Audiophiles wouldn't be caught dead listening to music through an iPhone alarm dock. Unless it's the $149 Philips DC390 Docking System. This device offers enough ground-shaking bass and balanced treble to satisfy the most discerning listeners. Plus, the DC390 features a unique dual-docking system that lets you connect two iOS devices--any combination of iPad, iPhone and iPod--at the same time.
The Philips DC390 dual-docking system iClick to Enlarges one of the sexier, albeit larger, iOS alarm clocks. The system measures 10.4 x 9.6 x 6.3 inches and weighs 3.1 pounds, which is bigger than the 0.6 x 6.2 x 4.3-inch, 2.9-pound iHome iD50. But just because the DC390 has a little more junk in the trunk doesn't mean it's not sleek. In fact, the DC390 is the best-looking product in its class, thanks to the brushed aluminum cabinet and silver controls.
The DC390's face features a large display with adjustable backlighting. In addition to the time and alarm, the dock provides an easy-to-read indicator for the audio output source. Surrounding the display is the DS390's metallic speaker cover, which ever-so-slightly wraps around the unit's face, where it connects with dock's silver painted plastic side panels.
On the left side are the DC390's volume and track controls and audio source button, while the right side is home to the alarm and clock control and power button. The brightness control for the LCD and repeat alarm buttons are combined into one long strip that sits in front of the dock and is sandwiched between the two alarm buttons.
Around back is the FM antenna, Aux-In port and power cable.
Setup and interface
Setting up the DC390 is a snap. Simply plug in the A/C adapter, place your iPad, iPhone or iPod on the dock connector and you're finished. The dock's clock is automatically set when you drop your iOS device into the dock connector. The alarms have to be set separately since there isn't an app for the dock, a disappointing drawback.
Features and remote
Click to EnlargeIf you're looking for a deeper bass from your alarm dock, you can tap the DBB button on the DC390's included remote to activate the system's dynamic bass feature. For a more nuanced sound, tap the DSC to switch between the DC390's five preset sound settings including flat, jazz, rock, pop and classic.
Unfortunately, if you lose the remote, you won't be able to change either of the above settings because there are no corresponding buttons for them on the dock itself. We were, however, impressed with the remote's build quality. Unlike the iD50's remote, the DC390's felt sturdy.
The DC390 features a Gentle Wake alarm whose volume increases gradually to wake you up, and you can choose from your own tunes, preset radio stations, or the buzzer alarm.
Out of all of the iOS alarm docks we tested, the DC390 offered the best sound. When we turned on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the Philips pushed out audio that pounded our eardrums, and that was without dynamic bass turned on. With that feature activated, the DC390 absolutely exploded with sound. The bass came so hard and heavy that the table we had the unit seated on rattled with each hit. However, we were slightly disappointed to find that we couldn't use the DC390's preset settings in conjunction with the dynamic bass; it was either one or the other.
While listening to 36 Crazy Fists' "Rest Inside the Flames," the DC390 once again impressed. Guitars blared clearly through the speakers, and the quick rap of snare drums and cymbals crashed off of our office walls. Vocals were equally clear, from the raspy sound of our 36 Crazy Fists album to Jay-Z's buttery smooth flow. More than anything though, it was the DC390's dynamic range that put it over the top. The dock outperformed iHome's iD50, which we praised for its crisp, distortion-free audio quality.
If you're looking for an alarm dock capable of pumping out quality sound that will satisfy audiophiles without crushing your bank account, the $149 Philips DC390 is the dock you've been waiting for. Conversely, if a dock that offers app integration and Internet radio is more your speed, we would suggest taking a look at the $169 iHome iD50. But for superior audio alone, the DC390 is one excellent iPhone dock.