Tivoli Audio Model One Digital :: First Impressions

by Volker Weber

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Everybody knows the Model One from Tivoli Audio, designed by the late Henry Kloss. Although many consider it a modern classic, Model One itself incorporates visual elements similar to Kloss' legendary KLH Model Eight table radio. Tivoli Audio was founded by Tom DeVesto. He moved on to create Como Audio and launched a Kickstarter campaign.

Tivoli Audio has evolved from building the simple Model One to make lots of different products. The Model One Digital is a play on the original Kloss design, unfortunately without the good parts. There isn't a mechanical switch to turn it on/off but this small button that you can press, long press or turn. The ring around the display also turns so you can tune into an FM station, but both are completely without feedback. Everything just happens on the screen. It looks like a round display but it isn't. It's a rectangular display inside a round bezel. The box is well built, the speaker sounds reasonably well, the cloth is a fine quality, and yet, the mechanics feel cheap.

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The new device has the same proportions as the Model One, but it is slightly larger.

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The back is completely different. There is an aux in, but no rec out (fixed) or headphone out (variable). While the Model One has an interal power supply and can be also be run on 12V/0.8A, the Digital version needs its own external power supply which feeds it 15V/1.5A. There is also a MicroUSB service port and two buttons for Setup and Party Mode. Party Mode gives you an indication that this device can join a group of devices to play the same music. Since I have but one of them, that is not something I will be looking into.

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Model One Digital can play from many sources:

  1. Via Antenna it is an FM or a DAB+ radio
  2. Via Bluetooth it is just a speaker
  3. Via Wifi it can stream from TuneIn, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and QQ Music, or music stored on your Android or iOS device. It also has Spotify Connect.

This versatility is the good news. The bad news is that this device isn't easy. Model One was easy, Model One Digital is complicated. There is an app to control it, but that needs a lot of evolution. I cannot get everything to work, even after putting in two hours. I fail at very simple things. The clock for instance. Do you remember the old video recorders that used to blink with 00:00? I feel this level of stupid.

What I can get to work is FM radio, when I hook it up to my roof antenna via the threaded terminal. No DAB/DAB+ though. With my Model One I was able to just connect a 75 Ohm "external antenna". Spotify Direct works over Wifi, so does internet Radio with TuneIn. But when I switch the device off and back on, I am back in FM radio. I can press the On button repeatedly to cycle through the other options, but none if them starts playing anything without my smartphone or some other external source: FM, DAB (empty), Aux, Bluetooth, Wifi. When I launch the app, it tells me I have no radio. I have set it up a few times but learned to just wait instead. It will eventually find it. More bad news: it hisses and the display is unreadable in daylight.

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But here is the killer. The Sonos Play:1 simply destroys the Model One Digital in every single aspect but FM radio. It's way easier to setup and operate. I think it is prettier, it sounds way better. Make that wayyyyyyy. And that is before Trueplay Tuning. Last but not least, it's also less expensive.

This is going back. No editor refuses-to-give-it-back award. But I am keeping my Model One.

Comments

Thank you for suffering through this for your readership! And it confirms what I knew all along: the Play:1 is very reasonably priced.

Markus Dierker, 2017-03-15 20:02

Well, I would have liked a better result. And given some time, I would probably have found out how to make those things work that didn't. The thing that kept from doing it was knowing I would never have a use case where I would want the Model One Digital. Everything this machine does, Sonos does better. And the only missing piece, FM Radio, is already covered by Model One.

Volker Weber, 2017-03-15 20:53

Are there still radio programs available which you can receive via FM but not through the internet?
What is your use case for FM at home? The only place I use it is in my car.


Patrick Bohr, 2017-03-16 09:46

Use case for FM radio is emergency communication. Even if the Internet is out you can receive FM radio. Model One would even run from a car battery for days.

And there there is very satisfying on/off switch on the Model One as well as the frequency dial. It caters to the same senses as an analog record.

Volker Weber, 2017-03-16 09:49

I love the Tivoli Model One. It's actually the only dedicated music playing device I own.

Oliver Stör, 2017-03-16 17:03

Hi Volker,
how old is your model one ?
I bought two of them about seven years ago and both of them had the same problem (hard to tune) a few years later. They are now both collection dust in the basement.

I searched a little bit minutes ago and found a possible fix:
http://la3za.blogspot.de/2013/12/scratchy-tivoli-audio-model-one.html

It seems I have a small project now for the weekend ;-)


Jörg Heuer, 2017-03-16 22:45

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