You can get a huge amount of features in a £220 digital radio. Alternatively, you can pick quality over quantity, and spend your money on the Tivoli Model DAB. It has a digital, FM and AM tuner, just one speaker, and a low-tech, scrolling display, but its build quality and bright, detailed output are enough to convince us that the price is easily justified.
In terms of design, there's little to fault in this radio. The classic, wooden case looks great in any room, and its sharp corners and unfussy, flat edges won't go out of date. The large FM/AM dial that dominates the front is beautifully geared at a 5:1 ratio, so it tunes more accurately than a standard dial. An amber tuning light glows brighter as you close in on a stronger signal, giving us the feeling of tuning into wartime broadcasts. The waveband selector clicks into place wonderfully.
Only one control lets the Model DAB down, and that's the alarm switch on the top. This loose and rattling button feels like an afterthought. At £220, this is too expensive and too good a radio to hide in the bedroom, so we can't help but feel that Tivoli would have done better to forget the alarm altogether.
The DAB controls aren't knobs or switches -- they're in the form of a bank of buttons ranged around the two-line screen. Chief among these buttons are five direct-access presets that let you skip straight to your favourite stations, without having to scroll through a list. If this all sounds rather low-tech, it is, but that's a large part of the charm. The Model DAB is timeless, and won't date like a faux retro reproduction.
More than just a pretty face
The solitary speaker faces upwards from the top of the case. It sounds great, and it very effectively fills the room, as it's far less directional than a front-facing speaker. In the unlikely event that you find it wanting, Tivoli offers an optional second speaker and a sub, costing about £70 and £90 respectively. A further £200 or thereabouts will buy you a matching CD player. You can take a look at these products on Tivoli's Web site.
If you opt for the second speaker, a switch on the back of the Model DAB lets you select stereo or mono output, while a balance control varies the bias between left and right. If, like us, you eschew the second speaker, you can set the output to mono and the balance fully to the left, and you won't miss a beat.
The tuner is first-class, locking onto both DAB and FM stations with the aerial extended only halfway. This is important because, by keeping the aerial at half length, you can stow the radio out of the way on a bookcase. If anything, this improves the sound quality still further, as the shelf above reflects the output.
External sockets allow for the addition of conventional, wire-based FM and AM aerials if you suffer from poor reception, and there's an auxiliary-in port for connecting external devices such as MP3 players. There's also a headphone socket.
Our only real gripe is the lack of a remote control, but we'll let that pass. Half the fun of using this radio is pressing its clicky buttons, twisting its snappy selectors and turning that sublime, geared tuner.
Tivoli has concentrated on the fundamentals with the Model DAB, and it's paid off handsomely. The radio feels as good as it looks, and it sounds even better. It isn't cheap, and, like Roberts' Revival range, it doesn't offer much more than a radio of a third of its price, but what you're paying with the Model DAB is build, tuning and output quality. On those fronts, your money will be well spent.
Edited by Charles Kloet