The JBL On Time really stands out from the pack of iPod speakers. It looks like a Zen shrine to the iPod which, when docked, becomes framed by a halo of speakers. It's in a class of its own, anyway, because it's as much an alarm clock as it is a speaker system.
Pause your favourite track on your iPod before you go to sleep and, provided you've set the alarm correctly, the On Time wakes you up to your favourite track. Any iPod with a dock connector will fit in, and the On Time comes with a range of adaptor trays to ensure compatibility.
There's no remote; you control the iPod or flick to radio using the buttons on the front panel. You can link the iPod back to a Mac, too, thanks to another dock connector port at the back of the speaker. There's an extra aux-in jack, and also one bass-out jack, for those who want a bit more punch.
The On Time has a stereo FM/ AM radio with preset stations built in, so you can wake up to the radio if you like. Radio reception is acceptable but not particularly startling, and it's a bit annoying that the digital dial only moves in 0.2 increments along the frequency range. If the gauge moved along in smaller steps we could tune into stations more accurately.
The sound quality is detailed and warm, but it lacks the clout of the Bose SoundDock or Apple iPod Hi-Fi. Then again, those sets don't double as cool-looking alarm clocks. The speakers in the On Time are positioned along the curved arm and point out in a sweeping 180-degree arc. A tough metal frame protects them from knocks and scrapes.
On Time does a good job of filling the room with music, but needs to be positioned on a table to do so; when plonked between a rack of shelves, the sound is trapped and becomes rather muted. Right at the top of the curve of speakers is a giant snooze button - probably the best feature of the On Time. It's big enough that even a random shot with a sleepy hand can grab you some more kip.
As a speaker unit for playback throughout the day, a remote would've been useful. It's also not portable, despite having a bay for three AAA batteries (not included). The AAAs are for maintaining a reserve energy source for the clock, rather than sound on the go.
It's rather large to sit on your bedside table, but it looks great. And if you're worried about the bright blue panel keeping you awake at night, it does dim when it's dark, thanks to a built-in light sensor. If you want to wake up to your iPod and need a giant snooze button to gently lead you into a new day, this is a great gadget. It'll serve you well, but remember you're still paying a design premium for that arch.