Altec Lansing has a long history of producing stellar little speaker systems designed around the iPod. Its latest portable speaker, the inMotion Classic ($149), continues the company's tradition of delivering quality audio in a compact and stylish design.
The first thing you'll notice about the inMotion Classic is that in spite of its old-fashioned name, there's nothing "classic" at all about this speaker. In fact, it's very modern looking and uses an angular design with a black, metal grille taking up most of the front. Only the iPod dock and a 2.5-inch patch of plastic for the built-in LCD break up the face of the speaker system, which measures 12.5 inches across.
On the back of the speaker, you have a retractable antenna for the built-in FM tuner, along with a power adapter input and an aux input for plugging in an external audio source. A storage slot for the included remote control is located above the two inputs, offering a convenient, yet out of sight place to store the remote when it is not in use.
One of the more interesting elements of the inMotion Classic is its integrated kickstand. The kickstand is plastic, but it is relatively sturdy and permanently hinged to the each side. The hinge locks in three positions: a downward position for storage; an outward position for propping up the speaker; and an upward position that works like a handle for carrying the speaker like a boom box. Of course, without any way to lock your iPod into the dock, we don't recommend using the handle position unless you're just listening to radio. For a proper iPod boom box, check out the Altec Lansing Mix.
The main takeaway on the design of the inMotion Classic is its compactness. It's not quite as small as something like the Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2, but the Classic's design and sound quality are far more impressive. Folded flat, the inMotion Classic measures only 2 inches thick by 6 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide, and it can easily be stowed in a backpack.
The inMotion Classic doesn't include features such as Bluetooth or AM radio, but most competitors in this price range don't either.
What the Classic does best is offer great sound. In fact, despite being half the size of last year's $199 inMotion Max, we think the Classic actually offers a richer sound than its predecessor and a comparable volume range. Like the Max, there are no EQ settings on the Classic, but the overall sound is crisp with a surprising amount of meat on the low end compared with other fold-flat speakers we've tested from Logitech and Griffin. An "expanded sound stage" setting is included to give recordings a little extra stereo oomph, but that's about the only audio trick up its sleeve.
Other niceties the inMotion Classic offers are an aux input, an iPhone-certified dock (speakers are shielded against cell interference, as well), and an FM radio that had no problem picking up local stations, thanks to a retractable antenna. You also get candy-bar-size remote control that includes controls for playback, volume, station presets, and even some buttons for navigating iPod menus.
If your iPod's playback switches off during music playback, you'll be happy to know that you can still view the currently playing artist and track information using the 2-inch LCD found on the front of the speaker. Another nice little extra detail for iPhone owners is the Classic's capability to pause music automatically and playing your ringtone at an audible (but not deafening) level through its speakers. However, the inMotion Classic doesn't act as a speakerphone, but you can keep your iPhone docked and answer calls with a paired Bluetooth headset. We're glad to see that Altec Lansing effectively shielded the Classic from wireless interference, allowing us to listen to our iPhone without the bouts of Morse-code-like distortion that are common on unshielded systems.
The inMotion Classic lets you scan through radio stations using the skip buttons located on the top edge, and you store up to four station presets using the included remote control. There are no preset buttons located on the speaker system, however, so if you lose the remote control you'll lose the capability to store and recall radio stations.
The battery-powered portability of the inMotion Classic is a distinguishing feature, but most people tend to plant their speaker systems semipermanently around the home. Fortunately, the 6-foot-long power adapter included with the inMotion Max should have no problem reaching an available power outlet.
For a budget-minded portable speaker that stands only 4 inches high when perched on a table, the inMotion Classic cranks. Altec Lansing's engineers deserve a round of applause for juicing the two three-inch speakers on the Classic for all they're worth. The volume increments go from one-to-40, with full-blast being loud enough to shout over, provided the speaker is drawing its power from the wall. Off its own internal rechargeable battery (5-hour battery life), the Classic plays a little softer, but it still gets loud enough to drown out a cell phone, wake you out of bed, or otherwise get you dancing like an idiot in your kitchen.
Overall, the inMotion Classic offers a relatively balanced sound (no easy feat at this size) with a character that is noticeably crisper and more detailed than many of the Logitech and alarm clock-style systems we test. Low end is certainly present and more pronounced than we heard on last year's inMotion Max--but still not a bragging right for this particular speaker (or any this size). The opening bars of David Bowie's "Soul Love" lent themselves perfectly to the Classic's sonic strengths, offering a present bass drum kick with the bright chords of acoustic guitar. More dance floor-oriented pop songs sound as good here as on any comparable system, but don't expect pulsing bass lines and subwoofer-loving drum machines to jump out at you the way they would on a proper boom box or full-size system. The inMotion Max's IR remote control is rated for 30 feet, which we confirmed during testing.