Near Perfect Audio: Philips DC390 Dual Clock Radio

| In-Depth Review

It is a rare event when a humble alarm clock can invoke intrigue and excitement. The Philips DC390 will have you waking up, to the crystal clear music you love, with two completely charged iOS devices every day. That is unless you have upgraded to the iPhone 5 or listen to heavy metal music.

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Philips DC390 Dual Dock Clock Radio With Remote

The Philips DC390 With iPhone 4 and iPad 2

Features

  • Dual docking system to charge two devices at once
  • Digital Sound Control optimizes music settings
  • Dynamic Bass Boost for deep, dramatic sound
  • Dual alarm with weekday and weekend settings
  • Gentle wake up with increasing alarm volume
  • FM stereo tuner with 20 station presets
  • Full-function wireless remote control
  • 10 watts RMS total output power
  • Aux-in for easy connection of other electronic devices
  • Auto clock synchronization with iPod/iPhone/iPad when docked

Unpacking The Philips DC390

For those of you looking for beautifully designed packaging, you will be disappointed. The Philips DC390 ships as all other products in the Philips range do. A color printed white box with the traditional egg carton style packaging. Whilst it is far from pretty, the packaging does its job very well in securing the unit and preventing damage in transit. Selecting to purchase this unit online should yield no cause for concern as a result.

Within the box you will receive the unit, a wireless remote control, aux-in cable, user manual, quick start guide and the power cable. Unlike many technology products, the Philips DC390 does not have a separate power brick to contend with.

Audio Quality

After admiring the beautiful brushed aluminum design with tapered edges, you will want to immediately place an Apple device into the dock to test the audio quality.

It is fair to say I have never experienced such a rich sound from a clock radio before. Admittedly, companies like Bose have proven through advanced technologies that a high quality sound reproduction is possible from small speaker design. Despite this knowledge, the sound output of this device will amaze you. That is, unless you like heavy metal music.

In testing, I have taken various tracks from my iTunes library that bridge classical, easy listening, pop, rock and of course heavy metal genres. Unfortunately, I found the heavy metal music to be muffled in the bass and vocal regions. The distortion in this style of music resulted is a less than desirable listening experience, regardless of volume levels, equalizer settings or dynamic bass usage.

All other genres tested did not suffer from this problem. In fact, I was blown away with the room filling sound when testing other music styles. No distortion was experienced, even when increasing volume levels to a state that I would consider to be excessive for a standard size room.

The dual dock provides you with a basic preprogrammed equalizer. The standard run of the mill choices are available including Classical, Flat, Jazz, Pop and Rock. If you are looking for an improved bass level you can always turn on the bass boost option. It is dynamic, thereby generally allowing for a higher clarity of sound, even at high levels.

Interestingly, if you use dynamic bass boost you will then be unable to use any of the preset equalizer settings. Likewise, bass boost is unavailable when using the equalizer. It is unclear why Philips made this decision, but it would have been nice to have some additional audio customization options.

General Usage Overview Of The Philips DC390

It may have just been the geek in me, but I couldn’t believe that when you first connect your iPhone or iPad to the device it will immediately sync the time, day and date from your iOS device, to the display on the Philips DC390. By now you are probably rolling your eyes at my excitement, but this kind of functionality never gets old. Plus, when you remove your iOS device, the time and date settings remain on the dock. It’s just magical.

Philips DC390 Dual Dock Clock Radio With Remote

Angular Product Shot Showing Unit and Remote Control

Setting the time and date can also be done directly on the unit. If you want the time to be presented in 12 or 24 hour time formats that functionality is also available. If you choose to set the time manually, your preference will not be altered when you connect your device.

The Philips DC390 features a large, easy to read, display with adjustable backlighting. If you don’t like any light emitting from devices during sleep, one of the backlight settings allows you to turn the display off.

The display also presents information such as the date, day, dock selected and sound settings. Although, it does not show the name of the current track playing.

As with all alarm clocks, there is a backup battery option that retains your settings and time incase of a power failure. It requires two AA batteries that are not included in the box.

What is most impressive is the ability to connect and charge two devices from the unit at the same time. The front port is only capable of docking a iPhone sized device, whilst the rear port can accept another iPhone, or in my case the iPad.

Whilst discussing the dock and 30-pin connector, it is important to note that iPod with color display, iPod classic and iPod with video are not compatible with the dual dock unit for charging requirements. Obviously, certain functions like time matching are also limited to iOS devices.

The 30-pin dock connectors built into the unit are not rigid. Therefore, if your device is in a case, the Philips DC390 can easily accommodate the increased thickness. Despite this fluid movement, both docks will adequately secure your devices.

The iPad was tested with a Smart Cover and a silicon case, and my iPhone was left in the Belkin Verve Folio case. At no time did these cases restrict access to the 30-pin connector. Of course, all cases are created differently, and your experience may differ.

Philips have also included a non-essential rubber pad that offers additional stability for the iPad. Personally, I haven’t found this to be necessary and I believe it detracts from the lovely design of the unit. It is not needed for use with the iPhone, hence why it is being supplied as a separate attachment.

Despite the new Lightning connector replacing the legacy 30-pin connector, I personally don’t intend to upgrade my devices for some time. Therefore, this wasn’t considered a limitation when I purchased this unit.

If you have a tendency to upgrade frequently, it would be advised to hold off until Philips releases an updated version of the unit that addresses the new Lightning connector.

You could always purchase a Lightning to 30-pin adapter, but when the iPad moves to the new connector, it would no longer be stable sitting in the Dock due to the iPad’s size. As it is, the plastic stand support for the iPad is just adequate enough to offer the required support.

