Hey gang, Valkor here. Getting a new piece of tech into the Val-Cave can be pretty exciting; sometimes it’s a straightforward testing like with headphones and cases. But on a rare occasion we get to beat something up. The last Pepcom of the year – Wine and Dine 2014, didn’t have too much for me to write up about, but there were a few tasty treats that were worth following up. One such item came from Altec Lansing who returns to the Cave after a brief stint back in 2008. And what do they bring for the ride is something I can abuse to my heart’s content. Check it out its The Life Jacket Bluetooth Speaker. But the big question is: does this baby sink… or swim?
The Life Jacket is one brick of a speaker; the outside is pretty rugged and at first glance it looked to me like a triple-wheel tank tread. But beneath its rubbery outer shell rest a 2.1 speaker system – two speakers on either side and a bas speaker at the center, which projects out the rear. Also at the back are your ports that can be accessed from a rubber flap; behind it you’ll find a MicroUSB port for charging the device, a 3.5mm port that can be used as an alternative if your device doesn’t have wireless capabilities, and a USB port for charging your smartphone in case you’re running low and could use a quick boost. At the top of the Life Jacket are your on/off switch, volume controls and a rubber plate-area for NFC connection, if your device uses it. If it doesn’t, you still have Bluetooth to fall back on.
The Life Jacket came at the perfect time as my Nexus 6 arrived around the same time (review coming soon). And using the Life Jacket is as easy as using the Jabra Move – you simply turn on the speakers by holding the power button for two seconds, then switch on the Bluetooth of your device, looking for the speaker in a list of devices (it’ll show up as iMW575) and the audio cues will inform you if you’ve successfully made a connection. You can adjust the volume either through your device or use the Life Jacket’s controls in case things aren’t loud enough. Playing with the Nexus 6, I learned the volume only goes so loud – like a moderate level. But I could crank it up further through the Life Jacket.
What about that NFC connection? I first toyed with the interface at the Samsung Galaxy SIII event a couple of years ago and since then I haven’t had a use for it. And even now I was a bit put off by the idea and felt it wouldn’t work at all, connecting the Nexus 6 (which does have NFC) to the Life Jacket. You first have to ensure your device is ready to accept the connection and then place the area where the NFC pad is located in your device over the NFC plate of the Life Jacket. Initially it didn’t appear to work, but suddenly there was a sound cue and the voice prompt let me know it was ready to go. What it actually does is kick in the Bluetooth so you don’t have to switch it on or off (after the initial setup) – just tap and groove.
Finally the Life Jacket not only looks rugged but it actually is rugged capable of withstanding drops from certain heights, its waterproof (pic below very related; my first introduction to the device, I saw it sitting/jamming in a pool of water) and weather-proof able to withstand dirt, snow and high winds. Just for kicks, we had some rain (with a bit of snow) recently and I placed the Life Jacket outside in the mess and it still works given the temps.
Altec Lansing’s Life Jacket with its use of Bluetooth and NFC will finally eliminate the need for specific docks (no more speakers that cater to the iPhone/Pod crowd), now everyone can get a piece of the speaker and jam to their hearts content. But is the Life Jacket worth investing?
If you’re looking for a speaker to chill with or get a little groove goin on, then the Life Jacket will definitely earn its place into your world. It gets points for the ruggedness capable of surviving just about anything you can toss at it and still come up sounding amazing. And it does sound pretty amazing - indoors and out, with a few buts (later on that). Vocals come across clean and clear and I could even pick up background bits that sounded muddled or nonexistant before. The bass is definitely nice and not too heavy, but it kicks in with the right songs. I did enjoy some gaming with the Playstation Vita and the most fun I had with the speaker was playing Ys 7, which has an amazing and rich soundtrack plus all the sounds of spells and weapons clashing came across crystal with no issues. So for the most part, I was quite pleased with the Life Jacket. Altec Lansing is back in a big way and I can only see things getting better from here on.
As clear as the audio can be with the Life Jacket, it does sound a bit canny and in some cases the audio distorts as if my phone was a distance away, eventhough it was up close.
Altec Lansing’s Life Jacket is available now and you not only get awesome sound quality but the ruggedness to take this baby with you anywhere want. If you'd like to find out more about this speaker, go ahead and click that logo to the right. And out of TOV 5 stars, the Life Jacket gets a 4 and it’s been Valkor tested, TOV Approved.