150-Year-Old Wood Used to Build Riverwood Acoustics' Sound System of Tomorrow

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Canadian birch hauled out of Canada's Ottawa River adds resonance and tone.

A hundred and fifty years ago, half the men in Ontario and Quebec would leave their farms for the winter to go work in logging, dragging trees over the snow and ice to the rivers that flowed into the mighty Ottawa River, where they would float down to the St. Lawrence River and be shipped off to England.

Logging in the Ottawa river

via Riverwood Acoustics/Public DomainMany logs didn't make it; they were so dense that they sank to the bottom of the river. According to Riverwood acoustics,

This "riverwood" once grew hundreds of years ago under ideal conditions–thanks to lower light, cooler temperatures, and optimal soil conditions of the era. This resulted in a wood that is denser and tighter-grained than wood you find today.

I was intrigued by the idea of their Hudson speaker; since I renovated and downsized I no longer have a decent stereo system and have been looking at small units to connect to my phone. I have rafted and canoed on the Ottawa, and I am certainly a sap for anything made of wood.

Riverwood Acoustics

Riverwood Acoustic Hudson on my mantle/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Here on my fireplace mantle, the Riverwood Acoustics Hudson is a thing of beauty. It comes in two finishes; I chose the natural birch.

rear of unit

Rear of unit/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Technically, it is a 50 Watt amplifier that connects via bluetooth 4.2 flawlessly and instantly. There are also RCA inputs on the back to hardwire a connection to source. When I first connected I was a bit underwhelmed with the crispness of the sound, but Ben Seaman of Riverwood Acoustics advised that I should check the settings in the equalizer of my phone, and sure enough, when I switched to flat equalization it sounded far better.

User review

Riverwood Acoustics/Screen capture

I am not an audiophile and have lousy hearing, but the reviews from better qualified listeners say, "First and most important is the quality of the sound... beautiful. Warm and bright, clear and precise, the sound this speaker makes is terrific especially given its small size."

Others call it "something you’ll pass down to your kids one day." I asked Ben specifically about this, given how often things like Bluetooth change. He noted that it does have the RCA inputs, but more importantly, every Bluetooth upgrade to date has been backwards compatible, and they've designed the electronics to be upgradeable.

Ever since the Marantz died and I sold the Tannoy speakers when we downsized, I have been looking for something to fill the void. I love the idea of the wood, really believing that it makes a difference; as Riverwood notes,

Ask any musician and they'll tell you: wood is simply unmatched when compared to other materials in terms of acoustics. Wood matters. Density imparts tone. The Hudson is heavy (at 9.5 pounds). We've painstakingly engineered The Hudson to take full advantage of the tonal quality of this riverwood and have achieved a state of awesome we can confidently claim is unrivaled.

It is also an object of beauty. Check it out at Riverwood Acoustics.