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Altec Lansing T612 review: Altec Lansing T612

Altec Lansing T612

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David Carnoy
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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 e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks and Nook e-books, as well as audiobooks.

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4 min read

Back in 2006, Altec Lansing released the M602 iPod Home Audio System. Billed as a "high-end home system," the M602 initially carried a $199 MSRP, but its price has since dropped to closer to $100. Now the company is offering the T612, which, aside from its darker color scheme, looks identical to the M602 but is compatible not only with iPods but also iPhones. It also features some technology that makes it "immune to mobile phone interference," which means you can leave your iPhone's cell radio on while it's in the dock--and even take calls. That's a step up from all other speaker docks to date that require you to switch the iPhone to airplane mode to avoid the annoying interference that the Apple phone (and all other GSM cell phones) tend to cause when they're placed in close proximity to speakers.

6.9

Altec Lansing T612

The Good

GSM-shielded iPod dock allows iPhone to be used without the need to switch it to airplane mode; attractive design; decent sound, with richer bass than you would expect from a speaker system that's this compact; music pauses and resumes before and after taking a call.

The Bad

No radio; no video output; wireless remote offers limited functionality.

The Bottom Line

While it's missing a couple of key features found in competing models, the T612 distinguishes itself with a sleek design, decent sound, and some mobile phone anti-interference technology that makes the system particularly appealing to iPhone owners.

Like the M602, the T612 is designed to sit on a table or shelf, or it can be mounted on a wall. (The latter requires mailing in a $3 check to cover shipping and handling charges for a "free" mounting bracket.) It's not as heavy as the boombox-esque Altec Lansing iM7, but it weighs at 5 pounds and measures 14 inches wide, 5.4 inches deep, and 8.2 inches high. The upright single chassis design is relatively compact, but it feels reasonably substantial when you take it out of the box.

Most iPod speakers are attractively designed, and the Altec Lansing M602 is no exception. Its silver and black motif lends itself a bit more to black iPods, but it pairs well enough with other colors, too. While you can connect other MP3 players via the auxiliary input on the back of the unit, this model doesn't ship with a universal stand that allows you to prop non-Apple MP3 players in the center-front tray. Not a big deal, but worth pointing out.

The T612 carries over the blue LED light subtheme--the T612 has them on front, under the speaker grille, to indicate volume and bass/treble levels. What's a little confusing is that to adjust the bass and/or treble levels, you have to hold down the corresponding button, then press the plus/minus volume button to raise and lower levels.

The earlier M602 includes a USB port that lets you to sync your iPod with iTunes on your Windows or Mac machine. That's missing in this model. Also gone is the video output (you know, the little yellow jack you're used to seeing on TVs) that gives you the option of displaying your iPod and iPhone videos on a TV. A small wireless remote is included, but it offers limited functionality--you can skip tracks forward and back, pause and play, and adjust the volume and bass/treble levels. Navigating through the menus on your iPod/iPhone is not possible, though.

As for the Altec Lansing T612's sound quality, it seemed very similar to the quality of the M602--which is to say, decent. Like a lot of these all-in-one speaker systems, this model has very little in the way of stereo separation. The speakers, which are equipped with two 3-inch drivers and two tweeters, are essentially next to each other; as a result, the system probably sounds best if you're sitting only about four feet away from it.

The treble and midrange are the system's strongest suit, with voices, guitars, and acoustic music sounding quite pleasant. As with the M602, the Neville Brothers and the Burt Bacharach/Posies sounded good, with bass performance delivering a noticeable step-up from similarly sized systems. The low-end held together at higher volumes better than we thought it would on bass-heavy tunes such as Prince's "Incense and Candles" on his 3121 album. Toni Braxton's "He Wasn't Man Enough For Me" and Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" also delivered decent punch. That said, we had to wind down the bass a bit to avoid distortion on an Art of Noise tune--though it still played loud enough to fill a small room.

The mobile phone anti-interference technology worked as advertised. We connected an iPhone and didn't hear any audible hiss or buzzing. (The iPhone will work in most other iPod speaker docks, but you need to switch it to airplane mode to avoid the resulting interference--which would in turn send all your incoming calls straight to voice mail.) We called the phone while we were listening to music, and the music automatically turned off when the call came in. We answered the phone while it was still in the dock and hit the speakerphone button to talk. Alas, no sound came through the T612's speakers, only through the iPhone's speaker. But we were able to talk just fine on the phone while standing at close range. Then, after we hung up the call, the song we were listening to resumed. True, that's a feature of the iPhone, not the dock, but it was still pretty nifty.

In the end, we really didn't have any major complaints to report--except that we wish Altec Lansing had kept some of the features previously available in its earlier M602. It's too bad the video output's missing, and it also would have been nice if a good old-fashioned FM radio was on board. But clearly the T612's iPhone-centric features are its main selling points. So those who don't have--or aren't planning to buy--an iPhone will probably be better served by one of the many other worthwhile iPod speakers on the market. But for those who have an iPhone (and maybe even an iPod or two), the T612 is worth considering, particularly as the street price drops to below $150. It may take a little while, but if the price of the M602 is any indication, there's room for some discounts.

6.9

Altec Lansing T612

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6