My Search for the Perfect Alarm Clock

August 18, 2014

Several years ago I received an iHome iD91 alarm clock radio as a gift, and it changed my alarm clock life forever. When it died, I had a heck of a time finding a suitable replacement, mostly because the features I was spoiled with, but now considered a necessity, didn’t seem to exist in any one alarm clock radio on the market.

“Josh, why wouldn’t you just get another iHome iD91 or another iHome device?” you ask. Well, the iD91 died in such a way that it made me want to look at, if not give preference to, other brands. Everything on the iD91 worked great except that the upper 50% of the digital display just stopped working. In this day and age, how does half a digital display stop working? It was never dropped or hit or abused; I live in NYC and we really don’t have power issues, and it’s connected to a surge protector anyway. LCDs don’t just go bad on their own…they’re either caused by physical trauma or by power issues, and in this case it would be an internal issue caused by bad manufacturing…possibly slightly less voltage than necessary, amplified over time.

So, I figured I would shop around, see the wealth of different options I had, and choose the best for my needs.

Boy was I wrong!

Needs & Wants

Whenever researching products to purchase, I make a list of what I need it to have, what I strongly want it to have, and what would I would like it to have.

In this case, the device was to function as my general bedroom clock, wake-up radio, and general bedroom radio/music device. To be considered, a device must have all of the items in the “need” category, and all but one…maybe two…in the “strong wants” category. They broke down as follows:

Needs

  • FM digital radio tuner (AM would be nice)
  • radio as alarm
  • button volume control (as opposed to a knob)
  • decent sound quality
  • way to play music from iPhone (Bluetooth, aux port, usb port, etc.)

Strong Wants

  • 7-5-2 day alarm setting
  • rising alarm volume
  • 2 alarms
  • dimmable display

Niceties

  • iPhone charger, idealy just a USB port so that any kind of device could be charged

I did not consider my lists to be exorbitant or fanciful in any way. After all, my old iD91 had all of the above features. However, after spending a few minutes on various retail web sites, I quickly realized that I was not in for an easy search.

After not finding any devices that satisfied my needs and strong wants lists, I even looked at the current iHome devices, and not even they had a product that would do everything I wanted. I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that I would not find a product that would make me happy.

One

Luckily — call it fate, call it karma — I happened to stumble upon an ad on a site that advertised an alarm clock that had all of the features I needed and wanted. After the initial adrenaline kick of actually finding a suitable alarm clock, I became saddened by the fact that there seemed to be only one alarm clock in the whole world that could satisfy my needs, and the fact that my Google-fu wasn’t strong enough to find it during my initial searches.

I immediately purchased a Soundfreaq Sound Rise ($80), and was quite satisfied with it out of the box. After using it for a month and a half, I can say that it sounds great and all of the features work as I want them to. There are, however, two minor quibbles that I have with it. First, it’s just under six inches tall and the buttons are on the top of the device, set back about an inch, and recessed, which means that there’s no way to see what you’re doing if you try to hit buttons while you’re lying in bed. Second, there’s no dedicated “off” button to turn off a playing alarm or the radio that you manually turned on. By itself this would not be a problem, however, depending on how the radio was turned on, different buttons do different things. For example, if you manually turned on the radio, pressing the “snooze” button will turn it off; if the radio is on because of the alarm, pressing the “snooze” button will turn it off for 10 minutes after which it will go back on (your garden variety snooze feature). The fact that you have to think about which way the radio was turned on and then adjust your button presses to turn it off is more thinking than needs to be done with an alarm clock that just has an “off” button. I promised minor quibbles, and I think I delivered minor quibbles.

I still can’t believe, in 2014, that alarm clock technology is still in the dark ages, and that I was only able to find one device that satisfied my alarm clock needs. I talked with friends and co-workers and not one of them thought I was being too demanding – and trust me, they would let me know if I was. I can only hope that this clock lasts for many, many years, because I do not want to do this again any time soon.

UPDATE: About that second quibble…so I reread the instruction manual and found that no matter how the radio, or any sound, was turned on, it can be turned off by pressing and holding the music “on” button for two seconds. This is now my preferred method of turning the music off, because I don’t have to think about how it was turned on and which button would work in this instance. While a dedicated “off” button would still be preferred, especially since the functionality would be completely intuitive, the original minor quibble has been reduced to a minuscule quibble.