Bedside alarm clocks have been a standard feature of bedrooms for decades. They tell you the time when you're anywhere in the bedroom. They wake you up on time. And the well-designed ones can be a nice addition to the look of your bedroom. They also let you listen to news or music while you're getting dressed in the morning.
As with so many other things, the use of alarm clocks is on the wane, as they're being replaced by the ubiquitous, all-purpose mobile phone. But it doesn't have to be so. And it shouldn't be. Good alarm clocks can do things your phone can't.
For starters, both the displays and speakers tend to be bigger, so telling the time and listening to music and news can be done from anywhere in the bedroom. And the sound quality is much better. That's especially true of the new generation of alarm clocks. Some of the sound system miniaturization that has been developed for laptops, tablets and other mobile technologies has made its way into alarm clocks. The good ones sound way better than alarm clocks used to — and way better than your phone.
While traditional alarm clocks get audio from old-fashioned radio, the new Bluetooth versions get it from a vastly superior source — the Internet, by way of your phone.
The inexpensive and minimal Tick Tock Dock from Edifier does some interesting gymnastics around form and function. The form is familiar, but the function is not what you might expect.
The Tick Tock Dock has an iconic alarm clock look, characterized by a round face for the clock and two bells on top for the alarm. But it uses the round face for a woofer speaker. The two "bells" on top are actually omnidirectional tweeters.
The other benefit to the Tick Tock Dock is simplicity. It's an FM radio alarm clock that streams music and news from your phone, either wirelessly via Bluetooth or from a universal audio port. It does little else, though an iPhone-specific version has a swivel-out dock for recharging the phone and playing music from it.
The Tick Tock Dock comes in black, white and beige.
The Philips Original Radio Mini ORT2300 combines elegant, retro styling with Bluetooth streaming technology. It has a built-in timer, so you could use it in the kitchen, too.
You can set up to 20 radio presets, including for both regular FM radio and DAB, the newish standard for high-quality digital radio. That's nice, but you'd be better off streaming music and podcasts through your phone via Bluetooth — the built-in sound system can give you more volume than your phone, but not much in the way of sound quality.
One of my favorite new clocks is the iBT97 Bluetooth Alarm Clock from iHome. It charges your gadgets. You can charge iOS devices in the port on top — either iPhone or even iPad; USB devices can be plugged into the back.
Reviewers say it has a rich sound with deep base. The company uses some interesting technology to create audio separation, even though the stereo speakers are close to each other. You can use an equalizer feature to adjust the audio, including a setting called "3D space."
But the most unusual feature is that it doubles as a capable speakerphone, which even has voice echo cancellation like the high-end corporate speakerphones.
The iBT97 is expected to ship in summer 2013.
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