Tivoli Audio is a small, Boston-based audio company with a worldwide reputation for producing high-quality table radios for buyers who put a premium on performance and simplicity. With just three knobs, the Model One, which retails for $120, is the antithesis of today's ever more complex electronic products.
The Model One's smooth-turning tuning dial adds a retro flair, while its AM/FM tuner, using technology originally developed for cellular telephones, produces better FM reception and increased clarity on closely spaced stations. Up front you'll find a 3-inch speaker housed behind a protective metal grille. The Model One is available in a range of colors--including beige/walnut, green/maple, black/silver, cobalt/cherry and silver/white--all encased in handmade wood cabinets. The radio is 4.5 inches high, 8.38 inches wide, and 5.25 inches deep. Style-conscious buyers should check out the Platinum Series Model One: it's available in high-gloss piano-black or dark walnut/beige finish, rather than the standard wood-veneer cabinet, for $80 more.
Yes, the Model One's single speaker produces monaural, not stereo, sound. Nevertheless, AM and FM radio sound quality is remarkably good. The bass is rich; the treble is detailed but never harsh. The Model One easily bests the tinny sound of plastic department-store radios. Reception is also above par, and after we experimented with the included FM wire antenna, the Model One picked up our favorite low-power college stations.
Connectivity choices include line input, line output (for recording), and a headphone jack. Despite the Model One's mono-only speaker, all the connections support two-channel stereo sound. We plugged our iPod into the Model One, and the sound was even clearer than that of the radio. Tivoli also makes the more vertically styled PAL, which costs $129 but has a built-in rechargeable battery, making it completely portable. We weren't sure what to expect from a side-by-side comparison of the PAL and the Model One, but we quickly judged the Model One the winner. Its bass was richer and deeper, making it sound a little bigger than the PAL.
We next put the Model One up against the step-up Model Three, which incorporates a clock radio and can be paired with an optional companion speaker for stereo sound. (Likewise, the Tivoli Model Two is simply a Model One modified to work with an included break-out stereo speaker.) Their bass sounded identical, but the Model Three's top-mounted speaker reflected sound off the wall, which made for a softer, less direct sound, which we preferred. That said, the analog alarm clock on the Model Three wasn't very user-friendly, making that model's higher price tag harder to swallow.
In the final analysis, the Tivoli Audio Model One is a fine tabletop radio that looks as good as it sounds. We preferred its styling and audio to that of the identically priced Cambridge SoundWorks Radio 705, but the digital clock, dual alarms, and excellent sound quality of the $150 Boston Acoustics Recepter give the Tivoli some solid competition.