In its element, the JBL Horizon 2 Bluetooth clock radio is an outstanding alarm clock. With its ambient light and gentle ascending alarm tones, the JBL Horizon 2 is a great way to wake up to the day.
However, the Horizon 2 is not perfect. Thanks to its aggressive auto-dimming, the JBL Horizon 2’s display brightness is ideal for your bedside but almost unusable elsewhere. And despite its price, the Horizon 2 lacks internet connectivity and the sort of features that other, more affordable ‘smart’ clocks have. Nevertheless, I’ve owned the Horizon 2 for almost a year and recently bought a second for my wife. So, is the JBL for you? Let’s find out. Jump to Conclusion
In strong light, the JBL Horizon 2’s auto-dimming display is big, bright, and attractive. But as night falls, the display dims to the point where it’s barely lit.
This is perfect if you plan to use the Horizon 2 on your nightstand as it strikes the ideal balance between readable but not distractingly bright. In other words, it’s not nearly bright enough to keep you awake, but you can still tell the time.
However, using the JBL Horizon 2 elsewhere and the auto-dimming becomes a curse. If your room is a little underlit, the JBL may dim to the point where you can no longer see the time. And since you cannot adjust the auto-diming, there’s nothing you can do about it.
For this reason, I believe the Horizon 2 is purpose-built as a bedside alarm. When used within this context, auto-dimming is terrific. If you plan to use the Horizon 2 elsewhere, consider buying a different clock.
How to turn off Auto-dimming
I recently bought a second ‘white’ JBL Horizon 2 for my wife, and on hers, the auto-dimming can be turned off. Sadly, my black JBL Horizon 2 lacks this feature – possibly because it’s an older model.
To turn off auto-dimming on a JBL Horizon 2, hold the scan button and use the top wheel to choose between auto-dimming or a constant level of brightness between one and five.
This is ideal if you plan to use the JBL Horizon 2 in ever-bright areas, but you may prefer to stick with auto-dimming for bedside use.
You can set the JBL Horizon 2 to wake you with its DAB radio or one of its four-alarm tones. In either case, you can select the alarm’s initial volume, which will slowly grow louder the longer you ignore it.
If you ignore it for too long (3 minutes), the auto-snooze kicks in, and the alarm stops. After 9 minutes, the alarm will begin, and the process will repeat thrice.
Alternatively, you can activate the snooze setting yourself, as many times as you like, by taping the top dial. Or, turn off the alarm by holding down the same dial for a few seconds.
Setting the alarm is easy. Select one of the two-alarm banks and dial the time using the top dial. Once you’ve set the time, you can set the frequency to one-off, weekdays, weekends, or daily. You can use the second alarm bank as an alternative alarm if required.
The back of the JBL Horizon 2 is one ample ambient light designed to simulate the rising sun. It begins 1 minute before your alarm goes off. When combined with a quiet ascending alarm tone, the ambient light contributes to a gentle and natural waking. If you prefer, you can set your alarm without the light.
If you’re wondering, the ambient light does not function well as a reading light since the light is defused and facing the wrong way. However, you can use it anytime you like by pressing the top dial, but it does turn off after ten minutes.
JBL Horizon 2 Clock Radio
The JBL Horizon 2 has a very lovely and reliable FM DAB Radio. There are two buttons to auto-scan up and down the frequencies, and you can save your favorite radio station to 1 of 3 presets.
As with many FM radios, the JBL Horizon 2 features a short wired antenna. In my case, it’s hardly required, and the radio sounds great.
The JBL Horizon 2 is also a Bluetooth speaker. A very good one. When I first heard it, I could hardly believe such a small device was capable of sounding so loud and so good. I’m not saying such a small device will flood your house with music. However, it is gloriously overpowered for your bedroom’s nightstand.
Furthermore, the Horizon 2’s Bluetooth connectively is strangely robust and oddly reliable. I’ve never found it so easy to pair my devices. The Horizon 2 has a 3.5mm jack AUX-In if your favorite music device lacks Bluetooth connectivity.
The JBL Horizon 2 is a mains-powered alarm clock, not a portable speaker, and will not operate on batteries. But if you have a power cut through the night, a small replaceable button cell battery ensures your time and alarm are not forgotten when power returns.
