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Tivoli Audio Model One AM/FM Table Radio, White/Silver
- High-performance table radio with simple design and superior sound reproduction
- Attractive, furniture-grade, handmade wood cabinet doubles as acoustically inert housing
- 3-inch long-throw driver ensures accurate tonal balance and bass response
- State-of-the-art discrete component FM tuner improves reception and increases clarity
- Measures 8.375 x 4.5 x 5.25 inches (W x H x D); 1-year warranty
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Where performance and simplicity are paramount but space is sparse, the Model One mono table radio fits the bill. With just three knobs, it is the antithesis of today's ever more complex electronic products. But behind the Model One's simple, innocent appearance, hides a multitude of technology facilitating higher sound reproduction and better reception over anything else near it in size or cost.
The Tivoli Model One has been praised far and wide for its high-quality sound, small size, and cool, retro styling. We got our hands on a sample unit and came away impressed, just as many others have. Anyone who wants a compact, stylish radio with surprisingly good sound should give the Model One a look.
In many ways, the Model One is the culminating achievement of famed audio engineer Henry Kloss's long career. Designed from the ground up by Kloss, who passed away in 2002, the radio exudes understated class and elegant simplicity. We received the Platinum Series Model One, which features a hand-lacquered, high gloss dark walnut cabinet that is simply gorgeous. According to Tivoli, the genuine wood casing isn't just for looks as it provides "an acoustically inert housing" that maximizes the speaker's sound quality. At just over 8 inches wide, 4.5 inches high, and 5.25 inches deep, the Model One is about the size of a toaster turned on its side-- plenty small to fit on a desk, dresser, or nightstand.
The Model One's single rotary dial handles tuning for both AM and FM stations. It feels sturdy and smooth in the hand. The dial is designed to move between stations at a speed that is a bit slower than the speed at which the user turns the knob-- a 5 to 1 ratio, to be exact. This "ratio" dialing technique makes it far easier to tune stations accurately and quickly. It's a nice touch that sets the unit apart from other desktop radios.
The tuner band selection and volume dials are easy to control. Plus, they're well designed for hands of all sizes. A small LED power indicator, as well as an LED that helps determine signal strength, are positioned between the dials. We liked the light-colored face and dark lettering printed on the Platinum Series model we reviewed; it made for easy operation in dimly-lit rooms. The Model One's single, 3" driver is protected by a handsome metal speaker cover. Tivoli adds that the speaker is enhanced by a "multi-stage frequency contouring circuit that adjusts the speaker's output over half-octave increments." The result, Tivoli claims, is "musically accurate tonal balance and bass response."
The back of the unit features a coaxial antenna jack for the included FM antenna wire. While the Model One also has an internal FM antenna, Tivoli recommends using the supplied external one for tricky tuning in locales with a lot of stations crammed together. There's a handy switch for switching between the internal and external antennae. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack is also provided, as is a 3.5mm auxiliary line in port for plugging in your iPod or other music device. If you want to use the Model One as a component tuner-- not a bad idea given the overall quality and accuracy of the tuning circuitry-- Tivoli has provided a 3.5mm output port. The back panel also sports separate ports for AC and DC power, making the unit a great choice for boating or RV use.
As with the Tivoli iPal portable speaker system, we were initially skeptical about the performance of a small, one-speaker unit that only offers monaural sound. The reality is that most small two-speaker systems don't allow you to place the speakers very far apart anyway, and the Model One's rich, resonant sound more than made up for its lack of true stereo separation. Plus, the Model One is a single, elegant box with no annoying speaker cords.
While the Model One isn't designed to provide earth-shattering sound at high volume, it produces surprising clarity and fullness at normal listening levels. When turned all the way up, the unit's rich sound persists and we suspect that Tivoli engineered the Model One's volume level to max out before any distortion arises. If you don't need a lot of volume, the Model One delivers. As with the iPal, we were left scratching our heads and wondering how such great sound could come from such a little box.
The Model One's tuning accuracy is also impressive; we were able to dial in stations we didn't even know existed. Tivoli says this is due to the unit's discrete-component FM tuner technology, which was originally developed for cellular telephones. Whatever Tivoli has done here, they did it right; closely-spaced stations are a breeze to tune.
- Compact form factor
- Excellent sound
- Supremely accurate tuning
- Not engineered to produce extremely high volume levels
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UPDATE: The Walnut/Beige color was out of stock until July so I bought a manufacturer refurbished one from Tivoli's eBay store at a discount. It arrived in perfectly new condition. I am deducting one star because of the hum from the internal AC/DC transformer. I keep mine on all the time with the volume turned all the way down because I record from the radio's line-out to my computer but the hum was driving me crazy. I bought a 12V DC 3 AMP Wearnes wall wart power supply from Rage Cams on eBay and that solved the problem.
Some comments and caveats:
If your hearing isn't what it used to be, or you already have and like the sound of one of the Bose offerings, you will not like this. The Tivoli's treble is rounded and natural, not crispy and hyped like the Bose. The Tivoli produces a good deal of bass, which gives the sound a lot of body. It's diminutive size belies the volume it can produce, but some may not like the bass, which I find to be likewise natural. This radio produces less low end than the similar Sangean, which I think is too bassy. There is no tone control.
The tuner is one of the best ever. Being all analog, it can tune channels which might be getting swamped by adjacent frequencies. Tuning requires a bit of technique, which I think is part of the enjoyment. If you live in or near a city, the built-in antenna might be all you need, but if you are in a "fringe" area I highly recommend an outdoor FM antenna and good coax. (I use the Fanfare "college band" antenna. The Winegard Omni is very good as well.) That's when this thing comes alive. I can tune close to fifty stations where I am in a fringe area of New York State with this set-up. Band-scanning is very entertaining. <g> Even if you are not in a fringe area, today's homes are typically full of transmitters, from wi-fi to cordless phones and many others. These can swamp radio frequencies. If you can put up an outdoor antenna,
you might want to.
My older home has aluminum siding which makes AM reception impossible, but I have found late at night that a tunable external loop - a Tecsun AN200, bought on Amazon - allows me to receive nearly inaudible stations clearly. I have listened to Louisville, KY from my location. You just place this inexpensive device adjacent to the radio and tune it as you would the radio. If you are in a city, there should be plenty of reception with the internal antenna if you want AM.
There is an auxiliary input for your iPod, etc. It uses a mini stereo cable.
Apparently the tuner can get crackly with age, which is easily fixed by "exercising" the tuner, back and forth. This is common with analog controls. I suspect many people lock in one station and never adjust the tuner, which could be part of the problem. Also, if it is used in a kitchen, airborne grease will eventually build up on the contacts. Adjusting the controls regularly will help keep it clean.
If you've had any desire for a little old-school radio, there is nothing better.