Sony Dream Machine ICF-C218

I was looking for a cheap alarm clock. Real cheap. I found the Sony FM / AM Clock Radio Dream Machine on Amazon for $11.00. Yes, that cheap. Who needs a stereo alarm clock that plays CDs? Anyways, their marketers are good. On Amazon, the product is called an Automatic Time Set Clock Radio. That’s just what I need, not that I don’t know how to set the time to a clock radio. But, it’s really a drag to reset the time whenever a power outage occurs. Sometimes, it’s really simpler to wait until 12 midnight, pull the plug, and re-insert with the time magically set correctly. Voila! Of course, it didn’t make sense to me that a clock that featured “automatic time set” would also include “battery backup ensures correct time.” If the clock automatically set the time, why would I need a battery backup?

Here’s why. On the box, “Automatic Time Set” has a footnote. Uh, that wasn’t on the Amazon web site. It says, “The current EST/EDT (Eastern Standard/Daylight Saving Time) has initially been preset at the factory.” So, the Sony Dream Machine is not one of those high tech clocks that are synchronized to the NIST Radio Station WWVB. And, if the power goes out, the clock radio needs the battery backup to kick in because that automatic time set is a one-time only deal.

39 comments… add one
  • JB Mar 8, 2008 Link

    The battery Back up is not because the auto-time set doesn’t work as explained, it is incase the power goes out, the clock still works, and alarms will still go off.

  • Barbara Jul 30, 2008 Link

    I have this same Dream Machine but have lost my manual and don’t know how to re-set the time. Can you help at all?

  • jose Aug 25, 2008 Link

    I have this same ICF-C218 Dream Machine but have lost my manual and don’t know how to re-set the time and put the alarm. Can you help at all?

  • Ken Chan Aug 26, 2008 Link

    The Sony ICF-C218 manual can be downloaded from:

  • bill Oct 4, 2008 Link

    thanks ken. this helped alot

  • Ben Oct 10, 2008 Link

    I just bought the same clock in Mexico. I am absolutely astounded at how complicated the clock is to set. Does an alarm clock really need to have the last two digits of the year programed before the time can be programed, within 65 seconds, after the third beep? Tonight is the third night that I am reprogramming the alarm clock. And, I am finding it to be every bit as difficult as the first night. Actually, after the fifth attempt, I realized that by not following the forty two instructions to a tee, the whole falls into the realm of impossibility. Do yourself a favor and keep the manual placed directly under the clock, if you should by it. Otherwise, if you should ever have to reprogram the clock, and do not have internet access, you will most likely be out of luck. Maybe this is a way to make sure that Sony sells one clock per person.

  • Joe Nov 2, 2008 Link

    Amen Ben. Keep a copy of the instructions folks!

    I bought the clock because I thought it was an Atomic Clock set thru NIST radio. How can they dare say Auto Time set? Shame on you SONY, you SUCK. That was deceptive, what a scam.

  • Barbie Jackson Nov 2, 2008 Link

    Ken Chan,
    YOU ROCK! Thank you so much for that link to download the manual. My clock had the wrong date set, so it did not automatically change the time when day light savings time occurred. I was going nuts trying to figure it out and I couldn’t find my manual. I googled several things trying to find help and was getting frustrated. Until I read your posting! Thanks so much. Now the date and the time are correct!!!!

  • Ken Chan Nov 2, 2008 Link

    Well, daylight savings time has arrived. This morning, I woke up and discovered that the Sony Dream Machine adjusted itself last night and was displaying the correct time. The atomic clock, on the other hand, is still an hour off. I’m waiting to see if it will self-adjust tonight.

  • sandi Nov 5, 2008 Link

    the cd player on my sony dream machine isn’t working, any suggestions?

  • Joyce Nov 9, 2008 Link

    I’m having the worst time trying to load these instructions for my icf218 dream machine. Can somebody please, please just tell what how to set these simple little buttons? I always keep all my manuals for everything but I’ve seem to misplace this particular one.

  • Ken Chan Nov 10, 2008 Link

    It took a few extra days, but the atomic clock finally self-adjusted to the correct time. So, both clocks were able to adjust for Daylight Savings Time. The Sony clock adjusted the time on the correct day, and the atomic clock finally synchronized about three days after.

  • pam Nov 30, 2008 Link

    i am having a problem with the link to the manual. when i click on it the site tells me they dont have a manual. can anyone help as i cant re set the stupid bloody clock!

