While I was at High End 2022 in Munich, I had a brief discussion with Scot Hull about dedicating a single show report to brands that are not available in the US, or available but undiscovered by American audiophiles. A year ago, I might have put Riviera Audio Labs from Italy at the top of that list. I immediately loved the chonky vibe of their Levante pure Class A integrated amplifier, and the buzz from abroad was deafening.
Riviera Audio Labs is now available in the US, thanks to Jonathan Halpern at Tone Imports, but this was the first time I’ve heard the Riviera gear. Is it any good? Before I answer that, I have to address the 800-lb disco light box in the room. What is that thing?
It’s the AudioNec “The Ultimate” Music Server, and those lights inside the box change and flicker and glow like a Christmas tree stuffed into one of those desktops the big-time gamers love so much. Is it gimmickry? Perhaps, but not when it came to the sound.
But let’s talk about the speakers before we circle back to Riviera Audio Labs. They’re from AudioNec as well, part of their relatively new EVO series. This is a modular line, which means you can start with the EVO #1, which features a wide-band driver that handles from 200-400 Hz all the way up to 20-25 kHz. From there you can add bass and sub modules all the way up to the flagship four-tower system. I listened to the EVO #3, second from the top, which still can achieve 18 Hz.
Okay, now we can talk about Riviera Audio Labs again, the reason why I had to visit the room. The system was powered by the AFM 50 monoblocks, which offer 50wpc in pure Class A with zero feedback. The APL01 tube line stage from Riviera Audio Labs, which carries over the same cool design aesthetic from the Levante, completed the system.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from the Riviera Audio Labs and AudioNec system. It took me about a minute to realize that this was a superb system, with extraordinary top-to-bottom coherence, plenty of dynamics, and bass that felt both pure and visceral. I spent a decade submerged in Italian high-end audio–AudioNec, by the way, is French–and I’ve never felt this much power and authority before. Emotional? Warm? Gorgeous midrange? Absolutely. But this was an Italian/French system that absolutely kicked my butt–in a very enjoyable way, of course.
The Riviera Labs room sneaks into my Top Five at Munich–even with the amazing roller disco karaoke machine thingy stealing the thunder from the other pieces of the system. The sound is what I’ll remember.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from HIGH END 2022, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.