Easily winning the prize for the most unusual-looking product in the roundup, Tivoli’s Networks+ looks like a single standard wooden speaker with a monochromatic blue-on-black LCD screen embedded in it. It’s also easily the most ambitious of the digital radios reviewed here, supporting internet radio as well as DAB+ and media playback from USB storage devices and networked PCs.
All these features can make the Tivoli quite complex, and the interface to access the features is not always intuitive, but once you get everything set up it’s a very cool dude indeed.
Starting with DAB+ audio, it delivered clean sound through its single speaker, and a speaker port at the bottom allows you to connect a matching second speaker available from Tivoli for full stereo support. Singly, or working together with a second speaker, it produced very high quality sound when listening to both DAB+ and FM radio. It also tuned and switched channels quickly, and setting a preset was as simple as holding down a number on the remote for a few seconds.
Switching over to internet radio required only the pressing of the ‘Source’ button on the remote. The NetWorks can connect to the internet through either wired or wireless networking, and both worked seamlessly for us. Being connected allowed us to browse through hundreds of internet radio stations, sorted by genre and/or country. Not all the stations were online when we tried them, but it easy enough to go back and browse more. It’s not as slick an internet radio interface as that offered by Pure in the Evoke Flow, but it worked well enough to make it compelling.
Finally, there’s the option of listening to your own music collection. A USB interface on the back allows you to plug in your MP3 player, USB hard disk or thumb drive and listen to music from it. It can also talk to networked PCs with file shares, even supporting standard Windows file sharing in addition to UPnP AV shares. It works beautifully, even though initial setup can be fiddly thanks to things like file passwords on file shares. The output quality of MP3 and WMA playback is outstanding.
On the downside, the unusual design of the NetWorks is a major drawback. All the controls except for the snooze button (it has a basic alarm function) and volume dial are located on the back of the device, necessitating that most of the time you have to use the supplied credit-card remote. That remote has thin, difficult-to-press buttons and is just painful to use for extended periods. This is a definite case of allowing design to triumph over function. Yet in spite of this, the excellent feature set of the Tivoli makes it a very compelling product indeed, even at the steep asking price.