17 December, 2013

Scratchy Tivoli Audio Model One

The Model One has been a huge success. But in many ways it is a daring retro design judging from all the features that are missing in this radio. I am thinking of features such as a customizable equalizer, a digital display, and memory presets. It just has a plain old analog tuning dial for FM and AM.

The radio could as far as I can tell just as well have been made in the 70's except for some of the IC's which are used. Actually it is easy to see the similarity with the even older KLH Model 18 from the 60's, and yes - Henry Kloss played a role in both radio designs. But that makes for easy repairs, such as a seemingly common fault in the FM tuning capacitor, which over time may develop contact problems.

The radio is in many respects exceptionally well made. The tuning dial has a quality vernier drive. The audio section is well built with a powerful amplifier, a strong magnet for the loudspeaker, and a bass port design for the wooden cabinet. All are factors which contribute to its reputation for good audio. If one can trust measurements on the web, it has been equalized for enhanced bass and treble with the mid's some 6 dB down. These are well-known tricks for getting a warm and crisp sound with universal appeal. Internally the tuner section, which is built around the TEA5711T chip, is well shielded for frequency stability as seen in image 2.

One weakness which manifested itself after only 3-4 years in this particular radio is that it became hard to tune, scratchy, and unstable on FM due to intermittent contacts in the tuning capacitor. According to the TEA5711T datasheet it is a varicon which for AM has 140/82 pF, for FM 2 x 20 pF, and for trimmers 4 x 8 pF. This particular unit had a Mitsumi varicon. Some say, when this fault occurs, that the varicon must be replaced and others say it can be cleaned. Who do you think I sided with?

Disassembling the radio is quite straightforward if you are used to this kind of work. The tuner is enclosed in shielding on both sides of the PCB. The shields can carefully be desoldered as shown in image 3. That exposes the varicon, and its plastic casing can be lifted as shown in the last image.

I sprayed it with contact spray and the radio came back to life. The only problem was that the tuning on FM had shifted so that a station on 100 MHz now appeared on 107 MHz. A little detective work around the circuit showed which trimmer that was for the FM oscillator and which one that was for the FM RF circuit (marked O and R in image 2). Since the oscillator trimmer was set for its maximum capacitance with the plates covering each other, it was easy to reduce the value and get the FM dial back to normal again, and then to peak the RF trimmer.

It got me wondering though to see that it had been necessary in the first place to have the oscillator trimmer set at its maximum value. It was just as if the tuning capacitor never had had its full value, even in the factory, and that it finally got it after my cleaning.


  1. Here's a tip that may save you from having to either disassemble the radio like I did or send it in for repair:

    "Issues like that can typically be caused by the lubricant in the tuner settling over time due to gravity. Please turn on the radio, turn the volume down completely, and aggressively rotate the tuning dial for 3-5 minutes. This will redistribute the lubricant which should take care of the issue." (from Audiokarma, July 2013).

    This seems to give at least a temporary fix and a permanent one if you are lucky.

    1. Hi Sverre,

      I bought a Tivoli Radio Model One last year in Canada then moved to London, UK. I tried to use the radio but it does seem like it's working as well as before, the sound is really low and blurry. Unfortunately, I was not aware of that the voltage difference from Canada to UK could damage electronic devices...
      I really love this radio and I would like to get it fixed. Do you think this problem is fixable? If yes, would you happen to know a good repairer on London?

      Thank you for your help,


    2. Hi Celia. The voltage difference (230 vs 115 Volts I would guess) could create all kinds of problems from damage to all integrated circuits to only a few burned out components. But the fact that there is some kind of sound there, indicates that it is not so severe as it could have been. Unfortunately I am not able to recommend anyone who can help you, and my days in London are soon over.

    3. Thank you for your excellent report. However, I have two questions: Can you give more details on which parts of the varicon you sprayed with contact spray? Must some parts be protected from spraying? Second question: how must the RF trimmer be peaked?
      Thank you for your help.

    4. The aim is to spray the area where there are moving parts that have contact with non-moving parts. However it is not so easy to figure that out, so one has to do some guesswork. Perhaps too much spray was the reason why I had to realign the radio afterwards also? I don't really know.

      Peaking the RF trimmer, means slowly adjusting it for peak signal strength on a station. It should preferably be one where only a small part of the capacitor is used, i.e. a station found on the high side of the FM band, above 100 MHz or so.

    5. Thank you for your quick answer which was very helpful.

    6. I'd like to add something.
      Diving deeper into it I guess another weakness is the FM antenna switch which may typically develop contact problems over time too. If it does I find it extremely difficult to replace the switch due to the way it is glued from inside the rear panel, although the two screws should be enough to enable a stable position.

      I am still wondering why they use this method. Can you imagine what's the use of it?


    7. It really works! Thanks for the tip.

  2. Good idea. It was some job if you aren't used to do this kind of reparations but I managed! And with a good result.

    Jan F.

  3. Hi Sverre,
    In an attempt to resurrect this old but rather useful thread,I would first like to thank you for sharing and then ask you the following question :
    1. How about AM? After adjusting with great results FM, I can get no sound at all from AM.I must say though, that by mistake I fiddled with the screw just below the R FM trimmer when I was attempting to adjust FM!
    2. The tunning LED is not working any more.

    Shall be grateful if you could help!

    Best Regards,


    1. I’m sorry I cannot help you - it’s been too long since I opened this radio to remember

  4. Your blog and YouTube videos are the only information I can find online. I have an old Tivoli radio I dearly love and it's got a tuning problem now. VERY frustrating! I don't think I am competent enough to do the work myself, not knowing a thing about fixing such things plus I don't have some of the tools I'd need. But at least this information can be shared with a repair person if I can find one. Wish me luck, and again, thank you for sharing your knowledge!