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Reviews

Altec Lansing MX5021 2.1 Speaker System

By Brandon Miniman May 16, 2005, 2:19 am

INTRODUCTION

2.1 speaker systems are ideal for music, but can also compliment movies and games if you are using the proper hardware. Alec Lansing's new MX5021, with THX certification and a new speaker design, is said to be ideal for any type of audio. Is the claim true? Read on for the full evaluation.

WHAT'S HOT

With two sets of two 3" midrange drivers and single 1" tweeters receiving 20 watts, and a 6.5" ported subwoofer receiving 50 watts, producing frequencies as low as 30Hz (just 10Hz above the lowest frequency humans can hear) and as high as 22kHz, the MX5021 speakers are seemingly a powerful setup to compete with offerings from Logitech and Klipsch. THX certification promises that the speakers are worthy of movie-watching audiophiles. To receive THX cert, the speakers needed be tested with several gauges of sound quality by the folks at THX labs. The wireless remote helps to control the system from the other end of the room, and the stylish look of the speakers will compliment any decor (with black and white finishes available).

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PRODUCT FEATURES

The box shows a glowing picture of one of the satellites. The box reads "Feel it! Live it! Turn it up!" (would make a good bumper sticker, eh?) Altec makes it clear of the THX certification.

The accessories included are: The manual, control piece, RCA to miniplug Y cable, IR remote, speaker brackets, miniplug male-male wire, and speaker wire.

The dual 3" polypropylene midrange drivers and the 1" tweeter gleam through the black speaker mesh.

The rear of the speaker has wire connections and a threaded screw hole for mounting. Note the black-shiny finish on the speakers.

The subwoofer has a wooden enclosure and houses a 6.5" long throw driver (the rubber surround is rather loose, making it able to flex to a large extent, producing deeper bass, hence the term "long throw").

The rear of the sub has the port, speaker connections, miniplug input and controller jack.

Below the subwoofer, the THX seal can be seen through the black mesh.

The control pod has several blue LED's that look great. From here you can power on, adjust volume, bass, and treble. When you select either bass or treble, the level is indicated by the line of LED's on the bottom. After a few seconds, the line of LED's reverts back to volume level.

The side of the control box has a headphone and miniplug input jack.

The remote is about half the size of a credit card and has great range. From here you can adjust treble, bass, volume, and on/off.

HELP SUPPORT

The speakers are very easy to use – the user manual explains everything adequatly.

OPTIONS

If you've got a portable XM radio tuner, you can purchase a special dock that fits onto the control box of the speakers. The speakers are also available in shiny white.

LISTENING EXPERIENCE

Music: I was curious as to how the subwoofer could handle some of my Nelly and Ying Yang Twins. I connected the system to my mp3 player, and turned on some heavy bass tracks. And I was very impressed – the subwoofer really could hit every note that a larger subwoofer would, and with no distortion. Even at max volume, the bass notes maintained integrity and shook my living quarters like any worthy sub should. Listening to rock music, I was a bit disappointed. The high frequencies seemed to be very directional (but sharp and crisp), despite them having been designed to disperse sound. I also didn't like the way the speakers reproduced the midrange in rock songs – they sounded restrained and not natural. Perhaps I needed to break in the speakers a bit more.

Games: Placing the speakers on either side of my monitor meant that the high frequencies could be fired directly at me, so the speakers sounded full, and the bass was boomy (with good subwoofer placement) as I shot at the aliens in Doom 3.

Movies: THX certification means that these speakers should perform extremely well with movies audio. Leaving the speakers at either side of my monitor, I turned on Fight Club. My ears were happy throughout, as the channel separation was clear. However, it'd be great if these speakers had some sort of 3D filtering built in for movie playback, to simulate multi-channel audio for a true movie listening experience.

Loudness: At maximum volume, I couldn't get these speakers to distort, courtesy of the strong polypropylene drivers. That said…I think Altec could have squozen a few more decibles from the system. Currently, they can push out 103dB, while the Klipsch 2.1 can produce 106dB, and the Klipsch 5.1 Ultra (for comparison) can get up to 115dB.

BUGS AND WISHES

Altec Lansing really touts the versatility of these speakers, but there are a shortage of inputs – there are only 2 of the same variety. How about RCA or optical inputs? There are converters available, but they create a slight loss in quality. I'd like to be able to hook these speakers up to my computer, TV, radio tuner, and gaming system.

As mentioned in listening experience, I found the midrange to be a bit lacking in music, probably because of the synthetic cone material. Although this new type of cone makes it more rigid (which equates to more power handling and less distortion), it also makes the sound a bit "tinny" and unnatural.

Finally, there is a slight hiss that emanates from the speakers, even when there is no input source connected. The 80dB signal-to-noise ratio is indicative of this.

Pros

  • Subwoofer is strong
  • Great design and colors
  • Remote works well
  • THX certification

Cons

  • Too few inputs
  • Midrange lacks in some music types
  • Volume could be greater
  • Lacks 3D filtering system
  • Slight hiss

OVERALL IMPRESSION

For the price, these speakers are still a good value despite my complaints. For those looking for a solid set of 2.1 speakers that can handle movie, game, and music audio, while punching out some great bass, the MX5021 may be an outstanding option to consider.

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