Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio Reviews

Tivoli Model Three Clock Radio

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Stylish good sounding table radio

Jan 27, 2004 (Updated Jan 29, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Durability:
  • Sound:

Pros:Good sound, good looks

Cons:Ergonomic nightmare, somewhat pricey

The Bottom Line: If you want good sound and interesting retro styling in a small table radio, this is for you.


One often speaks of the relation of form and function. Depending upon your esthetic, form may be the trump card. In my case however, it was a situation of function (its primary function – good sound) over function (the operational features) of this unit.

The Model Three is a premium table radio with few competitors in its field [Boston Acoustics Recepter Radio (see companion review), and the Bose Wave Radio]. It is an attractive, unique-looking, retro-designed wooden table radio of approximately 5-1/4” x 8-1/4” x 4-1/2” dimensions. Tivoli speaks highly of Henry Kloss the developer of, at least the concept of, if not the full embodiment of this radio. Henry has certainly designed ground-breaking products, often with bare bones features but excellent performance. That applies with this unit as well.

I directly compared the sound of the Model Three and the Recepter. Both are good sounding radios in small boxes, but the Model Three is a tad more natural sounding. Both have a big mid bass boost so sound fuller and larger, but the Recepter’s boost was too exaggerated. Even the Model Three can sound unnatural on male voices due to a response peak in the 160 - 250 Hz region, but overall for a unit this size, the sound is quite acceptable.

I would not, however, want to make the Model Three the basis for a small home stereo, which apparently Tivoli intended since you can plug in a remote speaker and subwoofer to turn this from a mono table radio to a small stereo system. There is allowance for an auxiliary input as well. The human engineering is so poor (see below) that there would be no reason to select this unit for such an expanded function.

Let’s focus on the unit as delivered, a quality table radio/clock radio. The tuning knob is a solid, silky smooth vernier system harkening back to the days of old. This also results in an absence of presets, something familiar and expected to us denizens of the digital age. The other knobs (volume and on/off/input) are small and tapered in a way that the fingers do not get a good purchase, and the unit makes an annoying static pop whenever it is turned off. (I checked with Tivoli and they acknowledged that this was according to specification and not a poorly functioning unit.) The remaining ergonomics are from hunger. Though attractive, the labeling on both the front and back panels is so muted that in most lighting and from most directions it is barely distinguishable. The face of the clock, though attractive and nicely lit, is so obscured by its bezel that you must view it from almost directly in front of the unit to be able to read it clearly.

The tuner works well. I did not extensively evaluate it, but by comparison to two other typical clock radios I have in my house, it did a better job on reception, probably in large part due to the fact that it has an external antenna input jack and comes with a single wire antenna, that I hooked up, and positioned for best reception. Both this unit and the Boston Acoustics Recepter had similar quality reception of the stations to which I typically listen. In the particular room in which I use this radio I always have had trouble receiving my favorite NPR station and with this tuner and antenna, it was a slam dunk.

I won’t even try to describe how the clock radio function works; Rube Goldberg to the max. It is unlike any other clock radio; you would do almost as well to plug the radio into a timer and plug that into an outlet. And the accuracy is truly humorous in this age of digital everything. The manual indicates that the alarm will activate at + 5 minutes of the set time. Furthermore, the means to set the alarm time is to rotate the clock bezel on the front of the unit. This just about requires two hands so that you don’t push the radio backwards as you press your fingers to the bezel, and by the way, you are warned that if you rotate the bezel the wrong way you can damage the clock!

You might wonder – why did I keep this kludgy unit. It was the sound, silly. It was the best sounding radio that was small and attractive and would work well in my dressing room, which is where I listen to NPR every morning as I prepare to address the day’s activities. I would have loved to have kept the Boston Recepter, such a well-designed and well-behaved unit, but that mid-bass boost drove me nuts and actually interfered with speech intelligibility of the spoken voice.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 150


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