|Cue Radio Model r1 Radio and Model s1 Speaker Review|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Monday, 06 December 2010|
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In the early 2000s something strange happened in the world of consumer electronics: table radios became popular again – wildly so. I remember seeing ads for the Bose Wave Radio in newspapers and other publications, and because of the company's brand reputation and how easy Bose made it to purchase the Wave (extended payment plan), people were snapping them up and once again listening to radio in the home. But the real splash, for me, was when Tivoli Audio released its Model One Radio. This elegant set – based on Henry Kloss' design for the KLH Model 8 – was immediately recognized for its retro style, excellent sound (in mono no less!) and reception. I bought in several years ago and still use my Model One to this day. I love it as a radio but its limitations have kept me from moving it from the kitchen into the bedroom. I recently found a radio that can bridge that gap: the Cue Radio Model r1 from Cue Acoustics. Like my trusty Tivoli, the r1 is a mono radio but much more – and at $399 retail it should be. If you want stereo sound, Cue offers its companion s1 Speaker ($99). On the Cue website store (www.cue.com/store ), you can grab the combo for $479. The r1 and s1 are available in either white or black.
Setup & Features
You might wonder, “What do I need to do to set up a radio other than plug it in?” In the case of the r1, there are a few steps to “personalize” the radio that are definitely worth taking. The back of the r1 has six ports/jacks, one is for service so only the other five are of concern. A single auxiliary in accepts a 1/8-inch stereo jack, there are inputs for external AM and FM antennas, a power port and an auxiliary speaker port for Cue's s1. One oddity is the lack of an external FM antenna – the r1's power cord serves as AC connector and FM antenna. The r1 does have an FM antenna input, should you need additional reception power. There is, however, an external AM antenna included with the r1. The Cue remote makes it easy to control the r1 and adjust any settings. The r1's instruction manual provides easy-to-follow illustrations that demonstrate the radio's every function, so you'll be up and running in a matter of minutes.
As I mentioned earlier, the r1 is more than just a radio. It features a digital clock with dual alarms, so setting the correct time and then an alarm (or two) can quickly put time on your side. The r1 has an alarm indicator that displays on the upper right screen, confirming the alarm is on and what time it is set to engage. You can choose to wake up to AM/FM radio, iPod/iPhone or the sound of a bell. The r1 also sports an iPod/iPhone dock that charges the device when docked. Cue also gave the r1 four padded, rubber feet for stability and to protect your furniture and even added detachable magnetic speaker grilles. That's something I equate with stand-alone speakers, not table radios. Armed with that, I venture into the world of FM radio and beyond...
First things first: How does the r1 sound? To answer that question, I placed it side by side with my Tivoli Model One and played them each in their native mono modes. My first impressions – which did not change over time – were the Tivoli sounded “cleaner” than the r1, while the Cue had a more complete sound, with more emphasis in the mid to low end. That can be adjusted to a point, as I note below regarding the radio's audio profiles, depending on your listening preferences. Both models are capable of volumes louder than normal household use requires, so there's no want for power from the r1. Where it did surprise me was with its FM reception. I prejudged that the power cord/antenna would not be up to the high performance of the Tivoli. My reception test is always 107.3/WNXR, a 21,000-watt station out of Iron River, Wisconsin, roughly 40 miles east of my home. In the world of radio waves, 40 miles is barely a skip, but this station can be feisty and difficult to receive, particularly during inclement weather. But because this is the closest Milwaukee Brewers affiliate, and because I'm addicted to baseball, I rely on this station for my fix during the season. If a radio can't pull in 107.3, it's worthless to me. I'm pleased to report the r1 handled the job without a hiccup, even during the cloudy and snowy days that are now my reality. Two things the Cue has over the Tivoli is digital tuning, opposed to “eyeballing” with an analog dial, and the r1 also has a separate Radio Signal Strength Bar that displays anytime you tune into a new station.