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A few months ago I reviewed the Altec Lansing mini life jacket 3 and I came away very unimpressed, but I still gave it a participation award. But I still decided to give the Altec Lansing Versa Smart speaker a try. Although they were aiming for something great, I feel their execution was sloppy. There are some things that are good about the Versa and some other things that just fall flat.
A lot of manufacturers are starting to incorporate voice assistants into their speakers whether you need it not. And the Altec Lansing Versa is a rugged Alexa Enabled smart speaker which will better suit people who are heavily invested into the Amazon Alexa echo system and if you use one of the three supported streaming services: Spotify, Deezer, or Napster. If you want to pick this speaker up or any of the other speakers showed off in this video I’ll have links in the description below. Check them out cause you never know when they’re on sale.
As Altec Lansing puts it, the Versa is everything proof. Its IP67 rated so its both water and dust resistant and it also floats. The outer boarder of the speaker is made up of 2 rubber layers that also help make the speaker shock proof. But unfortunately the metal faces of this speaker get scratched very easily, so if you take this speaker out with you on hikes on a regular basis its eventually going to show a lot of wear and tear. And since we’re on the topic of taking this speaker out with you on a regular basis… although the triangular design of the speaker looks good at home and I like how the face plates play with lighting, this speaker isn’t the easiest to travel with. Its big, its an odd shape, and theres no built in carrying handle or somewhere to attach a clip.
Ok, now lets talk about buttons and ports. Like a lot of other smart speakers on the market, the Altec Lansing Versa doesn’t have a Aux jack… which to me is a little silly. But it does charge via a micro USB port. On the side of the speaker theres your power button, a blue tooth button, and a star button that is actually used as a mic mute button when the speaker is in wifi mode and you can cycle through LED lighting modes if you’re using the speaker in bluetooth mode. And on the top of the speaker you also have your volume buttons and a mic button so you can manually activate your voice assistant. Obviously if you press the plus or minus button you’ll adjust your volume, but if you want to skip a track you have to press and hold the plus button and if you want to go back a track you have to hold the minus button. And in order to play or pause you’re music you have to press the power button, which is a little odd. Now one of the things that I do like about the Versa is how easy it is to switch between bluetooth and wifi mode. Which oddly enough was a problem for the UE Megablast and Blast which are also Alexa enabled smart speakers that cost way more than the Versa.
But actually connecting the Versa to your Alexa account requires downloading 3 apps and is a hair pulling process. It took me multiple times to get it right. Which wasn’t the case with the UE Blast or MegaBlast or any of the other Google Assistant enabled smart speakers I’ve had. And the Versa can only connect to 2.4 ghz networks. And unfortunately the microphones on the Versa don’t do a good job of pick up your voice. I find myself having to speak up and enunciate a lot more so that the versa will hear me compared to other smart speakers. But if your voice assistant decides to cooperate you can ask it questions, control you smart home, and if you’re signed in to one of the supported streaming services: Spotify, Deezer, or Napster, you’ll be able to control your music playback by just asking.
Now lets talk about tech specs. While in bluetooth mode the Versa can only be connected to 1 device at a time and it has a wireless range of 30 feet with direct line of site. But unfortunately placing one wall between the Versa and your phone will cause the signal to stutter. Altec Lansing claims a battery life of 8 hours buts its really more like 5 hours. And a 5 hours battery life is way below average for speakers in this price range. And when it comes to speaker set up the Versa is rocking a single 2 inch diameter woofer and an 85 by 45 millimeter passive radiator.
Honestly, I feel the Altec Lansing Versa sounds pretty bad for a speaker in its price range. My biggest problem with it is that vocalists very nasally. The sound stage is very narrow and instrument separation is very weak. Everything sounds like its on the same plane. The passive radiator does give this speaker a good amount of bass but it will easily over power the rest of the song or you get a lot of reverb in the back ground. The Versa does get loud, but sound quality takes a huge hit at those louder volumes.
And I’m making a big deal about this cause just because the Altec Lansing Versa is a rugged speaker it doesn’t mean it cant sound good. Take for example the Bose Sound link Micro, this is another rugged speaker that can take everything the Versa can take and it sounds surprisingly good for its size. And it also does this while using smaller hardware
Now you can adjust the EQ on the Versa and it does help a bit, but theres only so much EQ settings can do on so so hardware. But in order for the EQ settings to be active on the Versa you need to have the versa navigator app open and streaming your music through that. But if you don’t have the app open then your EQ settings goes back to default. The EQ settings aren’t stored into the speakers firmware.
At the end of the day I wouldn’t recommend picking up the Altec Lansing Versa. It doesn’t sound as good as other speakers at the same or below its price range and using your voice assistant on this speaker isn’t as easy as other smart speakers. The Microphones don’t do as good as a job of picking up your voice and you’re going to find you’re self repeating your commands on a regular basis. Battery life on this speaker is also below average giving this speakers price range and its sheer size. And then theres the triangular shape of this speaker, for a rugged speaker that I assume a lot of people would like to take on the go… its kind of hard to take this speaker on the go. If you’re looking for a small rugged speaker I highly recommend the Bose Sound link Micro or the JBL Flip 4.