Altec Lansing iMT630 Classic

Altec Lansing’s latest portable iPod speaker dock, the iMT630 Classic, features a very easy-to-pack, stylish design. Its small frame is comparable to the more expensive Editors’ choice Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker ($299.95 direct, 4 stars), but its audio output is more comparable to—and slightly better than—the Logitech Wireless Speaker Z515 ($99.99, 3.5 stars). The best thing the iMT630 ($149.95 direct) has going for it is clever design—a built-in kickstand snaps shut to hide a magnetic remote control compartment, and the included remote offers fairly extensive iPod/iPhone menu navigation. It’s battery powered so you can take it anywhere, but you can’t pair the iMT630 with your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad/Android phone via Bluetooth like some other portable systems, and you’ll hear some distortion on deep bass tracks. If portability is your number one priority, however, the iMT630 offers a quality audio experience at reasonable volume levels. 

Design Somewhat triangular from a side view and rectangular from the front, the Altec Lansing iMT630 Classic comes in all black, with glossy plastic trim along the side panels and a plastic, honeycomb-like design for the front panel’s speaker grille. At the bottom of the front panel, the retractable iPod dock can be pressed in when not in use, so that the contour of the front panel is flat. The portable speaker measures 5.1 by 12.5 by 1.5-inches and weighs 1.3 pounds. There are two other versions, which come with red or dark blue trim instead of black, and have the slightly different model name of iMT630 Sport. four buttons sit to the left of the top panel: Power, Volume Up, Volume down, and Source (for choosing between a docked iPod or iPhone and the Aux input). The back panel has a snap-out kickstand that hides a magnetic remote control storage space, making an otherwise easy-to-lose remote easier to keep track of. The kickstand also covers the power connection for the included power adapter, and a 3.5mm Aux input.

The included remote control is tiny, measuring about 3.7 by 1.2 by 0.5-inches. Its simple black plastic front panel unfortunately uses the annoying-to-press membrane buttons commonly found on cheap remotes, but in this price range, that’s to be expected. The remote is redeemed by having just about every control you’d need: Power, Mute, Source, Track Forward/Backward, Volume Up/Down, Menu Up, Menu down, and Menu, Select, and four EQ settings for Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, and Altec EQ. for a cheap remote, the iMT630’s is solid, and easy to stow away when not in use.

Performance While it is predictable that the iMT630’s small frame and 2-inch drivers cannot handle deep bass at high volumes, the price should reflect that. If the dock were, say, $100, this would be less of an issue. At $150, however, we expect a little more power from a speaker system. Regardless, when it’s not playing the Knife’s “silent Shout,” which features deep bass that distorts the speakers heavily, the iMT630 offers some quality audio performance. On tracks with more moderate bass, like an acoustic track from Bill Callahan, or a modern classical track, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” the speaker unit is able to get to maximum volume without a shred of distortion, and the max volume level is impressive given the iMT630’s modest frame. These volume levels should certainly suffice for a hotel room or picnic, and could power an impromptu party in a pinch—just don’t expect any real low-end. The overall response seems focused on the mid frequencies, which helps bring out bass lines in rock songs (not deep bass frequencies, mind you, but the actual string instrument), as well as some mid-sized percussion. The clarity of the high frequencies is also a strength—the iMT630 is articulate without being overly bright. Obviously, bass fiends should look elsewhere for a portable system. Bose’s SoundLink is far more pricey, but it offers laudable bass and wireless streaming in an even smaller design. The bass response of the Logitech Wireless Boombox ($149.99, 3.5 stars), which is priced identically to the iMT630, is far more substantial than the iMT630’s, but the system is much larger and less easy to tote around—and none of the portable systems mentioned have enough low end to compete with even a modest 2.1 system, or a larger dock system like the Beatbox from Dr. Dre by Monster ($449.95, 4 stars).

Like most Altec Lansing iPod docks of the past couple years, the iMT630 is compatible with free, Altec-designed apps. One of them, Music Mood EQ, allows you to adjust the audio with a seven band graphic EQ—or just stick with some genre presets, like Rock or Pop. The other, Alarm Rock, turns your speaker dock into an alarm clock—your iPod or iPhone displays the time and the app comes with standard alarm clock features, like Snooze. it isn’t necessary, however, to use any app with the system. The remote control does a laudable job of navigating the iPod menu system—it works mostly intuitively, and allows you to switch between Artist, Song, Album, and other sub-menus to explore your music however you wish.

Altec Lansing rates the rechargeable battery’s life at about 7 hours on a full charge, but this depends on how loud you are playing the unit—lower volumes will obviously yield better battery lives than higher volume levels.

Logitech’s Wireless Speaker Z515, like the iMT630, has some distortion issues, while the wireless Logitech Wireless Boombox has almost no distortion issues but suffers from occasional Bluetooth audio artifacts. Despite the near identical prices, it’s not a stretch to imagine some people preferring the Altec Lansing iMT630 over the better-sounding, wireless-streaming Logitech Wireless Boombox based on portability alone. The iMT630 is much more compact and easier to throw in a bag than Logitech’s oblong speaker. The trade-off is clearly size versus audio performance, but if you need more room in your luggage, the iMT630 gets plenty loud without distorting—unless you are listening to genres with deep bass, like hip hop and electronic music. in that case, you’re better off checking out the Logitech Wireless Boombox and packing less clothes.

More Speaker reviews:

•   Altec Lansing Orbit USB Stereo iML247•   Logitech Rechargeable Speaker S315i•   Logitech Wireless Speaker Z515•   The Cue Speaker Model s1•   The Cue Radio Model r1•  more