I haven’t sat down and listened to the radio in years. (Such is life with an underground commute, I guess.) And yet, dead center on my nightstand is an older Tivoli Model 3 clock radio. It has an AM/FM tuner, a clock, a crude alarm and a gigantic, exquisitely damped tuning knob. It doesn’t have Bluetooth, an aux-in or anything that wasn’t technologically available before World War II. As a source for audio in the age of digital streaming, it’s woefully outmatched by things that cost a third as much. But, as an immaculately designed object that can tell time and occasionally wake me up with a shrill beep, it’s unmatched.
When Tom DeVesto, the founder of Tivoli, said he was splitting off and forming Como Audio — a new audio company that would focus on “Smart Speakers” while maintaining the aesthetic ideals of Tivoli — it seemed like a dream come true. I’d finally get to use that pretty thing on my nightstand.
The smaller Solo speaker does maintain most of the beautiful simplicity of Tivoli speakers before it, even if it biases more toward a futuristic design (with piano finishes and more buttons). The other good news is that there isn’t any shortage of connectivity options. Bluetooth AptX, Spotify connect, aux-in, USB, internet radio and AM/FM are all available through the easily navigable menu. Audio quality’s good too — the 3/4-inch soft dome tweeter and 3-inch long-throw subwoofer provide way fuller sound than I was expecting. And if it’s still not enough, you can upgrade to the double-sized Duetto or pair as many of the speakers together as you want.
But a couple weeks into the test and it was getting about as much use as the Tivoli that it replaced.
This isn’t necessarily the Como’s fault. If you love internet or terrestrial radio, it’ll be a great speaker. If you have Spotify or a Chromecast hooked up, it’ll be a fantastic speaker. If you have any method of playing your music other than Bluetooth, it’ll be really great. I don’t know what it is about the Como, but it took Bluetooth — an already pretty dodgy protocol — and made it just a hair more unreliable. Whether it was spotty connections or trouble linking up in the first place, the Solo seemed unwilling to play nice with Bluetooth audio and, as a semi-committed Apple Music user, that was my only game in town. As a result, when I wanted to play music at home I ended up using a $30 Bluetooth receiver hooked up to a pair of speakers and letting the Como sit quiet. Despite its non-use, though, the Como stayed on my nightstand: a beautiful object with a perfectly functioning clock.