Hot Deal: Naxa NRC-172 PLL Digital Alarm Clock/Radio

I was in the market for a clock radio. My requirements were:
- Digital tuner with at least 7 AM and 7 FM presets and good enough reception to use all those presets
- "Decent" sound quality. Doesn't have to be great. (I believe the human ear can adjust to a wide variety of acoustical environments.)
- Ability to go to sleep to music, then wake to an alarm
- Separately adjustable volume on the alarm, or at least an alarm loud enough to wake the dead
- Battery backup (much more important than auto time set or "atomic" time set, IMO)
- Fairly decent Amazon rating: 4 or more stars out of 5

I decided I'd happily fork over $50 for something that met all my needs. I'd also pay extra -- up to about $100 -- for extra features such as GREAT sound, stereo speakers, atomic clock, a CD player, etc. I thought this was a reasonable set of criteria.

I searched high and low on the internet for over 12 hours one day and came up empty. I looked at all the Sangean RCR models -- 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 22 -- and not one of them met all my simple needs, in addition to being quite pricey.

I almost went for the iHome iP90, though it has an iPod charger/player which I don't need. But I saw a review on YouTube and heard the beeper alarm -- much too soft! I learned the beeper is adjustable only though "system volume," and also unearthed a written review that mentioned "The buzzer ... is way too soft... I'm sure I'd sleep through it (even on loudest volume)." The first time I oversleep for a doctor's appointment, that'll cost me well over a Benji, so that's a deal breaker.

To make a long story short, I decided to broaden my criteria by prorating the Amazon reviews on a linear scale. The situation seems to be that most of the low end clock radios are made in China -- hand soldered by children -- and probably tested only by turning the radio on and off. Ordering one of these is like Russian roulette with two chambers out of six loaded for bear.

I also placed a dollar value on a few nonessential features, so I could scope out a few models under $50. After 6 more hours of searching, the result was an order for the Naxa NRC-172. The dollar value comes to $28.62, based on my super-scientific rating system, and it's going now for $11.99 on adorama Naxa NRC-172 PLL Digital Alarm Clock NRC172 . It has:
- Digital tuner with 10 AM and 10 FM presets and good reception, according to a few reviewers.
- "Clear" sound quality with two tiny (2 inch?) speakers
- Ability to go to sleep to music -- with auto shutoff -- then wake to an alarm
- A 0.6" red LED display with a dimmer switch
- Pretty cool, modern design with lots of buttons on the front, but snooze on top (thank heaven)
- By all accounts, an obnoxiously loud but nonadjustable alarm
- Battery backup via 2 AAAs -- nothing fancy, but saves time and presets. Doubt the alarm will sound while power is out.
- Poor quality assurance
- Amazon rating of 44/13 =~ 3.38 (could be a lot worse) NAXA NRC-172 PLL Digital Dual Alarm Clock with AM/FM Radio and Snooze (Black Lacquer): Electronics

I only know about the battery backup and ability to sleep/wake to radio/alarm, from looking at the manual -- which was NOT easy to find. Someone should pay *ME* for all the leg work I put in on this. BUT, maybe somebody else here can profit from my arduous labor. :violin:

I must wait for the postman before I can review this item, but thought I'd promptly pass along a possible deal, since there's no way to know how long adorama will hold on that price. It goes for $15+ elsewhere.


Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member

Nice timing (pun intended). My Magnavox AM-FM-Analog TV alarm clock recently kicked the bucket so I'm looking for a Digital AM-FM alarm clock to replace it.

Well, you pays yer money and you takes yer chances. It also has a "stereo" aux input. Don't know if that means it plays stereo. Kind of silly if it does, with such small speakers so close together.

Most people don't leave reviews unless they're really p$%%ed off, so maybe there's a better than 50/50 chance I'll get a good'n.
NAXA NRC-172 -- First Impressions

The NAXA NRC-172 digital clock radio arrived in the mail Tuesday, so I've had two days to slog through all the functions.

