Review: Riviera Levante  integrated amplifier

Review: Riviera Levante  integrated amplifier- In Class AB mode, Riviera's hybrid integrated amplifier Levante is muscular and gripping. Switched to the pure Class A range
5/5 - (1 vote)

Riviera Levante – the name alone goes down like oil. Like fine, cold-pressed olive oil, of course, because the integrated amplifier (price: 18,990 euros), which we are talking about here and whose name is borrowed from the tranquil coastal strip between Genoa and La Spezia, comes from Bella Italia . However, from Pozzuoli, further south, to be precise.

Since the company was founded in 2017, amplifier electronics of the high-end class have been manufactured in the town near Naples. If you now shrug your shoulders, that’s okay, because the amps, recognizable by their dark chassis, massive, silver front panels and shiny gold control knobs, have so far been seen rather rarely in this part of the world. But the days when amplifiers only got lost in homeopathic doses over the burner should be a thing of the past, since the “hi-fi world” in this country has been taking care of sales since last year.

The author of these lines has had several opportunities to treat himself to a good dose of the Riviera sound at the Audio Video Show in Warsaw, after all the Italians have attracted attention in recent years with well-attended screenings at the Radisson Blue Sobieski. The homely warmth that regularly prevails in the Riviera Labs room is not only due to the many visitors, but also to the amps working in Class A mode, which is as sound-enhancing as it is sweat-inducing .

You can’t tell from the amplifiers that the Italian manufacturer has actually only been on the market for a short time. The noble front, which is also available in anthracite, has a pleasantly old-school effect on me. So I was somewhat surprised to learn that Riviera Labs was founded less than five years ago by three music-loving enthusiasts. Luca Chiomenti is the electrotechnical mastermind and responsible for the circuit design. Marco Muzio takes care of the design and the mechanical construction of the devices, while Silvio Delfino, the third in the group, devotes himself to the commercial affairs of Riviera Labs.

what is there

In addition to the Levante integrated amplifier, the latest development from Pozzuoli, there are three mono power amplifiers in the Italian product range – but surprisingly (at least currently) there is no stereo power amplifier. There are at least three preamps, all pure tube designs, and two headphone amplifiers on offer. It should be noted that both headphone amps also have speaker outputs. However, the sound converters connected here should not be too power-hungry, because only 2 x 10 watts are provided.

Our test device is of a different caliber with a nominal 2 x 120 watts into 8 ohms. But it’s not just the obvious increase in performance that distinguishes the Riviera Levante from its siblings, behind its finger-thick front panel you can discover a lot.

What there is to know

The maximum output of 2 x 120 watts at 8 ohms specified in the data sheet, at 4 ohms it is 2 x 200 watts, can of course hardly be achieved with a pure Class A circuit with reasonable effort. Consequently, this value also refers to the operation of the Riviera Levante in Class AB (although the first 6 watts are also provided in pure Class A). However, if a lower output is sufficient, the Italian integrated can also be encouraged to deliver 30 Class A watts (at 8 ohms) by turning a generously dimensioned rotary toggle. This even happens during gameplay and, with the gain factor remaining the same, without changing the volume. And believe me (spoiler alert), whenever the opportunity presents itself, you’ll do it with gusto.

Doppeltrioden vom Typ ECC 81 im Riviera Levante

But the fact that two tubes , double triodes of the type ECC 81/12AT7, work in the input driver stage of the Riviera Levante should also be of some importance for the performance of the amplifier. For the actual power amplification, Riviera Labs relies on four transistors per channel. With the Levante we are dealing with a hybrid amplifier, which in my experience means that a pleasantly natural sound signature can be expected without having to forego the appropriate emphasis, especially in the bass section. By the way: An over-everything negative feedback is basically not found in any Riviera Labs amplifiers, as they are considered to be particularly damaging to the sound. And the Italians only use local feedback loops where they are absolutely essential.