  • Ken Chan Nov 30, 2008 Link
  • Susan Dec 16, 2008 Link

    I bought several of the Sony ICF-C218 from Fry’s online to have as background music in homes I am selling. The radio keeps turning itself off. Stays on about an hour. I have the manual and it says that you push the off button to turn it off. Anyone know how I can keep them on 24/7? Thanks

  • Nick Feb 9, 2009 Link

    Can anyone please just explain to me how to set this damn thing? The manual is even more confusing than just trying to figure it out through trial and error, I have had this alarm clock for over a month and really am about to just throw it out and get another brand. Finally, I decided to go online and see if there was anyone who did manage to figure it out. 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00 lol HHHHELP ME

  • Karen Nov 5, 2009 Link

    My clock reset itself somehow last night. When my alarm went off this morning the clocks in the rest of the house read 6am, however the sony clock read 5am. Does anyone know what caused the clock to change by itself?

  • Tim M Apr 26, 2010 Link

    Found this site Googling how to set the clock. Ben you are right on – I am generally tech-savvy and I could NOT NOT NOT figure out how to set the ^&*! clock! Auto time set? I thought it would grab the time from the airwaves and thus the “easiest” time set ever. Instead it is the hardest!

    What a scam by Sony, this is a real stinker.

  • sharma Aug 24, 2010 Link

    The transformer of my ICF-C218 was burnt due to power surge. I tried to repair but couldn’t find out what is the capacity of the transformer that i need to replace the old burnt one with… Can any body please help?

  • Lyn Oct 17, 2010 Link

    To reset the time:
    Unplug the clock and replug. Hold down the clock button on top until it beeps. Push clock button once, it should show the month, push again it will show the date, push a third time and it will show the time. Use the plus or minus buttons to adjust the time.
    My clock was 6 minutes fast all the time, even after a power outage. Now it’s correct.

  • Marian Jan 3, 2011 Link

    Lyn, thank you so much. It is so simple once you have the instructions. I followed your instructions and had the clock set in just about a minute. Thank you, thank you!

  • Rps Feb 17, 2011 Link

    Does any one know how to change the clock mode ? By default I have 24hr clock mode. But I need 12- hr clock mode

  • Ken Chan Feb 17, 2011 Link

    @Rps. My understanding, based on reading a few manuals, is that the clock does not have a 12/24-hour switch. Instead, the default (and only setting) depends on the country in which you purchased the Sony alarm clock. Check with your local Sony website for the manual appropriate for your version of the alarm clock.

  • Merhawi Wells-Bogue Aug 28, 2011 Link

    If you guys are having difficulty how to set up the clock, I have figured it out. I was having the same problem as you are having now, however by clicking all the buttons I have found it how to do it. Here is how you do it: if you want to set the clock use the TIME ZONE button, and press it as you press the button it will show numbers like 1 then when press it again it will show 2. So the more you press the button the number goes up until 7, and 7 is the maximum number. So by pressing the buttons is when you will find out the right time that you set up the first time you bought the alarm clock. so press it and then wait for seconds and check the time if it is not the right time then keep pressing until you find the right time. This is how you set up the Sonny Dream Machine it’s easy. Good luck!!!

  • zach Oct 11, 2011 Link

    I have it its really complicated to set :/

  • Crystal Nov 5, 2012 Link

    I have a love-hate relationship with this alarm clock. It is SO complicated to set, and twice have had the time change by itself – in the middle of the night – for no apparent reason. I ordered it on Ebay, and it came with no instructions. I just had to keep pushing buttons until I finally figured out how to set the time for PST. What I like is the loud beeping alarm, and easy to use snooze functions. The type of Dream Machine I purchased has dual alarms – which I really need. It practically takes someone hitting drums over my head to wake me up in the morning. But, since it has changed time by itself TWICE in the past 4 month, I need to use my cellphone as a backup alarm. Both times, it set itself ahead 1 hour, so people at my work thought I was dead when I didn’t show up at 8am. I would suggest a backup to this alarm clock for sure!

  • lew roberts Sep 14, 2013 Link

    Sony Dream Machine Stinks. Almost impossible to set time and the numbers disappear in the daylight. Any way I can darken them to make them readable?

  • lew roberts Sep 14, 2013 Link

    Sony Dream Machine clock radio is impossible to read in the daylight. How can I darken the numbers? I, too, found it very difficult to reset the time.

  • MontrealPaul Apr 12, 2014 Link

    I have a weird problem: My radio won’t turn OFF!

    I have plugged, unplugged, pulled the battery, even opened it and checked for breaks and shorts (with high magnification), and found nothing.

    Even with the PC board exposed, and when I short the “off” circuit with a screwdriver, the damn thing won’t turn off!

    For now have cut the wire to the speaker so I’ll at least have a clock to see at night, but I have to use my phone as an alarm (which I’d rather not do).

    Ideas?… Yes, it’s out of warranty, but it’s not that old. 🙁

  • MontrealPaul Apr 12, 2014 Link

    @lew roberts, funny you should say that – I find mine so bright, I’ve had to place a piece of red gel over the display because it’s too bright at night! 🙂

  • DB May 22, 2014 Link

    Same here. The thing was working nicely for a few years but now it is no more turning off. There isn’t anything on the PCB to suggest a reason. Did you manage to fix your problem?

