Product review – Altec Lansing iM237 Orbit MP3 speaker

Back in July I posted a review of the Altec Lansing iM207 “Orbit MP3” speaker. This product has long been one of my favorite gadgets on the road, albeit with a couple of minor issues that annoyed me (the lack of a power light for example).

Altec Lansing clearly listened to their customers, because they just released their newest Orbit MP3 speaker (the iM237).

This portable speaker has the same basic features of the previous model, but adds a “real” power switch and a power indicator light. The power light also shows the battery life by turning red when you are running low.

The tiny speaker produces a mindblowing amount of sound, and it sounds very clear and crisp, with no distortion at all. Of course, it is still a single speaker, so you won’t get that full stereo effect. Audio even has a decent amount of bass.
Altec Lansing also made some design improvements when it comes to carrying the speaker; they added an opening for attaching a wrist strap (included in the box), as well as a nice carrying case with a carabiner for hooking the entire thing to your belt loop or bag.

The speaker runs off 3 AAA batteries which provide enough juice for about a full day of non stop music. When you are not using the Orbit, you can store the audio cord around the bottom of the device and clip the audio jack in place. Like the previous model, the audio jack is still compatible with the previous generation iPhone.

Compared to the previous Orbit MP3 the basic concept has stayed the same, and it produces the same stunningly good sound quality, but the minor changes in design and accessories really make it a big improvement, and well worth the purchase price.

The Orbit MP3 is currently available directly from Altec Lansing ($39.99), or from ($35.11).

Daily deal – Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3 portable speaker for $15

Back when I was just a Gadling rookie, my first product review was for one of my personal favorites; the Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3 speaker. The Orbit MP3 is a portable speaker for your iPod, mobile phone or other music player.

In the review, I mentioned the MSRP of $29.95 and the Amazon price of just $24.95. Since then, it has dropped another $10 and you can now pick one up for just under $15.

The speaker runs off 3 AAA batteries and has just one control; on or off. The device has a short audio cord that wraps around the unit, and a tiny flat spot for standing the speaker upright.

Despite its small size, it produces a surprisingly loud and clear amount of audio. Of course, since it is just a single speaker, you don’t get full stereo sound, but with the excellent volume and quality it produces, most people won’t even notice.

You’ll find the deal at
and members with an Amazon Prime account will get free shipping, others will have to add another $10.01 to their order for the free super saver shipping.

Product review – iFrogz Audiowrapz for the iPod Nano

If you have been keeping up with my reviews, you’ll have realized that I love taking my music with me on the road. Previous reviews have looked at a portable speaker, an iPod battery pack and a pair of noise canceling iPhone headphones. Clearly, you will have seen the trend by now; I love gadgets like this.

My review today is no different. The iFrogz Audiowrapz are the first iPod case with built in passive speakers.

The Audiowrapz are made for the newest generation iPod Nano, and provide a dual function; they protect the iPod, and they turn your little Nano into what we used to call “a ghetto blaster”. The audiowrapz case is made of silicone rubber, but it has been treated with a non-stick coating to prevent dust and other debris sticking to it.

To use the case, you simply fold the back down, and slide your iPod Nano into it. The case connects to the headphone jack on the bottom of your iPod. If you want to listen to your headphones, you can use the “pass through” jack on the bottom of the case, when you insert your headphones, the speakers turn off. When your iPod is in the Audiowrapz case, you will not have access to the dock connector on the bottom, so you will need to remove it for charging or syncing.

The speakers in the audiowrapz case are “passive”, which means they don’t require batteries. Of course, with passive speakers, you won’t get the same volume as a set of powered speakers (yeah, I was just joking by comparing it to a ghetto blaster), but the sound is more than enough to provide some nice background music, or even to wake you up in the morning if you use the alarm setting on your iPod.

Included in the package is of course the case, but you also get an iPod screen protector. The iFrogz Audiowrapz are currently on sale for just $14.99, and you can select one of 8 colors, varying from boring gray, to bright pink. The Audiowrapz were the only case to be voted “best of show” at the 2008 Macworld and CES trade shows by iLounge and iProng magazine, so don’t just take my word for it; this case rocks!


(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 for just $24.94 (price at time of posting).

Band on the Run: Igniting Change in Edmonton, AB

I arrived in Edmonton and missed my hoodie. Temperatures were as low as 7 degrees Celsius this week and here it is August! When I left Ontario, it was over 30 degrees in the shade and so I hadn’t prepared myself. Mental note: be a good traveller and look at the weather reports before hopping a plane across a vast country next time, alright?