The hybrid design gives the user the option of “tube rolling”, which I usually prefer to avoid with test devices for reasons of fairness and comparability. This time, however, the sales department has already equipped the Levante with noble NOS Mullards, which are regarded as a particularly harmonious and sound-promoting addition to the Levante.

equipment and processing

The Riviera offers five line inputs, a pair of which are equipped with XLR sockets. Optionally, you can also have a phono card installed in the Levante to amplify MM and MC signals . However, our test device did not have this on board. A dedicated headphone output is always included, which according to the sales department can easily compete with the majority of external headphone amplifiers.

Die Rückseite des Riviera-Vollverstärkers

There is a power button on the front right. If you put the Levante into stand-by mode, the tubes go out. The capacitors and other sound-important components are not completely “currentless”. This is to avoid a complete cold start with correspondingly restricted performance when restarting. The hard power button is on the back panel.

The Riviera Levante also cuts a bella figura from behind, looks clear and tidy. The speaker terminals pack a good deal and allow spades, bare cable ends, but also banana plugs to make secure contact. A small drawback is the not particularly stable mains socket, which feels a bit wobbly, especially when pulling off the particularly tightly fitting cold device couplings. A more solid solution would be desirable as a confidence-building measure.

Das Lautsprecherterminal des Riviera

Apart from that, the finish and workmanship of the Levante are convincing. The materials feel high-quality and solid, and there is nothing wrong with the surface finish either. At best, it could be difficult to decide on one of the two versions, titanium gray like our test device or the almost iconic version in silver and gold. In both cases, the Italian car makes a powerful impression. A solid 30 kilos of fighting weight also contribute to this, especially if you are allowed to heave it up to the top rack level by yourself.

Riviera Levante in der Version mit silberner Front und goldenen Bedienelementen

ast year I had the opportunity to test the Riviera on the Ichos No. to be able to hear Four SE . This time my Acapella La Campanella are playing partners of the Italian amp. Its decent level of efficiency (93 dB/W/m) and good-natured impedance (8 ohms) shouldn’t pose any problems for the Levante, even in Class A operation.

Riviera Levante: sound impression and comparisons

Right from the start, the Riviera Levante proves to be an equal partner in my chain and performs during the first warm-up exercises as if it had always been there and its presence was nothing really special. Nothing special? Usually, the 75 Wi tube monos from the Canadian manufacturer Tenor Audio or the Dartzeel NHB-108 stereo power amplifier are placed between the sound converters and together they represent the value of a well-equipped Golf GTI. Silvercore’s preamp L2 is not even included. In order to be able to keep up, you have to throw a real pound on the scales. So let’s zoom in acoustically on the Levante and try to unravel its secret.

The spatial impression

The DHL man has just brought Miles Davis’ legendary album Kind of Blue to the house. Not just any pressing, but MFSL’s four-sided 45-quality reissue of the memorable recording session from 1959. It sounds so fresh, as if the seven musicians involved had just left the studio this morning. Miles blows his typical tone, but this time with a more metallic, sparkling note and an apparently more extended high frequency spectrum. Paul Chamber’s bass, which always seemed a bit too reserved to me, now seems louder on “So What”, is integrated more harmoniously and is much more present than usual. Not only is the quality of the MFSL Reissue somehow better, it’s dramatically audible.

The Riviera Levante manages surprisingly well to place Messrs. Davis and Co in the recording room. Where they always seemed a little too one-dimensional lined up from left to right, now almost real 3D is the order of the day. It’s possible that MoFi helped a little with the mixing, but the talent for being able to depict the musical actors with pinpoint accuracy and sharp outlines is inherent in the Riviera.

Blick ins Innere des Riviera Levante

Johann Strauss operetta Die Fledermausmay not necessarily be your musical thing, but the Deutsche Grammophon recording from 1976 under Carlos Kleiber is excellent for assessing spatial imaging capability (LP box set, Deutsche Grammophon). For example, at the beginning of the third act, the path of the inebriated prison warden Frank can be followed meticulously from the depths, coming from the right to the front left. Not only does he sway considerably from side to side, but he keeps stepping back a few steps to keep his balance. My usual combination of Dartzeel NHB-108 (24,300 euros) and Silvercore preamp Linestage Two (7,900 euros) does not really master the precise imagery with which the Riviera conveys such details.

