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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Tivoli Audio PAL BT review:

Retro Bluetooth radio doesn't come cheap

Remarkably, after we posted that review, the PAL and iPAL, have steadily gone up in price. Today, the PAL retails for $220 and is one of the few consumer electronics products I've seen that has had such a dramatic price hike without making any noticeable changes (most products typically go down in price or stay at the same price with some small upgrades).

Despite that high price, I still recommend the PAL to people and regularly use a unit myself. It's easy to take from room to room -- or outdoors, as it has a somewhat weather-resistant exterior. It also makes for a good bathroom radio. I often leave it plugged in and it takes a few hours to fully charge its built-in lithium battery, which is replaceable.

Turn the dial to "BT" to enabling Bluetooth pairing. Sarah Tew/CNET

The PAL BT offers the same excellent performance as a radio and as a wired speaker. The sound quality in Bluetooth mode is decent, though not great (it sounds a touch canned) and we've tested portable Bluetooth speakers in this price range that sound better. For the same price, you can get the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II as well as the Jawbone Big Jambox, which features a speakerphone. At $250, there's the Logitech UE Boombox.

None of those speakers has a built-in radio, but you could stream Internet radio from your phone easily enough.

The PAL BT has a built-in, replaceable rechargeable battery -- you charge it with this AC adapter. Sarah Tew/CNET

The PAL BT retains all the features that I like about it, particularly the wonderful retro design -- analog dial and all -- compact form factor, strong battery life, and excellent radio. The Bluetooth is certainly a nice addition. I was easily able to pair an iPhone 4S and an Android Galaxy S3 and it automatically re-paired with the phones whenever I turned the Bluetooth on the PAL back on after I'd set up the initial pairing.

The one thing that's very hard to swallow is the price. The PAL already is expensive at $220 and tacking on another $80 for Bluetooth just seems too much to pay when you consider there are very compelling competitors in this price range that offer better sound. That said, if you're a PAL fan and don't mind overpaying, there's nothing wrong with this speaker except for the price. I still like it. I just think it should cost a third less.

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