Review: Soundfreaq Sound Rise

(April 30th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Soundfreaq

Price: $80

The Good

  • Solid audio
    - Multiple alarms
    - Stylish design

The Bad

  • No backlight on buttons

There is no denying that the introduction of Apple's proprietary Lighting port changed the accessory market. It is becoming increasingly rare to see a company include a dock of any sort with a home speaker. Instead, we now see many companies choosing to follow the route of Bluetooth and standard USB connections rather than offering a place to dock one's iPhone. Soundfreaq is no exception to this change, and this can be seen with the release of an updated Sound Rise alarm clock.

What originally started out as a 30-pin dock-equipped alarm clock has been slimmed down into a much smaller package. The question is, have any of these reductions hurt what was originally a stand-out product?

Design/Features

The Sound Rise is a sleek, small package and -- as the name might imply -- has been designed with verticality in mind. Unlike many other alarm clock designs, the unit takes up more space vertically than it does horizontally, making it easy to fit onto any nightstand. The bottom two-thirds are covered in a soft, cloth material, while the upper third houses the LED display. The clock's display can be set to various levels of brightness, through the use of a small button on the back of the device. Its brightness levels range from a bright glow all the way down to a blackout mode that only displays the time when a button on the device is pressed.

Across the top of the Sound Rise is where you will find all of the necessary controls. This includes buttons for selecting the input source, Bluetooth pairing, track and volume control, alarm 1 and 2 control, snooze, and setting a sleep timer. This is mostly standard fare for your average alarm clock, but what is a little unconventional is the design. The top of the device is not a flat surface, but instead has placed the buttons on a slight incline behind a small edge at the front.

Admittedly, upon first seeing the layout of the clock, I assumed that I was not going to like it -- then a funny thing happened. As I went to shut off the alarm on the first morning, my hand landed on top of the clock, but instead of smashing all the wrong buttons, I found myself hitting only what I needed. My palm landed on this ledge and then my fingers could easily find all of the buttons needed for controlling the alarm. Mind you, I still wish the buttons were backlit for easier media control in the dark -- but I am still surprised how easy it has become to shut off my alarm or hit snooze, considering how quickly I was ready to write off the design.

All of the Sound Rise's other controls and inputs, including tone and brightness buttons, an auxiliary input, a USB charging port, and an antenna port, are located at the bottom of the back panel. We should note that the USB port is solely for charging, and does not act as a form of audio input for the clock. Furthermore, the charging port is only rated at 5V and one amp -- this is perfect for phones, but will charge more power hungry devices (such as iPads) at a far slower rate.

Overall the build quality is quite good; however, the glossy plastic across the top does give the Sound Rise a bit of a "budget" feel. With that said, we were wholly impressed with the modern aesthetics of the design. Our black unit was a sharp addition to our bedroom, but if black isn't your preference there is also a Wood and Taupe option.

In terms of features, the Sound Rise offers two separate alarms that can be set to occur everyday, a specified day of the week, just weekdays, or just weekends. Moreover, each alarm can be set to use Bluetooth, Aux-in, or an FM station as an audio source, or simply revert to a more classic beep tone. When using Bluetooth, the clock will automatically connect to the phone at the appropriate time and then beginning playing the most-recently played song. Essentially the unit is just hitting "play" on your iPhone, which then triggers the most recent audio source, meaning users can use audio from any app to wake up. As a backup, the Sound Rise has also been made smart enough to revert to its default beep when a Bluetooth connection can not be made.

Sound

Sporting a single 2.25-inch driver powered by 3.5 watts of power, it offers ample volume for filling a room, and more importantly, waking you from a deep sleep. While the audio quality is not on par with what you might find from a more standard stereo setup, it is certainly a huge step up from the your phone's little speaker.

The Sound Rise creates a surprisingly full sound for a single speaker, but -- as one might expect -- it is notably weak in regards to bass performance. While the driver is able to push a lot of sound, it is simply isn't powerful enough to really power those low frequencies. Thankfully what it lacks, in low end, the Sound Rise makes up in "cleanliness." Even when pushing the volume towards the max, the speaker holds up without much noticeable distortion.

Of the three Tone options, we chose to leave the speaker set to "warm" for most of our listening. We found that this option brought a good roundness to the overall sound compared to the other two options. This may vary from user to user, depending on their preferred musical genres, but we are convinced that everyone will be able to find a setting that is appealing to their personal preferences.

Conclusion

Is the Sound Rise the greatest speaker you are going to use in your house? Simply put, no -- but when you put it into the context of what it was designed to be (namely, as an alarm clock) then you can start to see why it is a solid choice for your bedroom. The reality is you don't need a full sound system to wake you up every morning; what you do need is a simple device that functions the way you expect on a consistent basis. Without fault, the alarm sounded exactly when it was supposed to every morning, even after a night where a power outage occurred while we were asleep (thank you, backup battery). If you are looking for a new alarm clock, i'm convinced that it would be hard to find another Bluetooth option in the same price range that looks and performs as well as the Sound Rise.



by Bradley McBurney


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