Clock radio purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • The most important facts in a nutshell
  • With aclock radio, you start the day in a good mood and well informed.
  • Even though FM is not future-proof, this type of radio still has the highest coverage. So go for devices that offer FM at least as an option.
  • Clock radios with DAB+ not only have better audio quality than FM variants, but also a wider selection of radio stations.
  • Internet radios provide the best quality and a worldwide selection of stations.
  • Some clock radios come with useful extras such as a sleep timer, a time projection or a light function.

And daily greets the groundhog

For many, being woken up is one of the most unpleasant moments of the day. Especially those who have to get up very early to get to work or class on time often prefer to pull the covers over their heads once more instead of jumping out of bed with joy at the first ring of the alarm clock. The decisive factor for our well-being after waking up is not only when, but also how we are woken up. A piercing beeping or shrill ringing makes the stress level skyrocket at the beginning of the day. The mood in the morning is correspondingly bad.

Alarm clocks with a radio function offer a much more pleasant alternative to conventional devices or the penetrating alarm tones of the smartphone. They wake you up more gently with music or the news and thus pull sleepers less abruptly out of their dreams. Even if the sound of the compact alarm clocks for the bedside table cannot compete with that of hi-fi systems, their volume is always sufficient to wake their owners. Moreover, modern clock radios have a whole range of useful additional functions.

clock radio man wakes up annoyed by alarm

Reception modes and their advantages

Before buying, consumers should think about which transmission paths they want to use to receive radio stations. In addition to classic FM (ultra-short wave), there is now the option of using the digital format DAB+ as the successor to DAB or streaming radio stations via the internet.

Radio stations galore

The greater the number of radio stations available, the more difficult it is to keep track of the different frequencies. Some devices offer a practical search function, similar to that of a television. In addition, most models allow you to store a certain number of favourite stations for easy switching.


Analogue FM reception is now considered obsolete. At best, the transmission standard is found in cheaper clock radios. Nevertheless, the analogue standard is still the most widespread and can be received worldwide. Therefore, when buying a clock radio with a more modern transmission standard, it is advisable to check whether the devices do not also specify FM as an option. This way, consumers can at least largely ensure that they have reception even if, for example, DAB reception is disturbed. If you are interested in such a device but do not want to do without the digital display of programme or traffic information, you should look for a model with Radio Data System (RDS).


With DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcasting), the signals are transmitted via digital data streams – this means that, unlike with FM, no noise can occur. The sound waves are transmitted in a binary code, which in turn is converted into sound by the radio. In addition, the sound is usually better than with FM devices and more radio stations can be received. Problems with transmission via DAB+ manifest themselves either in delayed playback or in a complete lack of reception.

clock radio dab plus logo

Especially in rural areas, this can quickly become a problem, as the expansion of the standard is not yet advanced everywhere. DAB+ also offers programme-accompanying information such as the name of the artist or the song title of the song currently playing, which appears on the display. But other information such as weather or traffic reports can also be played via the digital display.

Combination of FM and DAB+

Since the digital radio network is currently still under development, reception problems may occur in some areas. This can be remedied by clock radios that receive both analogue FM and digital DAB+ stations and can thus switch out if necessary.

Internet radio via WLAN

Internet radios are connected to the Internet via WLAN and stream radio stations in particularly high sound quality. The choice of radio stations is limitless – if you move abroad, for example, you can continue to receive your home station. In the meantime, most radio stations also offer their programmes as internet streams. The prerequisite for this is a stable WLAN connection.

radio tower in the forest at sunrise
Radio can be received via FM, DAB+ or Internet stream.

Which type of reception is right for me?

Whether you choose FM, DAB+ or Internet radio depends on how much you are willing to spend. FM radios are already available very cheaply because of the outdated technology. If you do not have high demands on sound quality, you will also be happy with such a model.

For anyone for whom audio quality is important and who likes to have more choice in radio stations, a clock radio with DAB+ reception comes into question. The typical noise of FM radios does not exist here. What’s more, they display useful programme information and other information for the consumer.

Clock radios that receive via the Internet are an alternative for people who have moved or travel a lot and do not want to miss their home station in other parts of the world. Internet radios are also the best choice for anyone who wants to stream radio programmes and news from other countries or cities.

What matters when buying

In addition to design and reception mode, there are a number of other features of clock radios that are important when making a purchase decision. Meanwhile, clock radios offer a lot of setting options and functionalities that make waking up even more pleasant.

What should be considered when operating clock radios?

A basic criterion for buying a clock radio is the display. The height of the digits should be at least 2.5 to 5.0 centimetres, depending on your eyesight and preferences. The luminosity also plays a role: on the one hand, the writing must be easy to read, on the other hand, it should not be too bright so as not to disturb sleep. Devices with different dimming levels provide the necessary flexibility. Handling is also relevant – it should be so intuitive that it can be operated in the dark if necessary. For this, the most important switches must be prominently placed and appropriately large. Especially for clock radios with many functions, the arrangement of the controls must make sense and ensure user guidance. It is also advantageous to have an additional battery compartment to bridge the power supply in the event of a power failure.

