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Altec Lansing Orbit Ultra iM237 Speaker : Portable, Powerful

A few months ago I blew out the speaker on my iPhone because I was listening to music while cooking dinner on a camping trip. I decided then and there that I needed an external, amplified system for my next trip.

Enter Altec Lansing's Orbit iM23, a tiny, palm-sized speaker (no bigger than a baseball) that absolutely blasts my music and podcasts with great fidelity and with even greater portability. The Orbit comes with a cable that I can use to plug into a variety of devices: my iPhone, my iPod, and any other type of MP3 player.

The audio is fantastic -- and loud! At arm's length at full blast, the Orbit actually hurts my ears. The speakers projects sound in 360 degrees, so I can put it in the middle of my outdoor kitchen and everyone can hear it. Despite its diminutive size, the bass is clear and distinct, not the aural mud that other small speakers produce. The treble is crisp, too.

I power mine with three rechargeable AAA batteries, which seem to last forever. The published time is 24 hours, which seems accurate.

I used to own bigger "portable" speakers, but I always left them at home because they were just too big. I also like how the Orbit's audio cord that plugs into my iPhone stows away in the bottom of the unit; I don't have to spend inordinate amounts of time untangling wires. Good thinking!

The Orbit comes with a pretty sturdy neoprene case, which is wonderful. I can throw it all into my pack without having to worry about anything getting damaged. As a rough-and-tumble type, I long ago abandoned the notion that electronics should be babied. Instead, electronics should be built to withstand my lifestyle.

In the short time I've had this speaker system, I've really come to enjoy it. I've listened to podcasts in my hotel room while traveling; cranked up the tunes while bouldering; and broadcasted some mellow vibes back at camp.

With my Orbit, now I can have a portable home theater system. Let me explain: when I travel, I always bring along my laptop, and a few years ago I remember sitting in a New Zealand field with about 15 climbers watching The Big Lebowski after a long day at the crags. It was pretty fun, but the movie was hard to understand because the computer's speakers were pretty underpowered. If only I had my Orbit then!

Bottom Line: Compact, lightweight, battery-powered MP3 and iPod speaker with great sound. A perfect holiday gift.--(N.W., Nov. '08)

Price : $39 Purchase Now

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