Waking up in the early-morning hours isn’t easy for many people, so a little assistance in the form of an alarm clock is a big help. These days, smartphones can perform this duty, but they lack some crucial functions. For example, a phone doesn’t make it easy to see what time it is at night, plus it often prohibits sleep by tempting you to check your email, text messages, and social media—when you should be drifting off into dreamland.
A clock radio lets you easily check the time late at night and then provides a powerful alarm for waking up in the morning. Today’s clock radios offer many more functions than the classic model with its red digital display, gravelly speaker, faux wood trim, and earsplitting buzzer. These modern clock radios feature dimmable lighting, milder alarm sounds, sleek designs, and Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music. Some can rouse you from slumber with faux sunlight, while others function as a smart assistant that not only wakes you up but also gives you the weather report and controls the lights in your home.
If you could use a little help getting out of bed in the morning, you’re not alone. Read on to learn more about these handy bedfellows and find out why the models below are some of the best clock radios you can buy.
- BEST OVERALL: Emerson SmartSet Alarm Clock Radio
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: DreamSky Decent Alarm Clock Radio
- BEST SMART: Amazon All-new Echo Dot Smart Speaker with clock
- BEST FEATURES: ELEHOT Projection Alarm Clock Radio
- BEST WAKE-UP LIGHT: heimvision Sunrise Alarm Clock
- BEST FOR SENIORS: PPLEE Digital Dual Alarms Clock
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Clock Radio
When shopping for an alarm clock, be sure to determine what type and what features are most important to make the right choice.
Clock radios range from the classic two-function models that provide an alarm and radio to smart models loaded with additional features.
Standard alarm clocks include radio and alarm functions. They consist of an AM/FM radio with multiple radio channel presets and large digital displays that make it easy to read the time in the middle of the night. The alarm function allows for setting one or more alarms that play either a preset radio station or buzzer when they go off. These units are small enough—about 7 inches wide and 7 inches long—to fit on a shelf or nightstand.
Bluetooth alarm clocks offer the same radio and alarm functions as a standard alarm clock, with the addition of a Bluetooth connection. Connecting a smartphone to the clock enables streaming music through its speakers. These models typically feature high-quality stereo sound for more dynamic audio than a standard clock radio.
For those who would prefer to avoid the jolting sound of an alarm buzzer or the local radio station’s morning show, consider a wake-up light alarm clock. These innovative clock radios feature a large yellow lamp that mimics sunlight. When it’s the preselected time, the light slowly gets brighter, simulating a sunrise, gently and naturally waking the sleeper instead of sounding an alarm. Some wake-up lights also incorporate nature sounds that gradually increase in volume with the brightening light to complete the effect of daybreak.
Smart alarm clocks take clock radios to the next level. In addition to providing a digital display of the time and an alarm, they also include virtual assistants that show the weather, answer random fact-based questions, deliver the news, play music, and control the appliances and the thermostat in a house.
Wired vs. Wireless
A standard 115-volt plug and outlet power most clock radios. While this works perfectly fine when the power is on, it won’t help if there’s a power outage, which will shut off the clock and reset all of the settings. Many clock radios feature battery backups that keep the clock running in the event of a power outage.
Sound Quality and Volume
Clock radios vary in quality and volume. Standard models feature small speakers, making them capable of playing radio stations and sounding alarm buzzers, but they’re not great for listening to music. Clock radios that double as Bluetooth speakers feature excellent sound quality, allowing them to double as stereo systems. Most models can control the volume of the alarm buzzer as well as the radio.
The time display is perhaps the most essential feature of a clock radio. Given their role as alarms, a clock radio must be visible at night. The user should be able to read the display at night without the need to squint or move close to the unit. Some clocks conveniently project the time onto the ceiling, good for reading it while lying comfortably on one’s back. Some clock radio displays feature adjustable brightness, so the light from the display doesn’t disturb anyone’s sleep.
Snooze functions are standard on clock radios. A snooze button enables the user to shut off the alarm temporarily. After hitting the snooze button, the alarm shuts off for about nine minutes before sounding again. These buttons are typically large, easy to find even when still in the haze of sleep.
In addition to telling the time, tuning in to the radio, and waking the user up in the morning, many clock radios also offer other functions. Most modern clock radios include one or two USB ports that can charge a smart device. Some models feature pre-installed nature sounds like waves, birds chirping, and rain, for better sleep at night or a more pleasing sound in the morning instead of a blaring alarm.
