Review: inMotion iM5 Portable Audio System

Solid portable speaker system with all the trimmings (December 28th, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Altec Lansing

Price: MSRP $149.95 US

The Good

  • Shock resistant. Great case. Includes International plugs and 3.5 mm stereo cable.

The Bad

  • Doesn't produce deep bass well. Volume extends beyond what speakers can handle. Unit should be placed within 3 feet of your ears.

If you're one of the lucky many who received an iPod for the holidays, than it is now time to load up on accessories. While it's easy to choose form the myriad of cases available, it is not so easy to choose a sound system. A iPod docking speaker system not only lets you share your music and move from room to room unfettered, but it helps you save your ear drums from unnecessary throttling. Altec Lansing jumped into the iPod portable stereo market early in the game. Their products provide iPod users on the go with well-built, yet versatile products. As the iPod line expanded, Altec Lansing wasted no time in creating a new travel audio system that works with all of the dockable iPods. The inMotion IM5 is a complete travel system that provides good company in a hotel, dorm, or in your room at home. If you don't have an iPod don't despair, because you can use it with other MP3 players with the included 3.5 mm stereo cable.

A Closer Look

The inMotion iM5 Mobile Audio Dock is a bit larger and more boxy looking than the other travel systems like the iM3 or iMmini, yet is still small enough to squeeze into any travel bag. When in its travel bag, it measures 8.4 inches in length, 2.1 inches deep, and 3.8 inches high; a bit smaller than most makeup or shaving bags and about twice the size of a pencil box. It only adds 20 oz to your suitcase too. Plan on packing a bit more weight for the included universal power supply, International plugset, and 4 AA batteries that you must provide. The battery power is advertised to last up to 24 hours. The padded case has pockets for accessories, wrist strap, and is well made. You can use the iM5 in any location and it has a shock-resistant frame, which makes it more robust for traveling than other portable audio systems.

Operation of the inMotion iM5 is simple. The control buttons on the top light up in soft blue, so you can operate it in the dark. The dock spits out with the push of a button, which I found odd. It's just another piece mechanical that can break, but I suppose it's more secure than a dock that is pulled or pushed by human hand. It also doesn't seem as breakable as the push-eject cradle used in the iM7. The volume controls are simple plus and minus buttons. When used as recommended the sound isn't bad. The caveat is that they recommend you stay within 3 feet of the unit, so don't expect to fill a room with music.

Sound Quality

Taking a cue from Phil's review of the iM7, I tested the iM5 with the same songs. The iM5 couldn't handle the buzzing depth of the bass at all in Portishead's "Wandering Star." Only the buzz came through, and the speakers vibrated with the distortion. According to Altec Lansing, "The speakers contain four full-range micro drivers powered by a highly efficient Class D amplifier, plus patented MaxxBass." MaxxBass uses technology I don't understand so that we can hear up to 1.5 octaves below a speaker's physical limitation. You might be able to hear it, but it won't be pretty. More information on the MaxxBass technology is available at maxx.com. On the plus side, there is a connector on the back where you can plug in an optional Altec Lansing subwoofer.

Mos Def's "Fear Not of Man" fared much better. The bass reproduced well, but it was still flat sounding. The bass tones were just not rich nor deep. I prefer trusted old tunes that have more general appeal for testing, so I loaded up the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations." The song has some lows, good midrange and covers the high range also. This song reproduced much better, until you pump up the volume when a barely audible hiss appears. The highs are distorted and its gets hazy in the midrange. At normal volume the sound isn't full, but it is acceptable. The midrange, as exemplified by any early Bonnie Raitt, is a bit restrained, but clear. The sound of acoustic instruments, such as guitar or harmonica was actually good at all but the loudest volumes. Dare I recommend the system for folk music only?

Although my star-rating is focused more on sound quality, it doesn't reflect that the inMotion iM5 is a good value for the price. It provides a complete package for the road warrior, whether on plane, train, or automobile. It easily rates 4-stars as a complete travel audio system, but the previously reviewed inMotion iM7 just has better sound.

by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor


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