In the world of professional audio, Altec Lansing is a fairly well-respected brand as everything they produce, from entry-level consumer products to high-end professional gear it’s all made to an incredibly high standard in that market space.
Altec Lansing Background & History
Altec Lansing began as a side project from engineers at Western Electric that later evolved into one of the world’s most celebrated audio device manufacturers. The company was founded in 1927- the same year Altec Lansing revolutionized the entertainment industry by successfully developing sound-to-picture technologies, where dialogue and sounds could be synchronized with the on-screen action.
At this stage, the company was known as Altec Services Company and operated for the next 14 years in the business of servicing the sound systems they developed for movie theaters. In 1941, they purchased the Lansing Manufacturing Company in its near-bankrupt stage and ultimately formed the company we know today as the Altec Lansing Corporation.
Since the merger between the companies, Altec Lansing has developed a large range of speakers, including the popular Duplex 600-series coaxial loudspeaker, studio reference monitors that were widely used between the 1940 and the 1980s, and the Altec ‘Voice of the Theatre’ speaker range commonly utilized in movie theaters, concert halls and live music venues. Altec Lansing was also responsible for developing custom loudspeakers to be used at the legendary Woodstock Festivals.
Aside from its impressive catalog of professional speakers, Altec Lansing has also developed some remarkable consumer-grade products, including Bluetooth speakers and headphones. While all Altec Lansing Bluetooth speakers adopt fairly unique designs, it is clear where they are attempting to breach the market. Let’s take a look at some of their most popular Bluetooth speaker offerings.
For a handheld, lightweight, and durable Bluetooth speaker, consider the Altec Lansing H20 Mini
The H20 Mini Altec Lansing Bluetooth speaker is practically palm-sized, making it a really good compact speaker for outdoor adventures or casual use around the house. It comfortably fits into my pocket or backpack without adding much extra noticeable weight and is rated IP67 water-resistant, making it 100% waterproof (it can even float) as well as being tolerable of sand, dust, rust, and snow.
The H20 Mini Bluetooth speaker is straightforward to operate- it uses three buttons on the top panel to control multiple functions, and these buttons appear to be high quality. Each button can execute various tasks, which, in theory, is handy, but I feel this was poorly designed as the button’s rubberized feel makes it difficult to adjust settings gently enough to ensure you’re performing the right function. It’s very easy to skip a track by mistake, for example, when all you meant to do was raise the volume level.
Beneath the speaker, you’ll find the pull-away tab, which reveals the charging port and auxiliary cable connection. This tab feels strong enough to last constant use and abuse and definitely adds to the water-resistance value of the H20 Mini.
The battery life of the H20 is marked at 6 hours of playtime; however, this will vary depending on how you use the speaker: At constant full volume, I found the battery to last around 4 hours, especially when using Bluetooth- a wired connection will draw less battery power from the device. Overall a decent battery performance for such a small speaker.
As for sound quality, the H20 seriously lacks a low-end response. This doesn’t disappoint me too much, as I didn’t expect ground-shaking bass from such a small speaker; however, I did not anticipate such an incredibly thin and weak sound. For spoken word content or acoustic music, this speaker does the job, but anything more will put the H20 under serious strain to fulfill the frequency spectrum, and you’ll notice not only a loss of low-end but also some distortion at higher volumes.
Overall, the H20 is an affordable speaker that is lightweight and can survive any conditions. If you’re looking for a speaker that you can take into the water with you, the H20 does the trick, but if you’re looking for a good sounding speaker, I’d recommend taking a look at something that may cost a little more but will reach louder volumes and provide a more satisfying listening experience: The JBL Clip speakers are an obvious inspiration to Altec Lansing here, and while they are slightly pricier, the sound quality is far more rewarding.
While JBL’s Clip range of Bluetooth speakers offers considerably stronger sound quality, they are not as durable as the H20 Mini Altec Lansing Bluetooth Speaker. A JBL Clip speaker can withstand some splashes or a quick period underwater, but I wouldn’t get too comfortable taking it around with you in environments that can be hazardous to electronic devices. For this reason, the Clip speakers are better suited for use at home or for some quiet outdoor adventures, if it is taken care of, while the H20 Mini can be confidently used in practically any environment.
