Tivoli Teardown Disappoints

[Fran] has been curious about the innards of Tivoli Audio’s Model One radio, but was reluctant to shell out $200 just to tear it apart. But she found one recently on eBay, won the auction, and proceeded to do a review and teardown. Spoiler alert, she was disappointed.

Physically speaking, the radio looks great and has quite an array of I/O connections. The geared tuning knob looks cool, but is heavily damped which [Fran] isn’t keen about. Turning it on, a few more quirks are discovered. The volume control is out-of-whack — it appears they substituted a linear taper potentiometer where a logarithmic taper was called for.

Another problem, at least in the RF-dense metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, is the FM tuner’s station-lock feature. It is so strong that it can be impossible to tune in weak stations. This is especially ironic since, according to Wikipedia, that was one of audio engineer Henry Kloss’s main goals when founding Tivoli Audio back in 2000:

Their first product was the Model One, a simple to use mid-century modern designed table top radio with a high-performance tuner, receiving FM radio in congested urban locations, while maintaining the ability to pick out distant or low power stations. Kloss had noted that the mid 60’s wave of Japanese radios lacked the ability to receive FM stations in congested locations, and this became a defining goal of his radio designs throughout his career.

Interestingly, many folks in the YouTube comments say their Model One radios have none of these issues. We wonder if [Fran] has obtained a damaged radio, or maybe a newer version produced with less attention to detail. If you have a broken Model One radio, before tossing it, consider the hack we wrote about last year, turning it into an internet radio.

32 thoughts on “Tivoli Teardown Disappoints

  1. The hyped and overpriced “Tivoli” is nothing more than a bad designed over 20 yr old 08/15 Receiver on the cheapest way. They´re nothing worth the prices are called today.

    So many of my small cheap German Transistor Radios with SW/MW/AM/FM are far away better than this Crap!

    1. btw:
      H.Kloss was only a Designer not a Technican.
      He said “I want it to look modern but easy to operate…” but no clues to “What is a Design that looks cool and has High Quality Electronics”

      You can build a Receiver out of Diamonds, Gold and prehistoric Wood
      But if you Sh** on the internals it only gives Sh** to you!

          1. Maybe my usage is archaic, then. Used to be magazines called “Electronic Design News” and “Computer Design”, neither of which was focused on visual design. But that was a while back.

      1. That is purely because of the box. A flat shaped radio will never sound acceptable because there’s no space in there for air to resonate at low frequencies, so it often sounds horrible. Most Tivoli-knockoff radios that cost 1/10 sound good as well, although their manufacturers are clearly cutting corners by using low quality parts in old designs, mostly from the 80s or 90s.

  2. I have one of those radios. I have had problems similar to what Fran had. I like to listen to an NPR station that is weaker than some nearby commercial stations. It’s very difficult to tune it to the NPR station and have it stay tuned to it.

  3. I have a model one, inherited from a family member who purchased it new quite a few years ago. S/N 215841, another sticker shows “08-02” (date code?). I live about 50 miles northwest of New York City and use a roof mounted antenna and Channel Master Spartan mast mount pre-amp. No problems with reception, just as good as my 1988 vintage Sangean ATS-803A using the same antenna. Volume control works as expected too. Sounds like your eBay find was “repaired” with less than equivalent replacement parts. Have you tried realignment of the receiver?

    1. Running a preamp probably boosts the signal level enough to not confuse the AFC. Old radios, as an example, the Grundig Satellit 2000 allowed the user to switch off the AFC. Pity the tivoli skimped on that feature, it does have a very nice rocknpop sound.

  4. Thanks. I’ve often wondered about this line starting with the KLH tuners in older stereo combos. My first sight is the shielded tuner module, it should be good but it has that familiar 2 stage per band little “sugar cube plastic” “pocket transistor radio” cap-tuner. Those are never in the top league. A car radio is the kinda performance we want and what Kloss was after. 3 stage RF tuner and a tight IF 2 or more stages. Some of the new topology in tuners on a chip leave a lot of defects in their wake. This tuner has too much AFC voltage feedback. You could cut or modify? A century of advancement and along comes something totally new and then, flush, down goes everything refined over years of progress.

    A big mistake. The antenna you hook up is for AM only, used on any digital tuned metal box stereo which cannot have one built in. I could not see a built in loopstick AM coil in the open views, so I don’t know what makes the AM “work” here. Light dimmers and switching supplies do though, argh. Since AM-HD the AM band is finished. The woven around wire inside is FM only antenna, unless this really crap AM design. TV rabbit ears make a good test FM antenna.

    Philly! WXPN 88.5 and WHYY I envy you. I’ve known about Stars End since the 70’s still the greatest collection of space and ambient music on Earth. 01:00 to 06:00 Eastern Saturday night Sunday morning. Real sonic fuel for hackers! After comes Sleepy Hollow, 50 years old but morning fresh. Audacity has a timer mode if that’s too late, or just start recording when memory is abundant. There is still radio worth listening to. Given the whole country this station is in my top 3.

