Volumio Rivo Network Audio Streamer Page 2

The underlying plugin architecture is powerful, allowing you to add more services (Bandcamp, YouTube, etc) and DSP functions. While testing was underway, Volumio also announced a search function using ChatGPT AI – there's truly no escape! – and a more advanced discovery function. This reached us too late to comment upon, but did reinforce the impression that Volumio retains the drive of a start-up, adding and updating software more rapidly than traditional hi-fi marques.

sqnote Jump For Joy
In a hi-fi system, there's little that the Rivo actually has to 'do', but what it does it does seamlessly, making it easy to jump from an album on a streaming service to a hi-res PCM track on your NAS. Any audible differences to be detected when swapping sources can often be traced back to the material, and this transport handles your own files and Internet streams equally well. PCM upsampling is offered, and can be tweaked to your liking, although I decided this wasn't worth the fuss.

'Nasal sounding' might not be a description that invites further listening, but in the case of vocalist Anohni of Antony and the Johnsons it forms part of the seductive charm of the band's landmark album The Crying Light [Rough Trade RTRADCD443; 44.1kHz/16-bit ALAC]. Driving the EISA Award-winning Musical Fidelity M6x DAC [HFN Jul '22], connected via XLRs to Hegel's Röst amp [HFN Jul '17] and a pair of KEF R7 Meta floorstanders, the Rivo resolved a pleasing amount of rich detail and tonal nuance across this ten-track set.

The sense is that digital streams are being delivered without embellishment. The DAC stage of the M6x is one for revealing microdetail 'hidden' in tracks, as long as it is fed a suitably high-quality stream – as was the case with the Rivo.

Eye Opening
This was noticeable on the subdued 'One Dove', which ends on a mélange of strange sound effects and a pan flute, but also on the album's title track. Here it was not only the quality of Anohni's eye-opening tremolo that impressed, but also the slight gasp thrown in from time to time, which the Rivo ensured came to the front.


Digital only – the Rivo offers wired/wireless network control/streaming inputs, including BT, with a microSD slot and USB 2.0/3.0 ports for external drives. DSD256/768kHz output is offered on USB-A, and 192kHz on coaxial and AES (XLR)

As the booklet of Sony Classical's New Mozart [Sony 19439921502; Qobuz 96kHz/24-bit] explains, it's not clear if the violin concertos performed here by Salzburg's Mozarteum Orchestra are from the hand of the great composer. This doesn't stop the Rivo from delivering an engaging listen, however, with an organic-sounding violin played by Mirijam Contzen lifted above a dense orchestral background during the long introduction on K.268: I. Allegro Moderato. As a foundation stone for the rest of the system, Volumio's streamer has an important role to play, which it does as transparently as the best £1000 network bridges.

Superior Choice
The Rivo's broad connectivity is a major strength, allowing you to fit it into all kinds of systems. That said, switching outputs from AES/EBU to coaxial to USB into the M6x DAC, and playing the grand Serenade 10 K.361 – recorded for the first time on this album – showed the USB connection to be the superior choice. We're not talking night and day differences here, but there was a smoothness and greater definition to be heard during careful listening via the USB link. When combining the Rivo with an older integrated amplifier, or a set of active speakers, you might not have the opportunity to connect the device up in this way. But if you are able to – and contrary to many other streamer solutions – USB is the way to go.

During discussions with editor PM, he indicated that the bundled wall-wart PSU could be bettered. This was confirmed when I swapped it for Ferrum Audio's Hypsos [HFN Mar '21], which is a very clean, regulated DC power source. Still using my Musical Fidelity M6x DAC/Hegel Röst/KEF R7 Meta system, a touch of clarity was added, and the feeling of three-dimensionality increased. Considering the Rivo isn't an expensive piece of hardware, perhaps it can be forgiven for not coming with a costly power solution. Luckily, adding an improved 5V PSU afterwards isn't too challenging.

Just before going to press, PJ Harvey released I Inside The Old Year Dying, which paints a gothic picture of her home county of Dorset. Her earlier Let England Shake [Island Records 2763025] takes you further afield though, as this is an album that commemorates World War I and the battle of Gallipoli in particular. What's more, it strays from well-trodden indie/rock paths to incorporate some very intriguing instrumentation. From the mute horn in 'Last Living Rose' to the delay pedal guitar on 'The Glorious Land', the Rivo ensured that all the little musical embellishments were conveyed to the DAC at hand.

Many of the arrangements on this album could be called sparse, but there's still a lot going on in the background that's easy to miss. The Volumio streamer didn't let that happen, though: the watery sound of the autoharp, seemingly a favourite of Harvey this time around, was highlighted without any artificiality on 'The Words That Maketh Murder'. And all this without taking attention away from the main vocal line or the counterpoint male backing vocals, making for a deeply compelling performance.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Volumio's Rivo offers a lot for the price demanded. As a digital transport it's impressively well-connected and adaptable, and the Volumio software driving the unit has options you probably didn't even realise you needed – including some (such as YouTube support and DSP functionality) that more upscale streamers lack. There's more to this elegant and deceptively simple-looking device than meets the eye…

Volumio Srl
Firenze, Italy
Supplied by: Volumio Srl