Tivoli Audio iSongBook
Tivoli Audio has steadily expanded beyond its original retro-style Model One radio into a variety of related products. All of them have killer radio tuners and some, like the iYiYi, have iPod docks. This revision of the briefcase-friendly SongBook radio adds an extension speaker and iPod dock along with some interesting twists.
One of those interesting twists is building the iPod dock into a flip-down apparatus on the left side of the unit. You are free to close it when it is not in use or if you just want to protect the jutting connector from dust. Just as cool is the fact that the extension speaker is detachable, with metal pins that fit into rubber grommets on the righthand side of the unit. An integrated cable can be unspooled to the desired length, or spooled back again on a jog dial.
This compact stereo system--for that's what it is--is not available in the wood finishes of some Tivoli products. But the high-gloss white and black plastic finishes will attract few complaints. The iSongBook is about the size of a sub-notebook PC (maybe twice the thickness).
The main unit includes the left speaker, an unlit liquid crystal display, and various buttons. These include five individual preset buttons, up/down buttons for tuning, and a few more for the alarm, sleep timer, and other functions. You can wake to radio, iPod, or beeper. There are two knobs, for source selection and volume. The volume knob is clickstopped and relay-driven, a better arrangement than the orthodox volume pot on some Tivoli products (which tends to corrode and get noisy over time). A small remote is supplied. Don't worry, there's not much of a learning curve. You can start using the product straight out of the box without having to read the manual.
To power your system, you can use the AC adapter (with large wall wart) or five AA batteries. The unit accepts nickel metal hydride rechargables. Be sure to set the internal battery switch for the type of battery or damage may result. Presumably you'll have a preference and will therefore have to remember to do this only once.
The two full-range speakers measure 2.5 inches and, as always, sound pretty good. Voices are less tubby than on Tivoli's early products, presumably because of the shallower depth of the SongBook/iSongBook and the space occupied in the enclosure by the dock.
Though the iSongBook isn't cheap, it provides a lot of functionality and versatile for the money. And you certainly won't find a competing product with an FM tuner of this quality. If radio is a big deal to you, this is the iPod-savvy compact system you've been dreaming about.
Price: $399 from Tivoli Audio and other online retailers.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.