The super-thin and sleek inMotion SoundBlade scores a lot of points for design, ease of use, and sound quality. We also like that this Bluetooth speaker doubles as a speakerphone. But it has some trade-offs that are annoying at best and possible deal-breakers for some.
At 11 inches wide, 6.1 inches high and a mere 1 inch thick, the SoundBlade is small enough to transport easily in a book bag. Turn it to the side and it almost disappears. It won't add too much extra weight either at 1.6 pounds with six AA batteries inserted. A pop-out stand in the back keeps the slim speakers from falling over. Across the top of the speakers are seven buttons, an indicator light, and a microphone. In addition to volume control and power-on, the buttons let you take a call and play, pause, fast-forward, and reverse through music tracks.
Make the Beeping Stop!
Unfortunately, every button press, aside from volume control, causes the speaker to emit a painfully loud, feedback-like tone that jolted us no matter how many times we heard it. This ugly tone also reared its head while connecting to the phone. According to Altec Lansing, these beeps are consistent with the audible tones present in the company's other Bluetooth devices and cannot be disabled. While the beeps work well for a Bluetooth headset, they were way too loud coming through the SoundBlade.
Pairing the SoundBlade with ourBlackBerry Curve 8330was a breeze. Within moments, the SoundBlade was slicing through the silence with Eddie Vedder's "Hard Sun," which sounded excellent. The SoundBlade's strongest asset is its sound separation. These speakers sound more like wired speakers. Much like with the Motorola ROKR EQ7, high-, mid-, and low-range sounds were crisp, full, and completely defined with the SoundBlade. Noise from compression was barely detectable, and we noticed it only after listening for a while. We could clearly hear the hi-hat, piano, and bass in LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends."
Oddly enough, the SoundBlade was much quieter when we connected via the 3.5mm jack and didn't sound nearly as good. The low-range bass sounds were especially hard to hear with the line-in.
Speakerphone and Battery Life
The SoundBlade functions reasonably well as a speakerphone. Our test caller could hear us clearly, and we could hear him fine, but his mid-range voice came across as painfully low and full of bass.
The speaker runs on AC power or six AA batteries that promise 24 hours of operation before needing replacement. It lasted about a week for us with frequent listening sessions, but we really wish Altec Lansing had included a built-in rechargeable battery instead.
We like the Altec Lansing inMotion SoundBlade overall. The only other Bluetooth speaker system that comes close in terms of audio quality is the Motorola ROKR EQ7, which also runs on AA batteries but costs $50 more. If you want to save some dough and you can put up with the incessant beeping, the SoundBlade is a fine pick for its sleek design and crisp sound.