Tivoli Model One


3 of 5 stars
What’s this?

For my birthday a few weeks ago I received this Tivoli Model One table radio as a gift from my mother. It’s basically a very simple, very solidly built AM/FM tuner. Here’s what came in the box: the radio itself and a power cable. Oh, and a brief manual that I didn’t even bother reading.

Tivoli Model One

Set-up took about a minute: attach the cable to the back of the unit and then plug it into a wall and it was working. The tuning dial feels so substantial in its turning motion — incredibly precise, incredibly well-manufactured — that it has the feel of luxury. Not the flashy, superficial notion that passes for most luxury these days, which is really more about price tags than build quality. Rather this radio exudes a truly ‘high end’ sensibility that suggests enough thought and care have been invested in its design and engineering that the whole unit could last several decades.

I know that radio designers and engineers have almost a century of best practices and technological refinement at their backs when they sit down to create a product like the Model One. And it’s perhaps unrealistic to expect that today’s constantly changing networked technology products could work like this, could be so simple and solid. But it still made me wish that all electronic products could offer an out-of-the-box experience as satisfying as this. (Get yours at Amazon through this link and I get a little kickback.)

  1. Congrats, Khoi!

    We’ve had our Model One for many years now. You’ll probably be passing yours on to your daughter in a few decades! Fantastic little devices. Enjoy!

  2. I should have added: we actually prefer our Tivoli Model One to our much-more-expensive Bose ‘Wave’ CD/radio unit. It won’t play anywhere near as loud, but for lower volume listening it’s got a more realistic sound quality, and the hands-on approach with the high quality analog knob is a real joy!

  3. I don’t think it’s unfair to expect this kind of quality from companies across the board. (Except, of course, from those who’s value comes from being cheap. Which is a fair way to go.)

    The principles of quality design aren’t specific to any particular product category. It’s just a matter of caring enough about the product and having the right people on board.

  4. That is beautiful! When I get my own place I’ll have to remember this.

    Heh, and only a power cable and the device? Seems only like common sense.

  5. This is kind of silly, but this product has given me faith in humanity.

    It seems to me that in a world that is being filled with crap, the designers of this little thing heroically fought the pressure to do the same and instead produced something worthwhile.

    But look at those cheap membrane switches in some of Tivoli’s remote controls! Are they, too, trying to capitalize on the success they had with their previously decent and well-made products?

    I know of only a few products that are worth buying. To me it is incredibly frustrating that one of them has to be a radio. In my country, the programming sucks, and the one thing I absolutely do not need is a radio, not even one as well made as this Tivoli.

    I have my Apple computer. I’m not getting myself a Tivoli radio.
    Perhaps I can find some consolation in a Dualit toaster?

  6. I’ve almost pulled the trigger on these a few times. Only thing is I don’t listen to the radio much. It’s usually something out of my music collection.

    I also need to note after coming to this conclusion I still wanted it for the build quality alone. Totally agree with you on the quality point. I think one would look great on a Dieter Rams 606 shelving system. Wait, I don’t have one of those either :D.

  7. My dad has had a Model One sitting in his living room since they were first released – he bought it in America as they were unavailable in Australia at the time.

    He uses it every day, and it has never missed a beat. About three or four years ago, we bought him a Model Three for father’s day. Though he never actually uses it as an alarm clock, it’s equally as luxurious.

    I’ve long lusted after their iPal, but have never purchased it because of the price.

  8. We have one of these in our dining/kitchen area with an Airport Express attached to the back for streaming music while cooking and eating.

    Use it every day and love it.

  9. Excellent observation that such precise attention to design is often applied to objects with a long history.

    I would add (hopefully not being too much of a curmudgeon) that excellent design is often wasted on obsolete devices. I was reminded of MUJI stores — everything is so beautifully designed, but most of their products I just don’t need. CD Player – nope. Office supplies – not really.

    I have wanted to buy a Model One for years but am always stopped by the realization that I just don’t need something that only plays radio.

    But I’m imagining _you_ listening to the ball game on your Model One and it makes so much sense.

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