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Altec Lansing Orbit Speakers review

Can these travel speakers live up to the adage that the best things come in small packages?

Altec Lansing Orbit Speakers
These handy stereo speakers clip together when not in use – perfect for slipping in a suitcase


  • Crisp, clear sound
  • Handy, portable size
  • Great value for money


  • Bass not very prominent

Most notebooks lack audio quality. There just isn't enough room in there for high-end speakers, and despite improvements over the years, even Apple's range lacks the sonic integrity needed to get the most from your MP3s or movies.

If you use your MacBook for media on the move, buying a set of travel speakers is nigh on a must. As the name implies, Altec Lansing's Orbit USB Stereo speakers connect through your Mac's USB port.

They can't be used with iPods or other audio devices that use a 3.5mm headphone socket for output. Instead they're designed with notebooks in mind, and are therefore easy to carry around when travelling.

When not in use, their cables fold away into the rear of the speakers, which then clip together end to end. A carry case is included, and as they're powered solely through the Mac's USB port, they don't need batteries or a power supply.

Our only criticisms of the build are: the cable used to connect one speaker to the other is a little short; and the USB cable is on the right speaker, which is inconvenient since MacBooks' USB ports are on the left.

Sound quality

Altec Lansing has a reputation for low-cost portable speakers that sound much bigger and more expensive than they actually are, and these are no exception. The clarity and detail is very commendable, as is the overall depth of the sound.

The high end and middle sections are especially clear and well integrated, and the audio is very well shaped. Unfortunately, the bass is less successful. Although crisp and well realised, it isn't very prominent. At maximum volume the Orbits won't shake the walls, though they're loud enough to fill a hotel room.

At just £33, Altec Lansing's Orbit USB Stereo speakers are great value for money. They're compact enough to stash in your suitcase (though maybe a little large for your laptop bag) and have a lively, detailed sound. The bass is understated, but perhaps this is inevitable given their size.

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