The first cardinal rule of party etiquette -- partiquette if you will -- states that a truly rockin' shindig needs truly rockin' music. If you've ever found yourself arguing with fellow party-goers over whose playlist is best, however, you'll know that the choice of tunes can cause friction among guests. That may lead to a violation of the second cardinal rule of parties -- no sulking -- so you'll need to find a musical solution that keeps everyone happy.
That's exactly what the Altec Lansing Mix aims to do. It's a boom box with three separate inputs (for three people's music players), which you can switch between to keep the music fresh. At around £200, it's going to take a big bite out of your beer budget, though. Does it rock hard enough to justify the sacrifice?
The Mix features one input for iPhones and iPods, which plug into a housing at the centre of the Mix. Plugging your Apple gadget in will charge it. The Mix comes with a host of adaptors to fit the many iProducts out there, although we noticed that the most recent iPod nano (fifth-generation) won't fit any of the adaptors provided.
On top of the Mix, you'll find two 3.5mm sockets. The Mix comes with two 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cables, so you can pretty much plug any device with its own 3.5mm socket into these ports, letting you play music from MP3 players, CD players and laptops. You won't be able to charge devices plugged in via these sockets, though. There's also a built-in FM radio, leaving you with a grand total of four audio channels to flit between.
Unfortunately, there are a few crippling oversights that prevent the Mix from becoming the life of the party. Firstly, there's only one button for switching sound channels, which means you'll have to cycle through all four channels one by one if you want to change the source of the music. Seeing as one of those channels is radio, you'll probably find your party tunes interrupted by unwelcome blasts of static, or yawnsome talk radio, every time you want to switch up the music.
Even if you have nothing plugged into a particular audio channel, you'll still have to cycle past it to get to the channel you're after, so you're likely to get a few seconds of party-halting silence at the very least. Four separate buttons to let you move between sound channels quickly would have been much better.
The iPhone and most iPods halt playback when they're disconnected either at the underside port or the 3.5mm socket. This means that an iPhone or iPod used in the Mix's central dock will automatically pause itself if you start listening to one of the other three audio channels. When you go back to that first channel, however, playback doesn't automatically resume -- you'll have to press play every time you go back to the iPod channel to start the music going again. That's frustrating, and not conducive to casually cycling through playlists on a whim.
As well as a button for playing and pausing music, there are skip-track buttons. But these only work on the device plugged into the central dock.
Not all volumes are equal
Another gripe is that there's no volume-equalisation option. You'll find some devices come through much louder than others, regardless of which sound channel you've plugged them into. You can always adjust the volume if it's too quiet or too loud, but having to fiddle with the settings every five minutes is a surefire way to kill the party vibe.
Thanks to two subwoofers on either side of the Mix's body, it packs a powerful bass punch. Any mid-tones will get drowned out by the overpowering low end, and we noticed considerable hiss emanating from the speakers themselves. In short, the Mix's audio is great if you're looking to wake the neighbours and keep everybody dancing, but it won't satisfy audiophiles in a non-party environment.
Design-wise, the Mix channels the ghetto blasters of old. Its nasty mix of gold and silver trim means it's no oil painting, but it certainly has a party look about it.
There's a handle on the top for transportation purposes. Although the Mix isn't too weighty overall, it's rather front-heavy, due to two massive and superfluous handles stuck on the front. If you fancy taking the party outdoors, the Mix will happily run on eight D-size batteries.
You also get a remote control, complete with a lanyard clip. The latter's presumably included so that the party master can wear the remote around their neck and maintain complete musical control, while also keeping hands free for dancing and drinking.
The Altec Lansing Mix has the looks and sound of a great party boom box, and mixing three audio inputs is a great way to get several people involved with music choices. But the device's potential is limited by an awkward channel-cycling process, a lack of volume equalisation, and halting playback from devices in the iPhone and iPod dock. You could achieve a much better party set-up with some decent PC speakers and a laptop running Spotify.
Edited by Charles Kloet