Altec Lansing’s Orbit Stereo USB Speakers: Our Review
To say that the capabilities of laptops, notebooks and tablets have come a long way over the last several years is an understatement on the order of noting that the Grand Canyon “sure is big.” But while the advances made in sheer power, storage capacity, screen size/resolution and portability have completely changed our expectations, there is one element of the mobile computing experience that has not enjoyed a similar degree of improvement… and that is sound.
And though there are a number of very good reasons for that seeming deficiency, including; consumer demand (most people require even more mobility of their music devices) privacy and consideration (sad though it may be, not everyone wants to hear your favorite Beastie Boys track or episode of the Simpsons), and the very physics of sound, it is safe to say that most users would welcome a solution that provided improved sound quality in the conference room, home or on the go.
It is into this gap that Altec Lansing, a company long known for its innovative design and commitment to the highest levels of sound quality, has stepped with the introduction of their latest addition to their growing line-up of desktop and mobile computing speakers, the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers. Having spent the last several days testing them under a wide range of conditions, we’ve developed a good appreciation for both their strengths and, to some degree, limitations. So join us as we take a look at the new Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers.
As we’ve so often found in previous reviews, the folks at Altec Lansing just seem to “get it.” Our Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers arrived simply but attractively packaged, complete with a handy and well made travel pouch that proved an integral part of its appeal. From a design standpoint, we found the Orbit’s black and gray coloring attractive and the techie ‘barrel’ shape both cool and practical. While there is no mistaking that the Orbit is made almost exclusively from plastic and lacks the heft of some competitors, the resulting light weight and durability are sure to be welcomed features while on the road.
One of the most compelling features of the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers is their ability to be easily connected into one long tubular gadget – which makes packing and travelling with them that much easier. Another thoughtful feature is the integrated cord storage space at the base of each unit. While we’ll admit that an auto-retract system would have been cool, winding the attached cords isn’t exactly challenging and greatly reduces the “failure” factor all too common to the simple spring-loaded winders we’ve encountered in the past.
Finally, it’s worth noting that these are designed to be computer-only speakers – as they come with only a single USB connection and no internal power supply or auxiliary input for plugging in a music player or Smartphone.
Having checked out the look of the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers, the next and most important question is, “how do they work?” Well, in a word, well. Quite well. Once you’ve separated the speakers, you simply plug the USB cord from the left speaker into your computer and plug the unattached cable from the right speaker into the left and you’re ready to go. To aid in orienting the sound, Altec Lansing has added small, sturdy metal stands to each speaker that fold out, allowing you to easily position the speaker, and then just as quickly fold back out of the way.
Featuring a surprisingly large 40mm driver, we found the Orbit easily able to produce both impressive volume and good sound. In our basic “conference room” set-up, we found Altec Lansing’s claim of up to 2.5 times the volume of the typical Notebook, Netbook or Mac easily believable… and we were impressed by the clarity and depth of spoken voices at virtually any volume.
Now, important as PowerPoint presentations and teleconferencing are, we’re fairly certain that most of you are much more interested in learning how they handle the really important stuff… music, movies and games. Well, we’re again happy to report that audio performance with all three genres was equally impressive – with the simple disclaimer that when assessing the performance of these little powerhouses it’s important to remember to compare apples to apples. Translation? While it’s true that the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers might struggle when matched up against quality bookshelf speakers or a high-end computer satellite/subwoofer setup, when put up against other compact, portable speaker systems, they perform especially well… and given their modest price (around $50), are an especially good value.
Wrapping it up
All in all, we were favorably impressed by the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers – boasting attractive and innovative styling, thoughtful design and significantly better sound than most similarly priced laptop speakers. Whether you’re a hard-bitten road warrior looking for an effective and travel-friendly audio solution, or just someone looking to add better sound for your music, movies or games while on the go, it’s hard to imagine a better choice than the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo Speakers.