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The Altec Lansing is a good speaker unit with much better audio performance, enhanced durability and longer battery life. It can also act as a power bank, thus making it an ideal outdoor unit. However, a slight lack of audio details and distortion of audio at 100% volume ruins the experience by a margin. At a price of Rs. 12,600, it is recommendable if you make frequent outdoor trips. Alternatively, if audio performance takes higher precedence over durability, check out the Ultimate Ears Boom, which is also priced similarly.
After hearing the Altec Lansing Mini Lifejacket 2, you would think that the rest of the lineup would have a similar story to tell — underwhelming audio, excellent durability and a moderate design statement. While the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 literally looks like the bigger brother of the Mini Lifejacket 2, it has a number of things working differently for it. Beyond the bigger dimensions of the device, you come across the presence of a full-size USB port, power bank functionality, and most importantly, what first seemed to me as much improved audio quality.
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A few weeks into using the Lifejacket 2 as my primary speaker, did it convince my auditory senses? I might be giving a major point of the review here, but it impressed beyond what I thought it would. Here’s how the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 fared.
Moderate design, beast-like durability
If you would believe, the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 is even more durable and robust than the Mini Lifejacket 2. It is heavy, at almost 907 grams, while its near competitors like the JBL Pulse 2 and Ultimate Ears Boom 2 weigh 775 grams and 548 grams, respectively. Nevertheless, for the added weight, you get a tank-like build quality, and as Altec Lansing has advertised, truly everything-proof performance. I kept it in the refrigerator for about an hour and half, flung it down one floor from my balcony, dipped it into a pile of sand, and it withstood all of the torture.
While the Mini Lifejacket 2 started showing signs of wear after about four days of torture, the Lifejacket 2 is still as good as new. After continued rough usage of about nearly an entire month, the only damage that I have managed to inflict upon it is to displace its logo placement by a slight margin. It has a thick, robust and well-bolted rubber casing housing the blue plastic that binds the unit together. Everything from the black honeycomb grille, the placement of the logo, power and volume buttons, and the flap guarding the ports is the same from the Mini Lifejacket 2, and is only bigger in terms of dimensions.
While Altec Lansing has attempted to impart a smooth finish to the plastic inside the black tyre-patterned rubber housing, the sense of articulate designing that the Altec Lansing of old was known for is missing. There are a number of creases on the plastic which look very hastily built and not paid much attention to. While it is true that such aspects will mostly fall on the blind spot, the likes of JBL and Ultimate Ears have upped the ante on the overall build of a device, and not just core audio performance. The Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 feels very well built, and there is no questioning of its impeccable durability, but there is a missing sense of completeness from the speaker. The elongated octagonal design of the speaker is decent, but it is simply not good enough to be called “good looking”. The only time it looks good is when it floats on a tumbler of water, and that is probably not how you intend to use your speaker for the majority of the time.
Affirming its durability, the flap on the rear end of the speaker conceals the auxiliary port, microUSB and USB ports. The flap causes slight hindrance when you connect wires, as the girder holding the flap in place is rigid. The power and volume buttons on the top require slightly more effort to push than many other speakers do, but they are not as rigid as the buttons on the UE Boom. The front face houses the tweeters, while the rear houses the bass drivers. Overall, the arrangement of every element within the speaker is neat and functional, and the only disappointment you will face with the Lifejacket 2 is its failure to evoke the emotion of owning an Altec Lansing equipment, which many audio enthusiasts associate with.
Powerful audio leads the performance
It is here that the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 shows major improvement over its smaller sibling. While the Mini Lifejacket 2 was powered by two 1.5-inch Neodymium drivers, the Lifejacket 2 houses two 2-inch Neodymium drivers, and a passive radiator for low frequency response. What you get here is louder, clearer and more powerful audio, enhanced bass delivery, and a much better overall experience.
The Lifejacket 2 is louder than its Mini counterpart by a fair bit. While there is slight distortion of audio tracks, particularly tracks with grunge and distortion effects layered within it, you get very good audio quality at about 90% volume level, which itself is quite loud. While the Ultimate Ears Boom has better detailing of audio, the Lifejacket 2 has a more powerful audio delivery, alongside delivering more powerful bass thanks to its passive radiator mechanism inside. All of this enhances the highs and the lows, and mid frequencies are in no way compromised. However, the balance of audio could have been better, with a slight bias towards high frequencies leading to a more high-pitched experience of audio.
For instance, in Hans Zimmer’s ‘Mountains’, there is a slight pinch to the metronome, and the organ keys sound shriller than what it sounds on a supremely well-balanced speaker — take the UE Boom, for instance. While the Lifejacket 2 delivers more intricate details in the track, there is a slight lack of warmth that you’d come to expect from a speaker that costs upwards of Rs. 12,000. Timbre is not the best, and there is a hint of treble bias which ends up ruining baritone voices like you’ll hear in John Cale’s Forever Changed. Bass delivery is excellent here, and somewhat makes up for the treble bias of the front-firing drivers.
The larger dimensions make way for wider soundstaging, although the experience is not as wholesome as a few other competitors of its category present. You feel like you’re hearing audio from a pair of good but constricted speaker. Live concerts sound good, and I wished the audio would not have had distortion at the highest volume levels, and there would not have been a treble bias. EDM tracks with sharp dubstep inlays like Skrillex’s playlists sound slightly shrill. Overall, the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 is majorly improved from its smaller version, and leaves you with the overall feeling that the entire audio experience is good, but slightly off the perfect pitch.
A complete suite of connectivity
The Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 retains similar connectivity range as the Mini Lifejacket 2, and easily retains stable connection from as far as 27 feet, in the middle of our furniture-laden office floor. There is a complete drop in audio at about 40 feet, and this is impressive. The Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 can connect via aux and NFC, too, making this an ideal speaker to take out for a day of water-skiing. The complete connectivity suite, coupled with its power bank capability, aids its pitch as the ideal outdoor speaker. The JBL Pulse 2 and UE Boom/Boom 2 are splash-proof, but none come with the impeccable suite of durability coating that the Lifejacket 2 wears.
"The Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 is an excellent outdoor product"
Excellent battery life
The Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 advertises 16 hours of battery life on its official specification sheet, and it nearly delivers what it claims. With about 2-3 hours of listening to music each day, I managed to last for 5-6 days with ease, and this included fully charging my iPhone 5s for about 2-3 times. This, in turn, gives reason to reaffirm that the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 is, indeed, a complete outdoor package.
To sum up
The Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 is a much improved product over the Mini Lifejacket 2. For better audio quality, power bank and better battery life, you get a heavier product with identical looks and a premium of nearly Rs. 5,000. The Lifejacket 2 was priced at Rs. 18,000 upon launch, and had it still been selling at a similar price point, it would have not made a good buying proposition. However, at a present selling price of Rs. 12,600, the Altec Lansing Lifejacket 2 is a good speaker with best-in-class durability and decent audio. It is not as warm and wholesome as the Boom by Ultimate Ears, and not as attractive-looking as the JBL Pulse 2. Altec Lansing’s larger Lifejacket speaker is recommendable if you want good audio on a rough journey, or even as a standalone speaker. However, taking the looks and the marginal audio distortion into consideration, you would rather opt for the UE Boom, depending on your audio preference. Your call.
Watch Review Video
Watch Altec Lansing Mini Lifejacket 2 review with waterproof test