Review: inMotion iM7 Audio System

Truly compelling and useful, if not a bit large (December 12th, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Altec Lansing

Price: MSRP $249.95 US

The Good

  • Good sound at the low end. Remote locks into the unit for storage Vvideo output Clean design matches the iPodís looks.

The Bad

  • No bass kick. Heavy with batteries installed. Mid-range sound is questionable.

One of the most popular iPod accessories is the now-ubiquitous speaker system. An early entry was the Altec Lansing inMotion iM3, a small, tinny sounding device that traveled well because it folded flat, ran on batteries, and charged your iPod, all the while sounding about the same as the speakers on your laptop computer. With the inMotion iM7, however, Altec Lansing has created a product that is truly compelling and useful. Though not perfect, it is easily the best of the truly portable iPod speaker systems, and includes some surprising extras.

By truly portable I mean that the system is able to run off of D-size batteries or an AC cord and has a built-in handle. The unit is very well designed, and is one of those rare products whose form lets you know exactly its function. It looks like a musical bazooka, with round grill speakers at either end, and a subwoofer tube that runs through the cylindrical device. It is capable of some impressive volume, as well.

Fine Sound Quality

I tested only songs that I had personally ripped from my own CDs, so the music wasn't heavily compressed. Peter Gabriel's "The Barry Williams Show," Portishead's "Wandering Star," and Mos Def's "Fear Not of Man." The Peter Gabriel highlighted the midrange of the speaker, which was a little muddy. Sound imaging, the creation of a perception of depth and placement in the mix of the song, was a problem, but that's to be expected for a stereo boombox. The Portishead is incredibly bassy, but not thumping, with a soft female voice on top, and the iM7 handled the song with aplomb. There isn't much midrange in the song, so the tube rumbled through the droning bass with appropriate eeriness. The Mos Def track has a wide range, including a few thumps on the low end, which I found the subwoofer wasn't quite capable of delivering. Tonal lows, like the deep organ in the Portishead, were fine, but a swift kick in the head is just beyond the iM7 range. Again, still impressive for a boombox. The volume holds up well outdoors, too. At a late fall barbecue, the iM7 drove the party for hours, and sounded great doing it.

The device itself is solid and heavy, especially laden with D-cells. The front has a push-eject that opens smoothly. The iPod is secured into the cassette deck type opening with a tightening vise; therefore you can transport it with the iPod installed. There is an adapter for all iPods with dock connectors (4th and 5th generation). Though I didn't have this problem with the unit I tested, it should be noted that I have spotted demo units in stores with ejector button problems; the tray holding the iPod would not stay closed.

Nicest Features are the Extras

The unit comes with a thin, card-style remote with blister-like buttons. It works well, but the best part is that the remote stores tightly in a slot on the back of the unit. There is also video output for iPods that can handle the feature, as well as an audio input jack for an external source.

This unit will invariably be compared to the $300 Bose Sound Dock because of the $50 difference in price. Undoubtedly, the Bose unit has a cleaner sound, especially in the middle, all through the volume range. Unless you are replacing a home stereo system, I would easily recommend this unit first. It is more versatile because of its portability. In addition, its s-video and Composite (RCA) output and audio input make it a much more compelling product. Units ordered before December 24 are shipped for free.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Philip Berne


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