For people who prefer to get their audio entertainment through the airwaves, rather than the internet, quality options are getting rather slim. There’s still life in radio yet though, as I discovered testing Tivoli Audio’s latest retro-inspired wood-panel benchtop unit, the Model One+.
I’m generally used to playing all music through Wi-Fi to various speakers around the house, and that includes any radio station you can think of, so at first I didn’t really get the appeal of a device that costs as much as a smart speaker yet does significantly less.
But while the Model One+ might not be for me, it’s clear there is something of value here for anyone looking to replace a home radio. It’s simple to use and sounds good, provides more options than a standard wireless thanks to DAB+ digital radio and basic connectivity to external devices, and you can access all functions with the dials on the front of the device or the included remote; no apps or Wi-Fi needed.
The first thing you’ll notice is the huge old-school tuning dial. Like the other dials it’s only pretending to be analogue, and there are no needles or panels filled with frequencies and labels, but I do appreciate that the inner mechanism turns slower than the main dial just like on some old hi-fi systems.
After you’ve hit the “scan” button to add your local DAB+ stations, the dial lets you move through them in alphabetical order. For me this was more than 70 stations so it’s a bit of a pain to navigate, but you can store up to five favourites by holding one of the preset buttons.
If you’re not familiar with digital radio, you can think of DAB+ as similar to modern digital TV stations; there are more of them than the older analogue stations, they sound better, don’t need to be tuned in and have some extra benefits like song names being displayed on the device. Most major FM stations also broadcast on DAB+, but there are a lot of niche and genre-specific stations too. Importantly, unlike Spotify, you don’t have to pay for DAB+ and it doesn’t use your internet connection.
The Model One+ also does FM radio and it all works the same way, although obviously you’re turning the dial through the spectrum of frequencies rather than a collection of digital stations. You get a different set of five presets here, which is nice because it means 10 favourites total, but also annoying if you like a mix of DAB+ and FM stations.
I was impressed with the audio from the top-firing speaker, which is very clear and can get quite loud. It might be a bit bright and doesn’t have a huge punch to its bass (I didn’t notice much change after playing with the simple built-in equaliser), but it will fill a small to medium room with nice sound or well-defined voices.