Not blown away as Altec Lansing goes into orbit

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Just over a year ago, I bought an iPod speaker system from Altec Lansing. Easily as good as the Apple equivalent (and at less than half the price), I’ve been really pleased with them, so when Altec Lansing‘s public relations team got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in a new portable speaker for review, I was pleased.

Unfortunately, my pleasure didn’t last too long once I received the speaker (yes, singular). You see, I’m now in the second half of my thirties… closer to 40 than to 30 and I have two kids, so I guess I’m entitled to be a grumpy old man. I find it offensive when people (generally teenagers) walk around playing their music on their phones or other portable devices through poor quality, low powered speakers and can’t help thinking that at least in my day I had a “ghettoblaster” the size of a large piece of luggage to annoy people with my idea of good music (I won’t embarrass myself by divulging any further details…). What’s that got to do with the iM207 speaker (also known as the Orbit) that Altec Lansing sent me? Well, quite a lot as it happens as I’ve had my Orbit for a couple of weeks now and I have been trying to think of something good to write about it:

  • I could say that the Orbit is small. But it’s not really – just look at the picture of one next to a standard iPod.
  • Product shot of Altec Lansing Orbit portable speaker

  • I could say that the Orbit looks good. But it doesn’t. I’m sorry but I just don’t find black and chrome-effect plastic very attractive (although, now I come to think of it, that’s what the iPod uses…).
  • What about battery life? To be honest, I don’t know (Altec Lansing claim 24 hours on three triple-As) and anyway, that will vary according to a number of factors including the battery brand and characteristics, as well as the type and volume of music being played.
  • What about sound quality – surely that’s the most important thing? Yes, it is, but my iPhone’s internal speakers are better and when I plug the Orbit into my iPod I can only listen at up to about 25% volume before the distortion starts to kick in.
  • I could say that the Orbit is inexpensive. But I think £29.99 is a lot for something that’s not really very good. £14.99 would be a different story.
  • The best thing I can say about the Orbit is that the cable storage is well thought through and it’s iPhone friendly. There’s also a 2.5mm converter for use with mobile phones that don’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
  • There is one more thing too… you can get an Orbit for free – and hey, maybe you’ll like it better than I did. Just go to the YouGroove site and sign up.

So, I’m sorry Altec Lansing… you asked for a fair review and I really tried but the Orbit just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe I’m just not in that target “YouGroover” audience and I like my music to either be personal (i.e. in-ear) or to be played through a decent speaker system.

2 thoughts on “Not blown away as Altec Lansing goes into orbit

  1. Hehe, you certainly cannot be referred to as ‘groove daddy’ lol, well,
    I guess the Orbit is not for everyone’s lifestyle, albeit I am surprised you haven’t compared it to the (ach so 80s) ghetto blaster ;) isn’t the Orbit just some kind of evolution of those portable yet painfully huge and vulnerable dock-in stations? I am just thinking ‘summer in the park’ etc. In terms of usage of the Orbit is from my point of view ideal for collectively hanging out whilst some good tunes are playing in the background..

  2. Ruderolf – I did indeed refer to the ghetto blaster of the 80s ;-) and I’d actually be quite pleased if the Orbit was a lightweight version of the various iPod docking stations that exist today. The trouble for me was that it was a single, low quality, speaker and not even what you might call pocket sized (“Hey, is that an Orbit in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”).

    Summer in the park. Yep, I can see that. Or at least I could if I could actually get some decent volume out of it to rise above the ambient noise. I was playing dance music from my iPod (who says I’m no Groove Daddy ;-) ) and at 25% volume I could hear the first signs of distortion. By 40% it was clear and by 50% there was more distortion than music. IMHO, the Orbit is just not powerful enough for the summer in the park, is not really intended for the bedroom, and for anything less (on the bus/tube, etc.) then it falls into the antisocial behaviour category!

    Like I said, for £14.99 it might be OK. But given that it’s actually priced closer to £30 and I can get some really good portable speakers for not that much more, I just didn’t feel that it’s worth the money.


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