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Sunday, November 29 Front Page >> Random Rants >> Tivoli Review!

Dec 27, 2004, 10:30pm

Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio (and Dual Alarm / Stereo Speaker Option)

... a review

Click for larger image
Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio
This is the amazing looking, "but is it worth $100 more than the Model One Tivoli", Model Three Clock Radio.
Click for larger image
Tivoli Dual Alarm Add On
This turns the system into a stereo, and adds a second alarm clock to the Tivoli System.

Items Reviewed: Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio
Purchased at A&B Sound, Vancouver BC, $249 Cdn.
Also purchased: Model Three Dual Alarm Speaker
Purchased at A&B Sound, $144.95 Cdn.

Okie. First, I am not an audiophile. I know coffee and that's about it. But I like music, and I can hear quality musical sound when I listen for it well enough... That said, here we go:

A few months back, I heard a friend's Model One Tivoli FM Radio, and was sold on the look and the sound quality. Yeah, it was a $100 AM/FM Radio, but wow, what a radio.

I was thinking about buying it myself (actually the Model Two, which has a second stereo speaker), but after checking out Tivoli's site, I saw there was a clock radio version, and I was intrigued. It looked uber retro cool, and while the unit was double the price of the Model One, I had the world's crappiest alarm clock radio - it needed some replacin'.

I thought about it for months. I put it on my Christmas List (the same list I sent to all my family and friends, and which they all decided to ignore - LOL!). A few weeks ago, I realised that no one would be getting me the Tivoli, and when walking through A&B Sound, I actually saw the various models on the shelf! It was kismet. Or chance. Or plain capitalism. Who knows. But I bought the Model Three, and decided to order the Model Three Dual Alarm Speaker unit as well (speshul order, wait a week or two). Roughly $200 US Dollar Equiv Units (add an extra $100 for the second speaker / alarm).

So for $200 what do you get? Well, you get a modified version of the Model One / Model Two Tivoli (that's $100 of the price...), and a clock radio with a sleep timer, Snooze button, and the option to wake to Aux / Radio / Alarm function (there's the other hundred).

To be frank, I can't figure out how Tivoli justifies an extra $100 for a battery only operated quartz clock insert that has barely advanced features (setting the time is electronically controlled - that's about it).

In retrospect, the sensible in me would probably not make the same purchase again - instead, I'd opt to get the Model Two unit, and a nice alarm clock that somehow matches the system. But the style wannabe in me probably would spend the doug again - getting an "all in one" unit that looks pimpin' retro is a bonus.

But Sensible me says Tivoli simply doesn't have enough "omph" or value for the dollar tossed in with the addition of the clock functions for the extra hun.

Here's how the bad boys look (understated, which is what they're meant to be) in my bedroom.

Tivoli in da house

Let's break down the positives and negatives, shall we?

Model Three Positives

Sound quality kicks big time ass with lots of natural bass sound in the unit. Even as a single speaker unit (without the second box) the sound is exquisite. There's controls on the back to switch the Model Three from mono to stereo, and a dial for left / right volume control. The speaker is a work of art, and definitely a fitting tribute to the House of Kloss (father of modern day speakers - google him). Mind u, Kloss' quasi-contribution to this system is the tuner itself, but the speaker is da bomb. Sound is balanced, rich, slightly heavy (in a good way) on the base, and the entire range sounds crystalline.

"Action" of the Tuner Dial is sweetness! It's a geared dial, 5x stepped down, meaning for every revolution of the interior dial, the outer dial turns 1/5th as far. It is smooth as butter.

The Clock - fairly readable, but well, maybe not (see negatives below)

Ability to plug into your MP3 player (va AUX plug) is nice. I have my (neglected for a while) iPod permanently hooked up to the Tivoli, and the sound is killah. Even lower end MP3s (128kbit types) sound pretty good, better than when plugged into my main stereo system.

