Altec Lansing inMotion Speaker System - Sound testing
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For this test I picked out a piece that would bring some nice high notes into the mix, so we can determine the quality of the speakers' higher frequency range. The perfect song picked out for the test was "Free your Mind" by En Vogue.
The best listening position was facing the speaker directly about 4 feet away. Any further than that, and the sound started to lose its power and punch. When facing the speaker directly you can experience an “Expanded stereo” effect. Since the drivers are positioned so close together, the sound seems like it's coming from one direction when you are listening to the set with your side turned to it. The InMotion had an excellent reproduction of the highs, but that's exactly what you would expect from a small set. The problems usually come while listening to the lower frequencies. The highs were immaculate.
Mid-range frequencies are often overlooked by a lot of people. The reason for this is that most of the mid-range sounds consist of human voices and plain conversation. I personally like to use the "rock" equalizer preset on my MP3 player for the sake of cutting back on the mid-range sounds. For testing the speaker's mid-range I picked a stand-up piece by Adam Sandler called the "Turkey song." With as little guitar as possible, it consists mostly of talking, and includes no bass, so it seemed like the right choice. EQ was turned to "spoken word” for that one. The mid-range was also excellent as the speakers could be taken all the way up to the highest volume with absolutely no distortion in the reproduction of the sound.
Every single manufacturer that puts out a small set of speakers on the market is tripped up by the same problem: being able to reproduce good bass while maintaining small frame design. This problem has been avoided mostly by adding a subwoofer into the mix. But in this case, all we have is a set of four 1" drivers and a tiny plastic enclosure. So it was very interesting to find out how the set performed under nice loads of bass. While Bose usually tackles the problem by adding specially shaped ducts that amplify certain frequencies, the Altec set was completely sealed.
A word must be said about the driver design here. The tiny speaker magnets are made from the rare earth magnet "Neodymium" that has nearly to 10 times the strength of a regular magnet its size. The driver has to move further for lower frequencies and push more air. That can be attained by putting a bigger magnet behind the coil. But when the size is a big issue, different design comes into play. That's where rare earth magnets really shine. Being 10 times more powerful than their artificial relatives, they can move this tiny speaker enough to produce the frequency needed. Thus, the engineers at Altec Lansing replaced the regular magnets with the rare earth magnets on all four drivers in the set. They sport Neodymium magnets that should allow the speakers to reproduce lower frequencies better without distorting the sound. But do they really work, or is this just a bunch of marketing baloney to make us buy their products?
The song I used for this test was "Family Affair" by Mary J. Blige and the Equalizer setting was turned to R&B.
Right away the speaker could not pick up the lower end of the bass, distorting and crackling. Since the boasted lowest range is 60HZ I was very disappointed by its performance. I expected the sound to be pumping and delivering a nice punch, but even turned down half way, the speaker could not handle the bass that needed to be reproduced.
While other songs that I tried on the “R&B” setting played decently, every time I picked a song with a tight bass, the sound would get distorted and the speaker would start making crackling sounds.
The outer rim of the driver is made of what looks to be plain old paper, which is cheap in my opinion, since all the speakers that are required to push good bass usually have polypropylene or equivalent rims. Unfortunately I could not test an exact frequency where the distortion began happening, but it was definitely a lot higher than the claimed 60HZ barrier. 150HZ sounds about right to me.
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