GE Great Awakenings and Sony EZ Alarm Clock Radios

GE 488512/03/11 - Many people consider the early-1980's General Electric "Great Awakenings" and the Sony "EZ" digital alarm clocks to be the greatest alarm clocks ever built. This is primarily because neither series is set the conventional way, where one must hold down buttons to scroll through several hours until you arrive at the desired time setting. Instead, the GE clocks utilize a direct entry numeric keypad for setting the time and alarms, and the Sony clocks use two rotating disks, one for the hour and one for the minute.

Click on "full story" below.


In other words, on the GE models, if you want to get up at 7:00pm, then you simply move the indicator to alarm, push 7 + 0 + 0 followed by the p.m. button, and hit enter. Pretty easy, huh? On the Sony models, you simply turn the hour disk to 7, and the minutes disk to 0. Even easier! Because of their intuitiveness and simplicity, both the GE Great Awakening and Sony EZ models are sought after by a variety of people, including those with certain disabilities and sleep disorders.Consequently, both the GE and the Sony EZ clocks usually sell for over $100.00 each in good condition whenever they pop up on Ebay.

But what else makes these clocks so desirable? Here's a list of the some of the more interesting features found on the GE 4885:

4885 Keypad
  • Direct Entry Keypad - No more having to scroll through 24 hours of numbers to set the time or alarm.
  • Assignable Dual Alarms - Each alarm can be set to buzzer or individual radio station presets. In other words, one person can wake to one radio station, and the other can wake to another station.
  • Grad-U-Wake - The alarm starts off quietly but gradually gets louder regardless of volume fader position.
  • Power Out Alarm - There is a "power failure tone" switch on the bottom of the unit, which sounds the alarm if all of the following conditions are met: 1) "Power failure tone" switch is on. 2) Power lost and restored. 3) Backup batteries dead or not installed. 4) Either alarm is on.
  • Brightness Sensor - Automatically dims the display in darkness.
  • Wake to Radio then Buzzer - The alarm can be set to play the radio for a few minutes and then sound the buzzer.
Different combinations of these options were available on the 4800, 4870, 4875, 4880, and 4885. The 4800 for example was (I believe) the first model, and thus it has a keypad and dual Grad-U-Wake alarms, manual display dimmer pot, but no battery back up. The 4875 was (I believe) the last model, and has just about every feature you could want. A number of years ago I found an old Usenet post which a man said the following about his 4875: "I wouldn't trade this thing for a wireless atomic clock that gave head!" Indeed, the general consensus is that the silver 4875 model is the best of the GE models.

Sony EZ-4 The Sony EZ series are all great. However, information is scarce as to which Sony EZ models were actually made. As far as I can tell, and please feel free to email me more info, there are the EZ-2, EZ-3, EZ-4, EZ-5, EZ-7, and ICF-C55W models, which came in both solid colors and simulated woodgrain. The EZ-5 is scarce, and features a TV band so you could listen to your favorite shows. I actually own a EZ-5 in storage that I just discovered I had. I walked into a now-closed Goodwill a few years ago, near closing time in the dead of winter, and there it was sitting on a shelf for a couple dollars.

Each of these 1980's units feature an "EZ Set" system, which consists of two knobs that you rotate to set the alarm: one to set the hour, and one to set the minute. It's pretty ingenious and super-easy to use. Like the Great Awakening units, these Sony models also usually command $100 ebay price tags whenever they decide to show up, which isn't terribly often.

I will reserve this space for the future, when I can figure out more about the EZ models and the differences between them.

GE 4875
4885 Bottom
4885 Bottom
EZ4 Wood
EZ-4 Wood
GE 4800
GE 4800


Comment from: Bob Wood [Visitor]
I wouold like to have one of these, model 4885
01/31/12 @ 03:21
Comment from: cj [Visitor]
I have one (GE 4885) to sell but not sure of value. Anyone care to let me know what its worth? or make an offer.
02/09/12 @ 12:52
Comment from: dave mcfalls [Visitor]
The best alarm clock! Program your snooze time, program your fall a sleep to music time, program radio staion all direct keying.
02/17/12 @ 18:22
Comment from: John [Visitor]
Great clocks. I have a 4880 (red display) and a 4885 (green display).
The only problem I have had with either of them is the contacts for the buttons get corroded and don't make contact. I have taken the "keyboard" apart several times over the years and cleaned the contacts.
05/15/12 @ 15:39
Comment from: David Lindsey [Visitor] Email
I have three GE 4885 clock radios. I agree with D.Mcfalls, "best alarm clock" I ever purchased. I am the original owner on one of them, the other two I purchased used some years ago on ebay.
05/21/12 @ 20:00
Comment from: Gary [Visitor]
Out of the big 3 digital alarm clock makers, GE was the best as far as I'm concerned (better than Panasonic and SONY). Their all around designs, build quality, usable controls, and sound quality was just unmatched. Plus, they innovated the most out of any of them.

