Stylish, and surprisingly smart, the Tivoli Audio Music System Home is a sort-of-retro-but-not-really all-in-one music system for the home.
Tivoli Audio Music System Home features
The Tivoli Audio Music System Home is kind of unique. It
packs a stereo amplifier and stereo speakers into a box that’s 410mm wide, 221mm
tall and 165mm deep. In there also is CD player, a network music player, a
Bluetooth receiver and a full radio receiver.
Let me pause on that full radio receiver for a moment: it
has DAB+, FM and AM. It is extremely rare to see AM included in a device that
also offers DAB+.
The body is supported by four angled aluminium legs. It’s
available in a walnut, black or white. The review unit was walnut, which meant
it had a wraparound walnut veneer (or is it full timber? I couldn’t be sure) on
the sides, top, bottom and back. At the back is an Ethernet connection, a 3.5mm
analogue audio input and a 3.5mm line output. There is not an optical digital
audio input, so the most natural way of connecting a modern TV is missing.
There’s a connection there also for the included AM antenna and another for the
pre-attached telescopic antenna for the DAB+ and FM tuners. You can undo that
one and connect a cable for an outside antenna.
And, of course, since it’s 2019 the unit supports Bluetooth. It also supports network audio, but not Apple Airplay.
The four short legs upon which the unit rests aren’t
pre-installed. They have a kind of spring-loaded catch to hold them in place. Jamming
them in far enough for this to grab took a bit of effort.
I put off setting up the Wi-Fi network for a while and just
plugged in Ethernet. But later when I was trying to explore the Alexa
compatibility, I could find no settings in the app to get it going so figured I’d
better see if it worked with a Wi-Fi connection.
The documentation says that to setup Wi-Fi and to set up Alexa
you have to install the “Tivoli Audio Wireless App” on your iOS or Android
device. I went to the app store. There is no “Tivoli Audio Wireless App”. Nor
is there one in the Play Store.
But there was in both stores a “Tivoli Audio ART App” and a
“Tivoli Remote”. Which one? The latter’s details were clear about which models
it worked with, and the Tivoli Audio Music System Home wasn’t among them. So,
the ART app it was. A little reluctantly. In the App Store it has a rating of
just one star out of five. In the Play Store it gets a mediocre 2.5 stars.
Still, you do what you have to do.
Setting up Wi-Fi on the Tivoli Audio Music System Home
Setting up Wi-Fi used the common method of connecting to a
temporary Wi-Fi access point established by the Tivoli Audio Music System Home.
Then you tell it which access point you want it to use (2.4GHz only) and feed
it the network password. That worked well. When I returned to the ART app, it
said that a new firmware was available. Did I want to update it? Yes, but it
still took a little digging around in the app menu to find the place to do it.
The upgrade took about ten minutes, principally due to a fairly slow download.
Which raises the question: why wasn’t the upgrade offered
when I was using the wired network connection?
Then it was time to set up a Zone. Tivoli Audio wireless
stuff can be operated in zones. This zone consisted of one speaker. The app gave
a mini tutorial and suggested I select a music source. And there was the setup
function for Alexa. This required activation.
When activated, “Party Mode” doesn’t work. That’s a mode
where you have multiple Tivoli speakers. Party Mode takes over them all so that
they play the same music, regardless of zone settings.
Activating Alexa turned out to involve downloading and installing another firmware update. This one seemed to take longer.
Using the Tivoli Audio Music System Home
Initially there look to be only two controls on the Tivoli
Audio Music System Home: two knobs, both of which can also be pushed. The left
one is for volume and cycling through source selection. The right one is for
But there’s another big control. The aluminium bezel around
the central display can also be turned and pressed. Its function varies
according to mode. Rotate to the right during CD play to skip a track, press to
play or pause, press and hold to eject. And so on. This works smoothly. You can
also control stuff with the slim remote control that comes with the unit. Or
with the ART app to some extent.
There are also some small push buttons on the back for
things like the aforementioned Party Mode.
I pulled a couple of CDs down off the shelf for the first
time for a couple of months – I generally stream music from my NAS these days.
The CD slot grabbed CDs readily. If you eject a CD and then don’t remove it
within a minute or so, it’s sucked back inside.
You can set presets for the radio and then readily select them from the ART app. The app and Tivoli Audio Music System Home can allegedly stream music from TIDAL and Spotify amongst others. I have no idea how. When I tapped on Tidal in the Sources list, the app took me to something called “speechdump.wav”, which may be a recording I made on my phone. I tapped on that and it showed the screen for whatever music was then playing on the unit. When tapped on Spotify, it took me to the Spotify app, but the Tivoli Audio Music System Home wasn’t shown as an available speaker in there.
Hmmm. Other sources perhaps?
I could play music that was on my phone using the app. But
when I went to “Additional Sources: Network Devices / Servers”, there was
nothing in the list, nor an apparent way to specify them. I downloaded the
manual and there was nothing in there about how to set it up. Then, a couple of
hours later a list did appear, but when I tapped on one of the network music
sources, a message came up saying “Zone unreachable.” In fact, the same message
was shown for each of the sources.
