JBL’s Horizon ($100) is a new Bluetooth clock radio, a rarity from the company. Horizon is mostly circular with a flat base, featuring a mirrored center that digitally displays the time and date, with the speaker surrounding it. On top are the audio controls and alarm functions — two separate alarms can be set on Horizon. JBL is playing up the clock radio’s ambient light feature, which gradually brightens to wake you gently as your alarm time draws closer. Also included on the speaker are two 1-Amp USB outputs for charging devices, and an FM antenna can be plugged in for radio listening. Horizon comes in black or white, and is set to be released in January.
Horizon is a seriously attractive clock radio. The bright, clear digital display shows the time, date, and day of the week. There are buttons all over the matte top of Horizon, but all are easy to understand. The top of the clock radio features volume controls, a snooze/light button, two alarm buttons, playback controls, an FM radio button, Bluetooth button, and sleep mode button. On the bottom of the unit is a button for setting the time, and another button to adjust for daylight saving time. Three ports on the bottom allow for the power adapter to be plugged in, as well as an auxiliary cable and the included FM antenna. Two USB charging ports can be found on the left side of Horizon, and a ring of light is on the back of the clock radio.
The clock radio is relatively easy to set up. Up to five FM radio stations can be programmed into Horizon, and the two separate alarms are easy to set, as well. Users can choose from three different wake-up tones, Bluetooth streaming, the FM radio, or even a traditional buzzer for their wake-up sound. The alarm gets gradually louder the longer it’s allowed to go on, so Horizon is definitely intent on waking you up. Additionally, the light behind the speaker emits a warm glow just before the alarm is about to go off — this will have more impact if you tend to sleep in a very dark room. We woke up using the alarm on multiple days, and found it to be a pleasant experience. However, we’d recommend you use one of Horizon’s preset alarm tones, as the FM radio alarm seems to get louder quicker, and could result in a jarring wake-up for some. Adding a way to control the alarm volume would have been ideal. Horizon’s backup battery activates the buzzer alarm if the power happens to go out or the clock gets unplugged. Connecting to Horizon via Bluetooth is super quick and painless.
Horizon’s stereo speaker performance is excellent for a $100 clock radio. We found the sound quality mostly comparable to standalone speakers in the same price range. Using 2 x 5W power, Horizon is a good midrange speaker — its overall range might be better than you’d expect. Horizon also gets fairly loud, though not as much as most comparable standalone speakers. It does have some distortion at top volume, but again, it’s a clock radio — you’ll have no problem filling even a larger bedroom with very good sound at a lower volume setting. Most users will find Horizon’s volume to be more than enough when it’s sitting by their bedside.
There are a few other minor issues with Horizon. The placement and design of the buttons can be a bit problematic in certain situations — the small alarm buttons on the matte surface aren’t raised and therefore can’t be found by touch, which can make it hard to shut the alarm off in the dark. This becomes more of a problem as the volume gradually gets louder, especially if you’re concerned with waking up your partner. It’s easier to find the larger, raised snooze button. Perhaps JBL is encouraging a few more minutes of shuteye, but all of the buttons could have been raised without compromising on the overall design. Additionally, it would be nice if the clock radio had a way to sync time with an iPhone or iPad. We would have liked the charging ports to be 2.1A to charge iPads at full speed, too.
There’s plenty to like about JBL’s Horizon. It’s one of the most attractive clock radios we’ve seen, and if you tend to listen to music in the bedroom, Horizon’s strong sound will ensure that you can forgo a standalone Bluetooth speaker. We have a few quibbles with the alarm buttons, and some users who like to wake up to the radio might find the increasing volume to be a bit much. But considering the total package here, we think JBL’s Horizon is one of the best bets for your bedside.
Company and Price
Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPads, iPhones + iPods