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Photo provided by Riverwood Acoustics.

Old growth timber gets new life as bluetooth speakers made in the Ottawa Valley

By Stewart Wiseman on November 22, 2017

So, when will the eviction notice arrive? These were the first thoughts I had after Riverwood Acoustics co-founder Ben Seaman stepped out of my apartment. I had accepted Seaman’s proposal to give me a live demonstration of his exceptional Bluetooth speaker, but clearly I didn’t know what I was in for. The images of the Riverwood Acoustic speaker online showed a compact wooden box smaller than a shoebox. With a natural finish and simple design, there was something innocent about the speaker. I will never underestimate Riverwood Acoustics again. Seaman flipped the speaker on, and it is a near miracle that my old thin-walled Sandy Hill apartment did not crumble away under the vibrations. Whatever scorn my neighbours secretly fester for me after that afternoon is well worth it – I had the privilege of hearing what could very well be the best sounding speaker ever manufactured in Ottawa.

Photo by Stewart Wiseman, taken during a demo of the bluetooth speaker.

Over two-hundred years ago, the lumber industry was booming along the Ottawa River. Brave workers would help transport full-body tree logs downstream to where Canada’s new cities were emerging. However, many logs didn’t survive this winding journey down river and ended up sinking to the depths of the river, where they sat preserved and untouched until recently. These conserved logs buried deep under water are known as “old growth” timber, which grew hundreds of years ago under more ideal conditions. These trees grew and matured in a time with lower ultraviolet harsh light, cooler temperatures, and optimal soil conditions. This resulted in tighter angular rings, and a stronger more dense grain of wood compared to the cuts of wood on the market today.

Ben Seaman lives along the Ottawa River, and every spring several of these heritage logs rise from their sunken fate and wash onto his shore. Fascinated by the superior quality of this wood, Seaman discovered that people were using the old growth wood to build furniture and in hardwood flooring. Seaman is an aerospace engineer, but is also immensely passionate about his hobbies: audio engineering and speaker design. With a background in building tower speakers, Seaman envisioned hybridizing the old growth wood with a home speaker. He reached out to his friend Scott Rathwell, an expert in woodworking and mechanical design, and together Riverwood Acoustics was founded.

The speaker has a minimal sleek design with only an on/off button in the rear. Each speaker has a unique stunning grain pattern, and up to now, each unit has been put together by Rathwell. The team are currently considering incorporating their logo on either the top or front of the speaker. The sound is extraordinarily crisp and clear, and for a tiny wooden box, the speaker has enough power to make this seasoned concert attender have to beg to lower the volume. To further demonstrate its intensity, we placed a half glass of water in front of the speaker and saw the water leap from the vibrations. We listened to a variety of songs through the speakers, from Rage Against the Machine to Lil Jon, and no matter the genre, each was given a full body that simply cannot be accessed through other conventional speakers. The Riverwood Acoustics sound can fill a large venue like a coffee shop and music hall, but it’s compact size makes it the ideal home speaker to have displayed in your living room. For the audiophile geeks out there, the speakers are equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 with AptX to allow for CD quality transmission. The Riverwood Acoustics speaker also has a 20 to 20,000 Hz frequency response, a powerful ceramic 30W rated high fidelity speaker, and an under-hung voice coil for low distortion. The speaker is equipped with dual specialized high-efficiency 3″ full-range drivers and bottom-coupled passive radiators that are responsible for the speaker’s superior audio precision and harmony.

Aside from the speaker’s premium sound quality, Riverwood Acoustics is the ideal local business for those looking to embrace a company with a strong social conscience. Seaman is a passionate environmentalist, and a portion of every sale will go to the Water Rangers, an ecological group dedicated to protecting Canada’s rivers and lakes. Specifically, the Water Rangers provide water-test kits for youth groups to become more involved in protecting our waterways. Riverwood Acoustics is committed to creating sustainable local jobs, and every unit will be produced in the Ottawa Valley, which removes any possible shipping from China and will lower the production-level greenhouse gases of the product dramatically. By using repurposed lumber, Riverwood Acoustics helps to revitalize disposed river waste while simultaneously saving current forests and trees from logging and deforestation today. Not a single tree is cut down to produce the Riverwood Acoustics speaker, as all the wood used has been sunk and buried for over a hundred years. Most other wood speakers are full of chemicals and bleached, while Riverwood Acoustics does not use any harmful wood treatments production.

The biggest challenge for the team is getting the a production environment set up to churn out more speakers. Seaman and Rathwell have the engineering background, but want to gain a better grasp of the marketing and business realm. Riverwood Acoustics currently has an Indiegogo campaign to market and promote the product. They had originally considered using a different crowd-sourcing website, however Indiegogo was passionate about the project and reached out to the founders early on to sign an exclusivity deal. A few units were on display at Neat Coffee Shop and in a café in California, and Riverwood Acoustics is looking to partner with other Ottawa coffee shops and businesses that would be interested in displaying the speaker.

The speaker is currently for sale through Indiegogo for $499 USD, and the team is accelerating production so that people can receive their speakers in early 2018. Please visit for more information, and email for all media and business inquiries.