The Altec Lansing inMotion MAX Portable Speaker for iPhone and iPod Review

I’ve covered iPod stereo docks in the past, but this is one of the first I’ve seen that claims to combine a clear and powerful speaker system with a rechargeable battery for true portability. I went into this review with a bit of skepticism; I guess I just wasn’t expecting much from a battery driven speaker system. It would be up to the Altec Lansing inMotion MAX Portable Speaker for iPhone and iPod to either impress me or prove that my skepticism was warranted; read on to see what happened…


Wander around the house, and take your music with you. Run it on battery power or plug it in. Either way, the inMotion Max churns out lush sound from your iPhone or iPod, or from the unit’s built-in FM radio. Twin, full-spectrum speakers give you the accurate sound reproduction and warm acoustics you crave. XDB technology supplies the deep bass without a subwoofer. And ESS sound-widening technology expands the sound to fit any room. What’s more, when a call comes in, the music cuts out so you can comfortably take the call.

Included in the box are the speaker system, a remote, a removable FM radio antenna, a power adapter, various removable iPod docks, a user manual, and a quick connect data sheet.

The inMotion MAX is a compact black and silver plastic rectangle, which measures roughly 12.25″ wide x 7.5″ tall x 2.1″ deep.  The overall impression I got from the device when I first removed it from the packaging was that it was sleek; the shiny black plastic on the front is nicely contrasted by the matte black metal speaker screen, and the gold rims around the enclosed speakers add a bit of dimension.

The “push to open” sticker on the dock is removable. 😉

The back of the speaker system has a slot for inserting and carrying the remote. There is also a flip stand that when opened reveals…

…ports for the FM antenna, an auxiliary cable, and the DC power plug.

Here’s a shot of the inserted remote.

When the dock is pressed, a standard iPod connector is presented.

Five different included adapters allow the fitted insertion of just about all available versions of the iPod or iPhone.

The remote is more detailed than I expected – it allows you to swap between sources (iPod, connected auxiliary device, FM radio), adjust the volume, turn on ESS (Expanded Sound Stage Technology), or choose from up to four FM radio presets.

The front of the inMotion MAX has an orange LED display which cycles between displaying the source and battery info, to displaying the album name, artist name, and track title. This is very handy, since the iPod screen will go dark as it plays and enters power save mode.

The buttons on the top of the player at first glance appear to be touch capacitive, which means that a warm finger would be necessary to activate them, but upon further scrutiny they are simply extra sensitive buttons, which will light up when gently pressed and activated. The buttons are, from left to right: Power, Source (for swapping between the iPod, connected auxiliary device, FM radio), up and down volume buttons, track reverse and forward (pressing and holding will advance or reverse through the playing track), and ESS. The only issue I had with the placement of the buttons was that when it was turned on, if I picked it up I would inadvertently hit one of the buttons, as there is no handle on the top of the player.

The inMotion MAX works perfectly well with the iPhone (first generation and 3G), it simply pauses the music when a call comes through so you can pick up the phone and answer, or you can answer from a Bluetooth headset.

Here’s the part that truly surprised me: the speaker system is supposed to get approximately 3.5 hours of playback from the battery, I got about three while listening to it on medium volume – about 15, which is more than sufficient for desktop use. The player’s volume goes up to 40, which is quite loud, but at that level the bass bottoms out and distortion abounds. When keeping the volume at 29 or below, bass is surprisingly full, and the sound is incredibly rich. Intricate songs such as Spoon’s “The Beast and Dragon Adored” are clearly articulated: the bass is deep but the high hat is still sharp – and all of the middle tones escape sounding muddy. I pulled out an old favorite, Grant Lee Buffalo’s “Mockingbirds”, and I was impressed once again; the lead singer’s falsettos didn’t distort, and the cellos making up the bassline stayed clear and discernible. The best part was honestly that I couldn’t really tell that I was listening to a battery driven speaker system. Granted, it is not as thumping loud as the Kicker (non-portable) system I reviewed earlier this year, but it is also much less expensive and much more compact.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the inMotion Max’s good looks, better than expected sound, and its cordless ability. Perhaps the only caveat I can find to the system is that it seems a bit expensive at first glance, but when compared to other systems in the genre, it shines because of the rechargeable battery. I think this would be a great addition in a kitchen, office or bedroom – whether or not you needed the cordless ability. However, knowing that you can set the speaker system anywhere – even outside – and it will play without a power source is definitely a selling point on its own.

The Altec Lansing inMotion MAX Portable Speaker for iPhone and iPod is available from the manufacturer and other retailers.

MSRP: $199.95

What I Like: compact and stylish design; ability to go cordless for about three hours; compatible with almost all iPods including iPhone; excellent sound from such a portable (and at times cordless) system

What Needs Improvement: The buttons on the top are too easy to upset unintentionally (ie – when moving the player)

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