Tivoli Audio's specialty is high-quality table radios, so we were more than a little curious about its new Sirius radio, the Model Satellite ($299 list). It's also the first satellite radio we've tested that receives AM and FM radio, and it doesn't hurt that the Model Satellite is a beautifully built component. As with all such products, a $12.99-per-month Sirius subscription is required to access satellite programming.
The Model Satellite measures a compact 4.5 inches high, 8.4 inches wide, and 5.25 inches deep and shares the handsome styling and real cherrywood cabinet of brethren such as the Model One and Model Three AM/FM radios. Its proprietary AM/FM tuner and smooth-turning tuning dial are likewise identical to the sort featured on the other Tivoli radios, but the big, blue, easy-to-read Sirius display, which keeps you informed about the Sirius channel, artist, and song title in play, is a clear departure.
The radio can store up to 20 Sirius presets, in four banks of 5 each, but it can't store AM/FM presets. When you turn the radio off, the display reverts to your choice of a digital (numeric) or analog alarm clock. A 3-inch speaker is mounted in the on the top panel, under a protective metal grille.
Its front panel is crowded with a bunch of buttons and knobs--17 to be exact, and we found the controls' labeling and frequency markings barely legible under low-light conditions. Curiously, the included remote controls only the radio's Sirius related functions, not volume or AM/FM tuning.
Overall sound quality is miles ahead of that of everyday tabletop radios, though we noted that the unit's Sirius sound is no better than its FM--although once you've locked onto the Sirius signal, it's always 100 percent noise- and interference-free. That said, we found AM and FM reception above par. The radio can run off either the included external AC power pack or an optional 12-volt DC (car or boat) adapter.
Connectivity choices cover a wide range of contingencies. There's a rear-mounted headphone jack; an auxiliary input so that you can hook up a CD or MP3 player; and a mix input that lets you mix another external source with the Model Satellite's AM, FM, Sirius, or auxiliary audio. Connections for the external AM and FM antennas (both included), as well as a port for the included Sirius antenna, are also onboard. The Model Satellite has just one speaker, but it can be upgraded to stereo by plugging in Tivoli's matching stereo speaker ($49). As table radios go, bass is pretty decent, and more is available with the addition of the Model subwoofer ($79). And you can really trick out the Model Satellite by adding Tivoli's matching Model CD player.
In the end, you could certainly save on hardware and subscription costs by getting a plug-and-play Sirius receiver such as the Audiovox SIRPNP2 or the Clarion SIRPNP and attaching it to an existing stereo or tabletop radio, but the result probably wouldn't be as convenient or attractive. If you can stomach the asking price, the Tivoli Audio Model Satellite's unique combination of style, features, and connectivity options places it in a class by itself.
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.