Ability to add a sub woofer. This is a bedside clock radio for kripes sakes, and you can add the Tivoli sub to it! Mine's going under the bed!

FM Sound Quality - in a word - CD Quality. (okay, that was two words). Seriously, when a good FM station is dialed in, the sound is amazing - you wouldn't guess it was FM radio. I've played it for four people at this point, and all four agreed the sound quality was simply amazing.

Looks. What can I say about this other than, you've never seen a cooler looking, uber retro, kick butt alarm clock radio for the bedroom. Solid wood case, muted "Metalic Taupe" faceplate, white contrast clock, cherry wood case. Beaut.

Second Alarm Clock Option - turns the Clock Radio Model Three into a true stereo environment (don't forget to throw that switch on the back from Mono to Stereo). Case is a fitting match for the Model Three, though the clock is positioned in the middle and there's no second tuner. Sound absolutely fills the bedroom, but not in a blasting way - in a harmonious, "filled room" sound.

Model Three Negatives

Questionable Ability to pull in all FM signals - This is Tivoli's supposed strong point, and maybe with the Model One and the PAL units it is. But with the Model Three, I've been disappointed at the ability to get some local stations. The college station sounds like shit. 100.3 (a Victoria station) barely squeaks in, and you need some deft tuning to get other local stations. I'm using the supplied external antenna too, and have it snaked to my window. When a station is dialed in, it is serene beauty in the form of acoustic waves in my bedroom. But many local stations have hiss. Not good. My '04 Jetta, which has a stereo system that gets panned for it's FM ability, picks up stations better than this does (but when the Tivoli does lock into a statin, it does sound better than the Jetta's "tinny FM" typical sound).

There is a design "bug" (actually a flaw, since Tivoli acknowledges it as a "design feature") - if you have radio set as your wake up source, and you wait more than 120 seconds (3 minutes) to press the snooze button, guess what. No more wake up sounds. Yes - the Tivoli will turn off the radio if you press snooze more than 120 seconds after the radio alarm starts. What the fuck is up with that? I've slept in once so far because of this "feature".

The front panel looks cool, but it's a usability nightmare. Why? Cuz the font choice is too small, AND the colours are not contrasting enough to read in most bedroom lighting situations. You can't read the tuning dial, and you can't read the labels for the various buttons. Fortunately, there ain't many buttons to remember, so that's not a big deal. But not being able to see the frequencies is more of a big deal. Does anyone actually test these machines for usability in situations where this radio will be used (ie, a bedroom, with bedroom lighting) before they put them on the shelves?. And as mentioned above, the clock functionality is not worth the extra $100 in price - maybe $30, maybe $40.

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image
Tivoli Model Three
It's a looker alright on the nightstand. Controls are simple and become intuitive very quick. Easy to hook an iPod up to.
Tivoli Geared Dial
The control of the dial is butter smooth, geared down 5x for easy station hunting.
Here's a serious usability flaw - the frequencies and labels on the front face are almost unreadable in any typical bedroom light.
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Clock Face
The clock face is attractive enough in it's retro-sheen, but because it's so recessed, it's hard to read at angles.
Dual Alarm Speaker
Here's the $100 (gawd, I hate $99.99 prices) Dual Alarm Speaker that completes the rich stereo sound of the unit. Cord's 15 feet long.
Retro, Baybee!
Pretty basic up front, but the sound richness is simply awesome. Includes snooze button and sleep timer.


I may harp on the negatives, but manoman, does the Tivoli Model Three look goooooood. :) And the sound is stellar - rivals my other sound systems in the house costing $100s more.

So how do I rate this purchase? Well, if it were $150 instead of $200, it'd be a 10 out of 10. But at the $200 (USD) price, I'll give it a seven. The extended clock radio second speaker is only $50 more than the standalone second speaker, so that's more of a 'bargoon' and bumps the overall rating for the Model Three and the Model Three Dual Alarm Speaker to 7.5 out of ten for this non-audiophile.

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