The cold front didn’t dull my mood, though, because the event heated up and was fantastic. It was called: “Ignite Change Now: Global Youth Conference.” And the name was fitting because it felt as though I was watching little sparks go off in every group I came upon across these two days; everyone seemed lit up.

This is a UN initiative and there were people at this event that had come from all over the world. It was amazing to be part of such an inspiring conference that unifies so much of what we’re about as musicians and activists.

We arrived on Tuesday night and were met by Rose Mary, the organizer’s mother who had agreed to put us up for the night before the conference’s official start the next day. Rose Mary greeted us with hugs and smiles for our weary travelling selves. We were being accommodated in a downtown hotel for two nights, officially, but there was no provision for our arrival night and Rose Mary graciously agreed to pick up two wayward strangers and take us to her home.

I love meeting new Moms. She’s wonderful.

She patiently waited with us for our luggage that never came (what’s our luck with airlines and baggage this month?), then waited for us to process the lost baggage claims (both instruments and Lyndell’s personal bag were all still in Toronto) and then we all drove back to her place, about a half an hour from the airport and on a beautiful tract of land with gardens and dogs and woodlands next door. It was like leaving home and coming home.

The next morning the three of us – Lyndell, Rose Mary and I — walked her property and picked wild raspberries and drank our morning tea while talking about gardening and solitude and country living.

When we drove into the conference at midday, we were refreshed and ready for a couple of days of learning and inspiration. Wednesday was the day of my workshop about the merging of art and activism and how this combination can yield great things like hope, sustainability, belief, change, awareness… etc. I have done this workshop many times and it’s always a learning experience for me, too. I am just a facilitator in a workshop that really runs itself. I always find that there’s not enough time to really talk about all the things one can talk about when it comes to the notion of combining creativity with a desire to make the world a better place. It’s happening everywhere and it’s a building movement.

The room we were in looked like a classroom and so I arranged the chairs in a semi-circle before people arrived. Anything to make it a bit more relaxed in vibe. Then, the place filled up and we had a fantastic discussion that was over far too quickly. An hour and a half and we had just started to feel its significance when the session ended. Still, it served as a solid launching pad for several ongoing discussions that took place over the next two days with the participants in more casual settings, like over meals and in the hallways of the Shaw Centre where the event took place.

Speaking of locations, the view from the Shaw Centre of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley is just stunning. Behind the main room, there is a balcony that overlooks this lush valley, which is also the site of the Edmonton Folk Festival. (psst: we would love to play that event one day, but they have never booked us. Fingers crossed for next year! if you ever want to request us: you can always send a friendly email here:

After shooting these pics, I went to the hotel to do another search for our luggage. After several hours on and off the telephone to the 1-800 number and finally a trip back to the airport, they were officially located and scheduled for delivery that evening, exactly twenty-four hours later. Funny how talking to someone on the phone gets you nowhere and as soon as we could look someone in the eye about it, they were found! Thankfully, we had an extra day to wait for our instruments. Not having our guitars for one day is usually not an option, but I’m happy they arrived in the end and everything worked itself out.

The next day, I took in several speakers and my highlight was definitely Sol Guy, producer and co-host of a new television series coming out this fall called “4Real.” His bio described him as a guy who sets out to use the entertainment business as a vehicle for social change.” I get that. I thought I’d get him and I was right.

Sol Guy’s delivery was simply cool, in the truest sense of the word. He’s articulate, relaxed, and he communicates so succinctly without being the least bit dry or rehearsed-sounding. I was taken in by his talk (that was also aided by photography and some clips from his upcoming series) and moved to move. In the spirit of hip hop, activism means acting or moving your body within this movement. Dancing takes place in a lot of places – not just the dance floor. It was the perfect pre-show push.

When Lyndell and I got up there for our set, we were both relaxed and felt alive. It was great to play together again and an honour to be among these delegates and speakers and performers. Sometimes it’s reassuring to gather with those who are doing similar work if for no other reason than to be reminded that we are not alone in these pursuits and that we’re all interconnected and making strides.

“Ignite Change Now!” may sound like an order to some, but to me it’s an obvious exclamation. Sort of like saying: “eat or die of hunger!” or “breathe or suffocate!”

The cold, hard truth.

Lighting a fire under our asses in August.