Product Category: Speaker dock Manufacturer:Altec Lansing Where to Buy:Low Price Search Price: Ranges from $96.99 to $149.95 USD System Requirements: A Zune for full functionality, or any MP3 player with a 3.5mm audio jack for sound (power will not be supplied to non-Zune devices). Specifications: SOUND PRESSURE LEVEL (SPL): 100 dB. TOTAL CONTINUOUS POWER: 60 Watts RMS. SYSTEM RESPONSE: 60 Hz - 20 kHz (-10 dB). SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO: @ 1 kHz input: > 70 dB. DRIVERS: (per Satellite): Two 3” full-range drivers and two silkdome 1” tweeters. DIMENSIONS: 14” (W) x 5.4” (D) x 8.2” (H) (354 mm (W) x 137 mm (D) x 208 mm (H)). Further specifications here.
One of the few portable speaker systems for the Zune;
Recharges the Zune;
Attractive industrial design.
It just doesn't sound that good;
No way to switch Zune functions or playlists
Weak to non-existent bass response;
No option for battery power, so it's not truly portable.
Summary: Being the Zune fan that I am, I have a natural inclination to applaud any company willing to release Zune accessories in the iPod-saturated market we live in – so it's safe to say that I was somewhat pre-disposed to like the Altec Lansing Zune speaker dock. Despite a lot of nice features, it just can't deliver my music the way I want to hear it – but my ears are different than yours, so this may still be the solution you've been looking for.
Read on for the full review!
A History of Sound Altec Lansing has been making computer speakers for a long time – I still remember back in the early '90s as a young man saving up my money to purchased a pair of Altec Lansing clamshell computer speakers. They were unlike any other computer speakers on the market at the time because they could go so incredibly loud, and sounded so incredibly good compared to most of the crap-tastic computer speakers available at the time. Fast forward nearly two decades: Altec Lansing is still around and still making computer speakers, but they've also branched out into making integrated speaker docks for MP3 players, most notably the iPod. When the Zune was launched, they quickly came to market with a Zune dock and they were kind enough to let me review one. Here's a photo walk-through review.
Figure 1: Out of the box you, from left to right, you have the power brick (which is unfortunately quite large, the power cable, the speaker dock itself, a short 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, the remote control, and the generic dock.
A word about the generic dock: Altec Lansing wisely included options necessary for allowing this dock to work with any MP3 player on the market, not just a Zune, but only from a sound perspective. Meaning that the 3.5mm audio cable will allow you to pump audio from the MP3 player into the Altec Lansing speaker dock, and the plastic tray will allow you to perch the MP3 player in the dock, but it won't receive power to recharge, and there's no way to connect the video functions of any MP3 player other than the Zune. It's a nice touch, but I found that no matter how many times I tried, I wasn't able to get the plastic dock adaptor to snap into the dock in any way, so when I connected my Zen Vision:M player it just sat there on top of the plastic dock that wasn't really connected to the base. Not a big deal, but it would have been nice if Altec Lansing had made the plastic dock adaptor easier to insert [update: just prior to publication I finally got it snapped in properly].
Figure 2: The remote control is a standard affair, offering power, volume up/down, a bass/treble control (you press either the bass or treble button then use the volume up/down to control it), a play/pause button, and next/previous track buttons (that also function as fast forward and rewind if you press and hold). Notice the lack of any sort of menu button – I'll get to that below.
Figure 3: The speaker dock itself is designed to look great in any decor. The design is simple, but I think it's quite attractive. Smooth lines, a pleasing rounded shape, and cut away on the bottom to make it seem like it takes up less room than it really does. All around a great visual design.
Figure 4: On the top of the speaker dock are the manual controls. From left to right, we have power, up, down, bass, and treble.
Figure 5: The back of the speaker dock has a headphone jack, the power jack, an auxiliary input (this is where you connect other MP3 players), a miniUSB input for the connectivity function, and a composite video output.
Exploring the Altec Lansing Dock (Continued...)
Figure 6: The single biggest problem with the Altec Lansing Zune dock is shown right here: the Zune menu system. There's no way, either with the remote or directly on the unit itself, so return to the root Zune menu or drill down/up in the menu system in any way. What that means in practical terms is that you need to walk up to the Zune and use the control pad to select the music or video that you want to access. Once a playlist, album, or video has been selected the remote control is useful to control it. But what's the point of having a remote control if you have to get up and walk over to the Zune to change albums or music genres? I think this is a huge flaw in the product and am baffled that Altec Lansing would consider this acceptable.
Figure 7: A nice touch is the green dots that appear under the speaker grill when you're adjusting the volume, bass, or treble up or down. Because there's no display telling you the volume level, this is the only way you can see what it's set at. A few seconds after you stop the adjustment, they vanish.
Figure 8: The Zune's large display and use of album art really shines here. If you don't recognize a song you're listening to, it's great to be able to glance over and see the album art displayed on that big, bright screen. If only the Zune's album art looked better...
Figure 9: The Altec Lansing Zune dock has a nice, slender profile: it's only 5.4 inches deep from front to back, 14 inches long, and 8.2 inches tall.
Figure 10: I tested the video out mode, and it worked exactly as you'd expect: the Alec Lansing remote control can play/pause/skip video, but you can't queue up a different video without walking over to the Zune and doing it manually. The biggest problem with video out isn't related to the Altec Lansing speaker dock, it's that the Zune software encodes video files to 320 x 240 instead of 640 x 480 (four times the resolution). A 320 x 240 video looks barely passable on the 20.1" LCD monitor shown in the picture, but on a 72" DLP TV, it looks horrible. This is something that Microsoft needs to address as it's a core problem with the Zune.
Figure 11: This is what the Zune user interface looks like when connected via video out. It crops the bottom of the wallpaper, but all the controls are visible.
Figure 12: Radio works great! In fact, radio is perhaps one of the best reasons for using the Altec Lansing speaker dock because it's something that's harder to do without the dock. The remote control can be used to skip from station to station, and the limitations of the speakers on the sound dock make radio sound about as good as it can.
Does It Measure Up? What about audio quality, the core issue with any speaker dock? It's difficult for me to compare this product to similar products, because it's the first speaker dock I've ever tested. Never having owned an iPod, I haven't owned or reviewed any speaker dock prior to this one. Since Klipsch cancelled their Zune speaker dock, and the people at VAF won't even respond to my emails, I can't compare it to any other Zune speaker docks on the market. So where does that leave me? The best I can do is compare it to other speaker systems that I'd connect the Zune to if I didn't have the Altec Lansing dock to use. Because there's no dedicated sub-woofer with this dock system, it's not fair for me to compare it to my set of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers (which blow it away). Other speaker systems more in line with the Altec Lansing dock would be the Creative Labs Gigaworks T-20 speakers and the Logitech Z-1 speakers, both lacking sub-woofers and around $100 in price, close to the Altec Lansing speaker dock.
So how does it compare? Unfortunately, not all that well. Even with the bass cranked to maximum, and the volume at 75% of maximum, these speakers don't move any air. Bass frequencies are hollow-sounding, which makes most pop/rock songs sound flat and lifeless. On the mids and highs, things are better: classical guitar songs sound crisp and clear. A capella vocal tracks sound decent, and the overall volume of the system is loud enough to fill a small room. I'd place the sound quality of these speakers firmly in the "better than nothing at all" camp. Perhaps if you weren't a serious fan of music you might use this on a regular basis, but to be it just doesn't deliver the audio quality I need to hear. It delivers radio well enough.
Conclusion So would I use this product myself? Probably not – it seems ill-suited for many of the scenarios it's designed to fulfill. Because it has the USB connection, it's designed to connect to my PC – but if I'm sitting at my PC, I'd probably want to listen to music on my PC through better-quality speakers. Nix that scenario. I don't have a radio tuner on my PC, so that's one scenario where this product definitely delivers – but I don't listen to the radio very often, mostly due to the idiotic commercials that repeat over and over. On the TV-room front, because the Zune uses 320 x 240 video resolution, it's ill-suited to be kept in my TV room because it can't deliver even a passable TV experience. Nix that scenario.
All is not lost, however: I happen to be typing this sitting in an RV trailer at a camp ground (a little weekend getaway for writing), and that's one scenario where the Altec Lansing Zune dock fits well. The sound is on par with small, portable home audio systems that you'd see in an RV. The Zune allows you to carry more music than you'd want to carry in CD form, and the TV out works well enough to be used on the small (sub 27") TVs that you might have in a trailer. So in this instance, the Altec Lansing provides a useful way of extending the functionality of the Zune – but is that a scenario you find yourself in often enough to warrant the purchase of this product? That's for you to decide – for most people, I suspect the answer is no. While it's great that Altec Lansing brought this product to market (unlike Klipsch, who abandoned their Zune dock product), the audio quality just doesn't deliver the music the way my ears need to hear it.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He likes testing speakers, assuming they don't end up sucking.
Thanks for that thorough and informative review. I have been eyeing this item for quite some time and trying to find a reason to justify its purchase.
I'm no camper and have come to the conclusion it would probably work best for me either on my patio or possibly the garage. Neither of which has the proper space to hold such a device. The price is very good at $96.99 though. I'll probably get one soon, maybe the price will drop a bit more...
Well jason dunn i know u put allot of time into putting this together BUT....i just think ur an ipod fan more likely because u say in a conn it just doesnt sound good THAT isnt a conn that would be like hearing that halo was a bad game and turned out to be awsome....that is from someone elses prospective that it is not good but it can truly be good (u just made it so more conns). ill know make an upgraded pro conn list i do not care if u agree to these but o well.....
-Wireless sharing and that stuff to do with wireless
-better graphics onn it wich would result in better movies
-made from microsoft (dont have to take this as a pro but microsoft is better)
-ipods when they came out cost around 600$ and these well cost only 250
-it also seems that can change backgrounds
-u can put onto a bigger screen ex. pc maybe tv screen
-and yes as u said awsome looks for it
-things for it costs less (accesories wich is money saver compared to apple who just want the mula;money)
-like u said that thing recharges the zune
-well umm i think there may be less pixels but i may have just heard it from someone who wants to take down the rep of it
-srry but i currently have no more conns but that doesnt mean there isnt : ) just like there are more pros
UPDATE ON RELEASE IN CANADA
well couple days ago i have seen a commercial on the zune IN CANADA wich is surprising cause i havent heard ne release date or ne thing like that.....so i figured out at the end to go to www.zune.net/journal/ it worked wich is awsome cause know im phsyked out about the release. i also tried another website wich made me more curious www.zune.net/canada/ yes canada and that worked i was ready to cry because i was so happy.....ne way i waited till the next day and there where no more commercials NOR did the websited work (did but redirected u to www.zune.net/enUS/canada) wich clearly is us....there it tells you that the website has been removed or no longer exists wich madee me pist off : ( so after that i decided to come to conclusions 1-maybe the zune was ready for release but the supliment were low so they canceled 2-maybe it was a mistake to put on the tv comercial (that doesnt explain why the websites worked fine...) 3-i duno some happened,...eighther way i KNOW the zune is close i can almost touch it and feel it in my hands so ppl just keep up ur hopes to get it by x-mas o right i almost forgot i heard possible releases jan 17 2008 BUT I DUN WANT THAT at least its comin or possible december 7th lol ok see ya
What the heck are you talking about zunemaniac??? This is a review of the Altec Lansing Dock.
Originally Posted by zuneManiac
Well jason dunn i know u put allot of time into putting this together BUT....i just think ur an ipod fan
Must be a closet fan then, considering he runs ZuneThoughts and notes in the review, " Never having owned an iPod,"
-Wireless sharing and that stuff to do with wireless The dock doesn't do any sharing
-wider screen The dock doesn't have a screen
-better graphics onn it wich would result in better movies The dock doesn't have graphics
-made from microsoft (dont have to take this as a pro but microsoft is better) Microsoft didn't make the dock
-ipods when they came out cost around 600$ and these well cost only 250 The dock cost around a $100 when reviewed, $80 these days, $40 if you catch the WOOT
-it also seems that can change backgrounds The dock has no backgrounds
-u can put onto a bigger screen ex. pc maybe tv screen Eh, the dock does facilitate connecting to a monitor/TV, but I know that isn't what you were thinking
-and yes as u said awsome looks for it OK
-things for it costs less (accesories wich is money saver compared to apple who just want the mula;money) There are no accessories for the dock, AFAIK
-like u said that thing recharges the zune Well, you got one right
-well umm i think there may be less pixels but i may have just heard it from someone who wants to take down the rep of it Dock has no pixels
-srry but i currently have no more conns but that doesnt mean there isnt : ) just like there are more pros
If you are going to argue with a review, you could at least argue points related to the product being reviewed.