The 80's were a great decade for style. No, honestly, they were. From big permed hair that you could rest dinner plates on, to thin leather ties for stylish chaps, the 80s had it all. Living as we do in the so-called "noughties", there are few elements of 80's style that haven't been recycled, or at least re-imagined in some form by now. One element of 80s style that's not made the generational leap however is the quintessential accompaniment to all your stylish duds and new wave hair, and that's the humble boombox. An iPod just can't compete with carrying around several kilos of oversized electronics on your shoulder, no matter what your chiropractor might mumble about permanent spine damage. Sometimes style hurts.
Thankfully, the nice folks at Altec Lansing have a solution at hand for the iPod generation (Generation i?). The Altec Lansing InMotion iM7 speakers transform any 3rd Generation (or better) regular iPod, iPod Photo, Video or iPod Mini into an 80's style boombox, albeit with a suitable dash of iPod-style white to make the unit visually acceptable in the modern age. We even had brief flashbacks to 80s beach parties when we realised that you could cram 8 D cell batteries into the iM7, along with the sneaking realisation that it probably wouldn't look as good or work as well once it was filled with beer-soaked sand.
In case you hadn't grasped it by now, the iM7 turns your petite iPod into a hulking great unit (424 x 165 x 165mm and 3.62kg without batteries), but a lot of work has gone into keeping the unit within the style parameters of regular iPods. The plastic casing is naturally white, with silver-grey grilles for the speakers, and the supplied remote is small enough to be mistaken for an iPod Shuffle -- well, nearly, anyway.
The front panel of the iM7 is where you load in your iPod of choice in the same fashion that children of the 80's loaded cassette tapes. If you're using an iPod Mini, there's a supplied cradle that you'll have to slot your Mini into in order to connect it up. Once installed, the iM7 will slowly recharge your iPod while it's playing, as it's essentially replicating the iPod dock at the same time.
On the rear of the unit are connectors for power, headphones -- quite why eludes us -- as well as an auxilliary audio input for other audio sources, and composite and S-Video connectors for the iPod Photo and iPod Video crowd. There's also a rubber handle that won't suit large hands, which leads up to the volume and power controls on the top of the iM7.Performance
We tested the iM7 speakers with an iPod Mini, partly so we could check how well the cradle adaptor worked, but also because the non-white colours look really nifty within the dock tray. The first thing we noticed was the interesting split between the iPod controls and those of the iM7 itself. Any kind of genuine track selection still has to be done with the iPod scroll wheel, while the iM7 controls volume, Play/Pause and track skipping, as well as bass and treble settings. One irritating factor here is that there's no display for relative bass/treble or volume on the iM7, so you'll have to work that out by feel every time. Moreover, the treble and bass controls are only present on the tiny and presumably very easy to lose remote control -- there's no replication on the unit itself at all.
One thing we can't complain about is the audio quality of the iM7 speakers themselves, which worked superbly across different music genres, especially with bass heavy music. They're quite loud -- and can be exceptionally loud, where we did notice some distortion, although that could have been the table and room vibrating at the same time. The remote works reasonably well within a range of about 2-3 metres, although we did find that it deferred to the volume controls on the unit if you got into an argument about acceptable volume levels.
There's no shortage of iPod accessories including speakers on the market today, and the obvious comparison for the iM7 would have to be the Bose SoundDock. The iM7 scores over the SoundDock for better bass control and that undefinable cool Boombox factor, and while it's not without its niggles, it's still a great option for adding really loud audio to your iPod experience.