Tabletop radio doesn’t quite deliver the goods

3 Feb

Consumertech #164 photo low res

February 3, 2014 – Early in December, as part of a column about recommended Christmas gifts, I referenced the Tivoli tabletop radio. In just a hundred words or so, I said it was tiny, looked “deliciously retro” and sounded great.

Guess what I gave myself for Christmas? That’s right: a Tivoli, in this case the Model One Bluetooth ($250 at West End Electronics). When I heard the display unit in the showroom I was impressed by its deep and rich sound, due in part to the electronic components, speaker quality and wooden case. It had a resonance that reminded me of my parents’ old multiband radio, which served as the soundtrack for my childhood (whenever I was in the kitchen, at any rate).

My original plan was to use the Tivoli at my workplace, a second floor suite on Duckworth Street. However, when I powered up and tuned in, I was frustrated and ultimately disappointed by the radio’s inability to get cleanly “on station.”

There is a little display light that dims and brightens, depending on the strength of the signal. But try as I might – and as bright as that light got – there was always a mild, static-like crackle that wouldn’t go away no matter where I positioned the radio.

Any serious radio listener knows that a crackling signal is the kiss of death. I’d rather listen to pigeons cooing on the windowsill.

Now, the Bluetooth feature worked perfectly well. You only need to “find” the iPhone (or other device) once and it locks on instantly after that, allowing me to play iTunes until the pigeons come home. Music sounds good on the Tivoli, though not as good as my reliable Logitech S715i. Besides, I was most interested in the radio feature, since I listen to talk radio all day long.

There is a work-around, of course. Using the Tivoli’s Bluetooth, I can listen to streaming radio through CBC and VOCM apps (which both work fine) on my iPhone. The streaming radio sound is fantastic and showcases the unit’s full audio potential. However, streaming audio for eight hours per day can chew up a lot of data and possibly exceed the monthly limit.

I decided to take the unit home to Conception Bay South and try it there. The reception would have to be better, right?

Wrong. There was the same static. I moved the radio from my preferred location on the kitchen counter to the living room, where no other appliances could possibly cause interference. Still a weak signal.

There are inputs on the back for AM and FM antennas. The latter antenna was included with the unit and this did improve FM reception, but there was no AM antenna. Odd.

This is not a deal breaker. I will buy the antenna and no doubt reception will improve. I just find it strange that my 15-year-old, cabinet-mounted GE radio (that cost roughly $100) has crystal clear reception in the same location, as does the old Sanyo portable at my office ($15 at a yard sale), while this $250 radio doesn’t.

Lighter, wireless Dyson

Dyson vacuum cleaners have had more than their share of coverage in this column. There is no question that the vacuum works better than any on the market and is a quality build – my first Dyson, reviewed back in 2007, is still going strong and I’ve written about a newer model since then.

So, when Dyson asked recently if I’d like to review their latest model, I was hesitant… until the publicist convinced me that this really was a significant new development.

This latest model, launched late in January, is lightweight and cordless.

Now, you need to pause and think about that. My only real complaint with Dyson to date has been their bulk and heft. The more recent “ball” vacuum features a lot of machine up front, sometimes getting in the way of itself, and it is heavy to carry up and down stairs. And wireless? This is a concept that hadn’t even occurred to me until now but, come on, who hates unplugging the machine every five minutes to move to the next cleaning zone?

Was I interested in trying out a demo unit, Dyson asked?

You bet I am. I’ll have more when the machine arrives and I’ve had a chance to really put it through its paces.


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