What We Like
What We Dislike
The Altec Lansing HydraMotion is an outdoor-friendly Bluetooth speaker that’s both portable and loud
The HydraMotion is another lightweight and affordable speaker that holds an ‘Everything-Proof’ rating, capable of tolerating submersion underwater, exposure to dust, sand, snow, extreme heat, and even some careless drops and bumps along the way. The HydraMotion is slightly larger than the H20 Mini; however, it is still an extremely portable speaker and can easily be carried in a backpack without causing any inconvenience.
Let’s take a closer look at the features:
The HydraMotion has a series of controls on the front panel, some of which can execute more than one command. You have control over all features relating to music playback, phone calls/voice assistant, speaker linking, the LED light display, and power. I found the controls on the HydraMotion much easier to use than the H20 Mini, and the addition of voice-assistant features makes for a far more versatile speaker.
The HydraMotion’s onboard light display is available in various colors, and up to 12 modes are available, including color-changing speeds, music synchronization, and choice of colors. The HydraMotion can also pair with another of its kind to form a true stereo pair, if you’re looking for a volume boost or to create a wider stereo field.
When looking at the sound quality, the HydraMotion may not be the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve heard, but it is certainly miles ahead of the H20 model. The HydraMotion is designed to stand upright and plays sound from its bass radiators on the sides and the driver on top to deliver 360-degree sound.
At higher volumes, I noticed distortion, particularly when demoing bass-heavy music, so beware if this is your preferred listening style, or simply don’t push the speaker too hard. The HydraMotion is well-suited for both indoor and outdoor use, and its IP67 rating makes it safe to use in all environments, including rain, snow, sand, and water.
An interesting feature that Altec Lansing has included here is the added antimicrobial protection (killing 99.9% of bacteria) – something I’ve never seen on a piece of audio gear before! The HydraMotion is housed in a pretty sturdy enclosure, much like the H20, and will survive some falls and knocks. The supplied carabiner clips comfortably to a backpack, and it really wasn’t heavy enough for me to notice when I took it for a hike.
Battery-wise, the HydraMotion can perform for up to 12 hours, a figure you’ll see shortened if the volume levels are pushed (I experienced a playtime closer to 9.5 hours). One disadvantage here is the absence of an auxiliary input jack, which I feel is far more useful on this speaker than the H20, as it allows for more versatile connectivity (such as for a TV), and using this jack will draw less power, preserving battery life.
Overall, the HydraMotion is a versatile, durable, and easily portable speaker strong enough to handle any excursion. Personally, I would have preferred stronger sound quality to flashing lights, however, I’m not exactly the target market for such a speaker. Altec Lansing offers great value for money here. The HydraMotion is a great middle-of-the-range speaker for its price point, and its everything-proof rating and additional features make for a great adventure, office, or at-home Bluetooth speaker.
For virtually the same price, you could get your hands on an Ortizan Portable Bluetooth Speaker, which is a similarly-sized unit that shares many of the same features with the HydraMotion. The only real difference between these two speakers performance-wise would be the Ortizan’s onboard equalizer modes, though the overall sound quality of this speaker is a few steps behind the HydraMotion.
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The Altec Lansing SoundBucket XL is the best party speaker from Altec, thanks to its extensive pairing capabilities and light effects
Moving to the larger side of the Altec Lansing Bluetooth speaker range, the SoundBucket shares many of the same features as previous models, plus more. Quite literally resembling a bucket, due to its shape and bucket-style handle, this speaker can reach some pretty crazy volume levels capable of powering a party, some background study music, or anything in-between.
The SoundBucket is considerably larger than the H20 Mini and HydraMotion; however, I didn’t struggle too much with carrying this one around. For trips to the beach or to a friend’s party, the SoundBucket is portable enough- I just wouldn’t take it on a hike. To make its portability worthwhile, the SoundBucket is also IP67 everything-proof, making it 100% safe to use in any environment without the worry of the speaker getting too wet, dirty, or hot.
