Altec Lansing just released its latest “everything-proof” portable Bluetooth speaker, the OmniJacket, which will be replacing its BoomJacket line, launched in 2015. In terms of visual style and functionality, the two speakers are pretty similar, but there have been a few upgrades; most notably Altec’s added another 10 hours of battery life, bumping the play time up to an impressive 50 hours on a 4 hour charge.
The metal speaker grilles of the original BoomJacket have been replaced with plastic honeycomb grilles wrapped in a sporty, soft hypermesh to go with its outdoor appeal. The OmniJacket has the same elliptical shape as its predecessor and familiar non-slip, shock-absorbent rubber sleeve. On this model, the outer sleeve is less “removable” due to a very thin layer of adhesive under it, though if you pry a little, it’ll come off fairly easily. The OmniJacket is massive in the world of portable speakers, with its hefty form factor and weight. Surprisingly, this nearly 2 pound speaker floats, and its certified IP67 waterproof rating makes it submersible to 3 ft while also being dust, snow, and sand-proof. When Altec Lansing says everything, they really mean it, and they really want you to take this speaker outdoors.
The speaker even comes with a universal clamp mount that can be installed on a bike and attaches to the bottom of the speaker via a quarter inch threaded mounting hole. You’ll also be able to use the speaker with most standard tripods and other mounting systems. On top of the speaker are the power button and playback controls. Long pressing the power button turns the speaker on or off and automatically puts the speaker into Bluetooth pairing mode, while short pressing it starts and pauses music playback. The plus and minus keys similarly control both track navigation and volume adjustment, though we found there’s no audible tone that indicates when the min or max volume has been reached. Pairing with the speaker over Bluetooth was fast and easy, and the 50 foot wireless range lets you roam about while the music keeps playing. You can also quickly connect to the speaker by tapping your NFC-enabled device to the check-in area to the right of the controls.
Another nice feature the OmniJacket has over the BoomJacket is that you can pair two units together for true stereo sound from a single audio source. That is, once you’ve paired two OmniJackets together by pressing the Bluetooth buttons on both units for 2 seconds, you can have one speaker play the left channel and the other pump out the right channel. Just make sure the front of one speaker and the rear of the other are facing the same direction, otherwise it will sound like a duplicated mono track. Just to the left of the controls is a watertight door that covers the microUSB charging port, AUX input port, and a full sized USB output port, so you can use a non-Bluetooth device as the audio source or charge your device using the speaker’s battery.
Behind the grilles, each side is equipped with a single 50 mm neodymium driver, passive radiator, and tweeter that provide consistent, omnidirectional sound. The sound quality is clean and crisp with mostly balanced response and a slight midrange focus. At max volume, the speaker does a nice job keeping the distortion out of the sound while still getting plenty loud. The bass performance is moderate but present though at louder volumes tends to feel somewhat muddy. Also a bit of a disappointment was that there was an audible background hiss during quiet and silent passages of classical and orchestral pieces.
Overall, however, the listening experience is enjoyable and when combined with the other features and its rugged durability, there’s a lot to like from this portable outdoor speaker. The OmniJacket comes in a few different color options, and retails for $200 at Target, but we’ve already seen it offered at Sam’s Club, if you’re a club member, for a more affordable $150.