Our Top Picks
The list of clock radios below takes into consideration the above features and includes some of the best models in their respective classes.
With its broad range of classic and newer clock radio features, this Emerson model is one of the most robust clock radio options for a nightstand. The large, blue LED display is dimmable, so it can clearly display the time in the wee hours of the morning without keeping anyone awake. The radio function saves up to 20 stations in its memory, while the Bluetooth function can connect a smartphone to the unit’s speakers.
This clock automatically sets itself to the correct time and date when first plugged in or after a power outage. (No more blinking 12:00 after a power outage!) Set the alarm to go off with a favorite radio station for a gentle wake up, or choose a loud buzzer that will stir anyone from a deep sleep. Advanced alarm settings can set alarms for different times on weekdays and weekends, good for sleeping in on a Saturday morning.
With a host of excellent features and an affordable price, this model is a worthy option for those on a budget. This clock features a 4-inch display with dimmer control that adjusts its brightness from 0 to 100 for various light conditions and preferences. This clock can wake the user up to a buzzer or radio with a sound that increases in intensity over five seconds.
This DreamSky clock radio features three volume settings for the alarm and 15 volume settings for the radio. Catch some extra slumber in the morning with an eight-minute-delay snooze button. In addition to telling the current time, this clock also displays the alarm setting and room temperature. A convenient USB port can charge a smart device, while three AAA batteries provide backup in the case of a power outage.
In addition to a standard digital clock and Bluetooth speaker, this model from Amazon also offers the power of Alexa, which will set alarms, report the latest headlines, check the weather, and answer random questions through voice control. Using Alexa, the Echo Dot can control an entire home, including smart device-compatible lights, dryers, ovens, door locks, and thermostats.
This fourth generation of the Echo Dot comes in a subtle round shape about the size of a grapefruit. Inside that unassuming ball is an LED that displays the time, an ample 15-watt speaker, and a built-in microphone for voice recognition. Its clean looks and color options—twilight blue and white—add interest to any nightstand or bookshelf. And a microphone off-button maintains privacy for anyone worried about Alexa listening in on personal conversations.
You can stop squinting at the alarm clock at the bedside in the middle of the night; just look up with this projection clock from Elehot. It projects an image of the time up to 12 feet away onto a wall or ceiling, making it easy to see what time it is in those early hours of the morning. Two buttons can adjust the brightness of the projection to suit preferences.
This clock radio features two different alarm settings, helpful for couples with different waking times. The seven alarm tones let you choose the one that does the most effective wake-up job. For avid radio listeners, this clock radio offers 60 presets. Two USB ports ensure that smart devices will be charged and ready for the coming day.
Waking up to the harsh alarm of a standard clock radio can be an unpleasant way to start the day. This clock radio uses the gentle power of light and the soothing sounds of nature to gently rouse the user from slumber. It features a large yellow lamp that simulates the sunrise. When it’s time to wake up, the light slowly brightens, and the sound gradually increases in volume, for a more natural wake-up. Accompanying sounds consist of seven options, including birdsong, waves, streams, and piano.
At night, this clock radio can also simulate a sunset, gradually decreasing the light and sound as sleep arrives. For light sleepers, this clock radio can play soothing sounds through the night. Additional features include smart options that can control the clock via a virtual assistant or with a phone app.
With features that enhance accessibility, this clock radio is an excellent option for older users. This clock radio features a large 7-inch display, making it easy to read for those with vision impairment. It also features dual alarms with a loud buzzer that can be adjusted to four different volumes, helpful for awakening deep sleepers or for those with hearing problems. Large buttons and easy programming make it easy to set the alarm and clock functions.
Since such a large display can be overly bright at night, an adjustable dimmer allows the user to fine-tune its brightness. A large snooze button is easy to locate and provides nine extra minutes of sleep, while a battery backup keeps the clock going through power outages. A USB phone charger enables convenient phone charging.
FAQs About Clock Radios
For any lingering questions, you may have about clock radios, read on to get answers to a couple of the most common questions about these helpful assistants.
Q. How does a clock radio work?
A clock radio works similarly to an alarm clock but includes a radio receiver and antenna that allows it to tune in FM and AM radio broadcasts. The unit’s controls can set the alarm to a specific time, and that alarm can either be set to turn on the radio to a preset station or sound a buzzer.
Q. Why won’t my alarms wake me up?
It may be because the alarm isn’t loud enough or because you’ve become accustomed to the tone. If it’s the latter, consider using a different alarm tone.