The SoundBucket includes some modern features that I really enjoy, as it makes for a more versatile speaker that is perfectly suitable for use around the house or part as a home theater system and not only for parties. The SoundBucket is compatible with Siri and Google Virtual Assistant, using the ‘Just Ask’ app to turn your speaker into an extension of your mobile phone. The onboard microphone is as good as it gets on a Bluetooth speaker, my callers didn’t struggle to hear me at all, and the controls are pretty easy to navigate for phone call commands.
For those looking for a party-friendly speaker, the SoundBucket is also a great choice; not only can it reach loud enough volumes on its own, but you can link up to 50 SoundBuckets together to form a massive chain of speakers that are capable of pushing some serious volume. The SoundBucket’s battery life has also significantly improved since the HydraMotion, capable of running up to 20 hours and can be used while the speaker is charging, too.
A feature that I really missed on the HydraMotion was a USB charger for my cellphone- not only does the SoundBucket have one of these, but if your phone is modern enough, it can be charged wirelessly by simply placing it on top of the speaker. The SoundBucket also supports playback through a 3.5mm auxiliary cable, which I feel is always a great feature to have if battery life is running low or if you wish to connect the speaker to a TV, for example, that may not have Bluetooth.
The SoundBucket steps up the sound quality from the HydraMotion, however, it still isn’t as good as it can be. I was expecting a stronger bass response from the SoundBucket, but the speaker performs well in other areas to make up for this, for me at least. If you listen to bass-heavy dance music, the lack of a ‘Bass Boost’ button might disappoint you, however, this speaker has other features that a typical bass-heavy Bluetooth speaker doesn’t, so it really comes down to personal preference.
The SoundBucket maintains its sound quality at higher volumes and does not distort the way the previous models did when pushed at louder levels. While the low-end is a bit lacking, the SoundBucket doesn’t sound ‘thin’ or weak at all, so for my line of listening, which doesn’t really include exaggerated basslines and thumping kick drums, this is a good-sounding speaker, and while it may not be the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve tested, it is without-a-doubt the most versatile.
The SoundBucket also includes an LED light show, however, we’re not as spoilt as we were with the HydraMotion. The SoundBucket has five different lighting modes to toggle between rather than 12, but I really doubt anyone would need so many lighting patterns anyhow?
Overall, The SoundBucket sounds good enough for most listening styles, and its additional features provide all that you could possibly need in a Bluetooth speaker. Its versatility, durable design, and value-for-money have really impressed me; however, the sound quality could still have been a bit more reliable.
For a much lower price, you can get your hands on a W-King 80W party speaker (one of our favorites), which is similarly sized and still contains all the party-friendly functions such as versatile I/O, strong battery life, and flashing lights for your music. If you’re more interested in the actual sound characteristics, I’d spend some time looking at other options like the W-King, but if you’re after the stylish design of the Altec Lansing SoundBucket XL, you won’t really find anything else like it.
What We Like
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For an all-purpose Bluetooth speaker with impressive battery life and pairing capabilities, consider the Altec Lansing RockBox XL
Last on our list is the Altec Lansing RockBox XL, sharing many features with the SoundBucket XL and around the same size, the RockBox is a party-focused speaker that adopts a boombox-like approach.
The RockBox is a solidly built speaker and is considerably lightweight for its size. It boasts an IP67 weather-resistance rating, and its triangular-like design keeps it floating at the correct angle when it’s placed in water, so the sound is not projected downwards, providing the best sound quality even when it’s in the water! I found the RockBox fairly easy to carry around and felt the speaker was protected from the elements at all times.
The RockBox pairs just as easily as the rest of the Altec Lansing Bluetooth speaker range, and the connection stays strong up to 100 feet in an open space. The RockBox also supports party-pairing features, where up to 50 of them can be linked to form an epic party speaker sound system.
Beneath the speaker, you’ll find the device’s charging port, the auxiliary input, and the USB charger for mobile devices.
This panel is protected by a waterproof cap, which honestly seemed a bit flimsy, so be sure to take extra care when opening/closing this panel, as a broken cap threatens the RockBox’s waterproof grade.
Overall, design-wise, the RockBox XL is well built; however, I do not see many improvements from the regular RockBox aside from the speaker’s physical size- it would have been nice to see some additional features included in the upgrade.
