Reviewer:
Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Questyle QP1R, Soundaware Esther Pro & D100 Pro
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage 2
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE UP NC500MB; Linnenberg Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: €11'500


Riviera Audio Labs
had formally introduced themselves before this year's Munich HighEnd show. Unfortunately I skipped their exhibit by sheer oversight. When Massimo Costa of Albedo Audio, designer of our Italian Aptica speakers, subsequently suggested that I might really enjoy his countrymen's electronics, I took it as more than coincidence and said so. A day later Silvio Delfino checked in again. Synchronicity. "First off, thanks for publishing our invitation for the recent Munich show and mentioning our products in your report. It was a pity that we missed the opportunity to explain more about our Riviera concept to you. I underline concept because I truly believe that our approach is unique. We deeply studied all available literature on the listening experience and related technical measurements (Kellog, Shorter, Crowhearst, Cabot, Olson, Goldstain, Clark and Cheever just to mention a few), then went on to study all the physical and psychoacoustic phenomena of human perception.


"This gave us an idea how an audio amplifier should work. Now we implemented different technologies to get as close as we could to this amplifier that would be optimized for how humans actually listen to music, not test gear. Certainly this is a very short simplified synopsis but it does hint at our overall approach. If you would like to listen to our product, I could easily visit you in Ireland and perhaps bring the headphone integrated amp that can also drive speakers thanks to its 10wpc class A output?"


Unlike conspiracy theorists, I viewed Silvio's offer as a sign of professional seriousness just as I had with Ivo Sparidaens and Paul Rassin of Æquo Audio the year prior. When there's a lot more to a product than meets the eye—and particularly for a first review— covering all ground in person can be a lot more effective than email. Plus, the manufacturer gets to vet a reviewer's suitability of room, ancillaries, exposure and tech savvy. True dialogue is a two-way street. As prior chief editor for Italy's Suono and Fedeltà Del Suono publications for eleven years, Silvio knew all about that. "By mid July, we'll have our second production run of AIC-10 with new remote volume. This wasn't necessary as a pure headphone amp but it turns out that almost all our clients use it as a high-quality low-power integrated amp." With that, a visit and review in early fall were booked. I booked good weather with St. Patrick too but Ireland's west coast made that a far less sure thing. About Riviera's concept, I already knew from the website that it involves zero global feedback, class A bias for all stages, triodes for voltage gain and BJT/Mosfets for current gain plus electrical values decided upon by listening. And I'd read that team Riviera consists of Luca Chimenti, designer and engineer [below], Marco Muzio for industrial/mechanical design, then Silvio in charge of sales and marketing.


From Luca's CV, one learns of his interests in motorcycle maintenance, horology and Iyengar yoga (he's a certified teacher). Having studied electronic engineering at Milan's Politecnico, he's been active in audio design since the early 90s when he worked with Bartolomeo Aloia on various solid-state and valve circuits including an automated servo-controlled bias system for transistor amps. He authored an innovative Mosfet amp for Galactron's Line 2000 and ran their entire 1200 series production. He contributed to SAP's Anniversary and Dolcevita valve amps and launched the Kiom brand to work on absolute reference gear before teaming up with Riviera. Like Silvio who worked at Galactron and Aloia, he too was involved with Italian hifi magazines. Meanwhile Marco Muzio operates Bermuda Design, an engineering/design firm with reach into the automotive, marine, motorcycle and industrial sectors. Lastly, Silvio's hifi jobs include his own San Diego distributorship for sonus Faber, Cabre and Chario during the early 80s and—since his journalistic career—consultancies for MPI Electronic, Aliante, GT Trading and Audio Techne. He also contributed to the final voicing of the Klipsch Heritage and was involved in the development of their Palladium line. Clearly team Riviera pack many enviable man decades not just years in all relevant aspects of the hifi industry. They enter our choppy seas as seasoned professionals, not sea-sick novices. An Italian dream team perhaps?
To be continued...

Riviera Audio Labs website