It’s safe to say there are few companies paying as close attention to the sound, construction and design of the lowly clock radio as Tivoli Audio.
Co-founded over a decade ago by hi-fi–audio veterans Henry Kloss and Tom DeVesto, the company quickly built a reputation for making beautiful-looking and great-sounding radios with stark retro styling. Tivoli systems have big tuning knobs, analog clock faces and come in handsome wooden boxes.
The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the release of another well-designed table top system, the Model 10. Like other Tivoli radios, there’s a base unit that runs by itself in mono, and you can buy an extension box that turns it into a stereo rig. Each 8-inch-tall enclosure has a 3-inch shielded speaker and a rear bass port, and you can choose from woods like walnut or cherry, or a variety of finishes.
But instead of the endearing analog controls common to other Tivoli radios, the Model 10 is all digital. It has an LCD display, and you dial up a particular station on the digital tuner using a rubber wheel on top of the left speaker. The wheel actually controls a few different functions: Volume is the default, but if you press it and hold it for a second, it’s your tuning knob. Double-press it and you can select between FM, AM and auxiliary inputs. In the center of the wheel is an audio on-off button that doubles as a snooze. There’s also a small remote control that accesses all the same functions.
Seeing as how the big knobs and simple analog controls on other Tivoli radios are exemplars of midcentury analog cool, the fully digital interface on the Model 10 is a bit of a head-scratcher at first. But the digital upgrade is tastefully executed, and it also happens to do wonderful things for the sound.
You can dig through the menus on the tiny screen to adjust the equalizer and sound settings. The ported cabinets throw out some powerful bass, so it’s helpful to be able to dial back the low end when listening to NPR talk shows or baseball games. Likewise, you can pump up the bass for the “King Biscuit Flour Hour,” or when you plug in your iPod.
It doesn’t go very loud — it’s a clock radio, not a full home-entertainment system — but when I did crank it up, the sound remained sparklingly clear with no discernible distortion.
There’s one hurdle I couldn’t get over, though — for a clock radio, it’s pretty damn complicated. These utilitarian beasts of burden are expected to do one critical thing without fail: wake us up in the morning. The best ones have some tweakable settings for multiple alarms or snooze times. But navigating all the software menus here, and using a remote to fine-tune the settings, seems like overkill.
But the sound remains spectacular. The Model 10 may prove a better companion in your office, kitchen or living room than in your bedroom. It certainly sounds as good as or better than most of the compact units in its price range.
And while spending $300 on a tabletop or bookshelf stereo system may seem insane to most people, if you’re a fan of Tivoli’s other products, or an audiophile who can appreciate the exceptional sound these boxes put out, or just a sucker for beautifully designed stereo equipment, then the Tivoli Model 10 is a bargain.
Photo: Jim Merithew/get-gadget
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