Tomorrow’s Speakers Today, Part 1: Altec iM4 | iLounge Article


Tomorrow’s Speakers Today, Part 1: Altec iM4

Any reviewer worth his or her salt knows that reviewing speakers and headphones is a tricky, tricky business. Is style important? Portability? Sound quality? Price? You could say yes to any of those questions, but the average person probably would say yes to at least three, and possibly all four.

We’ve been playing with Altec Lansing’s new inMotion iM4 speakers ($99.95) for a bit, and we just know they’re going to be popular. They’re essentially what you get if you strip out the iPod-specific parts of the company’s original inMotions, remixed with a more modern style, and compatible with any music player you might throw at them - iPod and iPod shuffle, CD player, or those-that-we-dare-not-name-iPod-competitors. But that under $100 price tag is just key. And some places are already selling them for under $70. If you don’t mind losing the iPod dock, you get a fully portable speaker system with pretty good sound for the same price as a handful of CDs.

Once you’re done ogling the new look - white plastic body, black rubber accents, and black metal grilles - which is a major improvement on Altec’s oddly blue platform-agnostic iM2s, the single biggest difference between the iM4s and their predecessors is that you can pivot the speakers in any direction off the base. Position the two sets of two drivers straight up in the air, 90 degrees from the table, or on an angle straight for your ears. It’s a smart touch for listening at a desk - only missing the speaker detachability we’ve been waiting for. Sound quality’s highly reminiscent of the company’s iM3s (see the review here) and original inMotions (see the review here), which is to say good for a truly portable system. Volume’s fine for single-room listening, and Altec’s bass remains more substantial than similarly portable options, at the cost of a bit of noticeable scratch and compression when the volume’s up.

Besides the fact that they look and sound good, the key new features you’ll care about are the retractable audio plug, the additional audio-in port and included cable, the even-easier-than-iM1/iM3 folding system, and the simple switch and slider controls on front. The two AA battery compartments on the bottom are basically hidden, and keep the speakers going for around 18 hours. Travelers will also dig the travel bag and four international power plugs Altec includes with the AC adapter.

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It would be nice to see a picture of the controls. Can the iPod be attached via the line out from the dock (or a PocketDock) and if so, is there any sort of volume/bass/treble control on the speaker unit itself???

Posted by Aristillus in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 10, 2005 at 12:42 PM (CST)


You’re looking at the controls - simple, eh? Power and volume on the front. Inputs for audio and power on the back rear, retractable audio cable and release latch on the right rear. No bass or treble control.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 10, 2005 at 12:53 PM (CST)


I guess they’ll hit a bigger market without the iPod only dock, but for me who’d only use them with my iPod and find the dock feature really handy in my current set of inMotions, then I’ve got to say I’d pass on them.

Though they do look pretty cool.

Posted by Jazzlawyer in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 10, 2005 at 2:06 PM (CST)


I liked the IM3’s remote control…I don’t see one here?

Posted by Cab2 in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 10, 2005 at 5:08 PM (CST)


Look’s like a stripped-down jazzed-up IM3 to me. I’ll pay the additional money in order to be able to charge my ipod and to use a remote.

Altec’s just reaching for the undockables…

Posted by pdtpoet in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 11, 2005 at 7:35 PM (CST)


Hmm I am “undockable” but then again I would like to upgrade. Nice design as far as the “landing pad” area of the speakers are concerned. Gives a nice clean surface to place your expensive, often chromed-out music players.

Posted by minty in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 12, 2005 at 10:10 PM (CST)


Anyone got an Idea where I can find these for $60 that this site claims?

Posted by Goodlovin in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 15, 2005 at 9:25 AM (CST)


Am I the only one who wants a set of speakers like this (or the other inmotions) with a built-in FM tuner?  Seems that it would be easy to add, and I’d love it for business travel so I can get my NPR news in the morning without having to crank the volume on the $9.99 clock radio in the hotel room.

Posted by altcountryman in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 15, 2005 at 10:14 AM (CST)


Well - it’s yet another device - but I have a tiny FM receiver, about the size of one-half of a Shuffle. Didn’t cost much, either. You could plug it in…

I found the speakers for $63 at Page Computers (, plus $8/shipping, total $73.

Posted by RHG in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 22, 2005 at 1:12 PM (CST)


is there a remote control or no?

Posted by lukeskywalker in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 10, 2006 at 12:18 AM (CDT)

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