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Tivoli Audio Music System review

Can this Tivoli all-in-one cut it in the hi-fi stakes?

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Our Verdict

It looks great, but it hisses and hums more than real hi-fi and fails to produce sound of real scale - and for £650, you can buy some decent audio seperates. It works well enough as a kitchen or bedroom system, though, albeit an expensive one

For

  • Highly convenient

    Beautifully finished

    Great performance with speech

Against

  • A debilitating lack of real scale and impact

Tivoli's original Model One pretty much reinvented the table-top radio. Various additions to the range have included portable models and CD players, but this new unit neatly combines all functions in one, with a CD transport that also plays MP3 and WMA files, FM and AM radio reception, auxiliary input and stereo speakers - as well as bedside functions such as an alarm with 'snooze'.

The first thing that strikes you about the unit is its superb finish. Our sample is veneered in dark walnut with a high-gloss polish; black and white are other options. Closer inspection reveals that the familiar analogue tuning dial has been replaced by a digital tuning system. This has some advantages, but we did like the old version. You get RDS on this unit, though, and of course station presets are now available.

Tivoli isn't slow to point out that there are many applications for the system: ultra-fancy alarm clock, kitchen-table radio... even second 'real' hi-fi. The most obvious comparison is with the well-established and rather cheaper Wave Music System from Bose. So has Tivoli upped the ante in audio convenience systems?

Well, under some circumstances, with some music, the Music System can make decent enough noises... but in the end we could never convince ourselves that we were listening to anything more than a glorified tranny - and that wasn't the case with the Model One.

Here the sound seems seriously constrained by the small speakers; it's strangled and struggling, and there's no happy medium between 'too quiet' and 'overloaded', even though the actual volume coming out is quite high.

Mercifully, the system does have several redeeming features. First, it's very, very good with speech. Voices are clear and highly intelligible and have little or no tendency to 'spit'. In addition, sound is unusually good at background listening levels.

Although the built-in speakers are less than a foot apart, the 'Stereo Wide' setting succeeds in producing convincing-sounding images, at least from CD. With FM radio you'll need very good reception to enjoy that advantage, as the setting also boosts reception nasties; we found ourselves listening in mono quite a lot.

By default, 'EQ' ('loudness', essentially) is switched on, and it's worth having a listen with this off - we preferred it that way. Although, we have to conclude that this not a true hi-fi system, it remains a very good bedside solution and a fairly reasonable kitchen radio, too.