    1. 3 RF stage tuners are expensive and quite unusual. I wonder if they are a good choice even in a cost-no-object design.

      Some designs have an AFC disable function. It’s a nice feature if you don’t mind retuning the receiver a few times per listening session.

      1. 60 years of seeing car radios and hacking them for indoor use I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, tube or transistor without the RF stage. The mobile environment is tough. A Pioneer radio with tape or CD will out preform just about anything.

        In the days of home stereo receivers only the upper end were were fully equipped but the lower end didn’t have 3 stage tuners. Even my dad who was non technical knew about this back before I got into this stuff. I didn’t even have a low end stereo, but a car radio at home got me past close corny locals to the big city of Chicago.

        1. “A Pioneer radio”
          The Pioneer “SuperTuner” radios had the best RX you could
          buy at one time. Really important in the mtns of NC 30 years
          ago. When there were NO local FM stations. I have no idea if
          they are still good???
          Car radios today are just TRASH. If the signal is not “40 over”
          then its poor audio. Wish I still had one of the SuperTuner rigs. :(

    2. No need to be envious. For less than $50, anyone can build a great sounding internet radio with access to about 40,000 radio stations including WHYY and WXPN.

      The National Science Foundation (NSF) even had a 24/7 station called “Science Zone Radio”. It featured The Amp Hour and many other Stem oriented programs in rotation. Unfortunately, the NSF apparently believes that STEM is dead and shut the station down last month. Your tax dollars at work!

  5. I own one of these ($25 at a hamfest). It looks and sounds fabulous. However, I do find it difficult to tune in low power stations. There are so many it’s really difficult to pinpoint where you are. My $0.02 is that the dial just isn’t “big” enough for stations every 200khz.

    In particular we have 102.3 and 102.9 simulcasting the same signal. That really confuses it.

    1. It would seem 3 RF stages would be overkill. Tend to overload the mixer. Gain should be pushed further down the I.F. chain. Obviously the radio has too high a capture ratio that will block out weaker stations. That’s how FM works. Shutting off AFC likely reduces the voltage on its ability to block out weaker stations.

  6. One can approximate a log taper by adding a single resistor from the pot center to one end. Use a resistor of 1/4th the pot value. The end to connect depends on the circuit. At one end its a log taper. At the other end its antilog. Enjoy.

  7. I bought that for around 20 years ago, i Think that was in 2006, that was a god radio, with a very good sound, have it still, and use it, sometime, just for fun, because all music is from streaming, sorry for my English, but I still enjoy it.

    I can sell it, but from Denmark, so very expensive, and that is a “model one’ for sure 😉

  8. Well on the other hand, it’s quite an old radio.
    FM radio spectrum is quite a bit different than it used to be with low power FM drop ins, In band, on channel digital sideband modulation, completely psychotic “loudness wars” multiband clipping and limiting audio engineering at radio stations today, etc. etc.
    I remember this radio sounding as a quite nice table radio back in the day and I don’t know of any FM station that I’d listen to for more than 10 minutes today. IBOC has stations deliberately transmitting noise sidebands about 10 dB below the analog carrier. No wonder FM radio sounds horrible today.
    Henry Kloss was a genius. One of the things he intentionally did was using low cost off the shelf components. The use of non customized tuning capacitors? Yeah, I can imagine that. Remember the Advent cassette deck? First Dolby processed deck with capabilities of multiple biases for different tape formulations. Used a cheap (I think Bell and Howell) AV transport and didn’t cost very much, but you could (if properly biased) set it up next to a Nakamichi 1000 and it would hold it’s own. His Advent Model One speakers were fantastic. I owned a Kloss Novabeam (also fairly cheap and based on a stock Magnavox chassis with custom projector tubes) it was the very best of class for TV at the time.
    From AR to KLH to Advent, etc he was a real audio genius. I was gifted a recent (must have been Chinese) “Advent” bookshelf speakers and they sounded like rodeo horns. I threw them out.
    Maybe the teardown was a knockoff. In today’s world Kloss Isn’t around anymore Harman Kardon is making speakers built into recliner rockers and “Mark Levinson” now makes crappy car stereo speakers. None of these previously phenomenal brands are anything but white labels for imported junk anymore.
    The Tivoli was never an audiophile product. It was a utility tabletop mono radio for your office or kitchen and it was quite nice at the time. It was also a hundred bucks and something you could put in your office that didn’t look like a black plastic box with garish lights.

  9. Thrse chinese digital radios are good qualitu but expensive i havr a number of digital radios by famous chinesr brands like roberts intempo and bush they work well but dab needs s goid signal so antenna has to be extended when in use one problem with dab radio is if used in a kitchen modern led ceiling spotlights cause intetference to dab reception so does a lot of car battery chargers which csuse intetference to battery reception fm is better

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.