The Tivoli Audio iSongBook Portable iPod/Radio Stereo Speaker System
Looking like a wall full of tasty jelly beans to this audiofool, I lustfully surveyed the ample sampling of colorful table radios and gadgets in the Tivoli room this last CES. I love audio gear, and truth be told, I love the idea of a good boombox--but reality usually falls far short of the ideal. I've heard nothing but good things from people I trust about Tivoli products, and portable speaker systems are right up InnerFidelity's alley. Tivoli's offerings looked like a good...no, great place to start.
Tivoli has a terrific looking line-up of table radios, over time I hope to sample a number of them. At the moment, however, I find myself attracted to portable players capable of battery powered operation. I want to take music everywhere and listen whenever I want. Tivoli's portable line-up includes: the very compact PAL and iPAL (Portble Audio Lab, $219) with a single speaker and analog tuner; the SongBook ($199), a single speaker unit with clock, alarm, and digital tuning; and the iSongBook ($399), which adds a second speaker and iPod dock to the SongBook.
Wait a minute! A second speaker? Yup, the iSongBook has a detachable second speaker that can be placed up to six feet from the main unit. Now that's something I can get behind. One of the biggest disappointments I find with portable speaker rigs is the lack of stereo imaging. Usually I just chalk it up to the way things are, but hey, if I can get some imaging, I'll take it. I arranged for a review loaner.
Getting to Know You
Reviewers don't have to suffer buyer's remorse, but we do get to suffer reviewer's remorse: the need to drum up words. That's not so hard with products that are spectacularly interesting, or miserable failures, but it can be pretty hard when a product is simple, and simply works. The iSongBook is one of those products that simply does what you want, and does it well.
Ten minutes after opening the box, the iSongBook was playing tunes. A gentle tug, and the second speaker detached, and I had stereo. I pushed the tuning button and it clicked up 0.1 MHz; I held it down and it searched for the next station; I pushed and held one of the preset buttons and it stored the station. Easy peasy. I flipped the iPod cover down, plugged in my iPod Touch, and it was charging and playing tunes. I pushed the clock set button, and using the tuning buttons, set the time. In the time it took for my tea kettle to boil water, I had completely set-up the iSongBook...all without cracking a manual. It. Just. Worked.
Over the next couple of months, the iSongBook found duties as laptop speakers on my back porch, TV speakers in my daughters room, playing everyone's iPods at a Forest Service cabin, and clearly enunciating NPR's "All Things Considered" as I raked my back yard. Rather like an audio Swiss Army knife, the iSongBook simply did whatever was asked of it, and always had the features needed to satisfy. It even comes with a handy remote control that had good range, and covered most needs.
But I know what you want to hear, "How does it sound?"