Top five digital radio alarm clocks for 2019
By Oliver Trebilcock
Find a brilliant digital radio alarm clock that’s easy to use and a delight to wake up to. We pick our top five radios to put by your bedside.
Getting up in the morning can be a struggle, especially if you’re waking up to the sound of a shrill alarm. Investing in a good digital alarm clock – one that wakes you gently with a soft crescendo – will help you start the day on the right note.
Most bedside digital radios offer a choice of alarm sounds, including your favourite radio station, a buzzer or a bell tone. And some let you set multiple alarms, which is ideal if you and your partner wake up at different times or if you want to set a later time for the weekend.
We've picked out five of the best digital radio alarm clocks, with a range of designs to suit your preferences. All these top-scoring radios performed strongly in our expert lab tests, including for sound quality, ease of use and features. Some are designed specifically to be brilliant bedside companions, and others are general-use radios that scored highly for their suitability as radio alarm clocks.
However, it's just as essential to know which radios don't deliver, so you know which to avoid and why. So we've also selected three Don't Buys with alarm clock features so you know which ones to stay clear of to avoid disappointment.
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Best digital radio alarm clocks
This high-end alarm clock radio has premium build quality and is ideal for the bedroom routine, with a large, clear screen, alarms with snooze function and a sleep timer for those that love to listen at night as they’re falling asleep. It even supports Bluetooth, so you can stream your music wirelessly through the radio’s speakers. It’s not quite the best-sounding radio we’ve tested, but the sound is very good and spreads out well throughout the room. It’s a radio for those looking for stylish looks a cut above the cheap plastic found in many radios. Login to find out how easy our expert lab found this radio to use, and how good the maximum volume of this radio is.
This nice-looking DAB+/FM radio has a smooth wooden finish and a handy carry strap for whenever you want to reposition it. It’s highly suitable as a bedside alarm clock radio, with alarm and snooze functions and a nice, clear large screen with good contrast, even when viewing at an angle. Sound is nice, even and clear, with vocals and speech particularly strong. It even has Bluetooth and line in so you can play audio from your smartphone and other devices, and you can even get a rechargeable battery for it, sold separately for around £20, that’ll turn this compact space-saving radio into a portable one. It’s the perfect all-rounder for the bedroom or anywhere else. Login to find out how easy the radio is to use, and whether the screen is ideal for reading at night.
For those seeking a higher-end bedside radio, this compact radio with a beautiful build is an excellent choice. Sound quality delivers, plus it has a convenient CD player for your personal music collection, and Bluetooth to stream audio and access internet features from your smartphone.
If you’re looking for a retro alarm-clock radio designed specifically for the bedside, you’ve come to the right place. The sound is superbly balanced and there are two independent alarms, flexible sleep and snooze functions, and the alarm volume rises slowly so you’re awoken gently. The premium build is a treat, and the telescopic aerial saves you from the fiddly wire ones found on most clock radios.
This dedicated alarm clock radio has a full-front screen that’s easy to read even when you've stood up out of bed. The snooze button is large and easy to hit, and there's a generous several dozen presets and two direct-access buttons to save your favourite radio stations, plus two handy USB sockets to charge your devices. Bluetooth allows you to stream audio and access internet features like podcasts from your smartphone.
Table notes: Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at April 2019.
Not found the product for you? Browse all of our radio reviews.
And here are three to avoid
Not all radio alarm clocks are equal, and even dedicated ones supposedly designed purely for bedside use can perform their task poorly. These are some of the worst radios from our testing that were seemingly suitable for alarm clock use. We've seen digital radio alarm clocks with impossibly small snooze buttons, tiny hard-to-read screens and ones with such low volume you might not wake up at all. Be sure to avoid these duds if you see them on the high street or online.
Three radio alarm clocks to avoid
This DAB/FM radio may have stylish retro looks, but it narrowly avoids getting a Don’t Buy. Available for around £50, it would be an expensive mistake to buy this radio for use as an alarm clock, with the low maximum volume making the two independent alarms and snooze function useless if you’re a heavy sleeper. Despite having stereo speakers, it sounds poor, with a rough and scratchy sound that lacks life and bass. On closer inspection the build quality is quite poor as well, and having the screen on top of the radio makes it hardly ideal for use as a radio alarm clock. It’s not worth the money. Login to find out which radios we would recommend instead with vastly superior sound quality.
While designed primarily as a bedside alarm clock with two independent alarms, this small low-cost radio simply sounds awful. It’s the kind of radio that would annoy your partner each morning if they’re already awake. It has a thin, tinny sound with a lack of any bass or even higher treble frequencies. The screen can be hard to read as well as it isn’t very bright, and isn’t convenient to use either. You can’t display both the time and the radio station you’re listening to at the same time. The button layout isn’t good either, making it easy to get the volume and radio station buttons confused – which can make for a frustrating morning experience. Login to find out how power-hungry this radio is, and for a breakdown of how it performs across various musical genres in our test results.
How to choose the best alarm clock radio
A good digital alarm clock can cost anything from £50 up to £250. If you like using your alarm clock radio’s snooze button to grab a few more minutes’ sleep, it’s really important to consider its size and how easy it is to reach. Ideally it should be placed somewhere prominent, so you don’t struggle to find it when you’re drowsy.
Don’t forget to also look at the size of the other buttons and dials, and how they’re labelled. Some radios may look sleek, but you’ll quickly get frustrated with the ones that have fiddly buttons on the back and the front. It’s always worth checking measurements, too, to make sure the radio will fit comfortably on your bedside table.
And if you like falling asleep to the radio as well as waking up to it, look for a radio alarm clock with a sleep timer that turns the radio off after a set period of time.
Features to consider for a good night's sleep
Digital alarm clock radios have a much larger screen than table-top or portable radios. If you want to be able to check the time at a glance, pick one with a large, clear display. In addition to showing the time, some radios use scrolling text to show track titles, programme names and what’s coming up next.
Most will let you choose whether to show a 12 or a 24-hour clock. Some high-end models have automatic clock updates, so you won’t need to adjust them for daylight-saving time. These clock radios are extremely accurate, as the time is received from a central radio transmitter rather than an approximation taken from a wristwatch or wall clock.
Devices that emit light in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep, and blue light can keep you awake more than any other type of light. If this is an issue for you, look for a clock radio that uses red, green or orange numerals and text.
If you’ve found a radio you like, but it uses blue light, check whether it has a dimming function so the display is visible but not bright enough to keep you awake. Some digital alarm clock radios do this automatically to match the ambient light, while others need to be manually programmed and have different settings to turn down the brightness.
Other functions to look out for
Besides playing the radio, some digital alarm clock radios have CD players or wi-fi, allowing you to access music streaming services such as Spotify. You might be able to find some with Apple Lightning docks for charging and playing music from compatible iPhones, iPods and iPads, although these aren’t that common any more.
If your radio has Bluetooth or near-field communication (NFC) you can sync it with your smartphone or tablet, and play music from your library. Some radios have a USB port for a wired connection, which is handy for bedside charging – especially if you’re short on mains socket space and need to charge a smartphone or smartwatch overnight.
It’s handy for a digital alarm clock radio to take batteries, even if you’ll plug it into the mains, as this will ensure it maintains the time and alarm settings in a power cut. It also makes it more practical if you want to take the radio with you on your travels. If you plan to take it abroad, make sure you get a model with DAB+ so it can pick up radio signals overseas.