Dual USB power outlets.
You cannot plug USB media into the JBL Horizon 2. But you can use one of its two USB ports to charge your devices. Excellent for giving your Kindle a little top-up between bedtime reads.
Not a Smart Device
As an older person, I’ve never considered being under surveillance when I sleep a selling point. Now, I’m no Luddite, and I am all for innovative technology in its proper place. But in others, I prefer the sophistication of simplicity.
Of course, this is all subjective, and for less money, you can buy a voice-activated clock that will display your photos, play movies, and churn out your favorite playlists. But for me, the simple sophistication of Horizon 2 is a major selling point.
JBL Horizon 2 Problems
JBL Horizon 2 Display Brightness
As mentioned earlier, the JBL Horizon 2’s aggressive auto-dimming makes it a poor choice for brightly lit environments. In a front room with the lights on, there’s a strong chance the screen will dim to the point you can no longer see the display.
However, I have two JBL Horizon 2’s in my bedroom, and on the newest white version, the Auto Dimming can be disabled in favor of constant brightness by rolling the top dial while holding the scan button.
Unfortunately, my black JBL Horizon 2 remains committed to Auto Dimming no matter what I do. For me, it’s a none issue since I’m using it as a night alarm. But if you plan on using your Horizon 2 in your living room, you should ensure your copy of the Horizon 2 has the option to disable auto-dimming.
I’ve read other reviewers lamenting over the Horizon 2’s auto-snooze feature. The Horizon’s alarm will eventually cease after 3 minutes and snooze for 9 minutes before trying again, and after three attempts, it will give up altogether. Furthermore, none of this can be adjusted – including your snooze duration.
While this is a common complaint, I’ve never empathized with it. The JBL Horizon 2 has the potential to be loud enough to wake the dead, and it’s hard to imagine anyone sleeping through 3 minutes’ worth of its best effort. And so long as you’re hitting the snooze button, you can snooze as often as you like.
Plus, I like knowing that the alarm will eventually cease and give my neighbors a break if I’m out and have left my alarm on by mistake.
The JBL Horizon 2 is one of the few premium alarm clocks offering modern-day features without being an internet-connected ‘smart’ device. This may be a problem for you, mainly since an internet-connected equivalent provides more features and may even be cheaper.
The absence of an internet connection means setting up the Horizon 2 is as simple as plugging it in. And I appreciate being able to jump straight into a product without keying in my username and password.
Of course, this means you don’t get video, music streaming, photo playback, and all the other benefits of a connected alarm clock. But while the Horizon 2 may be simple, it is desirable and sounds pretty good too.
The JBL Horizon 2 is an outstanding wireless speaker with a great-sounding DAB FM Radio. While three radio presets are a little stingy, scanning between the stations requires naught but a press of a button. If you’re not in the mood for radio, you connect your device via Bluetooth or with a 3.5mm audio cable.
The Horizon 2’s simplicity goes a little too far – particularly where auto-dimming is concerned. In the right light, the Horizon’s screen is bright and glorious. But, in the wrong light, the Horizon 2 may dim its screen to the point where you can no longer read it.
Of course, if you’re lucky, your copy of the JBL Horizon 2 may offer an option to turn off Auto-Diming and set a constant brightness instead. However, it’s not self-evidently clear which JBL Horizon 2’s have this feature until its powered-up.
Yet, I find the auto-dimming option entirely optimal for night-time use making the JBL Horizon 2 an ideal bedside alarm clock.
The perfect bedside alarm clock
Put the Horizon 2 on your bedside cabinet, and the auto-dimming shines (sorry!). In good light, Horizon’s screen shines bold and bright. And when the lights go off, and your room goes black, the Horizon dims to the point where it remains entirely readable without projecting any glare, so it won’t wake you up when you turn towards it.
Is the JBL Horizon 2 worth it?
With its gently accending alarm tones and sun-simulating ambient light, the attractive-looking JBL Horizon 2 is a nice alarm clock to wake up to. And thanks to its powerful audio, it doubles nicely as a bedroom sound system. If you’re looking for an offline contemporary alarm clock for your bedside, the JBL Horizon 2 is well worth a look.
If you have a Horizon 2 – feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.