Tivoli Audio Model Three review: Tivoli Audio Model Three

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The Good Real wood-encased clock radio; rich sound; excellent AM/FM reception; auxiliary line-in (doubles as an iPod speaker); optional companion speaker available for stereo sound.

The Bad Mono only without optional speaker; quirky alarm/snooze functionality.

The Bottom Line The Tivoli Model Three is a great tabletop radio, but the built-in alarm clock falls short of the digital competition.

6.6 Overall

Tivoli Audio Model Three

Tivoli Audio is a small, Boston-based audio company with a worldwide reputation for producing high-quality radios. Its very first product, the Model One, raised the performance bar for table radios. For its Model Three, the company essentially took its venerable Model One and added an alarm clock--and almost doubled the price, from $120 to $200.

The Model Three measures in at 4.5 inches high, 8.37 inches wide, and 5.25 inches deep, and while it's available in just one color--a metallic-taupe front face--the real cherrywood cabinet is a big step up from the usual flimsy, plastic-bodied radios. Like Tivoli's Model One and PAL, the Model Three uses a proprietary AM/FM tuner (with a smooth-turning tuning dial) that harnesses technology originally developed for cellular telephones to produce superior reception--but it obviates the possibility for station presets that you'd find on a digital radio. However, unlike like its siblings, this radio's upward-firing three-inch speaker is set into the top of the radio instead of the front. The Model Three runs off an included external AC power pack, but you can also use 12-volt DC (car or boat) power to make it go.

The clock is analog--its fine quartz mechanical movement provides accurate timekeeping, while the clock face's pale blue backlight is easier on the eyes than the cold glare of a typical digital readout. But that pale light may be too bright for some who like to sleep in the pitch black. Conversely, we found the radio's frequency markings only marginally legible under low light conditions.

In terms of performance, AM and FM radio sound quality is nicely balanced in the bass and treble, easily besting the tinny sound of plastic department store radios. Reception is also above par, and after we experimented with the included FM wire antenna (you can also hook up higher-quality antennas), the Model Three pulled in our favorite low-power college stations. Bass-wise this model is identical to the clock-less Model One, but the Model Three's top-mounted speaker reflects sound off the wall, which makes for a softer, less direct sound, which we prefer.

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