The Tivoli Audio Model Two (Est. $300) is a terrific table radio if audio quality and aesthetics are your top priorities and you don't need to play CDs or dock an iPod. Unlike most table radios, the Model Two provides a separate speaker that can be placed up to 15 feet away from the radio itself to achieve true stereo sound. Experts and users agree that sound quality is exceptional, and the radio does a great job of filling a room with sound. The Model Two uses sophisticated tuner technology designed to cut down on noise and capture signals from weaker-signaled and/or distant stations. There are some reports among owners of tuner drift as well as spotty AM reception, but most say reception performance is excellent overall. Critics also laud the design; the classic but updated front panel is simplistic while the wooden enclosure looks impressive and is well built.
The Model Two doesn't offer many extra features such as an iPod dock or HD radio capabilities. There's not even a clock, but there is a headphone jack and auxiliary audio input for playing audio from a music player. If you want or need the ability to play back CDs or prefer deeper bass, the Model Two can be matched with the Tivoli Audio Model CD (Est. $300) and/or Model Subwoofer (Est. $160). Both accessories are housed in wood cabinets that carry through the classic look of the Model Two.
If your budget is tighter and stereo isn't a must, the step-down Tivoli Audio Model One (Est. $150) is a mono table radio that lacks the external speaker but otherwise performs similarly. The Tivoli Audio Model Three (Est. $300) adds an analog clock to the basic Model One and relocates the speaker to the top of the cabinet. The clock has a snooze button and a 20-minute sleep timer, and you can wake up to an alarm or music.
While reviewers say the Model Three sounds just as good as the other Tivoli radios, we found many complaints about its clock-radio functionality. First, the snooze button is awkward: If you don't hit it within two minutes it simply turns the radio off, so you have to decide quickly whether you want the alarm to wake you again. Second, the clock needs a single AA battery; oddly, it doesn't run off the AC power that fuels the radio. Third, although the analog clock looks nicer than a digital clock, it isn't very accurate and it needs occasional resetting with a clumsy control wheel. Many users say they got used to the Model Three's somewhat quirky clock, but others say it's a small blemish on an otherwise excellent radio.
If price is less of a concern, the Bose Wave Music System III (Est. $500) is hard to beat. Bose helped define the luxury radio market with its original Wave Radio. The Wave Music System, which is now in its third iteration, is similar but adds a front-loading CD player. To achieve the sleekest look possible, designers removed all buttons so the unit is controlled entirely through the remote. Many reviewers suggest purchasing an extra remote (starting at Est. $10) in case one gets misplaced or stops working.
The Wave Music System has 12 AM/FM presets, and the alarm can be set to wake up to radio or CD. The tuner is much better than average, with reviewers saying it can pull in stations that elude other radios. You can add features at a price with one of the many available upgrade kits. These include the Bose Wave Bluetooth music adapter (Est. $100), which adds the ability to stream music files from your Bluetooth-compatible mobile device or computer; the adapter and Bose Wave Music System are also sold in a bundle (Est. $600). Other options include a multi-CD changer (Est. $250) and an iPod dock (Est. $100), which requires the use of an Apple Lightning to 30-pin adapter for use with the iPhone 5.
If you leave value out of the picture, the Bose Wave Music System rates well with most reviewers and owners. For example, many of the nearly 300 users who post comments about the three color varieties listed separately at Amazon.com give the Bose system 4 or 5 stars out of 5, most often citing sound quality and ease of use as pluses. However, a significant number of owners are less happy. The most frequent consumer complaints include the inability to access controls except through the remote and problems with the CD player over time. Reviewers also seem puzzled that the Bose doesn't include treble and bass controls, and a number say the system is overpriced.
If you don't need or want a CD player, the Bose Wave Radio III (Est. $350) , also in its third iteration, is otherwise similar to the Wave Music System. User reviews are much the same, as well. While professional evaluations aren't plentiful, PC World (Australia) reviews the second-generation and very similar Wave Radio II, saying the sound is terrific but you'd have to be "mad" to pay its asking price.
The most expensive Bose offering is the all-in-one Acoustic Wave Music System II (Est. $1,100) . It's marketed as more of a replacement for a stereo system than as a table radio, with Bose trumpeting its performance in larger spaces and even outdoors. Experts, however, say it misses the mark. For example, CNET's Matthew Moskovciak calls the Acoustic Wave II's performance mixed; while it does fine with some types of music, it struggles with others, particularly rock and pop tracks. Design issues are also noted, such as the inconvenient location of the top LCD screen. User reviews are generally positive, although a number of owners echo Moskovciak's sentiments about this system's value and performance.
The Cue Radio Model r1 (Est. $400) draws limited but largely positive feedback. It lacks a CD/DVD player but does sport a fully integrated iPod/iPhone dock -- though you'll again need a lightning adapter for compatibility with the latest models -- a digital AM/FM tuner with 24 presets and a dual alarm clock. For users who want stereo sound, an available Model r1 bundle (Est. $480) pairs the radio with the Model s1 Satellite Speaker (Est. $100 when purchased separately). The similar Outlaw Audio Signature Edition (Est. $400) offers custom equalization settings not available in the regular Model r1, although both radios cost the same. CNET's Steve Guttenberg says the added equalization settings work as intended in certain situations, such as compensating for whether the radio is placed at the center of a table or against a wall, but aren't essential to the listener's enjoyment.