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    • Ten years after the original release, comes the traditional celebratory acoustic re-recording. The album has held up remarkably well. While it is not as meaningful to me as it was when I was sixteen,
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    • Red Hot Chili Peppers
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  • Album Of The Year

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  • Pretty Hate Machine

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    • For years I wanted to make music that sounded like something between Love and Rockets and Ministry. In 1989, Trent Reznor beat me to it with this genre-defining album, and it smacked me upside the hea
  • So Jealous

    • 8 out of 10
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In-Depth Review

Your iPod Needs An iPAL

Tivoli Audio's iPAL, a portable radio with amazing sound and a port to connect your iPod.

There are accessories aplenty for Apple's ubiquitous iPod. One of the most common accessories are speaker systems. A shopper looking to upgrade his or her iPod from the now passť white earphones can choose from a smorgasbord of sound systems to suit any tastes, from tiny earplugs that fit inside the ear and offer amazing, yet private sound, to speaker systems that surround the user with twenty thousand or more dollars worth of high speed thump in the guise of a BMW or Cooper Mini.

Vendors in such a crowded field must offer something that really makes the potential buyer sit up and take notice of their particular product - as if you wouldn't notice a BMW on the other end of your iPod. Some choose interesting shapes, and include conveniences like built-in docks for you iPod, but one vendor in particular, Tivoli Audio, has taken a less dramatic approach: They took an existing product, the Tivoli Audio Portable Audio Laboratory (PAL), (US$129.99 - Amazon) gave it a color scheme that loosely matches the iPod, and crowned this new device the iPAL.

Changing the color and slapping an 'i' in front of the name of a device is meaningless if the device has nothing to offer that truly compliments the iPod, so one is left wondering what the Tivoli Audio iPAL brings to the table that would catch the eyes and ears of potential buyers? Let's find out, shall we?

iPod and iPAL

What You Don't Get

The original PAL is a strange looking piece of portable audio equipment; it is shaped, and is about the size of a red clay brick. It is Spartanly adorned with three dials and a speaker grill on the front, and achingly few ports on the back, where you'll also find an extendable antenna. In an age where nearly every radio sold offers stereo speakers, the PAL only gives you one.

Don't look for digital readouts, lots of flashing lights, remote control, or other high-tech gee-wizardry. In fact, the only light on the PAL is a little LED located above the speaker, and it is used to indicate the energy level of the batteries.

As for integration with the iPod, the best it will get with the iPAL is a male to male mini-phone jack cable that connects the two devices. There's no dock connector that allows you to control the iPAL with your iPod, or vise versa, nor are there plans for such: We asked Tivoli Audio about their plans for more iPod integration, and they basically said that what you currently see is what you'll likely get in the foreseeable future.

What You Do Get

Austerity in design is not a bad thing, however; the iPod's design is a classic example of less being more, and Tivoli Audio takes that concept to the extreme with the iPAL.

In the box, new iPAL owners will find an AC power supply, a male to male headphone cable, instruction manual and registration form, and, of course, the iPAL.

The iPAL, in essence, is a portable radio, and it is designed to be used in places other than the air-conditioned comfort of your home. Its cabinet is weather resistant, and it packs a set of nickel-metal hydroxide rechargeable batteries that will keep the unit playing for many hours away from a power outlet. Tivoli Audio says that your uptime per charge will vary depending on how you use the iPAL; how loud you play it affects how long the iPAL will play on a full charge. Tivoli Audio estimates that the iPAL will play for 16 hours at a moderate volume: We had our test unit on for 24 hours with the volume set low, and it was still playing as if freshly charged.

As we mentioned earlier, the iPAL is a PAL with an iPod paint job, but to really appreciate any PAL you only have to turn on the FM radio and dial in a station. If you're like most people, you'll be instantly surprised at the amount and quality of the sound that issues forth from the little speaker. Plug in your iPod into the AUX jack with the provided cable and be prepared to be amazed.

A really good audio system is one that can fill a room with music such that the speakers producing the sound becomes audibly invisible. The Tivoli Audio iPAL approaches this concept with amazing confidence. Although the iPAL can't quite fill a room completely with music, the sound it produces is pure, sweet, and very clean. What's amazing is that the music is completely enjoyable no matter where the speaker is pointed, and you don't have to crank the volume to maximum to get a great sound. Some may wish for more thump on the low end, but given the size and portability of the iPAL, we think many won't notice or care.

iPAL Rear View

While it would be nice to have closer ties between the iPod and iPAL, we think the single cable serves the purpose just fine. When you plug in the iPod, the radio turns off and you iPod music gets airtime; unplug the iPod and the radio comes back on. Simple, easy, clean, neat.

But what if you want to play the music from your iPod on your iPAL without using wires?

The solution is to use one of several available FM transmitters -- like Griffin Technolgy's iTrip (US$36.95 - Amazon), or Belkin's Tunecast II ($34.95 - Amazon) -- and send your music to the iPAL wirelessly. This solution actually works out well because the iPAL's radio is famous for its ability to home in on a specific channel and keep other channels from bleeding over. The result is that your transmitted music sounds almost as good as if your iPAL and iPod were connected by a wire.

What if you really have a hankering to listen to your music in stereo, are you out of luck with the iPAL?

Actually, no. While the iPAL only has one speaker that doesn't mean it does not understand stereo. Of the three ports on the back on the iPAL -each of which have rubber caps to keep out moisture when not in use- one of them is a true stereo headphone jack; plug in a set of headphones and you have great stereo sound. We think you'll not use this feature often as the single speaker in the front does an admirable job.

What's Wrong

There are only two real faults that we've found on the iPAL: Tivoli Audio's iPAL is a portable radio, as such, we find it to be a bit too bulky and boxy to be truly portable; it has no handles or built-in grips, unless you consider the indentations on either side of the unit grips. The iPAL seems more suited to be a radio you'll want to have sitting out on your deck or near the pool at home. If you want to take it to the beach or other away from home outings you might spring for the optional carry case, a $29.99 extra.

You'll find the other problem with the iPAL when you step up to the cash register; the iPAL will set you back a cool US$129. Some will balk at the price, even after hearing how good the device sounds. Figure in the cost of an FM transmitter (about $40) and the carrying case, then subtract the lack of other iPod specific amenities, such as a recharging dock, and many won't feel that what the iPAL does offer -- solid design and great sound -- adds up to enough to justify the cost.

The Wrap Up

The iPAL is one of those devices that defy adequate description; you just have to find one and take a listen to truly appreciate what's crammed in, and what's not crammed into the little 6.25 by 3.6875 by 3.875 inch box. You may believe that listening to music monaurally is taking several steps back to the age of 2 transistor radios from Japan, but once you do hear it, you will likely want one, even if it leaves your wallet a little lighter; we think it's just that good.

Just The Facts

iPAL from Tivoli Audio

MSRP US $129.99
Street Price: 129.99 - From

Pros:Great sound, excellent radio, works with any audio source, including the iPod, rechargeable.

Cons:Bulky, pricey, no iPod Dock features

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