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The handsome JVC RA-P10 is the most promising of the portable iPod alarm clocks I've yet seen. It features an iPod dock, an FM radio, and an auxiliary port for hooking up another audio source. A remote control is included, allowing you to play, pause, skip songs, adjust the volume, change stations, mute the sound, change audio sources, and turn on or off the LCD backlight from the comfort of your bed.
The configuration on the unit itself is very straightforward -- all the buttons work as expected, and without even reading the instruction manual, I had no problems setting the clock and alarm, or playing music via iPod or FM radio. I did need to dig in to figure out how to set the radio presets, however. Radio reception was above average, and there are twenty channel presets, but talk-radio addicts take heed: there is no AM band.
Though not great, sound quality is surprisingly good, especially considering the system's compact size (13" wide by 3.75" deep by 3" high) of the unit. I measured maximum output at 100 decibels -- respectable for such a compact unit. Though the RA-P10's small speakers lack deep bass, and I found cymbals and other high notes could sound somewhat distorted at high volumes, for its size and price the RA-P10 is a top-notch travel system -- certainly the best of the ones I've tested. And although the system is a bit big to fit in a carry-on, you certainly could squeeze it in. The entire system runs on six AA batteries or the included AC adapter.
The clock also has some interesting features that set it apart from the garden-variety iPod alarm clock. A snooze timer will give you a few extra winks, of course, but that's a table stake. The smart, backlit, blue LED display constantly shows the date (with year), day of the week, and ambient temperature. Althogh I like knowing what day it is as soon as I awake from a groggy night's sleep, the temperature setting seems superfluous indoors. (Isn't that what the thermostat is for?) Still, it's a thoughtful touch that some will probably find useful.
Overall, JVC's RA-P10 is the best travel alarm clock we've yet tested in terms of audio quality and feature set -- though with a tradeoff in size some travelers may not want to take. It may not satisfy as your only stereo system, but it marks a new day for travel alarms.