The depth and breadth of space presented by the Italian A-line also causes some astonishment. The stage extends very far to the rear and is also well lit on the sides. The Dartzeel power amplifier NHB-108, which operates purely with semiconductors, is not that opulent. Only when I compare the 75 Wi tube monos from Tenor Audio (around 20,000 euros) do you realize that there might be a little more to come in this respect. So far, with the possible exception of the Progressive Audio A 901, I have not come across an integrated device that would have created spatially similarly generous and sovereign sound patterns. That deserves respect.

Tonal Perspectives

If timbre purity is required and if neutrality is not equated with emotion-free coolness, then the Riviera Levante can definitely be called a neutral amplifier. Okay, hand on heart – the hybrid amplifier’s tendency towards a slight warmth cannot be denied, but it seems to me to be exactly the dose that is needed to breathe life into sound images.

Progressive Audios A 901In a test not quite four years ago, I managed to attribute tube-like properties to it in the high frequencies, even though it was fully equipped with transistors, but the Riviera goes a little more consistently in this direction. With him, the high-frequency range bubbles out of the horns of the La Campanella again more fluently and the Italian bolide is able to offer unexpected gentleness, especially when dealing with female voices. The listeners, who are gourmets in sound, will succumb to this charm offensive in particular. However, the emphatically clear determination expressed by the A 901 on the high-frequency side falls a little short with such an interpretation, which presumably only “fresh air fanatics” would seriously regret. Otherwise, the following applies: Without sounding dark in the literal sense,

Riviera Levante von oben

I also owe the insight that this smooth orientation is not in the least detrimental to the listening pleasure to the energetic help of Elina Garanca. If you want to experience the well-known mezzo-soprano from Latvia in her purest form, you don’t reach for her relevant opera recordings, but simply treat yourself to the penultimate album, a solo recital with works by Schumann and Brahms accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on the piano (CD Lieder, German Gramophone). Since only piano and voice are involved, every phrasing and breathed note counts. The Riviera proves to be a worthy partner of the Garanca, delivering the complex arrangements of the romantic songs in a very relaxed and supple manner. If lyrical songs were always presented so catchy, then there could be more of them.

midrange and bass

It will probably not come as a surprise that the midrange of the Levante can be characterized in a similar way. Who likes it a bit more fiery, more emotional and who likes the similarly priced Soulution 330 INT from Switzerland with all its advantagesappears neutral, he will love the Italian. Not that his mids “dripping with paint” came straight out of the paintbox. No, the Riviera is by no means a dull dyer, it always stays close to reality – which it conjures up just a little bit prettier here and there. One thinks one can literally smell the dark wood of the cello when Tina Guo (who otherwise likes to play the e-cello to great effect) fervently strokes the strings of her instrument and performs the sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 (Streamed at Qobuz). Formidable!

Can the bass keep up? The hybrid reaches deep and mighty, but when it comes to the dryness of the action, the Soulution integrated bikes tested by colleague Ralph Werner and the significantly more expensive CH Precision simply have more to offer. The Levante, on the other hand, offers the tonal connoisseur a musically coherent alternative that is not so uncompromisingly trimmed for control. In that respect, the Italian and my Dartzeel stereo power amp are more alike than I would have guessed: the one on La Vie Devant Soi  and Farangi-Du Baroque À L’Orient virtuos by Reynaud Garcia-FonsBoth amplifiers are able to fan out the acoustic bass played over a wide range and reproduce it with convincing authenticity. The fact that both of them don’t tighten the reins in the bass very much suits the Mediterranean-influenced music of the Frenchman with Catalan roots exceptionally well, as it brings mobility and finesse into play, while a grip that is too unrelenting could mean a point deduction here.


When changing to more lively gaits, an unexpectedly different side of the “sensitive subtlety” comes to light. On Flim & The BB’s classic Tricycle , now streaming in HiRes audio on Qobuz, the Levante displays such focused attention, capable of tremendously nimble responses, that I wouldn’t have given it credit for.

