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Review - iSongBook
Wednesday, January 18th, 2006 at 12:00 AM - by
Tivolio Audio has been crafting some of the finest table radios for more than a decade. To audio enthusiasts, the company's first-rate products came as little surprise—its founder was the legendary Henry Kloss, who had been engineering radios and speakers since the 1950's.
In 2004, Tivolio released the iPAL (4 out of 5), a basic first attempt at an iPod complement. Available in a number of colored finishes, the iPAL continues to be available with its excellent radio tuner and mono speaker for $150. Towards the end of 2005, Tivoli released the iSongBook, a far more robust iPod solution, complete with integrated dock connector, a remote, stereo speakers, and $330 price tag.
Tivoli Audio iSongBook
In one month of testing, the iSongBook has blown us away with its excellent engineering, attention to detail, and audio quality. Like the iPAL, the iSongBook utilizes Tivoli's 2.5-inch speaker drivers, not the 3-inch drivers found in its radio products. The smaller speakers nonetheless produce phenomenal sound for their size, approaching the quality of Bose's more expensive WaveRadio (Tivoli fans might even say they exceed that competitor's product).
The iSongBook's small speakers afford the product its slender physique, at about just two-inches deep. The main unit is seven-inches wide (or ten-inches with the smartly designed iPod dock flipped), while the second speaker's casing is 3.5-inches wide. The iPod dock employs Apple's universal design, making it compatible with all dock-connected iPods. Tivoli includes brackets for all 3G, 4G, and mini models, while the iPod nano and 5G come with their own.
iSongBook from behind, complete with rechargeable battery support and wind-up second speaker cable.
The second speaker is as intelligently designed as the dock connector, which tucks away flush with the side of the unit when not in use. The second speaker can be attached directly to the main body or can be placed up to six feet away courtesy of the built-in cable that can be wound and unwound into the unit to perfectly accommodate distances in-between.
Topping off the list of touches that demonstrate the finesse of Tivoli's products is the iSongBook's battery playback capabilities. Not only can 6 AA alkaline batteries give you juice on the go, but the iSongBook features a built-in battery charger, so those of you using NiMH/NiCAD batteries never need to remove the rechargeables.
Of course, at the end of the day a speaker system is only as good as it sounds, and as we alluded to earlier, the iSongBook sounds damn good. Its radio capabilities also remain unsurpassed, picking up FM and AM stations at a level of quality you probably have never heard before. While bass is not surprisingly a little light, the speakers still produce full, rich, and balanced sound.
A myriad of other features make the iSongBook an exceptionally well-rounded product, from the alarm clock and sleep timer functionalities, to the six preset radio stations, attractive blue backlit display, and auxiliary input for connecting other devices. An optional carrying case is also available for about $30.
iSongBook with travel case.
The only aspect of the iSongBook that could really use some improvement is the remote. At this price point, an RF remote be standard, even if it means sacrificing some of the size of the slender infrared remote. The remote's Off button also doesn't actually do anything, be it in iPod or radio mode, nor is it possible to switch between radio and iPod functionality from the remote, since the iSongBook uses a manual knob to dial-in that functionality. This old-school control may work well on just a radio, like Tivoli's Model One with its elegant retro looks, but it becomes more of a nuisance on a product designed with the digital age in mind. The remote also sports Prev/Next Album and Prev/Next Playlist controls, something not seen on many iPod products, but forgoes the more common Repeat and Shuffle functionality.
True to its heritage, the iSongBook is one of the finest iPod speaker solutions we have come across, and certainly bests all other portable offerings out there. Remote quirks aside, anyone who invests the $330 in an iSongBook will find their money well spent. It's a shame Mr. Kloss passed away in 2002, before he could witness the iPod revolution, for he would surely be proud of what his company has been able to create in its wake.
The iSongBook is currently available in white/silver finish, but a black/silver version available January 23.
Just The Facts
Pros: excellent audio quality, superb engineering, first-rate radio functionality, light and portable
Cons: mediocre remote
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