By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 4/25/2005 2:21:09 PM ET 2005-04-25T18:21:09

Satellite radio now comes in many shapes and sizes. They’re not just the little receivers that go in your car or boomboxes. Now, satellite radios can fit on your belt, or attach to your home stereo/theater.

I must preface all this by saying no one company corners the market on cool new radios. XM has the ultra-portable, Sirius has the new Tivoli table radio and both have hi-fi tuners with the introduction of the Polk XRt12.

I’ve played with a few Sirius home hi-fi units -- and usually have a Kenwood DT-7000S plugged in. But, for the past few weeks it’s been a Polk XRt12 XM Reference Tuner that’s been attached to my hi-fi system.

The Polk pretty much conforms to how a standard component tuner has been defined, over the years -- except it receives XM only. It has the normal pair of RCA stereo outputs to attach to your amplifier but also has both coaxial and optical digital outputs. 

There is also a video output. In a very clever move, Polk allows you to hook the XRt12 directly to your television so you can display the channel, artist and song name right on the screen.  No matter how large they make the radio display -- it can’t compare with the chance to see the words on a big TV screen.  It’s a great idea.

As for sound -- the Polk is the best sounding component tuner that I’ve ever heard in my system. Compared to the Kenwood and other Sirius tuners I’ve tried, the Polk seems to go higher in the treble and lower in the bass -- as well as providing much better stereo separation between the speakers.

Polk Audio
Polk's XM receiver plugs directly into your hi-fi/home theater.

The Polk has a suggested retail price of $329.95 -- but is currently selling for $299.95 (with free shipping) on the Polk Web site. XM activation and monthly service fees are extra. It even comes with a 30-day guarantee -- if you don’t like the way it sounds they’ll refund your money (see their Web site for details.)

Finally, when you mention table radios -- the first name that should come to mind is Tivoli.  That’s because they make the best-sounding ones on the planet.

Table radios
A year ago, at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show, I wrote about a prototype of a Tivoli table radio with a Sirius satellite radio built inside. A year later, Tivoli is shipping them out the door.

Tivoli Audio
Henry Kloss' famous design now sports a Sirius tuner in the same box as an AM/FM radio.
The radio is called the Satellite model. It is the first AM/FM/Sirius (or XM) radio to hit the market. That Tom DeVesto and company were able to fit all that in a standard size Tivoli cherry and taupe table radio box is an engineering feat of the highest order.

The radio has the famous 3-inch speaker facing up (like in their clock radio). The Sirius tuner and blue readout screen is on the left hand side of the front panel. The Henry Kloss AM/FM analog tuner graces the right.

On the back there are numerous inputs and outputs. What you need to know is you attach the Sirius antenna and a loop AM antenna and you’re off to the races. FM signals are handled through the AC cord antenna (or you can plug in an external one as well). There are also jacks for a matching external speaker (the radio has built-in stereo amplifiers), a subwoofer (Tivoli also makes one to match), headphones and an auxiliary input for your CD player or iPod-type device.

There’s even a little remote control in the box. While it doesn’t control the volume or the AM or FM sections -- it does allow you to control all the Sirius radio functions (music stream, display, settings, memory.)

Even though there is a built-in clock (you have a choice of digital or a very cute blue analog timepiece) and a way to set an alarm, Tivoli is not calling this a clock radio. I was able to set it to wake me up to Sirius music at a specific time -- but these functions are secondary to the music.

And in that department there are no arguments. Tivoli has done an amazing job at getting all this to sound wonderful. DeVesto told me that AM and FM and Sirius aren’t very happy together in the same box -- but somehow they’ve made it work.  As good as their other table radios sound -- the Satellite just takes it one step further.

The Satellite retails for $299.99. Tivoli’s optional Stereo Speaker retails for $49.99. Their Subwoofer retails for $79.99. A matching CD player retails for $199.99. Sirius activation and monthly service fees are extra.

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but like everything else they make , Tivoli’s Satellite is a piece of quality gear and is highly recommended.

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