Programming Note: This site will be on break through the holidays and return in January. Be sure to subscribe or check back for updates!

Review: Altec Lansing inMotion

by on December 10, 2004

The iPod is designed to be listened to by one person, or maybe shared with a headphone splitter among two. For anything more than that, connection to a stereo or computer speakers is a requirement. Unfortunately, that results in a few bulky pieces of hardware, lots of cables, and still having to plug the iPod in (if you don’t want to deplete the battery). Altec Lansing’s inMotion speakers are intended to solve this problem.

Made of white plastic, intended to compliment the iPod, the inMotion speakers are designed to be a way to share your iPod music with others, while running off of batteries or the included AC adapter.

inMotion Speakers and a 3G iPod

inMotion Folded

inMotion + Carry Bag

inMotion Battery Compartment

inMotion Ports

With a relatively simple, yet clever design (the speakers fold to the size of a paperback book for travel), the inMotions are perfect for any road warrior or student where space is a premium. Complete with four 1″ neodymium magnet Micro Drivers, a dock connector (it works to charge and synchronize the iPod, as well), and a Class D low power consumption digital amplifier, the speakers are a complete, albeit small, sound system that acts an extension of the iPod itself.

Included in the box is the inMotion speakers, an AC adapter, a black carrying bag, a few plastic spacers, 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.

Controls are on either side of the dock connector. Two buttons with a + and – symbols adjust the volume (the iPod’s volume is not used, since the inMotions get their sound through the line out signal on the dock connector) are on the left side, and a power switch is on the right. Four ports are located on the rear: AC power, headphones, auxiliary in, and a connection for the Apple dock cable.

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. A dust cover for the dock connector is included for travel, or to allow a smooth place for an older non-dockable iPod to sit. A spacer is also included for owners of thinner iPods.

The inMotions 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 inMotions. We prefer to use cases that allow easy removal of the iPod, such as Contour’s Showcase, or XtremeMac’s Deluxe Leather Case.

As the price is around $150, the inMotion speakers are a product designed for certain users, namely those who want a small, simple sound system for their iPod. The speakers are restricted to being on either side of the iPod, so the stereo separation is not the best.

However, the speakers sound surprisingly good for their size. Although no competition for many of the midrange 2.1 computer speakers, the inMotions do have very good bass output. The only adjustments for bass and treble are the iPod’s equalizer settings. I’ve listened to all kinds of music, included rock, electronic, jazz, rap, and classical on these speakers and have been quite satisfied. Others who have listened to this system have also been surprised at the decent quality sound that is produced.

However, when you compare the inMotions to speakers like JBL’s Creature 2.1 or Altec Lansing’s own VS4121, the inMotions seem expensive, with only above average sound quality. What you do get for the money is battery operability, an iPod docking solution, and portability. Just as laptops cost a little more, and are usually a bit slower, the inMotions do have their tradeoffs.

One cool use we found with the inMotions 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.

The inMotions are a good speaker system for someone who wants a simple, elegant, portable, good sounding setup for their iPod. Users who want mind-blowing sound, or want something cheap, will be more inclined to look into a desktop-bound 2.1 system.

The One-Sentence Verdictâ„¢

The Altec Lansing inMotion speakers are an excellent extension to the iPod for the right niche of consumers.

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

Cons: Price tag, and simple design might put some off, almost all cases incompatible

Rating: 8/10

The Facts

Product: inMotion
Company: Altec Lansing
Platform: iPod (1* 2* 3 4* 5 M N S*)
Price: $149.95

*must use auxiliary input

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