What: The alarm that no one can sleep through.
Where: Available online; I used appliancehut.com
How Much: $34.99 (though I got mine on sale for $32.99)
I have a problem waking up in the mornings. Not only have I always been a heavy sleeper, I’ve also had a lifelong habit of staying up far too late into the wee small hours of the morning to allow for early rising. Because of this one-two whammy, I’ve never found an alarm clock that could wake me up properly. Oh sure, I’ve tried all sorts of tricks – randomly switching the alarm between CD or radio or buzz. I’ve tried moving the alarm clock to different places in the room. I’ve tried one of those clocks that gradually increases the volume of the alarm. You name it, I’ve tried it.
But lately I’ve been doing some contract work that requires me to be at a place at a time not of my choosing. And even though I’ve loved the little GE alarm clock that only set me back $9.99 at Circuit City, it’s just not working anymore. I’ve become immune to the charms of its “Graduwake” system and even when I have the radio alarm set to full blast, I often slept right through it… my stay-at-home neighbors next door must have loved hearing that every morning. And so – a new alarm clock was needed. I thought back and remembered a thread posted by someone with a similar problem at the trusty ol’ Ars Technica forums. I remembered that I had bookmarked a web site because of that thread… and so I set about looking through the “Unsorted” folder of my bookmarks folder, a veritable wasteland of hundreds of sites I meant to check out, recipes I intended to make, books I had hoped to buy… The “Unsorted” folder is the junk drawer of my Internet experience.
Well, it took a while but I found it: the homepage of the Sonic Alert company, “America’s leader in visual alerting systems”. It seems that Sonic Alert makes all kinds of products for the deaf and hard-of-hearing: clocks, baby monitors, doorbell signalers… even somewhat puzzling stuff like telephone signalers and visual call waiting indicators. I could easily see why someone might want a telephone signaler to give them a blinking light when a call comes in – after all, in a very loud place you might not hear a phone ring at all and you might not want a phone to ring in a very quiet place, like a baby’s nursery. But the Call Waiting Signaler intrigued me… if you’re already on the phone, can’t you hear the call waiting signal? Then I read that it works with either a phone *or* a TTD system. It all made sense then.
ANYWAY, as I mentioned, this company sells alarm clocks. There are three things that make Sonic Alert’s clocks different from other alarm clocks:
1) The alarm “buzz” is a variable sine wave. So instead of a standard “buzz” or pleasant electronic tone, this clock emits something that sounds like an air raid siren that changes location every 5 seconds.
2) The alarm is LOUD! At its maximum setting, this clock cranks out that sine wave at 113db, which is slightly louder than the sound at first few rows of a rock concert (so says this site).
3) The clock comes with a “Super Shaker” vibrator. You know how your cell phone can be set to vibrate when it rings? Well imagine that on steroids… Seriously! You’re supposed to place the vibrator – which looks like a rounded off hockey puck – between the mattress and box springs (or in your pillow) and plug the other end into the back of the clock. At the appropriate time, the thing starts shaking like mad, jostling you awake.
Aside from these unique features, Sonic Alert’s line of clocks also have some nice features that are sometimes hard to find in other clocks, like the ability to display time in 12 or 24 hour formats and a switch which allows the clock to work with 110v (North American) or 220v (most everywhere else) electrical systems. Some welcome (but more common) features include a 9v battery backup and a hi-lo dimmer switch for the LCD for those sensitive to light. Some models also include a dual alarm feature, but I rarely use this. It’s not often that I need to wake up at two different times, and those dual alarm clocks that have calendaring support – so you’re woken up at 6AM on weekdays but 10AM on the weekends – are often implemented so poorly that the feature is useless. My ex had a Philips alarm clock with just such a feature; as she was often out of town, I frequently tried using her clock as a sort of “emergency backup system” in case I slept though my alarm, but trying to figure out how to change the alarm time was so damn complicated on the Philips that I had to get out the manual to figure it out – for two years!
So I figured I’d save a few bucks by eschewing the dual alarm system and settled on the SB200SS clock. I drifted over to Froogle and did a search, only to find out that the clock is mostly sold through “medical supply” type places. Perhaps because of this, the price is pretty much $34.95 wherever you buy it – give or take a dollar. Given that appliancehut.com had it on sale for $32.95 and was located in Brooklyn (as opposed to somewhere in California, which is a 10-day trip by UPS Ground), I went with that. Sure, one of the listed vendors had a distribution center in Atlanta, which might have shaved a day off transit time… but I’m just not buying an alarm clock from anywhere that has “Medical Center” in the name, OK?
So… how well does it work? So far it’s worked really well! The day after I got it, I decided to experiment by staying up to 6AM – in a vain attempt to clear out my backlog of downloaded British video. I set the alarm for 9:30, just a scant three hours after I finally fell asleep. And sure enough, I woke up right on time – to the WEE-WAAAH-WEE-WAAAH-WEEEE-AWW of the clock and the shaking of the bed. It’s not a very pleasant way to wake up, but it works. And it has worked for a couple of weeks now. But it’s not without a downside: if you share a bed with someone – especially if they’re light sleepers – expect complaints. Lisa *hates* this alarm clock, but thankfully I normally get up after she does. One thing about this clock that amazes me is the vibrator… It can wake up Lisa from her side of the bed, even though I placed it only inches from “my” edge of the bed. We have a thick and heavy king-sized mattress with a pillow top, but yet… this thing can shake me awake regardless. I can’t imagine putting the vibrator in my pillow; I’m almost sure it would crack open your skull if you did it that way!
How long will the honeymoon be with this new alarm clock? Check back here every so often for updates!
MY RATING: B+