Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Altec-Lansing iM9 iPod boom box:
It could have been an Altec-Martini

Altec-Lansing's roots go back before hi-fi, and long before CDs and iPods, to the early days of talking pictures in 1927.

Over the years, Altec-Lansing has made some amazing speakers, for theaters, recording studios, stadiums, homes and cars. During WW2, they made an airborne submarine detection system. It was one of the first uses for the powerful "Alnico V" magnet, that was used in speakers after the war. Altec-Lansing was probably the first company to offer a speaker upgrade for car radios. I wrote about their VW Beetle replacement speaker in 1970. The company also pioneered audio equalization, and made broadcast consoles, amplifiers and microphones.

Most people use their iPods for personal entertainment, but if you don't feel like wearing headphones or want to share your sounds, the Altec-Lansing iM9 is a great choice. It's not wide enough to provide much stereo separation, but the sound quality is extremely good, especially considering its compact size. Bass is very strong. The iM9 works well on a table right in front of you, but can also play loud enough to hear 20 feet away. It has a folding stand to keep it nearly vertical on a tabletop, and works on AC or four C batteries (good for about 24 hours). It can charge your iPod, and even has an extra audio input for a non-iPod player, such as a portable Sirius or XM receiver, or a portable DVD player.

The iM9 can fill a dorm room or almost any room. I like it for traveling, and have taken mine to lots of Hiltons and Marriotts. I also use it in my garage and on my patio. It's compact, but it's pretty heavy (about four pounds -- much more than most table-top iPod speaker docks) and is a bit hard to grip (no handle) -- so don't drop it on any toes. If you do drop it, it should survive, because its guts are shock-resistant. It comes with a rugged backpack-style carry bag, which is probably OK for anyone under age 25. If you're 25 or older, use a laptop case.

The iM9 fits, syncs and charges all dockable iPods and can even connect iPod video and iPod photo players to a TV set. Price is about $150-$200. You can get it at Amazon, Crutchfield, etc. I bought mine at Costco. UPDATE 12/32/06: Costco price is now down to 100 bucks. Altec-Lansing also makes some great desk-top and table-top iPod speaker docks in the iM ("in motion") product line. CLICK

Geek Trivia: The "Lansing" in the company name belongs to James B. Lansing, who is also the "JBL" in the "JBL" audio brand, a company he formed in 1946 after leaving Altec-Lansing. "Altec" wasn't a person's name. It comes from "All Technical." Altec was a Western Electric spin-off that serviced movie theaters, and bought Lansing's company in 1941. The company changed owners and marketing direction many times over the years, and in 2005 it was bought by headset-maker Plantronics. Mr. Lansing wasn't born a Lansing. He changed his last name from "Martini." If he didn't, you might be listening to an Altec-Martini, and JBL would be JBM.


Anonymous said...

Nice review, and I loved the trivia about Martini. Congratulations on the new blog Mike, it looks like a winner.

Anonymous said...

I have an iM9, and it blows away all of the other iPod portable speaker systems. Can we get the company to change its name to Altec-Martini? Much cooler than Lansing. Maybe they can invent a drink called the Altec Martini -- shaken AND stirred.