Long before the advent of the Jawbone Jambox, there was a portable speaker that was decently rugged, had tremendous battery life and amazing sound, and that was the Tivoli PAL. The PAL boasted an audiophile pedigree and an auxiliary input that made it a good partner for early iPods, but the introduction of decent stereo Bluetooth streaming made it fall behind somewhat in convenience when the Jawbone and its ilk came around.
Recently, however, Tivoli has updated the PAL with the PAL BT, a model that does offer A2DP Bluetooth stereo streaming, alongside the built-in AM/FM radio and auxiliary inputs found on the original. And if you’re in the market for a portable, powerful speaker with great sound, there’s nothing quite like it out there.
- Rated for 16 hours max battery life
- Built-in AM/FM tuner
- Bluetooth/Auxiliary connections
- Weights 1.92 lbs
- MSRP: $299.99
- Product info page
The PAL BT is frankly the best looking portable speaker available. My review unit was in glossy white, so the faceplate matches the rear casing, but those looking for a splash of color can opt to get it in a gloss black, blue or red finish up front, too. The styling is somewhat retro without feeling kitschy, and the ports and antenna are all easily accessible on the back, and protected by water and dust-resistant flaps.
The face of the speaker is dominated by the speaker grill itself, and also the large tuner dial for the built-in AM/FM radio. These are visually appealing, but more than that, the knobs and dials are actually very pleasantly textured and turn with a very satisfying amount of resistance. It sounds silly to complement a speaker based on the design and build of its controls and knobs, but when you use the PAL, you’ll notice immediately that attention was paid to their design.
The rectangular form factor isn’t the most portable among portable speakers, but it’s still a small, light device that is easily thrown into a carry-on or larger luggage.
Tivoli has a great reputation for delivering high-quality sound in a relatively affordable package. I’ve seen other reviewers knock the PAL BT for its sound quality-to-price value ratio, but to my ear, after extensive use and comparison with the Jambox and other Bluetooth speakers, the PAL still defends the reputation of its non-Bluetooth predecessor very well.
The Tivoli PAL BT is a mono speaker which might cause some potential buyers to hesitate, but that shouldn’t be a factor in anyone’s decision-making process. Sound separation in most portable Bluetooth speakers is dismal as it is, so they’re hardly “stereo” anyways. And the high-quality mono audio from the PAL BT even holds up pretty well when you crank up the volume (and it goes a lot higher than most of its competition, too, which is why it’s well-suited to backyard BBQs and other outdoor activities).
Battery life is another place where the previous PAL excelled, and the PAL BT is great there, too. Rated for 16 hours, you’ll get less depending on volume and whether you’re actively connected over Bluetooth, but no one would be disappointed by the duration of its battery no matter how you’re using it. I’ve been using it as my workday soundtrack next to the computer, and I often forget it’s a wireless speaker because of how long-lived it is. Plus, Tivoli equips the PAL BT with a user-replaceable internal rechargeable battery, so you could theoretically carry a back-up.
The Tivoli PAL BT is pricier than its non-BT version, and for bass-heads who actually like the exaggerated lows of companies like Beats and Bose, the sound might disappoint. But for audiophiles looking for a speaker that’s relatively affordable, long-lasting and still a category leader in terms of sound quality, this is a perfect device, especially as we head into beach, park and picnic season.