As I have written before – one of the fastest growing sectors of the electronics market is the ‘portable’ speaker designed specifically for the iPod. Accessorizing the ipod is now a billion dollar a year industry. We have looked at headphones, cases and speaker systems before. Now we look to Altec Lansing’s new IM9. Is this the best of the bunch? Read on for my thoughts. The success of the portable speaker system is somewhat curious to me. Many of us have nice Home Theater systems or other Stereo equipment in our homes. We can always plug our iPod into one of the numerous jacks behind or in front of the receiver and listen. Maybe this is too complicated or maybe we just want to be able to take our speakers with us like we do our iPods.
Many of the best names in loudspeaker technology have entered the speaker market for the iPod. Names like Bose, Klipsch and Altec Lansing are known for speakers and headphones and now, for iPod solutions.
The Altec Lansing IM9takes a similar, yet slightly different approach from the IM7 that I reviewed earlier in the year The IM9 gives the user the option of a battery operated system that is very rugged and can be taken just about anywhere
The IM9 is smaller than the IM7 and all black. The ipod sits in the middle of the familiar retractable tape-deck-like iPod cradle. At the back end of the retractable cradle is an adjustable dial which adjusts the depth of the cradle so it can fit every size ipod. The IM9 also ships with all the necessary adapters to fit every ipod ever made. When the iM9is plugged in, it will charge the iPod while it’s in this cradle. On either side of this slot, behind the protective grille, are separate tweeter and midrange drivers. A ‘MaxBass’ subwoofer is in the back of the unit.
On the back side of the IM9 are lots of jacks. There is a headphone jack, a composite video and an auxiliary out jack. So, with the included cable, any mp3 player or anything that puts out an audio signal can play through the auxiliary jack. The cool thing about this unit is that with the new ipod video or an ipod photo, you can have your images play through your TV or monitor – just like the IM7.
I was skeptical, given the smaller size, of the sound that could come from the IM9. The high frequencies are crystal clear. The stereo separation is very good – especially since the ‘speakers’ are very close to one another. Vocals were rich and smooth and instrumental solos were a pleasure to listen to.
The bass is certainly not as crisp and ‘large’ as the bigger IM7 – but it is pretty darn good. At times, it was a bit overpowering and ‘muddy’ depending on the quality of the source material. The lack of separate bass and treble controls makes most music sound a bit more ‘bass heavy’ than I like – but very pleasant to listen to The IM9 is capable of filling a moderate sized room with loud, full and accurate sound.
The IM9 is very versatile. In addition to the great sound, it is truly portable. Batteries can be inserted for outdoor use. The unit is rated at 24 hours of battery life with C cell batteries. The carrying handle and included backpack makes transport easy and the design is very sturdy. The addition of the video out jacks was terrific. I was able to show photos on my TV and watch video from the ipod on a bigger screen with the beautiful sound of the IM9.
The Technical Details from the Altec Lansing site are as follows:
Extreme Sound. Rugged Portability.
* Huge, crystal-clear sound with large speakers * AC or Battery-operated * Charges your iPod * MaxxBass Technology * Retractable Dock * Shock-resistant design * Video Output for iPod photo and new iPod video * Deluxe Backpack included
The IM9 is a great value and a great addition to any home, office or dorm. The fact that it is truly portable is an added bonus. Sound quality, while not that of the more expensive IM7, is still quite good. The bass is a bit overpowering – and the lack of a remote control or separate tone controls is disappointing. Overall, any ipod owner should be very happy with the IM9. The IM9 sells for $199.00 and can be purchased at www.alteclansing.com
Overall Grade: A-
Pros: Great sound, small, portable, rugged
Cons: No remote, no tone controls, no ‘protective cover’ for the iPod itself