I think I can see why the app is rated at 1 or 2.5 stars.
Around then I gave up on it.
(Note: perhaps all this had some kind of solution. But the
system was due for pickup the next day and I ran out of time to try exploring
further. Anyway, a system like this should just work. I’m pretty experienced
and persistent with such systems. This would be truly troubling for a regular
consumer who’d paid a lot of money for this svelte bit of kit.)
There was actually no problem with playing network music. The Tivoli Audio Music System Home makes a good DLNA Renderer. That is, you can use any of a dozen programs on Android, and some on the iPhone, to send music to the unit via DLNA. And it plays well. But it does seem to be limited to 44.1kHz/48kHz content. None of my high-resolution stuff worked.
The sound produced by the Tivoli Audio Music System Home was
quite remarkable in view of the unit’s size.
By dint of some careful placement of ear to different parts
of the front panel, I determined that each side had both a tweeter and a
woofer. Well, I’m ninety percent sure that’s the case. And with this
combination of drivers and careful digital control of the signal, the system
manages to sound much larger than it is. That’s most evident in the bass. In
track after track there was remarkably weighty and extended bass. In tracks
from the album Synchronicity by The Police, Sting’s bass guitar is clean
and powerful. This came through remarkably well on the Tivoli Audio Music System
The rest of the sound was nicely balanced as well. There wasn’t much in the way of stereo spread, which isn’t surprising given that the left and right speakers are only centimetres apart. The volume levels were sufficient for fairly loud listening in a good-sized room. In general, there was good dynamism, with drums being clearly reproduced within the music mix.
Digging into the bass
But I want to return to the bass again, because that was a
standout. You will see below that my measurements suggest that the electronics
in the Tivoli Audio Music System Home monitor the signal and adjust it to kind
of maximise performance while avoiding damage. So after I did those
measurements I decided on some torture tests. First, I played a Chinese
orchestral piece called “Overture of the Dagger Society Suite”. The
opening section repeats each conclude with a mighty strike on a massive Chinese
bass drum. With big powerful speakers the percussive impact is intense, if they
can take it. And the after tones of exceptionally deep bass are revealing.
Played on the Tivoli Audio Music System Home, the strike of the drums was really quite muted, and not particularly laden with bass. But the deep after-tones were present, with truly deep rumbling for an instant after the strike.
I played this back at full volume on the Tivoli Audio Music
System Home. (The average level of modulation is quite low to leave room for
the cannons.) The early section of the music has a bass drum, lushly recorded
as was Telarc’s wont. Was delivered with decent power and fullness. The cannon?
There was no discernible bass in the blasts.
Clearly the processing identifies the elements of the music
potentially dangerous to the system and reduces their bass content. But if the
bass is low enough in level to not pose a danger, through it comes.
That’s extreme stuff. I went back to something a little more
mainstream to remind myself of how the unit performed with regular music. Pearl
Jam’s Lightning Bolt was delivered with excellent tonal balance, good
dynamics, and a very creditable kick drum.
Tivoli Audio Music System Home measurements
If I was startled by the amount of bass I heard emanating
from this compact unit, I was even more surprised by the measured amount. I
used a white noise (the same average level at all frequencies) test signal with
the microphone close to the woofer. Measuring at any distance and you’re
measuring the room as much as the speaker. That’s why properly equipped
loudspeaker makers employ anechoic chambers. These don’t reflect sound.
Back to the Tivoli Audio Music System Home. What surprised
me? How about a bass output that was essentially even from 500 hertz down to 28
hertz. That’s not a typo. To be clear, the output starts to diminish a little
below 40 hertz so that the output at 28 hertz was down by 3dB.
I’ve measured many subwoofers incapable of reaching down
Now, there can be problems if a smallish woofer is called
upon to deliver too much deep bass. It’s clear that the Tivoli Audio Music
System Home digitally tailors the sound to avoid this. Below 28 hertz, the
output is cut hard. Loudspeakers handling sound naturally roll off far more
gently into the bass. This one is down by a further 6dB at 25 hertz, and more
than 24dB at 20 hertz.
I conducted that measurement with the output set to 30 on the 40-point scale. So I re-ran it at 40. Now the output shoulder at 28 hertz was down by 7.5dB from the mid-bass, compared to the 3dB of the earlier measurement. Clearly the signal processing takes into account the playback level.
The quality, volume and depth of the sound product by the
Tivoli Audio Music System Home is simply astonishing. And it’s quite out of
proportion to the unit’s size. Sure, using some recordings I’ve carefully
hoarded over the decades I can catch it out on a couple of things. But, hey, to
properly hand that 1812, you’re looking at one very big system, and one
that won’t leave you much change out of $20K.
But the Tivoli app is tremendously frustrating. I suppose TIDAL
and Spotify might work for some. But they wouldn’t for me. And as I’m finalising
this review, I’m listening to music delivered from TIDAL on a Denon audio
streamer, so I know TIDAL works.
More details on the Tivoli Audio Music System Home here. Our previous coverage of Tivoli Audio here.