GE alarm clock radios just keep going and going, so that's why you see so many for sale on the used market. Unfortunately, as any old electronic appliance goes, there will be things that wear out. Some people mentioned that the numeric keypad on the programmable ones can become unreliable (but rectified with a proper cleaning). Also, some of the radios develop a hum that is audible at low volume levels. I have one model where the dimmer control hardly dims anymore. But overall, for the most part the reliability is very good. I'm glad I learned about them and have built up a collection that will last me the rest of my life. :-)
06/04/12 @ 02:31
Comment from: Gumby [Visitor]
I have been shopping clock radios online and I got the urge to google for my bestest favoritest clock radio of all time - the GE 4885. That bad boy had it all (for the 80's, and I never found a better one. Today's clock radios all look like toy robots with iPod docks. The 4885 was much more elegant. Radio sounded great and it looked very sophisticated. I had it for 20 years before it died. I miss it!
08/25/12 @ 13:12
Comment from: Susanne [Visitor]
Why doesn't a company make an alarm like this one again! The only thing that would make it better is a light that gradually comes on before the alarm goes off so you wake up in light.
08/30/12 @ 23:30
Comment from: F.S. [Visitor] Email
Thank you for this article. I had the GE model 4875 and can honestly say that it was the best alarm clock I have ever owned. I paid about $70.00 for mine when they first came out. Many years later, I saw them in Big Lots for $20.00. Wish I had bought all they had, could make a fortune now on eBay.
09/09/12 @ 03:56
Comment from: Kathy [Visitor]
After continuous use for many years, my 4885 can't seem to keep time any more. It has started running really fast all of a sudden. Even though I reset it to the correct time at bedtime two nights ago, it woke me at 2:15 AM -- indicating it was 5:00 AM. I had to retire it. I seriously doubt I'll find another alarm I like as well.
01/23/13 @ 22:31
Comment from: inherentmirth [Member] Email
Kathy: Probably time to get in there and replace all of the bigger electrolytic capacitors. Should cost about 10 bucks for parts. Pretty easy job for anyone who can use a solder and desoldering iron. Could do it in a couple hours tops.
01/26/13 @ 21:02
Comment from: Maynard Franklin [Visitor] Email
Regarding the GE 4880 Great Awakening Clock Radio, I am still using mine, bought new. Twice I have had to remove the keyboard switches and clean them, by a quick acid wash followed by gold plating. It was only after my second go-round that I learned that the foam pad between the keys and the switches was the corroding culpert.

I am now experiencing a display that dims too much during darkness, with the radio on, while the daylight display is just fine. Other than the #6 key, which has some contact problems, the rest of the keyboard is just fine.

I'm wondering what to do with the dimming circuit. I do have the Sams, but it's a grade level or two above my ability. It's either a failing power supply, or the dimmer circuit itself.

02/24/13 @ 17:29
Comment from: Maynard [Visitor] Email
In your comment about getting up at 7:00 a.m., you say to set the indicator to "alarm", should be "alarm 1 or 2", then enter "7+0+0 followed by the AM button" but the AM button is for selecting the AM radio band or the FM button for the FM band. The proper entry for AM alarm times is to enter the time only. For PM times, there is a PM button to press after entering the time and before hitting the ENTER button.
03/20/13 @ 19:20
Comment from: inherentmirth [Member] Email
You are correct Maynard, and I'll fix it. Thank you!
03/22/13 @ 22:49
Comment from: Maynard [Visitor] Email
In my first post in February, I mentioned that I as having trouble with the #6 key, and today I took the keyboard down to my watchmaker/clockmaker, who for the second time, cleaned and gold-plated the contact board. It's now working perfectly again. I omitted reinstalling the foam separator between the keys and the contacts.

These GE 4880 clocks are absolutely the best there are. Now I've got two, but the new (old) one may need a contact cleaning too. Right now, it's not too bad.

06/14/13 @ 18:24
Comment from: Martin Goodman [Visitor]
I own and have restored 4 Sony ICF-C55W clock radios. These appear to be the first of the EZ-x series. Unlike the EZ-2, EZ-4, EZ-5, and EZ-7, this first model in the line has a button that, if the alarm is set AND you push this other button, displays digitally the alarm set time, to confirm you've set the dials right and that the set has "taken". I like this feature a lot.

Unfortunately, this model used badly engineered switches made in a crude fashion by Sony, instead of commercial grade switches, for time set, radio on/off, snooze, etc. These badly made switches have metal contacts that oxidize. The switch needs to be taken apart and the contacts cleaned with an eraser. Then then work fine for another 20 years or so. The radio also used incandescent bulbs inside to light up the alarm set dials (and also indicate whether or not the alarm was set!). These nearly inavariably are by now burned out. When I restore these radios, I replace them with a red light emitting diode. Requires a regular diode and a resistor in series with the LED, to drop the voltage and limit the current thru the LED to about 10 or 15 milliamps. LEDs get mounted using silicon goop, for the regular mount tends to be brittle and break when one does this. But results are very good.

I agree 100% with the author of this site that the user interface on these alarm clock radios is far superior to the "push for fast advance" alarm set, and even to the "fast forward and fast reverse" alarm set button pair, and EVEN to a "set hours / set minutes" advance button pair. One can with these Sony clock radios set the alarm significantly faster and more easily. It's a durn shame this brilliantly-thought-out user interface does not appear on modern clock radios. One could impliment it using more modern digital techinques, more cheaply, but the feel and utility could be the same.
04/13/14 @ 22:29
Comment from: Martin Goodman [Visitor]
Correction to my previous post: I now realize the Sony EZ-2, EZ-4, and EZ-7 DO have the capability to display the alarm set time digitally in the numeric clock area, by merely pressing the snooze bar while the alarm is set.

I had previously owned and given as gifts ONLY Sony ICF-C55W radios. Now I have and EZ-2 in my collection, and will soon have an EZ-4 and EZ-7.
04/15/14 @ 01:33
Comment from: Donnie [Visitor]
I loved my old GE 4880 clock radio. I've never seen another quite like it. I sadly got rid of it after the buttons stopped working. I remember how it would zap the 9V backup battery instantly if you pressed the FM button with the power disconnected.
01/17/15 @ 08:35
Comment from: Donnie [Visitor]
Timex has some new alarm clocks called the "Timex simple set" that has a keypad to set the time and alarms. It reminds me of the GE Great Awakening, only without the radio part. The radio was one of the great features of the Great Awakening: perfect integration of the clock, alarm and the radio with digital controls.
01/17/15 @ 08:46