While one could never accuse Tivoli Audio of a lack of originality – this, after all, is the company responsible for reviving the wood-cased ‘table radio’ – there’s something rather familiar about the latest addition to its range. Yes, there are several similar Bluetooth speakers on the market combining aluminium casework and a leather strap – not least from that well-known company located up on the Danish coast – but Tivoli thinks it can draw on its heritage to bring something new to the party.
And that something is the Andiamo speaker, selling for £189 and the first model in a new ‘Go’ sub-brand, which will offer ‘a collection of portable Bluetooth-enabled audio systems designed for easy access to music when on the move’. It’s a little larger than some of its rivals at 13.5cm across and 5.5cm deep and the chunky 720g weight gives it a feeling of substance without making it sufficiently heavy to have one wondering whether to take it out and about.
Furthermore, while the features ‘arms race’ in this sector of the market loads up many a Bluetooth speaker with multiroom capability, microphones for mobile telephony, ports to charge a phone and even lights flashing in time with the music, Tivoli eschews all those fripperies in favour of a very simple philosophy: less frill and more sound.
The Andiamo is charged from a mains power supply provided in the box, its 7.2V/2600mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery providing up to 20 hours’ play-time between charges, and connects to external devices using Bluetooth 3.0 wireless, with a 3.5mm auxiliary input provided as an option.
Pairing is quick and easy: like the volume up/down and power buttons, the Bluetooth one is embossed into the Italian leather surrounding the aluminium housing, and activates a sensor below the strap, with a flashing blue light turning steady when the link is made. The same LED also pulses red when charging, shows solid red when the battery is low, turns green when fully charged and is yellow when the unit is in standby. Steady purple illumination indicates the Andiamo in line-in mode.
That really is all there is to using the speaker: it can be hung from the strap when in use, or stand on a surface, with a rubberised ring on the lower surface providing a ‘foot’. As we’ll see, the speaker sounds best when on a table, but respectable enough for casual listening when free-hanging, at least as long as the grille perforated into the aluminium is kept facing toward the listener.
Within, the Andiamo shows the long-established Tivoli Audio engineering expertise in action. The driver here is a 2.5in/6.5cm full range unit, driven by a high-efficiency 20W amplifier and with a coaxially mounted 3in/7.5cm passive radiator to extend the bass reach. Tuning of the whole audio system is achieved using equalisation implemented in 24-bit digital processing, which Tivoli says enhances both the dynamics of the sound and overall detail.
And that’s about it, beyond the fact that the Andiamo is available in a choice of finishes: the fresh, light-looking silver with tan strap of the review sample, or a rather more sombre black on black, perhaps for those who are more bikes and leathers than bicycles with baskets!
Two obvious things to get out of the way: one is that the Tivoli speaker is ‘only’ mono, having just a single drive unit; the other is that, in general, I really don’t like compact Bluetooth speakers, finding their sound flat, dull, and either thin or – when some kind of bass enhancement is employed – clumsily overprocessed.
However, the lack of stereo here proves no great hindrance to enjoyment: whether out and about or just with a speaker parked on a table, it’s unlikely one would be able to set things up to achieve a reasonable soundstage were it to be stereo, and those models using processing to achieve some kind of enhanced stereo effect again sound fairly fake to these ears.
Given a speaker with decent tonality and weight – both of which the Andiamo certainly has – it’s perhaps surprising how quickly one ignores the lack of stereo effect, and instead concentrates on what’s being played or said. Clarity is a major asset the Tivoli speaker has on its side, especially when it comes to the intelligibility of voices spoken and sung, and when that is partnered by the surprising low-end punch and dynamic ability here, that makes for a highly involving sound.
I used the Andiamo with a range of devices, from my iPhone 8 Plus to an inexpensive Android tablet, and from dedicated digital music players through to my desktop Mac mini computer and even an Amazon Echo Dot. In every case I found I was overlooking the limitations of the sound – the treble is a little rolled-off and softened, and of course absolute bass weight is restricted – and ‘listening through’ to enjoy what was being played or said. At some point I realised that were I only to have my phone running the BBC Sounds app and this speaker, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel too hard done by.
Placing the speaker on a table helps the bass through some boundary reinforcement – as I type this I am listening to Radio 3 from my iPhone with the Andiamo between my keyboard and the computer, and I can feel low bass notes through the desk! There’s also enough power here to fill a reasonably-sized room without any sense of the amplifier or driver struggling, and even away from the speaker the clarity remains excellent.
For further information, visit: https://tivoliaudio.co.uk/shop/andiamo
This review originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Gramophone. To find out more about subscribing to the world's leading classical music magazine, please visit: gramophone.co.uk/subscribe
2.5in/6.5cm full range, with coaxial 3in/7.5cm passive radiator
20W with DSP equalization
Bluetooth, 3.5mm stereo line-in
up to 20 hours
Silver/tan or black/black