Review: Altec Lansing inMotion iM3

by on September 20, 2005

Altec Lansing’s inMotion was a good product, but lacked in some categories. With new iPods being introduced, the dock was too small, and the audio could have used some improvement. The newest product, the inMotion iM3 took the original inMotion speakers, added a remote, an improved design, and much more.

The iM3s seem to be very close to the original in design, especially at first glance. Unlike the previous inMotions, the iM3s unfold slightly differently, utilizing a spring-loaded mechanism that now protects the dock. Grills cover the four 28mm neodymium magnet Micro Drivers, preventing them from getting poked or damaged. In our opinion, this new design is much better, and much more pleasing to the eye.

iM3 Speakers and a 3G iPod

iM3 (back view)

iM3 Carry Bag (iPod for scale)

iM3 Battery Compartment

iM3 Ports

Another change with the iM3 speakers is the inclusion of a remote control. Unfortunately, it is an IR remote, meaning you have to have line-of-sight to use it. The nice thing is that its volume controls adjust the speakers, not the iPod’s headphone jacks. It also conveniently tucks away in a slot on the back of the speakers.

Included in the box is the iM3 speakers, an AC adapter, adapters for using the iM3 abroad, a black carrying bag, a few plastic dock inserts, a short audio cable, a short documentation, and all of the necessary paperwork. Setting up the speakers is easy—unfold them, plug the AC adapter in (or pop 4 AA batteries in the bottom for 24 hours of play) and place an iPod in the dock connector. Smaller iPods can use the plastic dock inserts for a better fit.

Another improvement is the carrying bag—it now can hold both the speakers and the AC adapter. It’s also slightly padded and a bit bigger, making
it a big improvement over the drawstring bag found with the inMotions.

Controls are right in front of the dock connector. Two buttons with a + and – symbols adjust the volume (the iPod’s volume is not used, since the iM3s get their sound through the line out signal on the Dock Connector) are on the right side, and a power button is on the left. Three ports are located on the rear: AC power, auxiliary in, and a connection for the Apple Dock Connector. Unlike the inMotions, there is a power switch to completely turn off the system on the back, but no headphone jack.

The intent of the auxiliary input is for older iPods without a dock connector (a small cable is included to connect those), laptops, other MP3 players, or anything else that can be connected to regular speakers.

The iM3s are incompatible with many iPod cases, just as a regular dock is. Owners of iSkin cases will find it annoying that pulling the case back (as suggested for use with a dock) will not work with the iM3s. Since Apple warns against charging an encased iPod, we didn’t feel it was worth counting the iM3s down on.

As the price is around $180, the iM3 speakers are for a certain demographic, but do a great job in a small office, dorm room, bedroom, or any place that can use iPod sound without a lot of hassle. The speakers are restricted to being on either side of the iPod, so the stereo separation is not the best.

In our listening tests, we found the iM3s to be satisfactory for most, but audiophiles might be quite annoyed. Due to the amplifier, there is a slight hiss at 50% volume, and tends to get louder with the volume increased. Although 95% of listeners will not notice it without trying to look for it (as with other speakers), those who want the highest quality audio should be aware of this. Also, the sound tends to be on the bass-heavy side of things, so you’ll want to adjust your equalizer settings for the best sound. We find the lack of bass/treble controls disappointing, but not crucial.

Don’t get us wrong—the speakers sound surprisingly good for their size. Although no competition for many of the midrange 2.1 computer speakers, the iM3s do have very good bass output. I’ve listened to all kinds of music, included rock, electronic, jazz, rap, and classical on these speakers and have been quite satisfied. There is a noticeable difference when playing these next to their predecessors.

When comparing the iM3s to regular computer speakers, they seem like a bit of a ripoff. What you do get with them is a very compact and portable speaker system that also charges your iPod and includes a remote. Because of these additions, the iM3’s price seems a bit fairer.

One cool use we found with the iM3s was to make the iPod into a true clock radio. By leaving the speakers on, the sleep timer can be used to fall asleep to music, and the alarm clock function can be used to wake up to music. This works much better than smaller speakers like the iTalk. And, the iPod’s battery is charged, ready to start the day.

Overall, we find the iM3s well worth the $30-$40 premium over the regular inMotions, especially considering the superior design, remote control, and slightly improved sound. Despite the sound quality shortcomings when compared to larger speaker systems, the iM3’s portability and additional features make them a worthwhile choice.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Altec Lansing inMotion iM3 speakers offer many improvements over their predecessor for only a bit more money.

Pros: Easy set up, small, surprisingly good sound from small speakers, doubles as an iPod dock, carry bag included, AUX input, better sound than predecessor

Cons: Price tag, and simple design might put some off, almost all cases incompatible, no headphone jack, no bass/treble adjustments

The Facts

4.5/5Product: inMotion iM3
Company: Altec Lansing
Platform: iPod (1* 2* 3 4 5 M N S*)
Price: $179.95

*must use auxiliary input

This post has been filed in iPod, Mobile Devices, Reviews