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Tivoli Strengthens iPod Connection

Cambridge, Mass. — Tivoli Audio stepped up its collaboration with Apple by introducing its first portable radio with built-in iPod docking/recharging station. The iSongBook is targeted to ship in October at a unilateral retail price of $329.

The company, known for its high-performance tabletop and portable radios, also announced other product plans, which include intentions to ship its first all-in-one tabletop CD-radio with built-in stereo speakers by Christmas. The Tivoli Audio Music System was originally targeted to ship by Christmas 2004, but the company delayed shipments to make multiple improvements.

In other announcements, the company also said it will offer its diminutive $129 battery-operated PAL portable radio in four fashion colors popularized during Europe’s most recent fashion shows: orange, pink, lime green and sky blue. The four colors will be available this season only and will be followed up next year with new fashion colors. PALs in eight other colors will continue to be offered.

Here’s what’s new:

iSongBook: The iPod-color portable radio features flip-down dock for any current or previous-generation iPod but the iPod shuffle. Its included credit-card remote operates iPod and AM/FM functions, and an included second speaker can be detached from the main chassis to widen the stereo image. The speaker includes a cable-rewind mechanism to manage the included 6-foot audio cable.

It operates on AC or six AA-size batteries, and it features built-in battery charger to recharge AA-size NiMH and lithium-ion batteries.

Other features include digital alarm clock, ability to fall asleep or wake up to iPod-stored music, an audio input to amplify music from any MP3 headphone stereo, 2×10-watt amplification, telescoping FM antenna, and 9k/10k switch for AM reception outside North America. The book-shaped system, at 6.19 inches by 11.06 inches by 2.19 inches, is sized to fit easily inside a suitcase, briefcase or backpack.

It will be available through Apple stores, Tivoli’s direct channels and other retailers.

Last year, Tivoli introduced an iPod-color version of its PAL portable radio, dubbed it iPAL, and bundled it with an audio cable to connect to an iPod’s audio output. The iPAL, however, did not come with iPod docking/recharging station. Nor did iPAL come with a remote that controlled the iPod. It is also sold through Apple stores.

iSongBook enjoys clear advantages over Bose’s $300 SoundDock, said chairman/CEO Tom DeVesto, including radio, separate speaker, and portability.

TivoliAudio Music System: The company made multiple changes to the prototype shown last year, including the addition of dual rear bass ports instead of one.

The single-box stereo CD clock radio, retailing for a targeted $500 to $600, features high-gloss wood cabinet in contrast to competitors’ plastic cabinets, the company said. It competes with Bose and Cambridge SoundWorks systems.

The 5.4-inch by 14.1-inch by 8.5-inch cabinet incorporate three-channel amp, separately amplified 5-inch down-firing woofer, built-in stereo speakers, a dollop of DSP to widen the sound stage delivered by two 3-inch drivers, digital tuner, FM Radio Data System (RDS), dual alarms with battery-backed-up digital clock and remote. It’s Tivoli’s first product to use DSP to enhance spatialization.

Among the changes: WMA-CD playback to complement previously planned MP3-CD playback, front-panel headphone jack instead of rear-panel jack, internal physical design changes to improve acoustics, and alarm and sleep front-panel LEDs to indicate when they are set. In addition, the finish was changed to a high-gloss dark walnut with beige front panel.

The system will put Tivoli in closer competition with Bose tabletop systems. Bose dominates the $400 to $500 tabletop market, said DeVesto, while Tivoli has focused on tabletop radios in the “couple-hundred-dollar range.” Within that price range, Tivoli sales have grown 65 percent per year for several years, he said. Bose sells about 750,000 table radios per year, DeVesto noted in citing industry estimates.

In other comments, DeVesto said his company has no plans to offer Internet radio, HD Radio or video-related audio products. “I love it,” he said of Internet radio, but developing an affordable product with a consumer-friendly user interface is a big challenge. As for HD Radio, he said, “I don’t really see the consumer benefit in it yet.” Terrestrial radio stations have to offer different content, and costs have to come down, before the technology will fly in the market, he contended. HD Radio, he claimed, adds cost and delivers less bandwidth than analog FM stations. “Today’s FM has higher fidelity [than HD Radio],” citing HD Radio’s “MP3 quality.” HD Radio won’t sound better than a high-quality analog FM radio, he said.

Tivoli also has no plans for a tabletop XM satellite radio, having shipped its Sirius satellite radio in January at $299. It’s the industry’s first satellite table radio, he said.

As for XM’s Connect and Play program, DeVesto claimed the cost of adding XM-ready capability to a table radio would add about $100 to a consumer’s costs.