Sony ICF-C1 Crap (read Clock) Radio – speaking my mind – short review

My day starts with the alarm going off my Timex clock radio which I bought in USA 14 years back. It starts the pre tuned radio station as the alarm and continues for one hour or till I stop it. It has served me well all these years, it is still working but a part of the tuning mechanism has developed a crack inside and tuning can only be done in one direction now, If I have to tune it in other direction(rotate the tuner back), the only option I have is to open up the radio and hold the cracked part and then rotate. So I tuned it to a station and taped the tuning knob outside, essentially its a one station radio now. I do not have an issue with that as I only need that one station.

While casually browising, I came across the Sony ICF-C1 on ebay and immediately bought it as I really liked the design. Being much newer than my existing radio and being a Sony product, I expected it be of good quality and to have good features. In India, Sony has snob value. Though my experience with Sony products has been mixed, I tend to lean towards Sony. Moreover we do not have many options in clock radios in India, I think only Philips has such products. The only research I did before buying ICF-C1 is “how long the radio alarm will continue if it is not stopped?”, the answer is 1 hour which I wanted and is same as my Timex. I bought it because of the design although my Timex is still serving my purpose. Being a much newer product, I expected it to have good features though I did not want feature to feature match and upgrade of my Timex.

Here is what I have to say about my newly purchased clock radio.

The Good

Design – The cube design is ultra cool and the all black exterior adds to the design. Black is a better option than white as white will eventually get soiled and white is prone to discoloration.

Glass front – Front is full glass and looks too good whether the digits are on or off.

The orange digits – The orange digts on the all black glass are striking and the orange black combination is awesome. The digits are clear to read across the room irrespective of the room lighting condition. Three brightness levels are there, but I find 1 and 2 to be insufficient except when totally dark.

Radio Volume – The radio volume is good. Do not expect thumping sounds, but considering it as a basic radio, the volume is very good.

Time Keeping – Ofcourse, that is what it is made for and keeps time as it should. UPDATE : It looses a minute or two every month or so. My daughter follows this clock for leaving to school and so I have to adjest it every few weeks.

Alarm Resumes – In case of a power failure, alarm resumes when the power resumes. Say alarm is set to 6’o clock, it should continue till 7’o clock if I do not stop. If there is a power failure and if power resumes before 7, the alarm will start off and continue till 7. This is not useful for someone who wants to rely on it to wake up, but it is useful for people who listen to radio during this hour.

The Bad

Manual Tuning – The radio uses manual tuning, no auto tuning. There is a small window on the top which has a frequency indicator dial that moves when you move the tuner. The movement range of the tuner dial is small and perfectly tuning to a station takes some time. So it is not at all for someone who prefers to change stations frequently.

Totally off in case of power failure – The radio will be totally off in case of a power failure. While that is ok, I expect the alarm to at least beep even if there is no power. So, you can never rely on this as an alarm since power outage is a very common thing in India. My kid wakes up and gets ready to school when the Timex fires off, can’t depend like that on this Sony.

Quality of plastic – Quality of plastic is not upto the mark. It is as good as a locally made radio or a cheap import. Fit and finish is fine, but not the material used.

Buttons – Button presses give a feel of the buttons on my kids cheap toys. Actually, I think the plastic quality and buttons of Mc.Donalds happy meal toy is better.

Day & Date – You can not know Month/Date from the clock. We do have to enter Month/Date during time setting, but thats only for automatic DST. India does not use DST. Even for countries which use DST, you may have to turn off automatic DST and use manual time setting to adjust to DST(as per manual).

The Antenna – Beautiful all black radio, here comes the gray colored antenna that is around one feet long. Who on earth came up with a light gray antenna for a full black setup. I do not think there is any rule to use a gray wire for antenna. My Timex and Sony Hi-Fi system use black wire for antenna.

