent amount of punch, particularly once you enable the Turbo mode’s “more aggressive” EQ. In a nod to This is Spinal Tap, Turbo mode lets you turn the volume up to – you guessed it – 11.

Bluetooth setup is a breeze: once I’d placed the device in pairing mode, my Android phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 4) found it immediately. There’s a Turbo X “Ground Control” app you can download, which gives you control over the on-board volume, turbo, surround, and mute controls over Wi-Fi. The app also lets you monitor battery life on the device. The Bluetooth connectivity extends to an onboard microphone as well, meaning you can use the Turbo X as a speakerphone.  

There’s also a powerful battery in the unit, which the manufacturers claim will run for 26+ hours at 75 dB, although you’ll obviously get varying results listening at different volume levels.

As a wireless Bluetooth speaker, it’s hard to beat the Turbo X: Clarity is excellent, and surround works surprisingly well for a single-case unit. Unlike many Bluetooth speakers, Turbo X’s audio reproduction is distinct and delicate, creating the illusion of layers of instrumentation in a single room. Running Spotify playlists through your phone to the Turbo X is perfect for parties, and the long battery (and handy padded carrying case) mean you can take it to tailgates or short camping excursions.

But it’s much harder to recommend as a piece of gaming kit. For most players, the Bluetooth connectivity won’t be an important feature, and nor will the portability. Whether you play on PC or console, chances are your gaming system is set up semi-permanently in a specific place, close to your TV and monitors. It’s less important that a sound system is portable and Bluetooth-enabled than that it’s powerful and set up correctly for your gaming space. 

And you can accomplish that for quite a bit less than the Turbo X’s rather high asking price: It lists for $349.99, but even with sale prices as low as $299.99, that’s about equal to a whole PlayStation 4 right now.

Riva’s Turbo X is undoubtedly a handsome and powerful device, and one that’s terrific as a sound system to DJ from your phone with, but it’ll be a mostly awkward fit in gaming setups. In my few weeks with the product, I struggled to find situations where it made sense to replace my existing desktop speakers with the Turbo X. That coupled with the high sticker price, and our recommendation is to look elsewhere if you have an eye toward upgrading your game audio system.

This product was loaned to the author by the manufacturer for the purpose of this review.