Looking for a new alarm clock that isn't The Worst
August 27, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a mythological perfect alarm clock that clearly does not exist in this reality. So I'm hoping you folks can help me find one that is as close as possible. This is my current clock which I've been pretty happy with, but the current version appears to be garbage, according to reviews. Requirements inside.

MUST have:
1. Multiple alarms (2 or more)
2. Gradual alarm: ie starts softly and gradually gets louder. I never realized how wonderful this was until I had one. No more immediately being woken up by the demons of hell.

Would REALLY like:
1. Easily reachable OFF button for alarm: Every bloody alarm clock in the world dedicates 30% of its surface area to the Snooze button. I have never used Snooze in my life. I want to be able to roll over and turn the alarm off while still bleary-eyed without hunting for the damn thing. A truly bad Off switch placement would be a deal-breaker. I feel like this is the most difficult to find.
3. Battery backup for loss of power. Most have this nowadays, no worries.

Would like, but not essential:
1. Legitimately good dimmer switch: I like it dark in my bedroom. The dimmer on my current clock is hilariously useless, so I just turn the clock on its face. No worries.
2. Easy +1 hour daylight savings switch. I would imagine that most have this these days as well.

Let's see what you've got!
posted by JimBJ9 to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is a smartphone not an option? I live by iHandy's Alarm Clock app.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:53 PM on August 27, 2014

Yeah, this is basically what I use Sleep As Android for.
posted by Sequence at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2014

I LOVE the SleepCycle app on my iPhone. Getting woken up at the right stage of your REM cycle is amazingly different. Not a perfect match for your criteria but worth exploring.
posted by amaire at 12:58 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Bah, I should have mentioned that. Sorry!

I COULD use my phone, but I would greatly prefer a dedicated clock. I rarely have my phone with me in the bedroom (which is a habit I should probably break, as I don't have a home phone).
posted by JimBJ9 at 1:00 PM on August 27, 2014

I use an old iPod touch with a rechargeable docking station, which means I get (a) battery backup, and (b) not-shitty-quality speakers to wake up to. Works great for me.
posted by liquado at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2014

My boyfriend has an old Sony Dream Machine from, like, 1998 that he still uses every day. That thing is a beast, and even I've come to love and rely on it. It looks like the classic ones are out of production (I could be wrong) so the ones I'm seeing are through second party vendors (like this). He has a sheet of polarizing filter taped over it, which I see now that you can buy commercially if you find the perfect clock with no dimmer.

We don't do phones in the bedroom, either--if we do, the temptation to use it instead of sleeping is too great. Sadly, alarm clocks have dropped in demand so much since smartphones hit the market that their quality seems to have really gone downhill. This newer take on the old Sonys meets some, but not all of your requirements.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:57 PM on August 27, 2014

Sounds like you're open to using a smartphone as a wake-up alarm.
I use an iphone with Nightstand app (there are many many alarm apps), and use my music or vibration as the alarm (easy to hear on...a nightstand, but some folks stick it under the pillow).
Screen of course is dimmable or flip it over on it's face and this app turns the screen off.
Can program any number of alarms.

For a phone cradle I use a wire business card holder, $6, works perfectly.
Also bought a charging cord that lives near the cradle.

You'll always have your travel alarm wherever you go!

Con: incoming email makes a vibe. No doubt there is a way around that.
posted by artdrectr at 3:37 PM on August 27, 2014

Yeah, I think you should probably just train yourself to bring your phone to bed. There are a ton of apps that can be set up however you like.
posted by trip and a half at 4:25 PM on August 27, 2014

It looks like I've got the same clock as your current one, and I (like you) mostly think it's fine, and it took me forever to find one that I liked. So, personally, I'd be in the "don't fix it if it ain't broke" camp.

the current version appears to be garbage, according to reviews.

If you're talking about the amazon reviews, an awful lot of the worst reviews are complaining about how the sound is terrible, and there's only FM radio, and the reception is terrible, and and and . . . . pfffft. C'mon, it's not supposed to be the Central Hub of your Bedroom Entertainment Center - it's a damn alarm clock. Can you read the time? Does the alarm wake you up? There ya go.

Plus the normal complaints about how they don't make cheap electronics the way they used to which . . . . no they don't, but what're you gonna do?

IOW, maybe take the negative reviews with a big grain of salt. Is there an actual store around you where you could maybe see a floor model and poke at it in person? That usually helps me make decisions about these kind of things.

All that said, the Sony ICFC1 model that late afternoon dreaming hotel linked to above seems to get a lot of good reviews on Amazon in its various incarnations, so that could be worth checking out.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:57 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have one of these: The Emerson SmartSet clock. Actually, mine is about ten years old at this point, so make sure to check out some reviews of the current model. However, it does:
Two Alarms
I think the buzzer is gradual -- I only use it by accident, but I'm 80% sure it's gradual
Off button is a switch on the side that's really easy to find after a month of using it, even groggy-eyed.
Battery Backup, automatic time reset after a power loss / unplugging
Dimmer is pretty noticeable, and is good by my standards
Auto DST switching.

I also hate using my phone as an alarm clock, so I will probably be buying another one of these when the current model finally croaks.
posted by miguelcervantes at 6:21 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

the best alarm i have ever had is an old dumb phone. used it as a stopgap when my old alarm broke and it is the best. if you muck around with the settings once (depending on your phone of course) it will do all you ask for. dig around in a drawer and see what you find.

bonus: you can laugh at old pictures and texts!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2014

3rding the Sony Dream Machine
posted by fieldtrip at 9:35 PM on August 27, 2014

Response by poster: I've actually looked at the Sony Dream Machine, and it's *almost* what I'd like, but that freaking off button is tiny and located in the opposite spot from where I want it.

I've got one of those nightstands with a mid-height shelf, which is where I keep the clock so it won't be eye-level and it's off to my left. When it goes off, I roll over and turn it off with my right arm. The off button is located on the left side, so I'd be reaching across the clock, probably banging my fingers against table legs. My current clock, while not perfect, does have the off button on the right side, in easy reach for my situation. First-world problems, I know.

Frankly, my long-term best option is to train myself to bring my phone to bed. I NEVER use ring tones, but I understand there are some apps that you can use to automatically switch from vibrate to a ring tone at night. As my parents age, it's probably good to start being reachable at night. And, obviously, the perks of using my phone as an alarm clock is near-endless customization.
posted by JimBJ9 at 6:06 AM on August 28, 2014

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