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Reviews

Altec Lansing’s inMotion iM3

By Brandon Miniman January 28, 2005, 12:00 am

    Altec

Lansing, in an update to their original inMotion, have birthed the inMotion

iM3. The differences are aesthetic and size related, with the addition

of an IR remote that allows for basic playback manipulation of the docked

iPod. With this solution, mobility is allegedly moved to a new level:

a user can listen to his tunes while in a hotel room, in the office,

or any other personal space. But with four measly 28mm speakers, do

the inMotion iM3 rock out, or do they sing the blues? Listen up, and

read on…

WHAT’S HOT

    Below is a list of feature highlights:

Mobility

Factor

: These speakers were truly designed with the traveler

in mind. Included in the box is a set of international power plugs.

In addition, the sub-one-pound weight of the iM3 makes it a feather

to carry around inside of the included iM3-branded carrying case.

Versatility

:

Although the iM3 was very much designed to fit an iPod, the auxiliary

audio input allows any audio device with a headphone jack to be connected

to the speakers.

Power

:

Within the box is a power adapter, but there is also the option of running

the speakers off of 4 AA batteries (not included), which will provide

sound for 24 hours, according to Altec Lansing – who say YES! to bringing

your iPod and iM3 speakers with on the weekend camping trip.

Remote

:

The remote, with an iPod connected, will allow for playback control,

including volume. Volume is only changed through the unit – when docked,

the volume on the iPod stays constant.

Sound

:

Although I don’t want to give it away too early in the review, the sound

is outstanding considering the source (see "LISTENING EXPERIENCE" for full description of sound quality).

Device
Size

(inches)

Weight

(pounds)

MSRP

(as of Jan 05)

Frequency

Response

Altec

Lansing inMotion iM3

5.5

x 8 x

1.1

0.9

$179.95

60Hz-20kHz

6.65

x 11.91 x 6.48

4.56
$299.00
NA

2

x

6.9

x 6.9

1.0

$159.95

80Hz-20kHz

    Above,

I’ve compared the iM3 speakers to its most worthy competitors: the Bose

SoundDock and the JBL On Stage. All three take on various interesting "modern" shapes, with the inMotion iM3 weighing the least

– which increases the mobility factor. The most expensive, the Bose

SoundDock, has received mixed reviews, while the JBL On Stage has been

proclaimed a good value.

BOX CONTENTS

The

box is attractive (great for marketing) with a modern gray and white

color scheme. A sticker reveals that the inMotion also works with the

(fatter) iPod Photo.

    Altec

gives you everything you need to travel with your iPod, except for batteries

for the unit. Included is an AC power adapter, power jacks for several

countries, seat clips for various iPods or other MP3 players, a male-male

headphone cable, user instructions (in about six languages in case you

have trouble picking one), plastic case, and the inMotion iM3.

PRODUCT

FEATURES

The

unit itself, described by the Altec Lansing site as paper-back size,

is very portable, although not quite paper-back size.

   

The included remote is very slim, and carries on the "milky white"

color scheme that we’ve all grown to embrace, (right?). The remote can:

turn on/off the device, move forwards/backwards a track, fast forward/rewind,

play/pause, and adjust volume up and down. Regarding the performance

of the remote – this is one of those "line of sight" remotes

that require the user to be close to the receiver for the signal to

be received.

    The rear of the speakers houses the headphone input jack (for use with

other sources using a miniplug audio out), a power on/off switch (used

to conserve power when batteries are installed), an iPod cable jack

(for use with USB/FireWire docking/syncing), and a power port which

charges your iPod when docked.

The

iPod, when docked, really looks as if it is comfortable. Well…it is.

The fit is perfectly snug, and the white/gray/circular theme is prevalent

throughout.

Near

the base of the device is the standby button (power on/off is achieved

using the switch on back), a power status LED (shines green when on,

amber when low on battery), volume up/down, and IR port.

The rear of

the device, while opened, is still modest in size. The footprint of

the iM3 is small.

    Whip out your imagination, and imagine that the above iPod is actually

another device – say, a Creative Zen Micro. If this were the case, (and

it is, right?) – you’d need to connect the Zen Micro via the attached

headphone jack. Remote functionality for volume would then remain, but

you obviously would ‘t be able to use remote playback controls. In such

a case of using a non-iPod with the iM3 (how dare you!), you will need

to swap out the seat clip…

…with the

flat one, shown on the right. The other clips are used for the iPod

variations, including the Photo and mini.