The Ugly

24 Hour Format – Only option for time display is 24 hour format. I do not know if India has a 24 hour format officially, but it is 12 hour format that we use. When launching a product in any country for commoners household use, is it not common sense to make sure it meets the basic requirements?. For a clock in India, 12 hour format is one of the basic requirements and this fails. For me, not being efficient at reading 24 hour time, I can use the clock for 7 hours, if I wake up at 6am.

^ The user guide that came with radio mentions 12 hour format for Latin America and Korean models and 24 hour format for other models. Indian Sony site does not have a downloadable user guide as of writing this article.

^The user guide I downloaded from UK Sony mentions 24 hour format for UK model and 12 hour format for Australian and New Zealand models.

^An average person will not know which model is being sold in India.

^I also checked user guides for another model Sony sells in India, the ICF-C218. There are two user guides downloadable from Sony India for this. One mentions 12 Hour format for Canada and 24 hour format for other countries. The second guide mentions 12 hour format for Central America and Mexico and 24 hour format for other countries/regions. So there is no clear idea.

Front Glass Quality – It is the worst quality for a glass I’ve seen. There were my finger prints after unpacking it and I tried to clean it with a microfibre before putting it in its place. To my horror, before I cleaned half the glass I realized the crappy quality glass is scratch prone and is gathering scratches as if I’m rubbing it with a fine sand paper. I carefully completed the remaining part but it has already lost the charm. The cheap imported phones have screens that can withstand daily house hold dusting, but this radio can not. The glass of my kids 100 rupee pencil box feels much better.

^I will have to custom cut a screen protector to protect this glass.

Interference – It picks up interference a lot even when the radio is off. So if mobile is some where around the radio, the speaker makes the interference noise every now and then even while the radio is off and it is really annoying. How far is this somewhere around? I’ve seen it pick up interference when phone is 6 to 7 feet away. The interference noise volume depends on the volume you’ve set on the radio. I do not have it in my bedroom, but imagine how it would be if its a bed side radio.

Why I think Sony launched this?

They have a radio in their global product portfolio(ICF-C1, probably conceptualized, designed, developed and released by a trainee team) and they wanted to launch a new product in India(fill up every gap and compete every possible product). They chose the variant which can work on 220v and has a plug that suits indian power sockets. Seriously, I do not think there is any further thought gone in.

They imported the radios, stuck two stickers and released it. One sticker mentions the price and date of import, the other sticker says “A warranty card inserted”. These stickers speak enough, don’t they? If you see my video, it is clearly evident, they inserted an India centric warranty card from the side into a sealed box. They may not have opened and checked the product even before launch.

My wrong assumptions

Auto tuning – I assumed to have auto tuning. First, I thought the manual tuning is a thing of past and is currently applicable only for low end radios that cost around 500. Second, it has a small window that displays frequency, unlike the long tuning bar. With the absence of tuning bar in all the pictures and a bold digital display, I did not expect manual tuning. I should have read the specs. Manual tuning is not really an issue for me as I do not change stations frequently.

12 hour format – I did not even think of it. I have never used a digital watch or clock in life that can display time in 12 hour format.

Alarm – Being a clock, I expected this to atleast beep at the alarm time even in case of power failure. Quality – It’s a Sony, it should be good, but I’m wrong

Is it an upgrade for me?

It is not an upgrade. Infact, I was not looking for an upgrade, I only bought it as a replacement. Turns out that it can neither be a replacement nor an upgrade, its a downgrade. There is nothing worth saying than the design.

If I have to compare it with my old Timex, here is what I lacks

12 Hour Time

Alarm beeps in case of power failure

Multiple alarms – Four alarm times can be set on Timex, one for Radio, remaining for other sounds. In case of power failure, buzzer will go off instead of Radio.

Day Display

Month Display

Date Display Quality

Miscellaneous Notes

I think some of the features, say the ability to switch between 12 hour and 24 hour formats, or checking the day/date only needs a few more lines of code in the implementation. I do not understand why Sony can not do this. This functionality does not even need any extra buttons.

The radio has too many buttons and placement is cumbersome. The functionality this radio offers can be met with much fewer buttons. I feel the code is written by a trainee who can only assign one function to a each button. A wrist watch handles many more functions with 3 or 4 buttons. With so many buttons, it tries to say it can do a lot, but it hardly does anything.