Whilst the Philips DC390 does contain radio functionality, it is important to note that the unit is only designed to pick up FM radio reception. Both AM and Internet radio stations are not supported. Despite this, you will be able to preset up to 20 radio stations that arguably would be more than enough for all users.

The antenna comes in the form of a thin cable that is permanently attached to the rear of the unit. When sitting on a bedside table, it is not noticeable or intrusive.

If you would like to play other audio sources through the device, such as a portable compact disc player, then you will need to use the MP3 link cable. The link cable is simply a fancy name for a 3.5mm male to male stereo audio cable. This does ship with the unit and sound reproduction from connected devices is perfectly adequate and inline with expectations.

Remote Control Functionality

Philips DC390 Remote Control

The Philips DC390 Remote Control - Don't Lose It!

The remote control is rather thin and sleek in appearance and the majority of functionality can be done directly from the remote. This allows easy access from across the room for features such as the radio functionality, external device audio input, volume levels and alarms.

In fact the remote control houses some functionality that is not available on the main unit, such as the ability to change the bass and equalizer settings. Therefore, you will not want to lose this handy little controller.

The remote will also allow you to control playback of your music on your iPhone or iPad, even from the lock screen. If you have two devices connected, the remote allows you to quickly switch sources between the front and rear dock.

The only problem I have with the remote control is that the Menu button is significantly small. As someone who likes to navigate between albums, on a frequent basis, I found this restrictive.

Main Unit Controls

One nice design feature is all button controls are located on the top of the unit along with the two docking ports. By doing this, Philips have been able to create a dock that is as beautiful as it is functional.

Top View Of The Philips DC390

Top Down View Showing Available Controls

Most of the controls you could need access to are available via the two circular buttons and main snooze/alarm buttons. For certain functionality, such as setting the alarm, you will need to press certain buttons repeatedly to access those functions. The responsiveness is quick and Philips has done a good job by allowing frequently used functions to be a single click away.

The controls on the main unit are solid and chrome in appearance. When you press them, they click with a force that resonates with a high quality build. They also match the overall design whilst managing not to distract from the design of the iPhone and iPad.

Setting The Alarm

Besides dual docking capabilities, the Philips DC390 also includes the ability to set dual alarms. It is the perfect solution for you and your significant other.

When setting the alarm you have the choice to set it for weekdays only, weekends only or everyday of the week. Unfortunately, the alarm settings can only be instigated on the device, as Philips have yet to release a companion app for iOS. You can still use the iPhone’s internal alarm clock, but it will not activate the speaker dock.

By default you will be woken to the music that is included on your device. If you want specific tracks and artists to be played you can create a playlist called “PHILIPS” that will only play the content within, when the alarm activates. The gentle wake feature of the device ensures music will gradually increase in volume, rather than giving you a fright. You can also adjust the maximum level the music will gradually reach when the alarm is activated.

If you don’t wish to use your personal music collection, you can always select to have one of the preset radio stations set to wake you up. The unit also offers the traditional buzzer style alarm.

When deactivating the alarm, you have the option to completely stop the alarm or enter snooze mode. The snooze mode can be customized to an interval of your choosing. Disabling an alarm permanently can be done with two clicks of a button.

What I Did Like

If you’re not a heavy metal music fan, you will simply love the room filling sound output for all other music genres.

Dual charging and swapping between devices to playback different music content is a purely enjoyable experience. You will no longer need to worry about cable clutter just to keep your devices powered.

The gorgeous design compliments Apple’s devices and is finished in a brushed aluminum that will remain in style for many years to come.

No external power brick. In similar devices, notably the Bose Sound Docks, the compact nature dictates an external power supply is needed. Thankfully, Philips did not take this approach.

What I Didn’t Like

The lack of Bluetooth does limit the longevity of the device once all iOS devices are upgraded to the new Lightning connector. Whilst, you can connect your devices using the included 3.5mm link cable, and in some cases the Lightning to 30-pin adapter, some users will find this limiting and messy.

Heavy metal music fans will be disappointed with the distorted bass and vocals from the unit. In fairness, sound quality is very subjective and sound systems, especially in this price range and size, can not be expected to play every genre well. Thankfully, all other music styles perform admirably.

Being limited to either a preset equalizer setting or bass boost option feels a little restrictive. As does the ability to change these options via the remote only. Lose the remote and customizable sound options will no longer be available.

The lack of AM radio reception and Internet radio will likely disappoint some users.

Given the price of the unit, it is surprising and disappointing that Philips did not include something as trivial as the backup batteries.

Summary

When you think of a dual dock clock radio, the last thing you would expect would be to see is a design that is sleek, modern and will retain a classic look for years to come. Philips has engineered an amazing product that compliments the design of the iPhone and iPad.

If you are after Bluetooth compatibility you will be disappointed as this is not one of the features included for the recommended price of US$149.99. Bluetooth would have future proofed this unit further, especially for early adopters of new technology such as the iPhone 5.

The Philips DC390 is by far the best sounding clock radio dock available for owners of 30-pin devices. It also performs as advertised and I believe it is truly worth the asking price.

At the time of review and publication, Philips has yet to announce a successor to the DC390 or a solution for the Lightning connector.

Product: Philips DC390 Dual Dock Clock Radio With Remote

Company: Philips

List Price: US$149.99

Pros:

Magnificent sound quality, cable and clutter free dual charging, gorgeous design that compliements Apple devices and no external power brick.

Cons:

Lack of Bluetooth will limit longevity, heavy metal music plays with distortion, limited to either bass boost or preset equalizer, no AM or Internet radio compatibility.

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Comments

Jeff Safire

Remind me why I need Bluetooth again…?

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