And

at the end of the day, before you retire to bed, you’ll want to rest

the iM3 inside of the good quality and protective case. The outside

is vinyl, and the inside is a very soft (almost suede-like) material.

LISTENING

EXPERIENCE

   

And now onto probably the most important aspect of this review: sound

quality. Being an audiophile and having the ability to discern between

10.1kHz and 10.2kHz, I decided to put the speakers through a dynamic

test of music. After some tracks of Billy Joel, Beethoven, Nelly, Miles

Davis, and Metallica, I was able to make my call. Because of the small

nature of the speakers (28mm!), expecting desk-rattling bass production

would be truly unrealistic. With that presupposition in mind, I was

very surprised by the magnitude of bass that the iM3 was able to reproduce

without ever dipping below 60Hz (as per the speaks specs in the manual).

It accurately and strongly punched out the bass line of Metallica’s

"Enter Sandman" (a true classic), which, along with it’s crystal

clear highs (coming from four 28mm neodymium microdrivers, would

you expect nothing less?) and cutting midrange, put a smile

on my face. Such a frequency response made for a truly dynamic listening

experience. However, its falter came when I switched my iPod to Nelly.

Playing "Hot in Here" at medium-loud volumes caused the speakers

to distort as they struggled to produce the lower frequencies.

    Regarding loudness, the iM3 are plenty loud for what it is intended

for, which is use in a personal environment. That said, the iM3 is most

likely even loud enough to fill a larger room, such as a kitchen or

living room, with sound. Because of the nature of the speakers, the

sound is very line-of-sight and requires the user to be in a specific

listing position for best audio fidelity. Within the manual, Altec Lansing

suggests that the unit be placed on a level surface, within three feet

of listening position. It’s pretty incredible how limited the sound

field is with the iM3 – once you step out of the three foot listening

distance or move your ears out of line with the speakers, the high frequencies

immediately become a bit muffled, as if someone had turned down the

treble, although loudness is not affected.

HELP SUPPORT

    The included manual does an adequate job

at explaining the setup and function of the iM3.

BUGS AND WISHES

    When

I read the site description of the iM3, I got pretty excited at the

phrase "the revolutionary MaxxBass™ technology allows listeners

to enjoy deep bass without lugging around a subwoofer." When I,

the "average consumer", powered on the iM3 speakers, I expected

to hear some thumping bass that would make the books on my shelf do

a dance. Indeed I was let down when I found there to be no deep bass,

but rather dynamic bass that made for a good listening experience.

My wish for this situation is for Altec to avoid misleading prospective

buyers by promising "deep bass" … because when I think deep

bass, I think "Whoa, the dog is skipping across the carpet."

    Another

issue was the over-abundance of volume. The iM3 moves past the speaker’s

maximum by about 2 or 3 volume adjustments. There is a fine line between

*as loud as they can play* and *louder, but with distortion*. I’d like

to be able to have some sort of visual of how loud my music is getting

so that I know where the ceiling lies. Perhaps a simple display on the

iM3 to reveal the volume level could remedy such sessions of potential

speaker-hurting.

    Although not a bug, it was interesting

to watch the green LED turn amber (indicative of low battery power)

when I turned the volume up high. The power draw was large enough to

cause the unit to think that the batteries were running low, but they

were just being used to contort the speaker drivers.

PURCHASING

    The

Altec Lansing inMotion iM3 speakers can be purchased

direct

from Altec Lansing

for a reasonable $179.95.

PROS


  • Outstanding dynamic range

    (60Hz-20kHz)

  • Crystal clear sound

  • Acts as a regular iPod cradle

    (charge/sync)


  • Travel accessories included

  • IR remote controls iPod
  • Compact!

CONS


  • Where’s the volume indicator?

  • Volume goes about two values

    too high


  • The "MaxxBass=Deep Bass" statement is misleading


  • Line-of-site listening position

    required for clearest sound

  • Line-of-site necessary for

    remote to function

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    As of lately, little things have been known

to impress. I still wonder how Altec Lansing was able to put four quarter-sized

speakers to work in such a way to produce a full range of frequencies

that accurately reproduced a a variety of my iPod tracks. With a few

picky items aside, and a faltered presupposition about the amount of

bass I ought to expect, Altec Lansing has created a very worthy successor

to the original inMotion in a package that should appeal to a large

base of iPod-addicts.

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