Altec Life Jacket Review
Once in awhile, you get some new gear that is flaunted as extremely durable and rugged. So if you’re like me, the first thing you do is run into a thorn bush to see just how well that product is made. [Editor’s Note: you’re better off letting the product run its natural course.]
The Altec Life Jacket is one of these products, and it came out the other end of the “thorn bush” unscathed. This Bluetooth speaker is in fact “everything-proof” as advertised by Altec.
Altec has been around since 1927, so one would think they know a little bit about quality speakers. The Life Jacket does not disappoint in this regard, with studio quality sound pumping all day long. After all, what good is a speaker if it does not perform well in its primary purpose. This portable speaker includes two 2.5-inch drivers with Altec DSP Audio Enhancement technology for optimum music playback and aptX for CD-quality wireless audio. aptX is used in brands from Sony to Samsung to Panasonic for its encoding technology and crisp sound.
The Altec Life Jacket also boasts strong bass, which is surprisingly loud for a speaker that is just 6” by 2” and one pound.
Features of the Altec Life Jacket
The Life Jacket connects to any Bluetooth-enabled mobile device, including your iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Blackberry smartphone. It is simple to pair to a mobile device, and can remember up to 8 devices for easy music playing. I did run into a few issues when trying to get it paired to the right device (i.e. it would connect to my wife’s phone when I was trying to play music). This is overcome by holding down on the “+” and “-“ buttons simultaneously, but I found it easier to briefly turn off the Bluetooth on my wife’s phone and then connect to mine.
One of my favorite features was the ability to answer incoming calls with just a voice command. God forbid I would have to rummage around for my phone and hit answer. The feedback from callers was that the Life Jacket microphone was more clear than when using speakerphone on my iPhone 5. The Altec Life Jacket also has the ability to reject, end, or make phone calls.
A few additional features of this speaker include: a 16 hour battery life on 50% volume (I counted about 20 hours at an office appropriate volume), a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, a USB port which can be used to charge other electronic devices, and a 30 foot signal range. I must say that Altec is a bit conservative with this 30 foot range. When taking calls or playing music, my phone didn’t drop until I was about 75 feet away.
The Altec Life Jacket is one of those rare items that are just plain difficult to break. Altec touts this as “ultra-rugged and waterproof.” So of course this was one of our primary concerns during testing. [Read: they triple-dog dared us to break this speaker.]
The first item we tackled was the waterproof capabilities of the Life Jacket. We began by spraying it for several minutes with a hose, including directly into the speaker. Then we dumped it in a sink full of water, which we soon found out was pointless, since the Altec Life Jacket actually floats. It has an IPX7 rating, which means it can be submerged for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter. While I did not fully submerge the speaker for an extended period of time, there was no affect from our tests on sound quality.
Ok, so it’s waterproof, but that doesn’t make it indestructible, right? Next we threw the speaker repeatedly against my driveway. This was even more fun for the kids than spraying it with the hose, and we managed to get a good 20 throws of varying speed and heights up to 8 feet. The music didn’t skip a beat. However, after this recurring pounding, we did manage to jar something loose internally, which now rattles when we shake the Altec Life Jacket. Still, this has not affected the music quality.
The Altec Life Jacket is also sand and dirtproof. We threw it around and buried it under some fine soil particles. After a quick rinse in the sink, it was good as new.
Downsides and Possible Enhancements
The biggest downside to the Altec Life Jacket I encountered was due to its built-in energy saving feature, which automatically shuts off the speaker after 30 minutes. The speaker is supposed to sense when music is not playing, and then turn off. However, when using the auxiliary cable, the speaker would routinely turn off after 30 minutes, somehow not recognizing that music was in fact playing. This also happened occasionally when connected to my phone through Bluetooth.
Altec could have also added more functionality to the speaker itself. It has a simple three button design, which is great aesthetically. However, because of this you cannot control the music from the speaker. Instead you must use your phone to change songs, for example. I am not exactly sure how they could have accomplished more functionality easily, but it would be nice since the speaker does have decent range and I regularly leave my phone out of reach.
For someone who is looking for a truly durable Bluetooth speaker, the Altec Life Jacket could just be your savior. I have put it through some stress tests over the last couple months, and it still pumps the bass as well as the first day out of the box. I regularly throw this speaker around when going on trips, and plan to continue doing so until it finally does break down.
MSRP: $149.99 (if you don’t want to spend the money and don’t need an everything-proof speaker, Altec also offers the Jacket for $99.99).
Read more at AltecLansing.com.