Touted as a "revolution in pro audio" by the Altec Lansing website, the FX6021 enters the high-end 2.1 market to compete with offerings from Logitech and Klipsch. These premium speakers sport some premium features, and a premium price. Are they worth the extra cash? Listen up, and read on for the full scoop.
With six (yes, six!) 1″ neodymium micro drivers per satellite, these speakers feature InConcert technology which attempts to disperse sound more effectivly by directing it straight ahead and to the sides, not up and down like other speakers. Apparently, the system uses 3 amplifier to power each of the 12 speakers and the subwoofer. You'll have to read on to find out whether this technology actually makes a difference in the listening experience. The subwoofer is similar to the one found in the MX5021 system: a 50 watt 6.5″ driver enclosed in a ported wooden box. The subwoofer can hit frequencies from 180Hz to 40Hz, although the MX5021 can hit notes 10Hz lower. Perhaps a reason why these speakers do not have THX certification (as the MX5021 do) is because its frequency floor isn't low enough. The design of these speakers is truly upscale, with an elegant silver-metallic finish that is sure to go with any decor. There are three inputs — two miniplug (for use with computer, mp3 player, CD player, etc), and one RCA (for use with a DVD player, TV, radio tuner, etc). And finally, the control pod can adjust treble and bass while showing off its cool blue LEDs, and can be controlled via a handsome and slimline IR remote.
PRODUCT FEATURES (all images link to larger resolution)
Above are the (rather tall) satellites featuring 6 drivers each, the control pod, remote, and speaker bases. The pen is for a size comparison. Notice anything about the micro drivers in the satellites? They look to be the same drivers used in the Altec inMotion series.
The speaker can be titled to 60 degrees…
or 90 degrees.
You can easily mount the speakers onto a wall, although no hardware is included to help with this. A nail or two ought to do the trick.
The subwoofer looks great, with rounded edges and a silver mesh grill covering the silver 6.5″ woofer.
From an angled view, the sleek lines of the base are revealed. This sub is made to be displayed! Too bad optimum placement will put it under your desk and out of sight. A warning sticker on the top tells you not to place the subwoofer near a monitor, as it is not magnetically shielded.
The rear reveals the right and left speaker port (a bit unconventional for a speaker connection, eh?), controller hook up, auxiliary miniplug input, and RCA input (which the MX5021 lacks).
The control pod is also elegant, with cool blue lights indicating levels.
The right side of the control pod brings a headphone connection away from the tower of your computer to within your reach.
The other side of the control pod has the second miniplug auxiliary input.
The remote color matches the entire system, and allows for adjustment of volume, treble and bass, and will even turn the system on/off. The remote had a long line-of-site range.
On either side of a flat panel, the speakers look a bit unconventional but overall classy. Many friends wondered why the satellites had so many speakers.
HELP AND SUPPORT
These speakers are extremely easy to install and use — everything is color coded and self explanatory.
Overall: The InConcert technology is real, and it works. With smaller sized multimedia 2.1 speakers (as opposed to larger home theater loud speakers), high and middle frequencies fade over a distance, so that the quality of the audio is lower as you step away from the speakers. The InConcert technology made it so that the fidelity of the audio remained intact over the entire room, regardless of position relative to the speakers. I've sensed that the speakers break up the frequency by each driver — the center two seem to act as tweeters, while the outside four produce midrange. Perhaps this is the work of the 3 separate amplifiers.
Music: I mentioned that that MX5021 sounded a bit "tinny" when listening to music because of the material that Altec used on the drivers, but with the FX6021, the material is conducive to producing more natural sound. Rock music sounded great with these speakers: the voices of the singers were equally as loud as the sound of the cymbals. I ran in to a problem with rap though — the subwoofer made "fart" noises when I tried to play some Ying Yang Twins and Nelly, probably because the frequency floor of the subwoofer is only 40Hz, while notes within my rap tracks probably go down into the 20Hz range.
Games: Hardcore gamers know that the best audio source for some games is headphones, because you can hear each little detail, each footprint, each whisper. The FX6021 seemed to be incredibly sensitive during gameplay, making each little noise evident.
Movies: I'm going to go so far as to say that those with a dorm room or smaller living room could use these speakers as their primary speaker system if a full surround system is not desired. The InConcert feature allows each person in the room to equally receive crisp and clear audio with great left/right channel separation.
Loudness: At max volume, the speakers kept up nicely and did not distort at all. The system can put out a very nice 105dB. The subwoofer, though, had a trouble doing its job at loud volumes with very deep bass. For everyday listening, and with almost all music types, I found the subwoofer to be well balanced and hard-hitting…just don't turn on the hardcore rap.
BUGS AND WISHES
face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> I think Altec needs to rethink this product a bit. With an MSRP of $299 (although we found the speakers for $70 less seen below), I want to have a subwoofer that can take whatever I give it. For $179, I can get the Klipsch 2.1 THX certified speakers that can show me 31Hz with THX-cert. The 9Hz difference is huge when listening to selections of rap and even some techno.
Also, the cheaper MX5021 has the THX-cert, but not the FX6021, even though the latter are $100 more. Although THX-cert means nothing to many, it represents the audible range and quality of a set of speakers, and I wonder why Altec didn't take the time to seek this certification.
I had a hard time coming up with a recommendation for these speakers. They are able to disperse sound like I've never heard before, and they are very attractive-looking and are sure to get some attention. Its fault though, comes with the subwoofer. If Altec Lansing were to throw an 8″ subwoofer into the package, or fix the "only 40Hz" floor, or just lower the price a bit to be competitive with premium 2.1 offerings from Logitech and Klipsch, then I could seriously recommend these speakers. Until any of those conditions are met, my call is to wait for the price to go down a bit unless the InConcert technology sounds extra-exciting to you.