Why Do Alarm Clocks Stink?

January 11th, 2005

We’ve had our alarm clock for quite awhile. It’s old, and it hurts Terah’s ears sometimes. We’d like to get a new one that has a nice digital FM sound. Then, we could move our radio down to the kitchen for her to use there. Features such as a gradual buzzer, weekday/weekend mode (so you don’t have to turn off the alarms for the weekend), CD player, nap mode (a separate timer for a nap), and NIST atomic clock synchronization would be nice to have, too.

So I start searching. First thing I discover: not one alarm clock that Sony makes has any kind of decent battery back-up. Even their high-end ones will only save your alarm settings for 60 seconds. We could have a 5-minute outage in the middle of the night, never notice, and not get awakened. It’s just stupid to not put this feature in an alarm clock. Even our old one has this.

Timex has some nice models. But their multi-alarm models all seem to annoyingly only let you use the buzzer with one of the alarms. Panasonic clocks seem to have the same problem.

Then we have some RCA models. According to reviews on Amazon and Circuit City, these things have terrible quality. There are lots of reports of CD players failing within 18 hours and being able to tune in only 2 or 3 radio stations.

Next we come to Philips. They have one clock, and it has only a 3-minute backup. At least give me the option to put in a AA battery or something!

Finally, there is Sangean. They have some truly nice-looking clocks: the RCR-1, the RCR-2, and the RS-330. However, they don’t publish battery backup information for the RCR-1 or RCR-2. Rumor has it that they have a decent-sized backup battery, but nobody really knows how long it lasts, and the RS-330 supposedly makes a noticable hum. That would annoy me in our quiet house.

Sigh.

What’s a good, geeky alarm?

Categories: Hardware

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Comments Feed39 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    alarm = laptop + cron + mp3 player

    besides for the radio, does everything you want. :)

    Reply

    Anonymous Reply:

    I suppose so. It is a tad more expensive than the clocks I’ve been looking at, though. :-)

    Maybe I should just find somebody’s very used laptop and hook up some speakers.. hmm.

    Reply

    Hunter Xu Reply:

    Why not have a separate bedside alarm just for waking you up, and use your audio with radio at other room, so you won’t mess up with your credit?

    Visit http://www.easylifestyle.us for the collections of best alarm clocks.

    Reply

  2. Morgan

    Heh, my shiny new Nokia 9500 must be the ultimate alarm clock. You can schedule different alarm times on different days, there is a snooze feature and it even works when the phone is off and the profile is silent (so calendar items accidently set to remind me during sleep hours don’t make a sound)…

    Reply

    jgoerzen Reply:

    That sounds like a nice phone.

    The alarm on mine (Sanyo SCP-8100) only works when it’s on and has a signal from my specific provider. Since we live on the edge of their coverage area, it sometimes does lose the signal, so it’s not reliable enough. Also it doesn’t have snooze or a way to set it to ring every day. Sigh.

    Reply

  3. Ben

    Yup, my Nokia makes a fine alarm clock. It has a ramped ringer, good battery life, snooze facility, night light etc :-)

    Reply

  4. marty

    here’s your solution: have kids. We haven’t needed an alarm clock in 11 years. How old are the boys? 11 years old. Dogs are almost as good. Their “gradual alarm system” begins with warm dog breath in your face. Then it’s a cold nose in your face. Then it’s a low whine. And finally, 50 pounds landing on top of you if you’re still in bed.

    Reply

    terah Reply:

    Well, Marty, I did stipulate that the new clock had to be cute! :-)

    Reply

  5. Dael

    Howdy. I have had my alarm clock for fifteen years, and it has been absolutely flawless. It’s a Zen alarm clock from Now and Zen. It’s in a beautiful fine hardwood case, the clock is analog and utterly silent, and the alarm chime is a real metal chime perfectly tuned to a wonderful sustaining note. It is battery powered, and I think I’ve changed the batteries once in the fifteen years I’ve had it. It rings the chime once, and again a few minutes later, and then again a little sooner, and sooner and sooner until it’s chiming every four seconds. It’s a fine way to wake up. It’s simple, beautiful, relaxing, and utterly reliable. It’s also durned expensive, at about a hundred bucks. I consider it money well spent, as I have woken up gently and in a good mood for the last fifteen years! If you are curious, do a search on (Now and Zen) or (The Zen Alarm Clock).

    Reply

    jgoerzen Reply:

    Those look *really* cool. In fact, what started me on this trek was an Adsense ad on this site for one.

    But, it looks like they don’t have any dual alarm models. If they had, I think I would have gotten one right off.

    And they’re a little expensive for buying two.

