When it comes to portability, it doesn't get much better than the Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 IM237 portable speaker. Our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winner, originally released in 2007, this single speaker is roughly the size of a hockey puck, or a can of tuna. It also comes with a protective case and accessory clip. This one-driver wonder is capable of producing an impressive 360-degree sound field. The simple design only requires three batteries and an audio jack to begin playing your music. The compact design of this model is what any user should be looking for when purchasing travel speakers.
In fact, the "L" in JBL, the full-size studio speaker manufacturer, stands for "Lansing." This is why you can expect high-quality audio from this Altec Lansing mini speaker. However, while the sound, portability and battery life of the IM237 is more impressive than most of the other portable speakers we reviewed, this unit is still only one speaker. It simulates stereo, but cannot produce it. It is perfect for a quick way to share your music with everyone, but it won't fill the room with sound.
A single up-firing neodymium speaker driver disperses sound in a 360-degree pattern. This means that the audio is, in theory, projected in all directions. With a frequency response of 100Hz~20kHz and a sensitivity of 75dB, this speaker produces a wide range of sound. It is also able to play without obvious buzzing or static. The normal range of human hearing is around 20Hz~20kHz, so this speaker will allow you to enjoy the high frequencies without a problem, but it won't be able to play really low bass tones. In addition, at high volumes, this speaker does experience some distortion.
Using only three AAA batteries, which are included, the Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 IM237 portable speaker can run for a stunning 24 hours of playtime. This is a longer playback time than any other speaker that we reviewed. The other speakers we found had an average battery life of 11 hours. Most people don't travel for 24 hours straight, but know that, if you ever have the need to do so, the Orbit MP3 will be with you the entire time.
The simple design is both a pro and a con. A single 1.57-inch loudspeaker is responsible for all of the sound output of this travel speaker, but it manages to create relatively clear audio. There is no optional power supply, so if it runs out of batteries you can't plug it in anywhere. A short, 8-inch 3.5mm audio jack is the only cord used for external connectivity. This cable is significantly shorter than most other portable speakers we found.
The Orbit MP3 also features a personalization option. Altec Lansing uses another company called "Skinit" to add customized color, graphics and writing to the IM237, if wanted. While this doesn't affect the audio quality or playback time of the laptop speaker, the option to personalize your portable speaker is unique and may appeal to some buyers.
Measuring only 2.1 inches high and 3.5 inches in diameter, this speaker can easily fit into your handbag or backpack. Some may not even mind having this small audio accessory in their pocket - especially since it only weighs 0.45 pounds. Small and simple, the Orbit MP3 speaker is the epitome of portable.
A nylon carrying case comes with the IM237. This case protects the portable speaker when it's packed away for travel. The actual speaker has an attached lanyard and the carrying case features a carabineer. These features make this laptop speaker extra portable. Also, since it is only one speaker with one attached cord, you don't have to worry about losing one of the speakers or forgetting to pack the audio cable.
The short audio cable can be stored away in the speaker so you can keep it from getting caught on anything. This integrated storage system is superior to having to wrap tangled cords around the speaker. However, the built-in audio jack cord is so short that wrapping it around the speaker wouldn't be an option anyway.
Because it only uses a 3.5mm audio jack, the Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 IM237 can be hooked up to your computer, a CD player, an MP3 player or iPod, or even some music-enabled phones. Some phones may require a 2.5mm adapter, but that is not included with this travel speaker. No external power source or extra cords are needed for this single unit. The included batteries enable you to just plug the speaker in to any music source with an audio jack and it is ready to play.
There are no volume controls on the speaker. Any audio levels need to be adjusted on the source the speaker is attached to. A simple on/off switch and an LED indicator light are the only extra features on the speaker. The LED light also indicates if your batteries are running low. This simple design is ideal for those who just want to play their music, however it could also bother those who want more control over the way their music sounds.
Altec Lansing's site offers a variety of help in the form of e-mail support, phone support, a FAQs page and an online manual for the Orbit MP3 IM237. When submitting a question, your inquiry is put on a forum where you can return and check on the question later to see if it has been answered. You are also given a login so that you can look up your specific questions. Altec Lansing offers a 1-year warranty on the IM237 to take care of any mechanical problems the unit may have. These kinds of tools are helpful in ensuring that any customer is satisfied with their product.
This compact, singular speaker is an impressive audio accessory. The 360-degree sound of this laptop speaker is powerful and competes with many other travel speakers with stereo sound. The small size and simple design make this one of the most portable MP3 speakers on the market. Also, with 24 hours of playback time, the Orbit MP3 can keep the music going for longer than most other battery-powered units. The Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 IM237 portable speaker works well for those who want to play their music out loud wherever they are, but are not concerned with stereo or high-fidelity.
It is compact and gives 24 hours of playback time.
It plays in mono.
This laptop speaker is the ultimate in portability.