So small MP3 player speakers are tinny, squawky birdies are they? Not so the Altec iM3's -- these redefine the art of open-air iPod listening. Where we expected to be assaulted by the shrill whimper of a half-dead transistor radio broadcast, instead we heard a choir of angels beating mightily on war drums. The iM3 deals with low-frequency sound with the nonchalance of a timpany percussionist -- this thing is slick.
The design of the iM3 doesn't hold a glowstick to that of the gorgeous iM7, but we were so won over by the sound it didn't bother us much. Friends may smirk and whisper, but when the iM3 starts playing a track, they'll stand with mouths agape, blowing spittle bubbles of joy. Like a haggard drunk who sits at a bar piano and picks out a heartbreakingly soft lament, the iM3's bland appearance disguises a beautiful soul.
Your iPod slips easily into the docking station, and volume controls are available on the front panel of the iM3. If you want to take it camping, the internal amp runs on four AA batteries. There may be prettier iPod speakers -- and cheaper (the iM3 retails at £119) -- but few can sing so fine a song. -CS