Saturday, March 11, 2006

Electronics: Tivoli Audio PAL radio

What: A terrestrial radio that wants to wow you
Verdict: &&&1/2

For further proof that I'm neither hip nor cutting edge, consider my new music toy. It doesn't pick up Howard Stern's Sirius Satellite Radio show or hold my iTunes music collection. It's nothing more than a standard (but pricey) radio, the Tivoli Audio PALBLU Portable Audio Laboratory (PAL) AM / FM, but in an eye-pleasing electric-blue color and sleek modern-meets-retro design. Why go old school? I was interested in satellite radio – particularly the Delphi XM2go with integrated antenna, which, in theory, you can use anywhere – but I read too many horror stories about poor reception. As a resident of a decidedly un-metropolitan area where there is no repeater for XM or Sirius, I knew reception would be nothing but a headache. I was primarily interested in using it at work, a building in which even terrestrial radio reception is dodgy at best, and a stress-driven environment in which a pair of headphones is sometimes the only link to sanity. And, while I have wholeheartedly embraced iTunes, I just don't feel driven to carry around the exact same songs I listen to at home. That left Tivoli portable, which I had admired in catalogs for the last couple of years and features a Henry Kloss-designed tuner. I was intrigued by claims that it will pull in distant stations that you can't get with a lesser receiver. This is where the radio disappoints, though – while reception is good and better than what I get with the cheap radio/CD player I have at the office, it doesn't deliver on the claims of pulling in stations you're surprised to pick up. In every other regard, it's worthy of raves, and its unique look can serve as a conversation-starter. The single mono speaker delivers a surprisingly rich sound, and the headphone jack provides FM stereo that can also be piped to a component receiver. Keep the radio plugged up and the NiMH battery will stay charged for easy portability (it's small enough to stash in my briefcase) or for when the power goes out (handy for our severe storm days in north Mississippi). Now, if only terrestrial radio would shake things up and give the PAL's telescoping antenna something fresh to pull in – man, do I miss the fun days of '80s top 40. I'd happily go the rest of my life without hearing another song by Avril Lavigne or Nickelback. What's worse, our local pop station thinks it's fine to play artists like those back to back with Tim McGraw. That's when I find the PAL sounds best turned off.

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