Written by Samuel Chell
For discerning ears
The only reason the Tivoli Music System has received lukewarm reviews from some self-styled "experts" is that its sound is not artificially colored or disproportionately favored in low or high ends. The remarkable machine produces honest, pure, natural representation of the sound as recorded at the source. Since the iPod/Mp3 revolution at the beginning of the new millennium as well as the sudden improvement and acceptance of internet sound in just the past couple of years (10 years ago RealPlayer and Windows Media sounded horrible--worse than even the proverbial two Dixie Cups and a string--but now internet sound has become acceptable to most ears--even those audiophiles who resist because of its pronounced audio limitations (i.e. compression) are won over by the convenience. But the Tivoli Music System is high fidelity in the purest sense--it's faithful to the sounds in nature, providing generous amounts of undistorted power to cover the highest highs of a Steinway grand and the lowest lows of a Bosendorfer concert grand (which adds half an octave at the bottom end to complement tthe traditional 88). Too many listeners who critique the instrument are familiar only with the dense textures of guitar and vocals--that mid-register "wall of sound" that dominates most pop (including rock and country) music of today. Limited requirements for a limited selection of music.
If your interest is in jazz or classical, there's nothing better than the Tivoli Music System (except perhaps the extravagant system I pieced together in the 1970s--but some of the materials for manufacturering my high-end VR Type III $400 Shure cartridge and stylus are no longer available (of course, you can still pay several K's for the stylus of your choice), and I no longer have the room for "bookshelf" speakers like the JBL Lancers and Athenas (the latter with 14" woofers). The Tivoli Hi Fi system is Kloss technology at its very best. No, it doesn't have internet or Cloud connectivity--which is a plus for those of us serious about our precious collections, numbering in the thousands of CDs. Although the accompanying manual recommends setting the sound stage at "Stereio," I confess that I'm quickly seduced by the setting called "Wide Stereo"--not because of the surround-sound effect but because it frequently foregrounds instruments I otherwise tend to ignore. But that's merely a personal preference. Each owner can experiment to discover his own preferred sound stage, which wll depend upon factors such as musical style and even engineering (a Rudy Van Gelder recording sounds hugely different from a Roy DuNann-engineered session of the same instrumentation (for Contemporary Records). Fortunately, the Tivoli Hi Fi system allows me to equalize both bass and treble settings--a great help in instances where the recording of a piano is the work of Van Gelder, who insists on altering its natural sound to a degree that requires "fixing" on the part of the discerning audiophile (and, in my case, pianist).
I've purchased a wide variety of Tivoli products in the present millennium, most of which continue to serve me better than competitors' products. With the exception of the "iPal" (a battery-operated radio--even one employing a Kloss-inspired design does not have the power to be a "party animal"). After using it a couple of times outside, I went back to my classic and timeless Tivoli Model One, which has the power to fill our 4-story house each morning. But if you have some CDs, you can triple that amount of power with the Tivoli Hi Fi system: whether you call it the "house system" or the ultimate "clock radio," it's the ultimate CD player with adequate connectivity to be at the heart of your home audio system. (Note: treat it well. Every time the device has balked on me, I've merely made matters worse by trying to force the issue. Sometimes, it's a matter of simply waiting another second or two; at other times, it may require unplugging and replugging the machine. But neither my upstairs (bedroom) nor downstairs model (by my Bosendorfer) has ever failed to "self-correct" when given the chance. My only regret is that I didn't invest in the model with the heavy lacquered, piano-like finish. But since I've never seen one up close, I'll choose to believe that I chose wisely to use the savings for purchase of two 8-CD box sets that Bill Evans recorded the week before his passing in Sept., 1980. Thanks to Tivoli, both that moment and the one recorded by the Bill Evans Trio with Scott LaFaro, at the Village Vanguard in June, 1961, sound as fresh, up-close and "present" as does my "oversized" grand piano.