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 Stereophile.
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.
There's nothing new or revolutionary about the Tivoli Audio iPAL. Tivoli has simply taken the original Portable Audio Laboratory (PAL) AM/FM radio, given it an Apple-friendly gloss-white-and-silver color scheme, and slapped on an iPod-derivative name. But while the company may be guilty of jumping on the iPod bandwagon, we can't accuse it of price gouging: The iPAL retails for the same $130 price as its predecessor, but it comes with a 40-inch white cable to connect to the standard 1/8-inch headphone minijack of your iPod (or any other audio source).
The iPAL measures an elfin 6.25 inches high, 3.75 inches wide, and 4 inches deep. It comes with two power sources: a built-in rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery and an AC wall wart. The high-tech battery charges in 3 hours and provides up to 16 hours of cordless music. (And, unlike many manufacturers of portable devices, Tivoli recognizes that the batteries do eventually die; replacement batteries go for $25.)
In addition to the aforementioned auxiliary input to connect the iPod or any other CD/MP3 player, the iPAL's backside includes a 1/8-inch stereo headphone minijack. An FM antenna extends and rotates for improved reception; there's also a built-in AM antenna. Up front, a small green LED serves as both power and battery status indicator, and a 2.5-inch magnetically shielded speaker delivers surprisingly full and rich sound. We almost forgot we were listening to a mono-only speaker.
AM and FM reception was excellent, and the iPAL's sound perked up even more when it was hooked up directly to an iPod. We next unplugged the cable and reauditioned the sound with a wireless FM transmitter, the Griffin iTrip, attached to our iPod. The sound was almost as good as that from the wired connection.
Whether you're looking for a way to liberate your iPod's tunes or you just want a top-notch radio, you can't go wrong with the Tivoli iPAL. It remains our favorite portable radio.