With loads and loads of speaker docks made for Apple's expensive yet so desired products out on the market, shopping around for a good speaker dock can become an overwhelming and tiring experience. Like many of you, I too make my own research before running out and handing my hard earned cash for a certain product. Stem's TimeCommand is yet another speaker dock that combines an alarm clock into one package. The TimeCommand isn't just another speaker dock though, it's got a few features up its sleeve that I think makes this speaker dock well worth your attention. Full review right after the break!
One of the first things you'll notice is the big, bright orangey LED display that will tell you the current time in big digits that are easy to read. The TimeCommand is designed as a rounded dock with speakers facing at each side for a more surround sound feeling. The LED display is of course an extension of this rounded design and rather being a flat display like you would find on almost any other device, the LED display is curved and it just looks so modern. Ever since Stem sent out the TimeCommand for review, I've been impressed by every feature that I've come to discover.
Before we get into the sound quality of the TimeCommand, I want to introduce all of the features the TimeCommand has to offer. There are quite a few that I really like, and one of them is the pivoting dock connector that allows you to dock your iPhone, iPod and even the grand daddy of them all, the iPad - all while incased in case. I always say that when you've got to remove your form of protection off of your mobile device in order to use an accessory isn't good enough. Stem has really thought this thru with the pivoting dock connector. Well done. However, it isn't all so perfect. It requires a lot of force to move this pivoting dock connector because you don't really have a good grip of doing so. There's too much force holding the dock connector back against the rubber padded dock support that it makes it quite hard fiddling around to make a connection. Especially with the iPad 2 and its curved dock connector port.
It's things like this that makes me wish the TimeCommand had Bluetooth capabilities because it's just not very easy to quickly dock your iDevice. The good thing is that you can use most cases with your iPad, iPhone and iPod.
One of the features the TimeCommand boasts is its ability to control your bedside lamp using the free Stem:Connect app that is available for all iOS devices. The TimeCommand's wall plug has a side outlet that lets you connect your bedside lamp that you would like to take control of using the TimeCommand. If you're using an incandescent light bulb, you will be able to fully control and adjust your lamp's light intensity levels using the Stem:Connect app. There's also a dedicated lamp button on the TimeCommand that lets you switch your lamp on and off very easily. A very useful feature had the Stem:Connect app worked as it should.
That brings me to Stem's Stem:Connect app which plays a great role in enhancing some of the TimeCommands features. Unfortunately, this app is filled with bugs that should have been ironed out by now with a major update. But no, Stem hasn't invested in their app which plays a big role in enhancing the TimeCommand's usability. Instead of enhancing, the Stem:Connect app only degrades the otherwise fantastic features the TimeCommand has to offer. One notable feature the Stem:Connect app diminishes is the bedside lamp controlling. Once you've got the app opened up and your lamp turned on, the app will turn off the light after a few seconds. There isn't a specific amount of time between the app turning off the light, which points out to be a major bug in the app. On the bright side, controlling a lamp while the Stem:Connect app is closed works flawlessly.
Setting the bugs aside, the Stem:Connect isn't all bad. Other than the boring unchangeable background, it displays the current weather forecast in your area automatically using WeatherBug services which are very accurate. While the date isn't displayed on the TimeCommand's LED display, the date and time are displayed in the app alongside your alarm details. The top bar is where you'll find the settings for the LED display brightness, lamp brightness and various other settings. Of course you can access your iTunes music library from within the app. You can either use the TimeCommand's built-in alarm functionality or dock your iOS device to access its alarms. On the top of the TimeCommand are physical buttons to control the volume, skip songs, play and pause music, snooze and buttons to set alarms and to control your bedside lamp.
It's worth noting that when you dock your iOS device for the first time, the TimeCommand will automatically adjust its time without you having to manually adjust. It's quick, effortless and exactly what every clock dock should be able to do. You'll also be invited to download the free Stem:Connect app when you first dock your iOS device.
You might be disappointed to find out that the TimeCommand has no additional inputs like an AUX input for use with various audio sources other than iOS devices. It's safe to say that the TimeCommand is an iOS device-only speaker dock. And what's more, it lacks a traditional little remote control many other docks include. I lose those anyway.
Finally we get into the sound quality. After all this is a speaker dock. I honestly wasn't expecting the TimeCommand to sound nearly as good as it sounds. Because Stem isn't a known brand that makes audio products, I naturally assumed this would be another one of those docks with poor sound quality. Well, I was wrong. And I'm really impressed by the sound quality this speaker dock produces at the affordable price of $99.95. The sound is clear overall and can easily fill a big room, surprisingly without distorting even in the slightest at the maximum sound volume. Bass - isn't anything to brag about, but at the same time is isn't all that bad. I don't think you can find any other sound dock in this price that will have a better bass performance. You'll need to spend above $300 for decent bass performance in a speaker dock like the Audyssey South Of Market.
Stem's Stem:Connect app lets you adjust the way the TimeCommand's speaker output sound by adjusting the speaker settings in the app. This is called the "Sound Field Expansion" which lets you slide the two speakers apart to create a more stereo sound that sounds full like a pair of right and left speakers. I would always keep the speakers further apart because it sounds the best that way.
When you compare Stem's $99.95 TimeCommand speaker dock to other similarly priced docks, the TimeCommand delivers great sounding sound and a good looking clock display on your bedside table. Stem really needs to issue an update for the Stem:Connect iOS app to iron out all the bugs that infest it. Overall this is one solid alarm clock speaker dock for $99.95. You should definitely give it a try if you're in the market for an iHome replacement.