Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

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October 6, 2009 • Reviews

Review: Orbit USB iML237

Last year Judie reviewed the Altec Lansing Orbit speaker.  It was a interesting speaker that can be used with any device sporting a normal 3.5 mm headphone jack.  The downside to using such a speaker with a laptop is that the internal sound card in most laptops can be a bit noisy.

Altec Lansing recently sent me a sample of their  Orbit USB iML237 speaker. It solves the sound card issue perfectly.  

Altec Lansing includes a case with the OrbitUSB.  I really appreciate this as this keeps the speaker looking nice.

OrbitUSB2

The speaker is solidly built from plastic and metal.  It looks to be quite durable and will last with normal use.

OrbitUSB5

One nifty feature of the OrbitUSB iML237 is the built in stand.  This let’s you angle the speaker as you listen to your music or audio program.  It stands up pretty well in most places you might want to use this with the exception of soft surfaces like your bed or a cushy chair.

To use this speaker, you just unwind the USB cable from the speaker and plug it into your USB port.  It works like any other USB sound device you might use with Windows XP, Mac and Linux as well.  Ubuntu 9.10 Beta sees the speaker as a Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro Analog sound card.

As for sound quality, I was pleasantly surprised by the sound that this speaker produces.  I concur with Judie in her review of the non USB version.  The speaker has decent bass and has no problems filling a room with sound.  It did sound a tiny bit tinny to me, but that is to be expected with a smaller speaker.  It’s not the world’s best speaker, but it’s pretty good for something that fits in your bag and takes up very little space.  It also doesn’t have a very good stereo field but then again it is a mono speaker.  Playing with the balance control on my netbook did make changes to how it sounds, but it did not feel like it moved the sound field from the left to the right as I moved the control between the two extremes.  It would be nice if they made one that is twice as large and separates into two speakers.  It still sounds much better than the internal speakers on my netbook so it’s well worth the added weight in my bag.

Unlike the non USB version, there are no batteries needed as the USB bus provides all the power.  There is a LED on top of the speaker, but I have yet to figure out why it was included as it is always lit up when connected.  I guess it might be useful for making sure the speaker is receiving enough power from the USB bus.

OrbitUSB4

At $49.95, I feel it’s pricing is in line with other USB speakers.  You may be able to get a USB speaker cheaper, but it likely won’t last as long as this one since it has some of the best construction I have seen in a portable speaker.

The Orbit USB iML237 is available from Amazon.com and direct from Altec Lansing for $49.95.

What I liked: Very portable and useful.  Sounds better than my netbooks speakers.

What needs improvement: It can be a little unstable when sitting on soft surface like a cushy chair or bed.  Also, wrapping the cable around the bottom can be difficult at times since the cable is just log enough to let you snap the USB cable into it’s back.  With a extra centimeter of cable, this complaint goes away.

I like the speaker and appreciate Altec Lansing letting me keep the review unit.

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