Tivoli iYiYi full review

Tivoli's iYiYi (pronounced "eye-eye-eye", apparently), is an iPod speaker system.

At 305x196x208mm, the iYiYi will be a petite, but significant addition to your living room. Part of this relative bulk is due to the iYiYi's large speakers (3in diameter each), a central iPod dock and a decent LCD screen. There's also an enclosure that houses both an internal power supply — there's no "wall wart" or bulky AC adaptor here, just a simple, generously-long (nearly 10 feet) power cable — and ported enclosures to enhance the iYiYi's bass response.

Like Tivoli's smaller iSongBook, the iYiYi is available in white with silver and gray trim or black with black trim; and unlike many of the desktop speaker systems we've tested, the iYiYi feels sturdy and well-built.

Tivoli took advantage of the iYiYi's larger size to angle back slightly the face of the system, which makes the controls and display easier to use than those of the flat-faced iSongBook. The angle also improves sound quality at close range by aiming the speakers up towards the listener.

The front of the iYiYi also hosts buttons for power, source (AM, FM, iPod, or Aux), RDS (Radio Data System), clock set, alarm and sleep, as well as five buttons for radio presets. You also get rubber-coated dials for adjusting the volume and tuning the radio—both welcome improvements over the iSongBook's up/down buttons for each. Overall, the appearance of the iYiYi is somewhat retro.

Read our review of the Logitech AudioStation iPod speaker system here

iYiYi in black

The iYiYi's larger screen is a big improvement over that of the iSongBook, and is one of the better LCD displays we've seen in an iPod speaker system.

Text is large enough to read from across a bedroom or office; there's ample contrast between the background and text; and, because the system is AC-powered, the backlight remains on all the time. Those who dislike bright displays when trying to sleep at night will appreciate the fact that the LCD's backlight automatically dims as ambient light dims; however, the dimmest level still may not be low enough for especially sensitive sleepers, and you can't turn off the display completely.

The chunky iPod dock on the front of the iYiYi — which also charges your iPod — uses Apple's Universal design, so you can use the dock insert that ships with all recent iPods for compatibility with those models.

Tivoli also includes a set of seven adaptors that accommodate all older dockable iPods. On the front of the dock cradle are a power-indicator light (which gets brighter when the iYiYi receives a signal from the wireless remote) and a 1/8in (miniplug) headphone jack; plugging headphones into the jack mutes the speakers.

Inserting an iPod into the iYiYi's dock automatically switches the input to iPod mode and starts or resumes playback (depending on the iPod's playback mode when you placed it in the dock). This can be a convenient feature, but it can also be annoying if you're just trying to charge your iPod.

On the back of the iYiYi you'll find the system's inputs and outputs. You get two stereo-miniplug inputs: an auxiliary-input (aux-in) jack and a mixed input (mix-in) jack. The former serves as the switchable Aux input; when the iYiYi is in Aux mode, an audio device connected to this input serves as the primary audio source.

Audio sent to the mix-in jack is, as the name implies, mixed with the primary audio source. This is a useful feature, found on many of Tivoli Audio's systems, that lets you, for example, connect your computer to the mix-in jack so you can hear your computer's audio along with the audio source you've chosen—iPod, radio, or aux-in.

There's also a coaxial FM antenna connector (a simple wire antenna that fits this connector is included, but you can connect a higher-end coax antenna instead), as well as a switch to choose between using this connector or using the iYiYi's internal FM antenna.

Finally, you also get a line-out jack (labelled Record Out), which lets you connect the iYiYi to a home stereo system or to recording equipment; although this line-level output isn't normally affected by the iYiYi's volume control, you can temporarily mute the output by setting the iYiYi's volume to 0.

The "clock radio"

As with the other Tivoli Audio products we've tested, the iYiYi's FM tuner is very good. Using the internal antenna, we were able to pull in most major local stations clearly.

In fact, the included single-wire external antenna didn't improve FM reception much; only when trying to tune in distant or very weak stations was there a noticeable improvement, and even then the boost in reception was marginal. However, connecting a powered external antenna improved reception of these weaker stations considerably.

We also liked the iYiYi's RDS (Radio Data System) feature, which when listening to RDS-enabled FM stations—displays information about what's currently playing, such as the song title and artist. Whereas many of the RDS-capable tuners we tested exhibit a considerable delay before displaying RDS information, the iYiYi's display immediately shows the relevant information.

The only real drawback here is that the iYiYi's onscreen characters are so big that only eight can fit on the screen at any one time, so you sometimes have to watch the screen for a while to see the desired information scroll by.

As for AM radio, the iYiYi provides performance nowhere near as good as that of FM. Still, if you like listening to talk radio, news or sport broadcasts, the iYiYi will do the job.

Tivoli didn't design the iYiYi to be the best alarm clock in the world. For example, the single Alarm button is a bit confusing to use: a single press simply displays the current alarm time; you then hold down the Clock Set button to change that time, and to actually enable the alarm, you have to hold the Alarm button down for a couple seconds.