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Chuong’s Pick: Altec Lansing USB Orbit Speakers Pack an Earful!

By Chuong Nguyen September 23, 2009, 2:27 pm

If you travel a lot with a netbook or notebook and need to either play music or audio files louder than your muddled laptop speakers can handle, then be sure to check out Altec Lansing's $49 Orbit USB speakers, which were recently announced and released as part of the company's fall lineup and is awarded a Chuong's Pick for its compact travel size package while delivering exceptional value and performance for those who travel with their laptops.

Chuong's Picks is a series that features electronics, gadgets, and gears that I have used and selected due to the product's balance between performance and value, form and function. Essentially, it is my personal "Editor's Choice" and recommendation to you to hopefully help the beginning gadgetphile pick from among the best products in a category without having to spend too much money or time researching a group of products.


Read on to find out more about the performance of the Altec Lansing Orbit USB speakers.

Form: For the speakers diminutive circular ship, which measures 2-inch high with a 3.5-inch diameter, the speakers pack quite a bit of punch. What's great is that there is absolutely no sound distortion at the highest volume at all.

Physically, the speaker is a simple, short circular tube. It has no buttons, except a metal, black speaker grill on the bunt accented with 4 exposed torque screws and branded with a gold Altec Lansing logo in the top center of the front. At top, there's an LED light—when you plug the USB cord into the computer, the light glows red to alert you that your speakers are on. The side is clean and simple otherwise—no buttons, save for a small lanyard hoop on the bottom.

USB cord delivers digital sound and power so no extra power supply or battery is required!

On the back, there is a place that the 16-inch USB cord wraps and tucks neatly for travel so you don't have to worry about the cord getting tangled. What's great is that since this unit is powered by USB, there is no need to worry about carrying a battery pack or power supply; the device will draw from your laptop's battery. Sound is transferred digitally over your laptop's USB port as well. There is also a flip stand on the back—flip it out and the unit stands angled for optimum audio performance. There are gold accents throughout the unit that's tastefully placed on this black unit, which has a matte, soft-touch finish on the side.

Altec Lansing Orbit USB with flip stand in place

Features: * Incredible digital clarity — From the source to the speaker, sound stays digitally wired through the USB connection. No fuzz, no muffle, just quality audio. * Surprising power — The Orbit USB packs a powerful sonic punch for its small size. * 360 degree sound field — Push astonishing sound in all directions. * USB powered — No batteries or AC cord, just plug-and-play. * Audio Alignment™ — Perfectly balanced components ensure ultimate sound. * Tough design — With aluminum and composite construction, it can handle knocks. * Neoprene case — The stylist black case comes with carabiner hook—perfect for travel * LED power indicator * Stand — Retractable stand lets you aim the sound in any direction. * USB cord storage — Free from tangle, just wind up the 16' cord and go.

Function: In terms of performance, sounds are loud and clear on even the lowest volume. At the highest volume, there was no distortion and the speakers sound much louder than my MacBook Pro's built-in speakers. These speakers would be the perfect travel companion for those who use their laptops for fun or work—I can easily pop in a DVD and get better sound performance or do a video presentation, video conference with a colleague, or play a PowerPoint presentation.

Because there is no battery pack and the unit is completely powered by USB, there is no 3.5 mm auxiliary port to connect a Zune HD or CDMA Touch Pro2 to the speakers to get audio output from those mini devices onto this powerful speakers. However, that's not really a complaint but a physical limitation of creating something so portable and light that certain compromises would have to be made. For speakers for other portable devices, you can check out Altec Lansing's webpage.

The speakers also benefit from the USB plug and play design. If your laptop can't automatically switch sound output to the speakers when you plug it in, go to your sounds settings (Windows and Mac compatible) and change the sound output from internal speakers to USB speakers.

Value: At $50, the singular speaker seems expensive, but there is a lot of value in this small little unit that can pack an earful. For frequent travelers or those low on carry-on space, the speakers deliver exceptional performance in its small package and you don't have to worry about carrying an extra power supply or draining the speakers batteries. Everything is tucked neatly in the speaker, and it even comes with its own foam carrying bag.

The speakers are available through Altec Lansing and on portals such as Best Buy and Amazon.

The speakers are manufactured by Altec Lansing, which is a subsidiary of Plantronics—the same people who make great sounding Bluetooth headsets like the Voyager Pro and the Discovery 975. Be sure to enter the Plantronics Giveaway if you haven't already done so.


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