Snooze function

Who hasn’t experienced it – the alarm clock rings, but you can’t even think of getting up? But oversleeping is not an option either? For many people, the snooze function is therefore an elementary part of the wake-up routine. The interval alarm allows you to doze off for a few minutes before the next alarm goes off, preventing you from falling back into a deep sleep.

clock radio woman switches alarm off in the morning
Sleep timer

A sleep timer automatically switches the clock radio to standby mode after a certain time. Those who like to listen to radio programmes or music before falling asleep will not want to do without this function. Another useful feature is the nap function: here, a certain period of time can be entered, after which the alarm clock will wake you up – ideal for a power nap in the afternoon.

Multiple wake-up times

A practical function for couples is the option of setting two or more alarm profiles, so that a single device is sufficient for both partners. This means there is no need to set a new time for the other person every morning or to buy a second device.

Light alarm clock

Getting up is often very difficult, especially in the winter months. A clock radio with light function makes waking up easier thanks to continuously increasing brightness. It simulates sunrise so that the body is less suddenly jolted out of sleep. In fact, this wake-up variant is considered particularly gentle: between ten minutes and an hour before the actual wake-up, these clock radios begin to get brighter and brighter. Thanks to the increasing brightness, the body produces cortisol, which makes us feel awake and full of energy. So anyone who regularly suffers from the winter blues should get a light alarm clock.

clock radio woman wakes up by daylight alarm
A light alarm clock simulates the sunrise and thus helps you get up.
Automatic time setting

Older clock radios in particular have to be reset every time they are connected to the mains. Nowadays, however, many clocks have an automatic time setting function that automatically adjusts to summer or winter time.

Dimmable display

Many people suffer from problems falling asleep and therefore need a dark and quiet environment to drift off into the realm of dreams. Displays that are too bright can be disturbing, which is why there are now many models that allow the display to be dimmed in stages. This can either be set manually or change automatically at a defined time.

What volume should a clock radio have?

The volume depends on how deep the user’s sleep is. If you are a light sleeper and are woken up by every little thing, a low volume is enough to wake you up. Most clock radios reach a volume of 64 to about 80 decibels (dB). By comparison, a normal conversation reaches a maximum of about 65 decibels. Usually, models that manage an alarm tone volume of 60 to 70 decibels are sufficient. However, if you are a very deep sleeper or sleep with earplugs, it is better to go for an alarm clock that gets up to 75 decibels loud; this is roughly comparable to the noise level of a hoover.

Weekend function

Similar to the option of setting two different alarm times for couples, it is also useful if the clock radio can be set to wake only during the week, for example. There are even models that allow wake-up times by the day. This is helpful for people who work in shifts.

clock radio woman sleeps with mask in bed
Temperature display

Most devices now offer the option of displaying the temperature. This allows those who have just been woken up to immediately adjust and dress accordingly.

Time projection

Another useful function is time projection. The time shown on the display is also projected onto the wall or ceiling above the bed, so that users do not have to get up or turn around to check the time.

What connections should a clock radio have?

Some manufacturers take advantage of the fact that the clock radio is usually located right next to the smartphone at night and offer charging options for the smartphone with their models. While some implement this with one or more USB charging ports, there are some other examples that offer wireless charging, for example via an inductive Qi charging surface. All you have to do is place the smartphone on the clock radio, where it charges automatically.

For people who like to listen to music or radio broadcasts before going to sleep, many models offer interfaces such as Bluetooth, SD slots or AUX connections. These can be used to connect headphones, for example – particularly practical if your partner is already asleep or wants to read in peace. Many devices allow you to play music from your smartphone, for example via Bluetooth. This allows you to select your favourite song as the alarm tone.

How do I know if I can charge my smartphone wirelessly?

If you want to know whether your smartphone can be charged wirelessly, you have to look in the operating instructions or call up this link with the respective device. There are now also a number of so-called Qi tools that work with many different devices and even enable inductive charging if the device itself does not support inductive charging.

Dimensions and weight

Since clock radios are usually used stationary, the weight should not play a decisive role in the purchase decision. In fact, there is not much difference between the devices. Clock radios are typically very compact and weigh less than one kilogram.

There are also not many surprises when it comes to size. If you don’t have much space to spare on your bedside table, it’s better to look for a small device measuring about 7.5 x 10.5 centimetres. There are significantly more differences in shapes and colours. It doesn’t matter whether they are rectangular, round, gaudy, matt black or covered with fabric: In the end, what matters is that the clock radio provides a pleasant start to the day – and since everyone has their own preferences, the devices should above all be flexible.