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Review by "Herculogical" herculogical@<DELETEFORSPAM0>earthlink.net

Anyone considering the Tivoli SongBook is looking at radios in the 150-200 dollar range, no chump change for a radio that doesn't get shortwave. In fact, not many bedside or travel radios, save your shortwave specialty models, command such a steep price. For an apt comparison, you'd have to look at the C. Crane CC Radio, which I've never owned or used. Based on the CC Radio's many favorable reviews, we can safely assume it gets excellent AM/FM reception and is a very fine radio indeed. In fact, it trumps the Tivoli SongBook when it comes to features, as it has TV and Weather bands, two things the Tivoli lacks. However, in spite of the CC Radio's added bands, I decided to buy the Tivoli Songbook. I can tell you I never for one second even considered the CC Radio. Why? Not because of frequent reports of its LCD display going out, even though that's bad enough. No, the real reason I would never buy a CC Radio is its stodgy, outdated appearance. Yes, I'll admit for me appearance in a radio counts. When I'm forking out 150 bucks or more, I want my radio to possess the cool factor. Enter the Tivoli SongBook. Five dollars cheaper than the CC Radio, its sleek, minimalist design and rubber-coating (save silver, which appears to be a brushed aluminum material) featured in attractive blue, red, green, yellow, black, white, and silver makes it the Mini Cooper of radios. The CC Radio, on the other hand, is the hand-me-down Oldsmobile that your mom made you use to pick up Cindy for the Junior Prom. No sex appeal whatsoever.

Attractive, modern, and sexy, for sure. But for 160 dollars does the Tivoli match style with substance? To check its AM/FM performance, I compared it to my three strongest performers, my Kaito 1101, my Degen 1103, and my Grundig S350. To measure FM strength, I divided my FM stations into three categories: Strong, medium, and weak. The Tivoli held its own with the strong and medium FM stations. In fact, the listening experience of the Tivoli is so rich and full that the other radios don't really compare at all. Part of the Tivoli's hefty price tag is its exceptional speaker. But good sound doesn't always accompany outstanding FM sensitivity, so I held my breath as I tuned the Tivoli to the weakest station I listen to, 88.9 KXLU, a college station that plays Bossa Nova on weekend mornings. Whereas my Kaito, Degen, and Grundig "grab" 88.9 with confidence and clarity, I'm sad to report that the Tivoli did not. There was a bit of static and I tried several times. This was disheartening, especially when you consider that my Kaito 1101 costs one-third the Tivoli and is about half the size. My Tivoli owner's manual reads: "The Ultimate Travel Radio." I think I'd give the nod to the Kaito 1101 in spite of its rather uninspiring speaker. Who wants to worry about a 160-dollar radio getting lost or stolen anyway? My Tivoli stays in the kitchen and fills the tile- and granite-filled room with ease.

I'm happy to say AM reception on the Tivoli proved comparable to my top three performers. I'd say its AM is well above average. Also the Tivoli features a 9K switch for AM reception outside the USA.

There is a cobalt blue backlight that illuminates the display for 10 seconds. The Sleep Function gives you only a twenty-minute option, no others. Most Sleep Functions give you 90, 60, 30,15. But only 20 for the 160-dollar SongBook. The radio is powered by 6 AA batteries or a 12v DC power supply (supplied). The SongBook also has a built-in
charger for NiMH batteries. The user has the option to select standard or rechargeable batteries via a small switch in the battery compartment. Careful attention must be made to insure that the rechargeable option is not selected while using standard (alkaline) batteries while using the radio with the AC adapter.

To recap the Tivoli's virtues, it has incredible sound, it is attractive to look at, it makes fine décor anywhere in the house, and it has above average AM/FM sensitivity. Also I should add here that it has an auxiliary audio input so I can play my iPod (MP3 player). Finally, let me say that the controls for radio, time, and alarm are so easy and clearly stated in the manual that a small child could learn to use them.

Here are some quibbles and suggestions for improvements:

1.. Its slender design is such that it needs a flip-out stand in the back so that it won't be prone to tipping over.
2.. For the price, it should feature TV and Weather bands and provide more than five presets per band. It should have at least double that amount.
3.. Its dimensions are 6.125 inches high x 7.3125 inches wide x 2.0625 inches deep. This is by no means a massive radio, but there are many smaller radios that would be more suitable for travel. Why is this Tivoli being marketed as a "travel radio"?


The main question remains: Is the Tivoli SongBook worth the 160-dollar price tag? Tough to answer. For a travel radio, I recommend the smaller, less expensive 50-dollar Kaito 1101. For a high-fidelity radio to use in your bedroom or kitchen or a picnic, I would guess that most people would be happy enough with the 99-dollar analog Grundig S350. But if you don't mind paying 60 dollars more for digital tuner, superior sound quality, and the option to play music through the auxiliary input, then the SongBook is a very wise choice indeed.

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