The small tuning window is on the top and is not backlit. You can not see it in dark say if it is on bedside and you can not see the window if it is a higher place like on a refrigerator(where I have it).

There is a smell of burnt plastic near the radio. It started the moment I powered it. Its been more than 48 hours at the time of this writing and the smell is still there.

It has a CR2032 button cell to keep the clock running internally in case of power failure. I think even CR2032 battery will be sufficient for alarm beeps in case of a power failure. My wrist watch which uses a CR2032 beeps once a day for alarm in addition to hourly beeps and the battery is going strong even after two years. So it is not that the beeps can not be implemented. Even a low beep would have sufficed.

Why I say its a CRAP?

Reason 1 – The quality of front glass, pathetic(lack of a more suitable word).

Reason 2 – Inability of using 12 hour format time in India.

Reason 3 – Overall quality, features, price and ownership experience.

Do I recommend?

Should I? You have read this article, download and read the user guide too. If the radio suits you, get it, it does look uber cool. But do check it out physically in a store and feel the quality before purchasing.

Questions & Comments?

Please post your questions at FAQtory.in, I answer there. Comments, feel free to post them here.

Posted in Drop Box, Reviews, Tech
  • Thomas

    I agree 100% with you, unfortunately I am also an unlucky owner of this crap.

  • Bruh

    Or at least read a book on gramma

  • Bruh

    Please learn some English

  • Amirul Hakim

    Hi, the alarm can set various of time? For example, in a day I sleep twice and I want to wake up at 6 am and 2 pm. So I don’t need to reset the alarm everytime i want to sleep.

    • vishki

      Unfortunately you can’t. It has only one setting.

  • milan

    vishki, you still have this clock? I bought 24-hour version and managed to get 12-hour format by accident.

    • vishki

      Hello Milan,
      Yes I still have it. The 24 hour only format still annoys me when I look at it. Other than the shortcomings mentioned, the radio has been working as it did on day one.

      Do you mean you somehow accidentally changed the format from 24 hour to 12 hour? If yes, please let me know if you remember.

      • milan

        Hi Vishki, if you’d like to try here’s how it happened to me. Pls be aware that this is not recommended and at your own risk.
        I plugged the clock WITHOUT backup battery into the wall socket, adjusted the time in 24-hour format to actual time (16 something hours), along with date etc. Then, while the clock still plugged in, I introduced the backup battery into the clock but with reversed polarity (upside down, by accident). The clock beeped loudly and reverted to 4 and something hours. When I tried setting it back to 16 hours, I realized there was only 12 hour format. There was no AM/PM symbol (watch being 24h format version only) but there were dashes appearing every 12 hours in the place of AM/PM symbols. I have corrected the battery polarity in the meantime, 12h format was kept.
        I managed to get the 24 hour format back with removing the battery and unplugging the clock for some 3 hours cause I prefer that format actually. I found your blog while trying to get the 24h format back.
        Pls note that my clock is dual alarm version, but it is 24h format only (noted in its manual). Hope this helps.

        • vishki

          Hey, Thanks Milan. The trick worked. Not exactly same though. I had to switch off/on the power a couple of times after inserting the battery in reverse. Finally I have the 12 hour format. Yes I too have the two dashes from 12am to 12pm, but I”m ok with that.

          I tried this almost within a weeks time from your reply but I somehow missed replying and thank you. So I’ve been using the 12hour format for around 10 months now and there is no issue.

          • knowhow

            Hi Vishki, is this this mod reversable after power off?

          • vishki

            Should be reversible. I did not try but milan in his reply above said that he was able to get it back. Check milans reply above.

          • Thomas

            The trick is working but the two dashes are really disturbing, don’t recommend..

        • knowhow

          Thank you for the tip! i tried to mod this clock which i bought from UK. My impression is that UK’s Sony dreammachines always have 12H mode. i was so wrong!

  • rosta

    thanx.