- When I first plugged it in, I noticed the power cord hung at an odd angle out the back. I pulled it out/in several times to make sure connection was secure. Next day, as I put the NRC-172 through its paces, the radio and/or the display would blank out any time I moved it suddenly. I twisted the cord around 180 degrees, and since then it has remained stable. I'm cautiously optimistic that a piece of electrical tape will keep it that way.
- The cord plugs into your AC outlet with a very small "brick" so it may be necessary to rearrange plugs.
- The power cord is almost exactly the same length as on my Sony "Dream Machine" clock radio -- a little over 3' long.
- It's not quite so cool as it looks in the pictures. It's almost a perfect sphere, with front and bottom lopped off.
- The alarm is about twice as loud as the Dream Machine's. It's possible I might sleep through it, but I'd have to be nearly comatose. It's not one of those alarms that slowly ramps up in volume, so if you crave a "humane" awakening, this won't be your cup of tea.
- If the alarm was any louder, I'm sure it would quicky wipe out the tiny speakers.
- The buttons have good tactile feedback and click to confirm your key press.
- The instructions are terse, but grammatically correct. All the functions work roughly as stated in the little leaflet -- but not exactly -- and they left out a few details.
- If you have trouble programming digital thingamajigs, this may not be the clock radio for you. I guess they did the best they could under the following constraints:
| - Buttons only (they're cheaper), no knobs.
| - No need to press two buttons at once, as this can be difficult while laying in bed, especially since you have to hold the clock in place to push on the frontside.
| - They weren't going to put twenty buttons on the front (or even ten) to access the twenty presets.
|- Only one small four digit display to show all the digital information.
- Most buttons have different functions, depending on what "mode" the machine is in -- clock mode, AUX mode, alarm mode, radio mode, AM/FM submodes...
- In following the instructions, you need to watch the page numbers closely. Otherwise you will skip from page 6 to page 9, and page 9 assumes you know everything in 7 and 8.
- The display is bright and clear. The dimmer button is nice for those delicate souls who can't sleep under a full moon. At least the dimmer is dedicated to that single function.
- I verified that the battery backup keeps the time plus all alarm and radio presets, but the display blanks out when AC is removed and no alarm will sound. This is minimally acceptable for me (I get relatively few power outages), yet it's more than many clock radios over $50 will do.
- Reception on the radio is acceptable -- slightly better than the Dream Machine on FM (perhaps due to the separate FM antenna), slightly worse on AM.
- Tone is tinny, which you have to expect with two small speakers. The Dream Machine rates a little higher here, with one slightly larger speaker (possibly 2.5" compared to 2 x 2" on the NAXA). I have not yet tried to determine if stereo comes out of the NAXA. There's no such claim in the manual.
- The SLEEP timer can be set in decrements of 10 from 90 minutes to 10 minutes. There are two alarms, so I could go to sleep to radio music and wake to music on alarm 1, then let the alarm hit me five or six minutes later.

If I have any more hardware problems in the next few weeks, or if I decide I can't stand all the buttons, I'll update. If the NAXA continues to work for several months, I feel I got good value for my twelve bucks. In fact, $20 would be a steal. But remember, several Amazon reviewers had worse hardware problems than I've had to this point.

For many people, a better option might be two totally different machines -- one radio clock and one alarm clock. I feel they tone down the beepers on clock radios to spare the speakers, then claim it's a noble attempt at "humane" awakening.

As of 5/23/2013, price for the NRC-172 on is still $11.99 with free shipping within the U.S.


I was able to wake to music and get bopped by the beeper a few minutes later, as expected. One thing I was not able to do however, is set the radio alarm to one station, and go to sleep to a different station. The station you hear with a radio alarm is whatever station you heard last, even though the manual recommends you tune in the desired station before setting an alarm.

The modes interfere with one another on the NRC-172, making it impossible to do certain things. For instance, after you hit the SNOOZE button, you can't listen to the radio. If you want to listen to the radio while waiting for a second alarm, you have to a) switch to clock mode with the mode button (upper left hand corner) thereby turning the radio OFF and the snooze function OFF b) set an alarm several minutes ahead of the current time, and c) start up the radio again with either the the mode button or the Sleep button. Then when the beeper bleep bleeps, naturally the radio turns off and you're back to square one.

Another simple example: you have to turn off the radio in order to set the time. Once the time is set you can turn the radio back on, but it makes my point that separate devices for separate functions are often more functional and more intuitive than all in one solutions. The problem is not unique to this product -- most clock radions, including the popular "Dream Machine," have similar issues.

Like most digital time pieces, when you set the clock or an alarm, the time moves in only one direction -- forward -- for the hour button as well as the minute button. The Dream Machine has a little lever, similar to the pitch wheel on a synthesizer, that lets you move forward or backward in time with a single stick. It's incredibly efficient and intuitive, so it'll never catch on.

WARNING: I noticed the highest volume allowed is 16, which won't be nearly loud enough for the hard rockers among us. It's loud enough for me, but as I mentioned, I still wish the beeper could be louder. It's twice as loud as the Dream Machine, but not nearly as loud as one of those old-fashioned wind up alarm clocks -- BRRRIIIIIIING!!

I've had no more issues with the power cord, though I've yet to locate a roll of electrical tape. I feel as though I've mastered the button interface, so I guess I'll have to keep the NAXA NRC-172. At $11.99 it's an unbeatable deal.

This will probably be my final update. :bolt: