The Altec Lansing Mix iMT800 is an iPod dock and FM radio with all the charm, style and raw power of an 80s boombox.
The Altec Lansing Mix iMT800 iPod dock looks and sounds impressive. Looking like an 80s ghetto blaster cross-bred with a Cylon, it packs some serious audio power in the form of dedicated tweeters, mid-range drivers and a side-mounted subwoofer. It isn't the cheapest iPod speaker system available (and the ongoing cost of D-cell batteries will be painful) but if you want to relive the glory days of carrying your music through the streets on your shoulder, there's no question that this is the system to pick.
When we saw our first glimpse of the Altec Lansing Mix iMT800 a few months ago we loved its old-school styling - it has definite throw-backs to the boomboxes of the 1980s, but the dark satin-finished plastics lend a little class and quality to the occasion. The central iPod dock is flanked by two speaker enclosures, with 1in tweeters topping 3in mid-range drivers.
A plastic roll-bar protects the iPod from accidental bumps or movement when docked, but slides up out of the way to allow easy access. A two-line, orange-on-black LCD provides input and track/artist info, while the Altec Lansing Mix iMT800's simple controls can be found on the top. The combination power and volume control dial is easy to use, but the other buttons aren't raised; this may be troublesome if the boombox is sitting at head height. Otherwise the controls are very easy to use - the LCD and buttons have bright orange backlighting.
Hiding behind the top-mounted carry handle is the reason for the Altec Lansing Mix iMT800's name. Not one but two 3.5mm auxiliary inputs allow the connection of multiple MP3 players - you can play a song on your iPod while queuing up another on a second or third device. It may not live up to the smooth mixing and beat-matching of a proper DJ at your house party, but for letting people attach their own devices to play their favourite tracks it works well. We tried using three devices simultaneously and with a little practice we were able to switch players in between tracks with ease.
The on-body controls of the Mix iMT800 are easy to use when you're close to the player, but if you're across the other side of the room, Altec Lansing's miniature remote control is very handy. The buttons are tactile and have a simple layout, and the carabiner-style clip allows you to hang it off a belt loop. One thing to note is that the clip makes it look almost exactly like a bottle opener, so don't be too surprised if your friends accidentally attack a crown cap with your remote control. We'd advise Altec Lansing to either change the design a little, or reinforce the remote control and make it useful for actually opening bottles.
The Altec Lansing Mix iMT800 is powerful enough to fill a mid-sized room with bass-heavy, energetic sound. In a pinch, we'd happily use this for a party - it may lack the all-out power of a proper stereo-plus-subwoofer system, but the little 3in mid-range drivers and 5.25in subwoofer put out a surprisingly solid amount of audio. Higher treble notes are clean and free of distortion and harshness at all volume levels, although we did notice they were somewhat drowned out by other frequencies at maximum volume. Mid-range is more expansive, with a warmth that makes music tracks sound lively.
The side-mounted subwoofer and passive radiator provide a fair amount of low-range kick - at moderate volumes you'll feel it as well as hear it. At maximum volume the subwoofer starts to struggle when fed with bass-heavy dance or house music, but distortion is never an issue. Whether you're inside or outside, the Altec Lansing Mix iMT800 is a competent performer and one of the best iPod dock speaker systems we've heard recently. We'd happily put it in the company of the Edifier Luna 5 Encore, with the added bonus of easy portability.
Simple bass and treble adjustment is accessed through the EQ button on the Mix iMT800's top. Twenty incremental adjustments allow some reasonably fine tuning of audio weighting, but if you want more control a seven-band graphic equaliser can also be selected. We love the minute adjustability it offers.
An FM radio is available in addition to the iPod dock and two auxiliary inputs, with a telescopic aerial that hides at the rear of the system. Four presets can be set to store your favourite stations.
The Altec Lansing Mix iMT800 boombox is portable in the same way its 1980s predecessors were - you can carry it, but it's no featherweight. Eight D-cell batteries add plenty of weight to the already-solid system, so we wouldn't be keen on carrying it long distances. Short trips from the house to the car and the car to the beach are no trouble though, and at just under 6kg with batteries it's not too heavy for a pair of children to carry between them using the front-mounted grab handles.
It's important to remember that if you're using this as a boombox should be - at full volume, outdoors, on your shoulder - it will chew through its D-cell batteries. Altec Lansing claims up to 30 hours of battery life, although if you're using rechargeable D-cells this will drop slightly. A new set of eight alkaline D-cells will cost you around £20, while eight rechargeable cells and a charger could easily set you back £100. If you're planning on using this as a portable system regularly, add this onto the Altec Lansing Mix iMT800's initial price tag.
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