Tivoli Audio Portable Audio Laboratory (PAL) review: Tivoli Audio Portable Audio Laboratory (PAL)

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
Review Date:
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The Good High-end portable radio; rich sound; excellent AM and FM reception; powered by AC or a rechargeable battery; connectivity options.

The Bad Mono-only speaker.

The Bottom Line While not stereo, this rugged portable radio's sound is full and rich.

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Review summary

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

The Tivoli PAL (portable audio laboratory) was the last project of Henry Kloss, a great old-school U.S. inventor. He designed a slew of legendary speakers for AR, KLH, and Advent, and in 1972, he developed the world's first consumer video projector, the Advent Video Beam 1000. Kloss's PAL is an audiophile-grade portable table radio. The little guy, which is available in eight attractive colors, retails for $130.

As soon as you pick up a PAL, you know it isn't a flyweight plastic radio. Though it measures just 6.25 inches high, 3.75 inches wide, and 4 inches deep, it feels solidly built. The rubberized cabinet is weather-resistant so that your PAL can keep you company by the pool or on the patio.

The radio comes with two power sources: an AC wall wart and a built-in rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride battery. The environmentally friendly, high-tech cell fully charges in 3 hours and provides up to 16 hours of cordless music. It also includes a life-prolonging feature. A battery recharged whenever it reaches 50 percent capacity, for example, will often eventually stop running below that halfway point. The PAL's rechargeable doesn't suffer from this memory effect. Replacements cost $25 each.

A small, green LED tells you if the radio is on or off and indicates the battery status. The PAL uses the same analog tuning dial as its stay-at-home counterpart, the Model One. A magnetically shielded 2.5-inch midrange/woofer delivers the sound.

On the PAL's rear panel, an auxiliary input accepts a CD or MP3 player, and a stereo headphone jack doubles as a recording output. The tuner features automatic frequency control, which locks on to the center of each station for the best reception and the lowest distortion. An FM antenna telescopes or extends and rotates for improved reception. There's also a built-in AM antenna.

The PAL's rich sound belies its modest dimensions. With FM radio, audio quality was excellent, and reception was consistently clean. For kicks, we hooked up our iPod and marveled at the PAL's crisp MP3 sonics. We almost forgot we were listening to a mono-only speaker.

For just $130, the PAL makes a great traveling companion. For the same price, the iPAL version throws in a cable for connecting to your portable audio player but is otherwise identical.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar. 15, 2003
  • Color earth brown
  • Weight 2 lbs
  • Tuner Bands AM/FM
  • Type 1 year warranty
  • Type portable radio
About The Author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.