(Hotel) room filling sound from a portable speaker

For my first review here on Gadling, I’m going to show off one of my personal favorites. The Altec Lansing Orbit-MP3 is a 5 ounce (144 grams) portable speaker and it is powered by 3 AAA batteries. It can connect to any device with a standard headphone jack, including the iPod, iPhone and many Blackberry smartphones.

The sound coming out of this thing can only be described as “astounding”. When you play your tunes at full volume, you’ll be staring at the little speaker wondering how on earth it’s able to produce such loud music without sounding like a tin can.

When you set your player to “max”, it really is loud enough to fill a large room, or even keep a group of people entertained outdoors. The speaker can be placed flat on a table or upright, thanks to a small flat spot on the side that prevents it from rolling around. If you take it to the beach, you can even put the speaker along with your music player inside a Ziploc bag to help keep the sand out.

The speaker itself is the epitome of simplicity; there is only one button (on/off) and no volume control (volume is set on your device). The audio cord is 9 inches long, so your device will always be close to the speaker. Battery life is fantastic, Altec Lansing quote 24 hours of continuous use, and in my experience it really does last that long. Batteries are the only way to power the speaker as it does not have a power jack, so be sure to carry a spare set of AAA’s.

There are several minor issues; The unit does not have a power indicator light, so the only way to tell whether it’s on, is to check the markings on the side of the switch. You’ll also notice that it’s a single speaker, which means you don’t get full stereo audio, but the speaker mixes the left and right channels, so in reality you won’t really notice a thing. And finally, the battery compartment is pretty hard to open, it’ll take a couple of attempts to find the easiest way to remove the back cover to swap out the batteries. Other than those minor quirks, it’s a brilliant way to listen to music when you are on the road, it’s small and light enough to add to any carry on bag.

The Altec Lansing Orbit-MP3 costs $29.95 (MSRP) and you can find it at your local Bestbuy or at Amazon.com for just $24.94 (price at time of posting).