Altec Lansing Speaker Roundup - IntroductionIntroduction
Altec Lansing has been at the forefront of personal computing speaker systems for many years now. As a matter of fact, even as far back as the 1920's when the company was first founded - making them one of the longest operating companies in the entire PC industry, let alone home entertainment sector, which, along with a couple other companies, they have been the king of for years.History shows, each year, we see an extensive range of new speaker systems released by Altec Lansing. I have personally been a follower of Altec Lansing for the past few years and am yet to be disappointed by any of their products. For example, the Altec Lansing ADA890 speaker system which we reviewed
several months ago has been my personal speaker system performing flawlessly. I didn't think it was possible for sound quality and clarity to be improved much more than what I was already experiencing.When Innovision Australia
(the official Australian distributor for Altec Lansing) asked if I wanted to test out all four of Altec Lansing's latest speaker systems, I got fairly excited about the prospects of receiving even better quality speaker systems than the ADA890 system I had become accustom to.A couple of weeks ago the courier dropped off four massive boxes which I was eager to rip straight open, as soon as possible, realizing they were the Altec Lansing review samples I had been expecting. This means today, in this Altec Lansing-only speaker roundup of May 2002, we check out the latest from the company namely in the 4100, 2100, 641 and the 621 - all suited for users with different budget levels. Do any of these speakers have what it takes to be your next speaker system? Read on and find out, or be blown away, either way...you'll get an answer.
Altec Lansing Speaker Roundup - 641 - King of the HillAltec Lansing 641 - King of the Hill
We will start with the most exotic and expensive, shall we?With that being the case, I introduce you to the Altec Lansing 641. This system is the most high-end system out of any speaker system in this roundup, with a total of 400 watts (equaling 200 watts RMS) of amazing system power, being distributed through its 4.1 channel (2 front satellites, 2 back satellites and subwoofer) setup - These speakers are very loud and pack a real hard bunch to the chest as far as its ability to produce massive bass is concerned, while maintaining near-perfect clarity because of its impressive frequency response level of 27Hz to 20KHz. To utilize these speakers to their absolute best, you're going to need a modern soundcard, like the Sound Blaster Audigy for example.
While the 641 speaker system is impressive in its own right, it has a couple obvious things lacking compared to the older ADA890 speaker system which this unit is set to replace. For instance, the speaker system is not THX certified. I figure Altec Lansing have not bothered spending extra money getting them certified which ultimately saves the end-user some cash, when really, this system could easily become THX certified - It's really only a marketing ploy in any case. When the ADA890 was released, I remember them retailing as much as $900 AU or more in some stores, the 641 on the other hand are currently retailing around $650 AU while being more powerful - More bang for your buck, that's what we like to see!
The 641 lacks a remote controller, but does feature an attractive cord "digital" controller which has its own stand with options to change sound mode, bass, treble and volume levels. The ADA890 had options for about five or six different sound modes through its remote control, whereas the 641 only has sound modes for three which Altec Lansing like to call the "Tri-Mode Selector" - Stereo, Stereo x2 and Gaming. To be honest, I can't pick any audible difference between Stereo and Gaming modes, both only use the two front satellites, whereas Stereo x2 uses all four for that desired surround sound effect. The controller also has a headphone jack on it to save you messing around behind your PC.
The speaker system is packaged inside a massive box (something you would usually find a large monitor packed in) with an easy to read and understand instruction sheet and a lot of cords to connect the system up. In the past I have seen surround sound speaker systems with the two surround speakers having the same length cord as the two front speakers. Altec Lansing thankfully made the two surround speakers cord length almost double that of the front two speakers, good thinking guys! The speakers themselves are very stylish and modern looking, and are bigger (both in height and width) than the pervious ADA890 speakers with all four speakers featuring a funky Altec Lansing badge. Additionally, included are two wall mounts if you want to mount these speakers if your room is setup surround sound properly.The wooden-built subwoofer design and style is consistent to that of the speakers themselves and could easily be mistaken for a tower computer case because of its surprising shape resemblance, measuring in at 8.3" by 18.5". Featuring two 6.5" long-throw woofers, it is what gives the 641 speaker system its threatening-like loud bark. This sub is also the only sub of any in the roundup to feature an on/off switch on the back of it. For a comparison, below is a shot of all four subwoofers from each speaker system lined up next to each other, from left to right we have the 2100's sub, 4100's sub, 621's sub and the 641's sub.
