Equipment Review No. 3 - Sept. 2003


Tivoli Audio Model One Table Radio
$100

Tivoli Audio, LLC
One Broadway, Suite 600
Cambridge, MA 02142
(877) 297-9479
www.tivoliaudio.com

Basic Description

AM/FM table radio with internal/external FM antenna; 9’ power cord; available in Beige/Walnut, Blue/Cherry, Green/Maple, Silver/White; 4”H x 8 3/8”W x 5”D; weight 4 lbs; operates AC/DC (DC transformer not included); 3.5mm headphone jack; 3.5mm Auxiliary input; one year warranty.


Associated Equipment

Philips CDC-935 CD player (to test Aux Input) and Sennheiser HD545 headphones (to test headphone output).


Setup and Operation

You don’t expect there to be much setup with this type of product and there wasn’t. I simply plugged the FM wire antenna into the back of the radio, and then plugged the radio into the wall. I ran the Model One for about a week and a half straight.

The Model One has manual tuning with no preset stations of any kind. There is a knob to turn the unit to FM, AM, or off. If the Aux input is plugged in, it will operate as long as the unit is on. There is an amber indicator above this knob to show whether a station is locked in or weak. I found it very useful when tuning. The large rotary knob handles the actual tuning. I could turn from one end of the band to the other in about five seconds. Since the tuning is not digital, and there is no light on the unit, it is impossible to see the dial when the room is dark.

Occasionally, I wanted to set the volume at a very low level. This was difficult because at the lower end of the volume control’s range the sound would drop off dramatically. With a little twiddling, I was able to get it at the proper volume. However, if you aren’t so dexterous and require low levels then it might be an issue. The sensitivity drops off as the volume increases, but the radio will play pretty darn loud. I never took it outside and really cranked it up, but inside the house it would play loud enough to hear it about 60 feet away at the other end of the house.


Listening I—Headphones and Auxiliary Input

I’m not sure how many people will utilize the Model One as an amplifier for a secondary source or use it with a set of headphones. Testing these capabilities was relatively easy, so I decided to give it a shot. Headphones were no problem and even though the Sennheisers are a somewhat difficult load (insensitive too), the Model One was able to drive them. I did have to crank the control up, but the sound was fine. I should also mention that stereo headphones plug into the radio with no problem.

With the auxiliary source, I had some difficulty. At first, I tried a feed from the CD player, but the unit was distorting even at a very low volume setting. It appears that the CD was putting out too much voltage for the radio’s input section. Even modest bass in the recording caused overload. With other frequency ranges, the onset of distortion was not as quick, but it was still clearly audible. With a feed from analog audio outputs from a satellite receiver there was no problem. Even with the hip-hop music station playing the Model One didn’t overload. If you intend to feed the Model One from a standard source component (without a volume control), this may be an issue. The sound was very good and belied the size of the small unit. I could hear the sound clearly and fairly loud from 40 feet away.


Listening II—FM

Unfortunately, my outside antenna is not hooked up on the roof, and I was unable to connect it for this review. Most people will not be able to utilize an outside antenna anyway, so I did my testing with and without the external antenna that comes with the Model One radio. I was able to log 34 FM stations with the external antenna and 32 with the internal antenna. I was even able to receive 88.1 (a very difficult station to receive in my area) extremely well. With some maneuvering of the antenna, I could get it almost perfect. Quality was excellent on just about every station to which I listened.

You could easily hear differences between male vocals, and the sound was never tinny, hard, or lacking in definition (within reason). You could tell when announcers were too close to the microphone, or when a commercial wasn’t of the highest quality. The Model One doesn’t sound small, and it was easy to forget that all that sound was coming out of such a small-sized radio. Having the radio playing constantly for weeks really brought me back into the whole radio scene. One day I’d run the classical station all day, another would be the light jazz, and yet another would be the rock station. Some of the stations were monotonous and boring (which is well-known to many who live in my area), but others are quite worth the effort.


Listening III—AM

AM didn’t fare as well as the FM band. I logged 16 stations. I could never entirely get rid of a high-pitched whine. On a few of the stations it was not audible, but on most of the others it was a problem. For listening to some talk radio or the ballgame it most likely would not be too objectionable. There were only a few stations that actually played music, and only one of those (570) came in well enough for me to want to listen to it.


Conclusion

Just for fun, I did a search on the Internet for radios. It seems there are tons of boomboxes, personal “mini” systems, and other types of portable radios. Most of them are big, ugly, booming, plastic monstrosities with lots of flashing lights. That product is the antithesis of the Tivoli Model One—small, simple, unassuming, yet capable of delivering a big sound. There are, no doubt, a few more expensive radios that will perform better than the Model One (in fact, Tivoli makes some). But for $100, you get a little style, and a lot of sound. If you need CD, a clock, or more bass, Tivoli offers a few other models that might be worth consideration. Recommended.

Brian Bloom
big_brian_b@hotmail.com


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