The impulses fly around your ears on TricycIe like the lightning speed of shot arrows . Something like that served as a real system shocker in the 1980s, but it still has an effect almost 40 years later. Although some particularly jagged amplifiers can meet tendencies of this kind with an even more snappy attack, but thanks to speed, massive vehemence and, last but not least, amazingly sovereign power development, the Riviera keeps the tension curve from the first to the last note at the top level.

Select Class AB mode now!

With Mahler’s seventh symphony, the integrated amplifier can once again prove itself and flex its muscles. Sure, Mahler symphonies are regularly occupied by large orchestras, this time it’s the Bavarian State Orchestra under its former chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, so the amplifier needs a tight hand. My tip: Now select the Class AB mode, because the Riviera can use the now available power increase of 90 watts (into 8 ohms) perfectly for guiding the orchestra apparatus.

Riviera Levante: Eingangs- und Betriebsartwahlschalter

It is true that a little fine resolution and plasticity are sacrificed, but in the final movement, when big drums and heavy brass sections determine the sound, that doesn’t really matter anymore. The amplifying electronics must always be able to fill up until the redeeming last, final tutti. The Riviera Levante masters this task with brilliance, the now activated additional watts let it crack properly in terms of gross dynamics. And what’s more: Even in the thickest tumult, it retains its finely resolved, elegantly smooth tone, and also takes care of the quieter percussion such as the triangle and glockenspiel almost lovingly.

Test conclusion: Riviera Levante

In Class AB mode, Riviera’s hybrid integrated amplifier Levante is muscular and gripping. Switched to the pure Class A range, it remains quite powerful, but it now also shows that certain plus in finesse and intimacy that I have only been able to find in very few amplifiers.

Riviera Levante, von oben-links

The Levante has a slightly warm timbre and has a wonderfully organic musical flow; he will probably also be able to win friends where transistors are actually frowned upon in the setup. Hard as a rock control and excessive jaggedness are not quite as high in the specification, but an aurally natural frequency response with excellent resolution. In addition, there is plasticity and room illumination, as they are usually found in pure tube camps.

The downside: Riviera’s integrated amplifier has its price. But anyone who is enthusiastic about good food and drink, fine furniture or holidays in first-class hotels knows the value of all these beautiful things – I think our ears should be worth the same luxury.

Characteristics Riviera Levante:

  • Liquid and timbre-coherent sound, which is to be located on the slightly warmer side of neutral.
  • The Levante reproduces voices, instruments and even noises with excellent naturalness and great realism.
  • Discreetly reduced treble, so not annoying even with a difficult program.
  • Superb transparency is always given, not least because of the first-class midrange. Tonally powerful, velvety textured, emotionally captivating.
  • The bass impresses with springy mobility and excellent timing. Quite deep and rather juicy than lean, the Riviera Levante offers a solid and confident base. Vise-like control isn’t his thing, he gets down to business “semi-dry”.
  • Very attentive representative of its kind in terms of fine dynamics. Never ignores even the finest signals. Roughly dynamic, unerring and sovereign, he cultivates composure and overview even in the tumult of sounds, less the mere attack.
  • Excellent space actor. An expansive, wide stage with depth illumination right into the furthest corners are typical of the Levante. The individual voices are displayed in 3D.
  • Detailed, but not unnecessarily dissecting – this is how the resolution can be described.
  • Of particular interest is the option of choosing between Class AB and pure Class A operation. Switching possible while listening.
  • The Riviera has a very high-quality headphone output.


  • Model: Riviera Levante
  • Concept: hybrid integrated amplifier
  • Price: 18,990 euros
  • Finish: titanium gray or silver
  • Dimensions and weight: 44 x 49 x 19.5 cm (WxDxH); 30kg
  • Inputs: 5 x high level (4 x cinch, 1 x XLR), optional phono module (from 02/2022)
  • Outputs: speaker terminal for a pair of speakers, 6.3 mm jack (headphones)
  • Performance: Class A: 2 x 30 watts at 8 ohms; Class AB: 2 x 120 watts at 8 ohms
  • Other: remote control; Switching between Class-A and -AB possible
  • Guarantee: 2 years