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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 cerficication 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 guages 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).

PRODUCT FEATURES


(all images
link to higher resolution)

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.

Continue
On: Bugs and Wishes / Pros and Cons / Listening
Experience / Conclusion . . .

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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 thisl.

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
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean?

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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