The 641 speaker system is the ultimate from Altec Lansing in every way; right now there is nothing more superior to it, at least from this company. Unfortunately, we weren't able to compare this system to other quality speakers from companies like Klipsch, but I can safely say you would not be disappointed if you choose this high quality and high performing system. During testing it has proven itself elite with music, DVD and gaming playback. However, if you can't afford the asking price of around $650 AU for the 641, which understandably could be a bit too step for some, you have an alterative from Altec Lansing which brings us to the next speaker system in the roundup, click through to the next page to find out more about it. In conclusion though, we give the Altec Lansing 641 speaker system a rating of 9.5 out of 10 and our TweakTown Editor's Choice award for an overall stunning product.- Pros
Very PowerfulExcellent Sound Quality4.1 Surround SoundEasy InstallationImpressive Workmanship- Cons
Altec Lansing Speaker Roundup - 621 - Who stole my Surround Sound?Altec Lansing 621 - Who stole my Surround Sound?
Being released at the same time as the 641 speaker system, the 621's from Altec Lansing are similar to the 641's in terms of looks but it is an overall smaller 3 piece system with not as much raw power to produce as much mighty bass as its big brother - not to mention the lack of surround sound due to its compact 2.1 setup. On the positive side of things, this makes the product price much more attractive then the expensive 5 piece 641 speaker system and for those who don't have the need or space for a proper surround sound speaker setup - it is perfect for the market Altec Lansing intended - PC music listeners.
You could basically take the 641 speaker system and divide it by two and you'd be presented with the 621 speaker system, the little brother - 200 watts of power compared to 400 watts and almost half the price coming in at around $330 AU compared to $650 AU, making it more affordable for average user.While the 621's aren't as powerful as the 641's, it still packs a fairly decent punch and by no means was its bass disappointing or "weak", just a little tamer. The controller of the 621 is similar in design to that of the 641's controller, except there are no different sound modes to choose from or buttons to change bass or treble, just plain and simple volume levels.
The sub of the 621 is fairly similar to that of the 641's sub, although it only features one 6.5" long-throw woofer and is noticeably much smaller in stature measuring 7.5" by 12.8" which would be ideal for those users with a smaller computer area. On the back of the sub is the adjustment for bass and color coded jacks for easy installation. I would have liked to see some type of bass control on the controller, though - Maybe next time.In conclusion, if you're after a powerful 2.1 speaker system and you don't want to spend too much money on it, you should really consider the Altec Lansing 621 speaker system. We give the Altec Lansing 621 a rating of 9.5 out of 10 while struggling to find many cons at all on an overall very solid product.- Pros
PowerfulGood ValueExcellent Sound QualityEasy InstallationImpressive Workmanship- Cons
Lacks Surround Sound
Altec Lansing Speaker Roundup - 4100 - Compact and SleekAltec Lansing 4100 - Compact and Sleek
Proceeding through the speakers in this roundup, the next contestant is the Altec Lansing 4100 speaker system. This system falls into what I like to call the "Middle-High" category class, being a compact and very sleek 4.1 speaker system and much cheaper than the Altec Lansing 641 speaker system. The 4100 is designed for gamers like the 641 with the desired surround sound but it much tamer being an overall smaller system with only 140 watts of total system power, which is around 260 watts less powerful than the 641 speaker system, which is ironically how much cheaper the 4100's are to the 641's.
