Review: iLuv TimeShaker Dual Alarm Clock Speaker with Bed Shaker and Lightning Dock
If there's a single phrase that can describe iLuv's entire range of speakers, that word would be "value-focused" -- to be a bit more descriptive, it's generally working to achieve a balance of fancy design and respectable audio performance at a low price. To that end, the new TimeShaker Dual Alarm Clock Speaker with Bed Shaker and Lightning Dock ($100) has obvious aesthetic similarities with the company's summertime Aud 5, a glossy black reclining speaker dock designed for Lightning devices. Aud 5 was a larger, slightly more expensive speaker focused exclusively on performing music from a connected device. TimeShaker reduces the footprint, adds a large clock below the Lightning dock, and dangles two cords from the back: one for an FM radio, and the other for its signature feature -- a vibrating oval of plastic designed to sit under your pillow and rattle you awake in the morning.
While most users don’t need to actively be shaken out of slumber, TimeShaker is here for people who do—and for those who just want a relatively compact, primarily upright alarm clock rather than the deeper, wider designs preferred by iHome. Measuring 9.25” wide at the top but only 8.5” at the bottom, TimeShaker is around 5” deep and 5.5” tall at its maximum, though there are plenty of curves and scoops that prevent it from looking even slightly boxy. Made almost entirely from black plastic with a fabric front speaker grille, it alternates between glossy and matte textures in an appealing way, with a futuristic-looking light purple on black front screen that can be dimmed through nine levels, and 13 buttons in seemingly simple circle and pill shapes on the top.
From a user experience standpoint, TimeShaker’s single biggest issue is in the design of those buttons, which aren’t bad—just tiny and noisy. The first of two four-position rockers contains source, sleep, time set, and time sync buttons, each with such tiny text labels that you’ll need to be inches away and directly overhead to read them. Next is a four-position rocker with plus, minus, and track controls that makes complete sense and works well to change time, track, and radio settings. It’s followed by a two-position pill with “AL 1” alarm and play/pause/“OK”/radio preset features, and another with “AL 2” alarm and power off/“AL stop” functionality. There’s also a gigantic snooze/dimmer button that’s even larger than the two circular rockers put together, and therefore super easy to find, even though you’ll initially struggle to figure out how to truly disable rather than just delay the alarm. Each of the buttons responds to presses with a loud enough click to wake a light sleeper without any assistance. Just like Aud 5 before it, TimeShaker could stand to see its top surface tweaked a bunch.
That aside, however, iLuv has accomplished some nice things with TimeShaker. Not only is the clock large, reasonably bright, and highly readable—notably minus current date information—but once you learn how to set and disable the alarms, it’s easy to use. Each alarm has its own clear zone on the bottom of the screen, with small but obvious indications of the time the alarm will go off, as well as whether it will be active on weekdays, weekends, or the full week. Although the screen doesn’t indicate the date, TimeShaker knows what it is; you either program it manually, or use the Time Sync button to bring the data over from your connected Apple device. iLuv cuts a corner by not including the batteries necessary to back up the clock in the event of a power outage—you’re expected to supply two AAAs for this purpose—but the use of quick and easy Time Sync is a viable alternative on the rare occasion this happens.
The alarm functionality works just as expected. In addition to being woken by beeping tones, you can choose to have your docked device or the FM radio play at increasing volume, as well as whether to turn the vibrating oval on or off; the latter can also be physically disconnected if you don’t want to use it at all. iLuv tethers the oval to a multi-foot cable so a nightstand-mounted TimeShaker can easily reach under the pillow of either person on a king-sized bed. The vibration is far more powerful than the actuator in any iPhone, and augmented with a soft buzzing sound similarly significant enough to be noticeable under a pillow. If you need to be woken up by something like this, there’s no question that TimeShaker has enough physical and sonic power to do the trick without going overboard.
As an iPhone or iPod speaker dock, TimeShaker is in the “pretty good” camp. Like all other Apple-licensed Lightning speakers, it doesn’t work with most iPhone/iPod cases, which regrettably means that you’ll probably have to use your device bare—an inconvenience accessory manufacturers know about but are powerless to make Apple change. At regular listening levels or its peak volume level of 32, TimeShaker actually sounds pretty good, falling a bit short of small room-filling. Music is performed with a treble and midrange focus that isn’t offensively lacking in bass, with only a small amount of evident bass distortion becoming obvious at top amplitudes; same-priced iHome alarm clocks typically fall on the side of heavier bass with less treble. On the other hand, we noticed that the audio was subject to noticeable TDMA interference—a surprise given its Apple certification—though this is only obvious when the speakers are on and music isn’t playing.
FM radio functionality is imperfect but solid. Tuning yielded relatively strong, clear stations with only a little static, hampered only by the need to tune in 0.1-step increments that aren’t necessary in the United States. iLuv also provides separate rear ports for 3.5mm auxiliary audio in and secondary USB device charging, notably not allowing the connected USB device to also perform audio without making both wired connections.
Overall, despite a variety of smallish issues and the bigger issue of case incompatibility, TimeShaker is otherwise a good alarm clock and iPhone/iPod speaker dock. From a functional and sonic standpoint, it’s equipped well enough to stand up to similarly-priced iHome models, offering a unique form factor and the shaking feature as real differentiators. We genuinely like how it looks, and apart from a more compatible Lightning connector, we wouldn’t change much apart from the top button designs and possibly the addition of proper date information to the screen. TimeShaker is good enough to be worthy of our general recommendation.