As for sound quality, the RockBox XL seriously impressed me with immersive, punchy, and full-bodied sound across the frequency spectrum. It can reach pretty high volumes while still maintaining its clarity, depth, and character. I would have enjoyed a little more high-end definition and a bass boost function, but the RockBox’s sound qualities still satisfied me regardless.
The battery life of the RockBox XL is stated at 20 hours, as with the SoundBucket XL. I found this spec to be fairly accurate- obviously, running the speaker at full volume or using the onboard light show will drain the battery faster, but for most applications, the 20 hours should be more than enough. The RockBox XL can also play while charging, which is a neat feature if you’re running low on battery strength at a party.
Lastly, the RockBox XL has 5 light show presets for you to choose from. While there aren’t as many options available as some others on this list, I feel that 5 is enough- it is a speaker and not a light, after all. The LED lights look fantastic when used in the water, and the options are versatile.
Overall, I found the RockBox XL to be a well-built, great-sounding, and versatile speaker that also presents good value for money. While the speaker’s design may not be everybody’s cup of tea, it is packed full of features that guarantee a long speaker life and endless listening hours.
While the RockBox XL performs well in the sound department, its design style may not be appealing to everyone- if you’re looking for a more classic look, browse the Treblab range of Bluetooth speakers, specifically the HD Max, which shares many qualities with the RockBox XL including battery specs, volume capabilities, and sound quality but sticks with a more subtle look and sits within a similar price bracket.
The RockBox XL is definitely better suited for outdoor enthusiasts or those who tend to be a little rougher with their electronics. The HD Max does hold a high IPX rating, but won’t survive the same torture the RockBox XL is capable of enduring. It is worth noting that the RockBox XL does come in at around double the weight of the HD Max though.
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Looking at the data
|Feature||H20 Mini||HydraMotion||Soundbucket XL||Rockbox XL|
|Battery Life||6 Hours||12 Hours||20 Hours (or AC)||20 Hours|
|Dimensions||5.0 x 2.0 x 4.5||8.03 x 5.51 x 5.12||19.0 x 12.0 x 12.0||22.0 x 11.0 x 10.9|
|Weight||3.87 Ounces||1.59 Pounds||8.0 Pounds||12.36 Pounds|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, Aux||Bluetooth||Bluetooth, Aux||Bluetooth, Aux|
|Available Colors||Black, Aqua, Mint, Red||Black, Mint Green||Black||Black/Grey, Black/Red|
|Speaker Pairing||No||Up to 2 Speakers||Up to 50 Speakers||Up to 50 Speakers|
Why you should get an Altec Lansing Bluetooth Speaker
Altec Lansing has a solid reputation in the audio industry for making well-built and highly reliable and usable products. Their selection of Bluetooth speakers covers practically every niche in the market, from pocket-sized, handheld speakers to larger party-powering machines.
Aside from the sound quality, you can expect from Altec Lansing, their speakers are all IP67 weather-resistant, making them all literally ‘everything-proof’ that guarantees a long lifespan of your Altec Lansing Bluetooth speaker, no matter how you use it.
While some Altec Lansing Bluetooth speakers can be comparable to models from more prominent brands such as JBL, they’ve successfully put their own spin on the idea, and while the quality may not be the same, they still are great speakers that offer incredible value for money.
What else has Altec Lansing got to offer?
While the 4 on this list were our favorites of the Altec Lansing Bluetooth speaker range, the company offers some other unique and handy speakers for similar applications:
A slightly smaller version of the HydraMotion that shares practically all the same features. This speaker is also available in a larger range of colors, but the battery life isn’t quite as strong.
Altec Lansing’s ‘Lifejacket’ speakers are around half the size and half the price of the RockBox XL but are essentially very similar speakers as far as functionality and design are concerned.
Another portable Altec Lansing Bluetooth speaker that takes inspiration from their RockBox design, this time the cage and jagged edges are excluded, and the speaker is around the size of a large cell phone. While this is great for outdoor usage, it also makes for a great bedside speaker with wireless mobile charging technology.
Similar in style to the H20 Mini, the BabyBoom is a slightly larger version that improves on sound quality, design styles and includes TWS stereo capabilities.