    Reply

    Marcus Reply:

    My Zen alarm clock was terrible. I only kept it for a week or so. It made a grinding noise when the gears engaged to strike the alarm. It also failed to work on two occasions in a week causing me to late to my job (at a hospital ER). The instructions came with a what to do if the alarm mechanism sticks. Sticks??? Can’t be having that. Very discouraging as the concept is great. I had to send it back and cannot afford to experiment until I receive one that works as advertised.

    Reply

    Helmut Reply:

    Can you tell what your zen alarm clock looked like. Was it the pyramid-shaped one or the mor modern-looking digital one? Was thinking of buying one.

    Reply

    Penny Reply:

    What did the instructions on your Zen clock say to do if the alarm system sticks. My striking arm is not hitting the chime and my clock is out of warranty.

    Reply

    Helmut Reply:

    Can you tell what your zen alarm clock looked like. Was it the pyramid-shaped one or the mor modern-looking digital one? Was thinking of buying one.

    Reply

    John Alexander Reply:

    All the Now and Zen clocks break within a year. This company used to list their products on Amazon, until finally their were too many people reporting broken clocks, then either Amazon kicked them off or they just cut their losses and fled all the negative reviews. I’ve owned four different clock from this company over the years (a testament to how great they are while they last), but they all broke after about 8 months.

    Reply

  6. Jack

    I have a basic alarm clock w/ a key feature that tells me the room temperature. I don’t have a thermostat so that’s the next best thing. But I found the alarm function totally lacking.

    Right now, I am just having trouble remembering to turn the alarm on. It’s to the point now where I am very suspicious of myself whether I turned it off when it first rang and I forgot about it.

    I really need a better alarm clock, just like the author wrote. One that have dual alarm and weekend settings…

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    is there a real alarm clock that will set itself according to the atomic signal that can be retrieved over your wireless lan through the net?

    Reply

    jgoerzen Reply:

    I’ve never heard of one with that feature. Most that can auto-set will use the NIST shortwave broadcast.

    Reply

    Anonymous Reply:

    be careful of getting an alarm clock that sets itself by the atomic clock! i have wallclock in my kitchen that sets itself by the atomic clock every night at 2:04am. love it! but ONCE in a while the signal gets real whacked out and at 7:00am it says something WAY OFF – hours and minutes both. you don’t want that in an alarm clock…

    Reply

  8. Anonymous

    thanks anyway.

    Reply

  9. Anonymous

    it’s just that most LaCrosse clocks have poor reception where I am on the East Coast and they synchronize only at night (when the signal barely gets through)

    Reply

  10. Tim

    I’ve been searching for an alarm clock that has a great and lengthy gradual alarm and a programmable snooze. It’s amazing that no really great alarm exists with all the features above and something for the morning averse. Let me know if anyone knows of one, because literally I’ve been looking for years.

    And yes Nokia makes great alarms for some reason (must be that scandinavian winter), but I’d rather not sleep next to a cellphone or have to buy one just for the alarm clock.

    Reply

    steve Reply:

    TIVOLI AUDIO MODEL THREE CLOCK RADIO

    not cheap, but you can get additional speaker (sold separately) which incorportes a second alarm clark for the other side of the bed too.

    Reply

    Tom Reply:

    I’d love to get the Tivoli but I can’t see living with an analog alarm clock. Can you really see it at night, or in the morning when groggy?

    Reply

  11. Anonymous

    I use an X-10 timer/alarm. It can control 8 channels for remote control activation, but only 4 can be setup for timer action. When I have the alarm set, it buzzes, as well as turning the light on in my face. It can be setup to turn on the lights, turn on a stereo, etc. It also has a battery backup.

    Reply

  12. H.E. in Houston

    I was also dismayed by the array of *not quite* good alarm clocks that should have such basic features as battery backup. I found a very good one at Best Buy about four months ago. It is the RCA RP3720 Clock Radio with Extra-Large 1.4″ Blue Display, Auto Time set and Dual Wake. It has battery backup (2-AA’s), which have taken me through several power shortages (can you spell “Rita”? :) . If it just happens that power has not been restored at the time that the alarm should go off, it will sound a beeper even if you had it to wake up to radio.
    I got it for $19.99, the same price they have it on Amazon, which I think is a very good deal (I know, some will still want wake up to CD, progressive sound increase, etc., etc.) All in all, I think this is a very good deal. Just my 2%.
    So let’s see,
    Battery backup… check
    Auto time set (NIST)… check
    Big blue display… check
    Dual Alarm… check
    Wake up to radio… check

    I hope this helps. /-/

    Reply

    Anonymous Reply:

    I picked up a nice GE alarm clock that not only shows the time, but with show the time the alarm(s) (Dual Alarm). It also lets show’s you if it’s set to wake you with buzzer, radio, or CD.

