Let's face it: most silver plastic portable speakers look a little cheap. But the design of Altec Lansing's InMotion speaker set matches the white iPods' perfectly, and its sound is decent. This package is more expensive than most of its microspeaker competitors; it retails for $150, though most of our friends guessed it sold for $200 or so.
Obviously, Altec Lansing targeted the InMotion at the burgeoning iPod-accessory market, but it can be coupled with laptops or any other portable audio device through its stereo minijack. Current-generation iPods that connect via a docking port have an extra advantage when used in conjunction with the InMotion: plugged into an AC adapter, it charges your iPod's battery, so you needn't bring your iPod charger along (the Mini requires a $3 adapter for this). Alternately, you can run the InMotion from four AA batteries, not included.
The InMotion's four titanium microdrivers (two per channel) are powered by an efficient digital amplifier. The speakers are canted back a few degrees to direct the sound up toward your ears. With the 15-ounce system folded up to protect the speakers, it measures 8 by 5.4 by 1.2 inches.
The Grateful Dead's American Beauty CD sounded sweet and fairly natural. Acoustic rock and jazz were enjoyable, but more aggressive music quickly revealed the limitations of the tiny speakers. That said, the InMotion handily beat out all the other portable speakers we had on hand, which are even more bass limited than the InMotion. Bass-heavy music made the InMotion's speakers buzz and distort, but when we turned down the volume, the buzzing sounds disappeared. This problem is pandemic among portable speakers, so we can't knock the InMotion much for its lack of bass.
If the InMotion is out of your price range, check out . Its refined output is comparable with the InMotion's, but it sounds a bit thinner, and the system doesn't look as cool paired with an iPod.