However, don't let the numbers (or the size of the speakers, for that matter) from the tech sheets trick you. During our testing the 4100's proved to be powerful and bassy. However, because the 641's have a better frequency rate among other things, the sound clarity is increased over the 4100's when the volume starts to be increased - Basically the audio isn't as defined to the trained ear, at least.The controller of the 4100 is similar to that of the 641's, although it only has two sound modes - Gaming and Stereo x2, aside from that both are identical. The different between Gaming and Stereo x2 are that only the front two satellites are used, while Stereo x2 uses all four. I still haven't figured out what the actual function of the Gaming mode is, I fired up a couple games during testing expecting surround sound to kick in, maybe I was missing something but sound only remained through the front two satellites.The subwoofer of the 4100's has a different design to that of the 641's and 621's. I have to say I prefer the design of the latter because of the more modern look and feel. The sub measures in at 2.25" by 12.5" with two 5.25" long-throw woofers compared to the two 6.5" long-throw woofers featured on the 641's.If you're a gamer and are after a moderately cheap 4.1 surround sound speaker system for your PC the Altec Lansing 4100 speaker system might just be the one for you. Being $260 AU cheaper than the 641's they still are fairly expensive. You have to decided if you want the compact and sleek class of the 4100's or the raw power and grunt of the 641's, it's a decision you're going to have to make for yourself. We give the Altec Lansing 4100 speaker system a rating of 9.5 out of 10 again for an overall solid product, if it were me I would probably spend the extra dollars for the 641 speaker system.- Pros
PowerfulCompact and SleekGood Sound QualityEasy Installation - Cons
Altec Lansing Speaker Roundup - 2100 - The BabyAltec Lansing 2100 - The Baby
The last speaker system in the round up is the Altec Lansing 2100, the baby of the group. This 2.1 speaker system is fairly similar to the 4100's minus the surround sound and compared to the other speaker systems in this group, a lowly 50 watts of total system power, compared to 200 watts of the 621's, the only other non-surround sound speaker system in this roundup.
The sub of the 2100's is similar to the 4100's although being the baby of the group; it only has two 4" long-throw woofers measuring in at a small size of 6.5" by 13.5". While it can deliver fairly decent bass, as we begin to increase the volume the sound quality lessons quite significantly and becomes "tinny" and almost weak-sounding. The 2100's also lack an AUX jack which enables you to use the speaker system on other entertainment devices besides your PC; all of the other speaker systems included an AUX jack besides this one.The included controller with the 2100 is the exact same as the 621's controller, we only have the option for volume control. Bass adjustments can be changed on the back of the subwoofer; again I would have liked to see bass adjustments being able to be made from the controller.The sound quality and clarity of the 2100 is much poorer than any other speaker system in the roundup, you get what you pay for and compared to the other speaker systems, you aren't paying a great deal for these at around $240 AU. We give the Altec Lansing 2100 speaker system a rating of 6.5 out of 10. I wasn't terrible impressed with this speaker system, although it does carry a much more affordable price tag than all the other speaker systems we've taken a look at today which could be an attraction for some.- Pros
Compact and SleekGood ValueEasy Installation- Cons
Not Very PowerfulLacks Surround SoundNo AUX Jack
Altec Lansing Speaker Roundup - Testing and ConclusionTesting and Conclusion
For our testing methodology of each speaker system we used a couple of different MP3 songs at 128kbit to 192kbit (little less quality than CD) using a Creative Sound Blaster Extigy in Windows XP with bass and treble settings of each speaker system left at their default setting.Songs included, Around the Fur
by the Deftones for our bass test
with the songs bassy introduction and a more vocal song to test the voice quality
of the speakers, we used a song by De La Soul called Ring Ring Ring
. While we obviously can't define the performance as well as a software benchmark like 3DMark does for graphics cards and processors, we did perform the testing of each speaker system in about a two hour time frame and judged them as best as possible.It goes without saying, the 641 won the bass test easy with its raw power. The voice quality was almost impossible to tell between each system, with the exception of the 2100's maybe having the edge because the system itself isn't very powerful meaning the voices are more defined. Being a much less powerful system, the 4100's weren't as "beefy" or "heavy" as the 641's and 621's but at the same time still managed to produce fairly good bass, perfect for those who aren't after massive amounts of bass, like notebook users for example. If it's bass quality you're looking for, don't even bother thinking about the 2100's.Something else which should be noted is the fact that all of the systems (excluding the 2100) have an AUX in jack which means you can use these speaker systems not just for your PC but gaming consoles, DVD players, CD players and even MP3 players. This is just another feature which makes these already solid products just that little much better - the more you get for your dollar, the better.All of speaker systems which we rounded up today are impressive in their own right for various different aspects. Some are very powerful yet expensive, while others are compact and not so powerful and more affordable. In my opinion, Altec Lansing have created a nice variation of different speakers to choose from, pleasing everyone with varying budgets and desires. Bottom line...You'll be happy with any of these four speaker systems if you decided to buy a set - simply choose the one which suits your needs.