CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo review: Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo

Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read

Altec Lansing already offered a single housing monaural speaker in its Orbit line of portable speakers. But now it's doubled up with the latest model, the Orbit Stereo--a pair of USB-powered speakers that snap together into one long tube when not in use, so you can tuck them smoothly into a suitcase or laptop bag.

Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo

Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo

The Good

The <b>Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo IML247</b> PC speakers snap together for travel, cost less than $50, have a single USB cord for power and audio, and play louder and sound significantly better than the internal speakers on most laptops.

The Bad

The speakers sound crunchy (distort) at higher volumes and the bass is pretty thin. There's no volume control on the speakers. And the lack of a 3.5mm input means that you can't use these with any non PC/Mac audio devices, such as an iPod or smartphone.

The Bottom Line

While the sound quality of the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo speakers isn't likely to blow you away, the travel-friendly and affordable USB speakers do sound significantly better than the internal audio found on most laptops.

While the Orbit Stereo speakers aren't tiny, they are fairly lightweight, weighing in at 12.8 ounces, and you don't have to carry around any sort of extra power adapter. They also cost an affordable $49.99, which is $15 to $30 more than what you'd pay for the mono Orbit USB speakers.

If you're looking for something truly compact that sounds OK and puts out more sound than your typical laptop speakers, those single-speaker USB Orbits may be a better bet. But if you want a little bit more punch to your presentations or travel entertainment and true stereo for watching movies or music in your hotel room (or wherever), the Orbit Stereo is the way to go.

To be clear, these are computer-only speakers--the only audio source can be a Windows PC or Mac with a free USB port. There's no auxiliary input for plugging in a music player or smartphone.

We've been playing around with a pair of Orbit Stereo speakers, and they sound decent enough at close range. While they don't exactly fill up a room with sound, they sure play a lot bigger than most internal laptop speakers.

The sweet spot for these guys is about 3 to 4 feet away (about where you'd sit at a desk in front of your computer) and they do best at low to mid volumes. Really crank the volume and the sound gets pretty crunchy. There's some bass, just not a whole lot, so they do sound on the thin side compared with bigger, less portable laptop speakers.

The long and the short of it is the Orbit Stereo speakers sound significantly better than most laptop speakers and aren't too heavy to carry around. That said, don't expect them to blow you away with their sound. They're decent enough for their intended purpose (presentations, multimedia watching), but if you're hoping to really pump up the jam, you'll probably want to pick up something a little bigger that offers more oomph and is powered by an AC adapter, not USB.

Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo

Altec Lansing IML247 Orbit USB stereo

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 6