A judicious application of bass can go a long way toward making up for the sonic shortcomings of a small speaker system. And while no one will mistake Altec Lansing’s diminutive BB2001 subwoofer for a Velodyne DD-18, this $50 box positively transformed the company’s iM5 portable speakers.
The BB2001 consists of a 5.25-inch front-firing driver powered by a 16-watt amp. Those aren’t very impressive specs for a subwoofer, but Altec’s little speaker moved plenty of air in our near-field listening tests. And once the tiny iM5 was freed from the hopeless task of producing anything meaningful in the way of low frequencies, the portable speaker system sounded much more respectable—at least at moderate volume.
When we reviewed the iM5 in January 2006, we noted that the speakers distorted badly when overdriven. The BB2001 shares that same characteristic—it doesn’t like to be pushed. And although the speaker and amp are housed in a sturdy MDF cabinet, that construction didn’t stop our bass torture test (the opening kick drum in Paul Thorn’s “Fabio & Liberace”) from causing the driver to rattle nervously when we cranked up the volume. But considering that we had to lie on the floor with our ear next to the cabinet to detect the problem, we’ll overlook it.
The BB2001 can be paired with any audio system equipped with a crossover and a subwoofer output, including Altec Lansing’s iMT1 (for Palm devices), XT2 (for laptops), iMX2 (for XM2go satellite radios), and the aforementioned iM5 (for the iPod). Unlike those battery-powered devices, however, the subwoofer is housebound by its need for AC power.