    Unfortunately, it is impossible to set, and I lost the instructions. It is supposed to autoset, but I accidently hit a manual set once (no idea how) and haven’t been able to correct the time since.

    Reply

  13. Avery St. Clair

    The Braun AB-1 has been my clock of choice for 20 years. At $12 (used to be $9.95) it’s affordable. It’s small, attractive, simple. Takes one AA battery, which I change twice a year (whenever daylight savings time changes) so I never wonder about battery life. I’ve never been late to work. So what’s the problem? They’ve quit MAKING it! My current AB-1 is working fine but has begun to tick audibly and that bothers my wife, though not me. With what do I replace the clock? Who are the nitwits at Braun that decided to discontinue this model? BTW, don’t be fooled by the model AB-1A, which ain’t the same machine.

    Reply

    Robert Moore Reply:

    The AB1 was my favorite as well. For almost twenty years. The alarm stopped working several years ago. I Finally found it from http://www.aroraelectric.com and purchased two of them. (They do not say “Made in Germany” on them anymore.)

    The first one was fine for a while, then the alarm time hand got unstuck from its shaft so could no longer be set.

    I got out the second and it runs at half speed.

    Reply

    william lai Reply:

    Ah, the AB1 is probably the best single best piece of machinery I’ve ever owned. It has been reliably waking me up for 20+ years, home or away, through countless bangs and drops. it’s simple and its design is no-nonsense form follows function.

    anyone has a recommendation as to what to replace the AB1 with? How abut the Muji rubber alarm clock at moma store?

    Reply

  14. Anonymous

    Anyone ever find an answer to this one?

    Reply

    Steve Reply:

    better use an automic clock for this ;)

    Reply

  15. Chris

    My idea of a perfect alarm clock
    1. Crescendo alarm
    2 A soft night light attached to the
    side or top of clock that would
    illuminate with the commencement of
    the alarm
    3. This light would remain on after
    the alarm was silenced and then would
    automatically turn off after 1 minute
    Anyone know of anything close to this?

    Reply

  16. Mike

    I have had many many alarm clocks, analog, digital, and phone. The analog was hard to see in the morning, so i moved on. The digital was nice, the quality was average (its an alarm clock for 20 bucks, i didn’t expect much), but I couldn’t stand waking up to a bleeding beep every morning. The phone was reliable, and didn’t need service to work. The ringers were LOUD, and woke me up, and the screen light up when the alarm went off. I moved off of it because the phone’s reciption was crap, and did me no good. I have finally settled with something that works for me. My computer is in my room. I just downloaded an alarm program, told my computer (a laptop) to wake from sleep 5 minutes before the alarm in the computer goes off (i get a light before anything else.) Then the alarm goes off with songs i picked from my iTunes library. I just hooked my laptop up to my iHome. The iHome is a good alarm clock, and has really good quality sound (it plays your iPod and charges it too. it also can play other mp3 players through a cable that comes with it; thus, my laptop is attached.) The radio is quite good, the sound quality is great, and the display glows blue on 3 brightness settings. I’ve settled on that to be the perfect alarm for me. The iHome is $100. I don’t use its alarm feature. I don’t attach my iPod to it, so it can either wake me to the radio or to the evil buzzer. The computer program was free. Just google windows/mac alarm clock. You can usually get them for free. Hope this helps! :)

    Reply

  17. Fred

    Try the Neverlate executive for week/weekend auto settings

    Reply

  18. Morgan Windslow

    My Zen Alarm Clock makes a perfect clock to ease into the morning. It chimes only once and then 3 1/2 minutes later and then eventually it speeds up to chime every 4 seconds until you turn it off — the 10 minute progression really is a lovely way to start the morning — not like a electronic sound that most clocks have — these seem to shorten your life!

    Reply

  19. annemarie

    At this date, The Sony Dream Machine has had an atomic clock for at least a few years. We often have power outages that last for days, and the clock immediately checks the sat. time and resets all your previous alarm settings once the power comes on. It’s a nifty clock with a choice to turn off the alarm on weekends or choose a different wake up time on those days. You can set four different alarm times, any one of which you can easily choose (and see clearly on the display) the night before. Very intuitive and easy to use, with a small footprint, the hardest thing being to remember to push one button to put on/take off daylight savings time, since one rarely has to look at the buttons after initial setup.

    Reply

  20. Vince

    We loved our Zen alarm (pyramid) for the 1 1/2 years it worked…. then one day it just stopped – new batteries didn’t help, nothing. I read above where one guy has had his for 15 years… Seems to be really hit and miss.

    Reply

  21. Roy

    Stumbled upon this article while looking for a decent alarm clock too. It’s now 2014 and still can’t find a decent alarm clock with weekday/weekend mode; battery backup; gradual alarm. The best bet would be to use an old cell phone.

    Reply

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