Tivoli Audio makes great table radios. Basically, that's all you need to know if you want to buy a quality radio. Luckily, the company makes all different kinds, including its new NetWorks Internet receiver.Tivoli is expert at making table radios. That's because the boss, Tom DeVesto, has been making them for years. He and his late partner, Henry Kloss, have created, manufactured or influenced every table radio designed in the past 40-plus years. For the record, Mr. Kloss was a genius when it came to radio and speaker design. Beginning in the 1950s, Kloss was one of the founders of now-historic hi-fi companies such as Acoustic Research (loudspeaker designs), KLH (what do you think the "K" stands for?), Advent Corporation, Kloss Video, Cambridge SoundWorks and finally Tivoli Audio. Starting with the legendary KLH Model 8 FM radio in the early '60s, Kloss was able to get true high-fidelity sound from small table radios. The most modern version, Tivoli's modest little Model One radio, is still an amazing-sounding unit. But times are changing. AM radio is not for critical music listening. And it's difficult to find much high-quality programming or broadcast quality on FM. If you're willing to pay a monthly fee for satellite radio, Tivoli makes a model that includes a Sirius receiver. But Internet radio is all the rage. Internet radios are really small, single-purpose computers made to look like radios. They allow you to stream music from Internet radio stations (more than 5,000 of them) or your home computer's hard drive via an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection.
Tivoli's NetWorks is the best-looking Internet radio -- by far -- to date. You have a choice of three different wood finishes: cherry, walnut and wenge (pronounced "venga"). All three come with a gold metal grill protecting the single, full-range speaker inside. There's also an optional, matching right-channel speaker if you're interested. The NetWorks itself comes in two versions, with or without an FM radio inside. Internet radios have to be carefully programmed, and the NetWorks is no exception. If you use your home Wi-Fi connection, you have to select it from a list that the radio finds -- and then carefully input your network's secret code (if there is one). The NetWorks receiver has five station memories that are selectable (after programming them) via the small remote-control unit or via the controls and buttons on the back panel. Once you've done all that you can, sit back and enjoy the sound -- because the NetWorks system is the best-sounding Wi-Fi on the market. It has great bass, smooth mids and surprisingly good treble extension on high-quality Internet audio streams (try WFUV, Fordham University's 128KB feed, and you'll understand what I mean). I would like to especially commend Tivoli on making a Wi-Fi radio that lets you know what time it is while you're listening to music. The NetWorks' four-line, fluorescent-blue display actually has enough room to give you all of the music station's information as well as the current time. This is especially nice if you plan on using your NetWorks as a clock radio. You can also connect a computer via the NetWorks's USB port so you can stream music directly. Sound quality is very, very good. There is also an earphone jack, plus "subwoofer" and "record out" mini-jacks as well as "mix in" and "aux in" mini-jacks. Tivoli sells a separate subwoofer ($169) and a CD deck ($300) if you think you need them. Tivoli quality doesn't come cheap. The NetWorks radio retails for $599.99. Add $50 for FM inside. A right-channel extension speaker is an additional $100. All things being equal, $600-$750 is a lot of money for a table radio -- but in this case, I don't believe it's over the top. NetWorks is a great-looking, great-sounding, room-filling, high-quality music system. And it comes from Tivoli Audio, so you know it's good. Give it a listen: You should be as impressed as I was.