Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio Reviews

Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio

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A really expensive clock radio

Oct 10, 2003 (Updated Oct 12, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Excellent sound, nice look, stereo option, can mix in computer

Cons:Badly designed controls, FM reception affected by walking around

The Bottom Line: If you have lots of money and want nice sound when you wake up, buy this, otherwise don't.

Along with my Model Three I own a Tivoli PAL and a Model One. I'm very happy with the Pal and the Model One, but not the Model Three. It is overpriced and the controls are designed badly. It does have nice sound, though.

When deciding whether to buy the Model Three rather than the Model One, you need to determine whether you want it for the clock radio feature or for stereo, both features that the Model One lacks.

If you want the Model Three as a clock radio the question will be "Why pay $200 for a clock radio?". The alarm clock features need to be $100 better than a Model One, and the sound needs to be $185 better than a plain clock radio from your average discount store. In this review I will compare the Model Three against the GE 7-4612BKA clock radio I got for free years ago when I opened a checking account.

If you want the Model Three as a stereo rather than a monaural unit, you will need to decide if stereo is worth a $150 premium over the Model One, including the external speaker you will need to buy.

The sound on the Model Three is excellent, and its only saving grace. Based on Model One design, the tone and quality of the sound is very nice. It somehow seems less jarring than the regular clock radio when it wakes me up in the morning.

Note that the sound is monaural out of the box. Since what I want is a simple table radio I'm not going to get much useful separation from a small stereo so one speaker is fine. If you want stereo you can get an external speaker with a 15' cord for $49 and plug it into the back. The back also has a balance knob and a mono/stereo selector switch.

The reception is mixed. One of the stations I like to listen to, WCPN in Cleveland, is about 40 miles away. The GE clock radio receives the station reliably, albeit with some background noise I notice in the silent times. The Model Three gets the station with much less background noise, but as I walk around the room the signal gets disrupted and I lose the station. This happens with both the internal and external antennas. I should note that this is not a problem with other stronger signals.

The controls are badly designed. The worst feature for me is that the alarm button is separate from the power switch. Most clock radios have a power switch with 4 settings: Off, On, Radio Alarm, Noise Alarm. A separate control is used to select AM and FM. On the Model Three one knob combines the power and modulation selection, with settings being OFF, FM, AM, and AUX (you can connect an external device). There is a separate button, squeezed underneath the clock dial, that enables an alarm when pressed. If the Source Knob is set to the radio when the alarm button is pressed then you will wake up to music, otherwise you will get beeps. The bad part is that you have to adjust two controls to turn the radio off in the morning. You need to turn the source knob to off to stop the radio, and you need to turn off the alarm so that it doesn't go off the next morning.

The last part about the alarm button is very critical. If you leave it on after you turn off the radio, in 12 and 24 hours you will be awakened by the radio beeping. This has happened to me several times, including this morning. With a regular clock radio turning off the radio turns off the alarm as well, which is much a much more efficient design.

Another annoying control is the dial to set the alarm time. The radio has an analog clock, which is fine. The alarm time gets set, though, by rotating a ring circling the clock that has 4 raised spots. It takes two hands because you need to hold the back of the radio while you press on the dial and turn it. Also, the time you set is subject to a 5 minute error either way. The manual explains that if you set the alarm to 10:00, you could be awakened anywhere from 9:55 to 10:05. This is cheap design.

The only handy control is the tuning indicator, an LED that shows how strong the signal is. You can adjust the tuning to get maximum strength by looking at this LED.

Other controls include a snooze button, volume, tuning dial, and a sleep button. I haven't used the snooze or sleep buttons, but the other two work fine.

I'll mention here that the beeping alarm is much more pleasant than on the GE clock radio. I hate jarring alarms, and this one is pretty nice.

The Model Three has lots of expandability on the back. You can add an FM antenna, speaker, headphones, a subwoofer or auxiliary devices such as a CD player. There is also a battery backup so the clock keeps working.

One interesting feature is a connection to mix in an external signal from a another device such as a computer. This can be handy if you need to use headphones to listen to your Model Three at work but want to hear beeps and the like from your computer.

So, is the Model Three's clock radio and stereo capability worth $100 or $150 more than a Model One? It depends. If you aren't going to buy an extra speaker then the economics just don't make sense. The controls are clumsy enough that you would do almost as well putting the radio on a light timer to get an alarm clock. If you want a stereo Model One and will buy the second speaker then the Model Three is worth considering, although at a $150 premium the difference is still pretty significant. If you want both an alarm clock and a stereo then the unit might make sense.

Is the Model Three's sound $185 better than a cheap clock radio? Here the Model Three looks much better. I bought my radio directly from Tivoli, so I had a 30 day return period. I had bought the Model Three as a clock radio without buying the second speaker but did not return it because I really like the sound and the pleasant way it wakes me up in the morning. By the time I got the radio the money was already out of my pocket,and I didn't dislike the radio enough to return it. If money is a factor at all, though, you probably don't want the Model Three.

Recommend this product? No

Amount Paid (US$): 199

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