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 .
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.
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.
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.
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