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JBL On Time Review

JBL On Time
“JBL's On Time is a hybrid alarm clock/iPod Dock that can crank out tunes all day long without missing a beat.”
  • Great sounding; AM/FM clock; innovative design
  • No remote control; display and UI are outdated; high price


Let’s face it. No one likes the alarm clock. It’s a symbol of the daily grind we make Monday through Friday. It reminds us that we’ve got to get up by a certain time or else we’re in big trouble. Never has an alarm clock been fun—until now. JBL’s On Time is a hybrid alarm clock/iPod Dock that can crank out tunes all day long without missing a beat. Could it be that someone has finally made an alarm clock that we’re not ashamed to buy? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Features and Design
Consumers who have been using JBL products over the years should know that JBL puts time and effort into their designs. Their products usually reflect the quality of sound you’d expect and are unique in their own way. JBL’s On Time docking system is no exception. It’s very similar to the JBL Radial iPod dock in overall shape, but is nowhere near the same product.
On Time features the standard iPod docking slot and auxiliary jack for hooking up non-iPod MP3 players. It also has an external FM antenna, which must be connected in order to listen to your local radio stations. The speakers come in a semi-circle above the iPod in order to provide a “360-degree sound field” according to JBL. On the base you’ll find an LCD that displays the time and listening options, as well as a plethora of different controls. JBL really should have simplified their design more here and taken away the assortment of buttons needed to adjust certain features; instead relying more on a menu system and a remote control. There are also 2 dedicated alarm clock buttons that make enabling/disabling the alarms a snap.
Rather than just make a big docking area that will fit any size iPod, JBL opted to go with including multiple adapters that can fit into the On Time to hold your specific iPod in place. This is very similar to JBL’s OnStage II iPod dock and is best left not worrying about. Do yourself a favor by leaving the docking pieces in the box and using what you’ve got. It works just fine and you won’t have to worry if someone else brings an iPod over to listen to.
No remote is included, but this was done for a reason. The On Time is designed to be both a 100% usable alarm clock and an iPod dock. Think about it: if you woke up and your alarm clock was on the other side of the room, you’d just shut it up with the remote and go back to bed. The On Time includes a conveniently located “Snooze” button on top of the speakers. This should be all you need to get a few more minutes of rest. Otherwise you won’t make it to work because you’ll be jamming out to music all morning!
JBL On Time
Image Courtesy of JBL
Setup and Use
Those of you hoping for an easy-to-use interface and eye-catching screen will be disappointed. The menu and interface for setting up the JBL isn’t the best and is far from perfect. Not only that, it’s also ugly and boring. A clean monochrome display would have worked beautifully, but instead you’ll feel like you’re reading a BBS from 1988. Block characters, lengthy menus, and too many buttons are what plague the setup process of the On Time, but eventually you’ll figure it out for yourself.
If you’re too lazy to manually input the time properly, the On Time will gladly do it for you. It can automatically retrieve the correct time via your local radio stations that transmit the time in their broadcast. This is a great feature that is a godsend when power outages occur. JBL also includes a backup battery so you won’t lose your setting should the unit become unplugged or powered off.
When it comes to listening to music, as always, the sound is exceptional. JBL is known for quality sound and products, and the On Time is no exception. Listeners of every genre of music will enjoy crisp highs and pounding lows. Only very bass-oriented music (such as Rap and Techno) doesn’t quite sound as great as it could, but keep in mind, this is an alarm-clock first and foremost, not a subwoofer.
Lastly, how does it hold up as an alarm clock? The answer is: quite well! I was worried at first about totally replacing my no-frills alarm clock with the JBL On Time, but now I sleep content knowing it will wake me up when I tell it to. You can choose to wake up to a general buzz, FM/AM radio, or—of course—your iPod. Choosing which method you want just requires a few button presses and isn’t complicated at all.
JBL On Time
Image Courtesy of JBL
Obviously, compared to other alarm clocks, the On Time blows them all completely away. Waking up to music of your choosing can make your morning a lot easier and even fun at times. You’ll seriously be hard pressed to find a better method of waking up in the morning.
Sound quality is very good but isn’t as strong as the On Time’s cousin, the JBL Radial. The Radial features a cooler design, a remote for easier use, and a pounding 60-watts of sound to keep you in the groove. So, if you’re considering an iPod-dock but want more power and better features, go with the JBL Radial. Those who decide that an alarm clock with decent sound is good enough for them will be happily pleased with the On Time.
Another feature missing from the On Time that would have been nice, though not necessary, is the inclusion of touch-sensitive volume control that the JBL OnStage II dock has. This feature adds to the design of the product and makes volume control a bit easier, but again, it isn’t totally necessary this time around since this is an alarm clock.
There’s also the issue of price. $249.99 is the MSRP for JBL’s On Time, which is quite high for an alarm clock that doesn’t give you as much sound and power as the JBL Radial. If JBL merged the Radial and On Time together the price would be justified, but currently, it’s a bit high for most consumers to splurge on.
If you’re looking for a way to wake up to your own music in the morning rather than the mundane buzz of your current alarm clock, go with the JBL On Time. Though the interface is flawed and could use some reworking, overall it’s a solid sound system that you’ll enjoy using in your home. If you can get past the high price tag, you’ll begin to enjoy waking up in the morning a lot more.
  • Great Sound
  • AM/FM Radio Included
  • Sets Clock Automatically
  • Innovative Design
  • No Remote
  • Display and UI Feel outdated
  • High Price

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