  • MontrealPaul May 23, 2014 Link

    Not yet, DB!

    (btw, it is now May 23, 2014. It would be good if this site posted the comment dates, so we’d know how old they are!)

  • Ken Chan May 23, 2014 Link

    Comment dates are now displayed.

    As for a radio that will not turn off, I had that same problem with a previous alarm clock. I had to control the radio with the volume dial instead of the on/off switch. Of course, the alarm feature will not be as useful with the volume turned all the way down. I still have the Sony Dream Machine, but I now rely solely on the alarm clock function on the cellphone, which can set multiple alarms with different schedules for different days. Much more useful.

  • MontrealPaul May 23, 2014 Link

    Hi, Ken

    Thanks for starting this blog – always interesting to hear about others’ experiences! 🙂

    Unfortunately, even with the volume knob all the way down, there is an audible buzz.

    The only solution was to completely sever a wire to the speaker. To retain radio use, I put a switch in-line with the cut wire, and I switch it on and off when I want to listen to the radio in my room. It’s a pain, but it’s a workaround. 🙂

  • isael Oct 11, 2014 Link

    i work in a hotel and 3 sony dream machine just can turn off the radio even though you press the Radio-off— alam reset. i open the device to to test the button but its good. can some one help me please. maybe there is a reset or something to turn off the radio. i dont want to cut the wire of the speaker as a friend did. if some one knows how can be fix plz contact me at [e-mail address removed] i will appreciate your kindly cooperation.

  • Daniel Aug 26, 2015 Link

    Impossible to set his piece of crap. I went on line last time and read a manual and set it. So counterintuitive that you can’t remember how to do it. Suddenly the clock set itself an hour ahead three weeks ago. No idea why. Not time to spring forward or fall back. Ugh. How’s bout you stripping out all the tech stuff and going back to the old simple clock. Sometimes fancier isn’t better. This is almost as bad as windows 8. EPIC FAIL. I am about to throw this piece of shit away.

  • Chris Apr 15, 2018 Link

    I realise this is a very old thread but some people having problems with a Sony Dream Machine might still stumble across it and find useful information here. So here’s a belated contribution…

    One of the problems a number of people seem to have experienced with aging Dream Machines is a mysterious fault that makes it impossible to switch the thing off. The reason for this fault and a cure for the problem are as follows. The “on” and “off” switches are push-button logic controls which are directly connected to the clock / alarm IC chip. When you push the “on” or “off” button, the IC chip outputs a signal which switches a muting transistor off or on. The transistor is wired across the volume control and when you push the radio’s “on” button the transistor allows the radio tuner’s signal to pass through the gain (i.e. volume) control to the signal processor and amplifier, giving you sound on the radio. When you push the “off” button the same transistor switches the signal to ground, effectively muting the radio circuit – so you get no sound from the radio. When that transistor eventually fails it will no longer respond to the “off” command and ground the radio signal. The result is that the radio obstinately keeps going and no matter how many times you press the “off” button, the radio won’t switch off.

    The remedy is to open the case and replace the failed transistor, which is identified on the circuit drawing as “Q1”. It’s a PNP type transistor and they cost a few pence (or if you prefer, cents) to buy. The circuit board is quite crowded and the components are delicate but anyone who is reasonably nifty with a soldering iron can change the faulty transistor in a few minutes. The circuit drawing is available from various websites that have free downloads of circuit drawings, manuals etc. Once the transistor has been changed, you can power up your Dream Machine and you’ll find that the fault has vanished. Your previously non-functioning “off” switch magically works again.


    Chris B.

  • MontrealPaul May 24, 2018 Link

    Chris, thanks so much for posting to this “old thread”. Yes, some of us are still following! 🙂

    Months ago, in despair, and not wanting to send an otherwise ‘good’ clock to the trash, I finally kludged a switch across the speaker wire, installing it through a hole drilled in the back. Admittedly not as good as toggling off the gain, but with the same effect (and hopefully not harmful to the radio). The device is no longer effective as an alarm clock, but can still function as a clock and a radio.

    Your post, however, has renewed my interest, so I did some googling to find what and where this Q1 transistor is, and found it here:

    Transistor Q1 is Sony part #8-729-600-22, or 2SA1235-F.
    I had trouble finding that (contacting “support” at Sony some time ago was frustrating, and I don’t want to go back there), but I read on a Spanish site that you can replace it with a 2SA1037, and for the characteristics you can also try 2SA1015, “although it is not SMD but a TO-92”.

    I found all of the above in the past hour, after reading your post; I’m busy with other projects at the moment, but when some time frees up, I’ll set about looking for a good replacement transistor, and attempting this repair.


  • MontrealPaul Aug 5, 2019 Link

    The main purpose of this post is to change my email address, as the old one is retiring, and I wish to keep receiving alerts about this thread.

    Nope, still haven’t gotten around to getting that transistor! 🙂


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