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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [06.07.02]
Manufactured by: Altec Lansing
MSRP: $99.95 USD


Argh I'm tethered!

Now my one big problem with the set - a wired remote!

I guess the wired remote allows the nifty dual headphone outputs on the bottom of the unit, but to me that's not a good enough excuse.  Most decent headphones will have cords more than long enough to reach the woofer no matter where it is placed.

I would have gladly given up the headphone ports and analog volume control to make for a wireless remote.

Altec Lansing did include a video RCA extension cable, which greatly increases your options of woofer (and thus remote control) placement.  Only Composite RCA is included (I personally prefer using S-Video) however, so if you're like me, you're going to need another trip to the store.  It was nice of them to include the RCA cord, because not many people are even going to need it, and the majority of gamers are still using composite (that's what all consoles come with, for some reason).

Also on the remote are the EQ settings.  This essentially changes the bass levels, and 99% of the time, you should just leave it on "Max Bass" after setting the bass level directly on the sub.

I love it when speakers use analog controls for volume control, but the one on this remote is big and awkward to use.  It easily slides around when the controller is handled.  A more tactile analog control would have been preferred.

The Test

Now I am not going to pretend to be an expert in acoustics.  I can only go so far with our testing - basically I can objectively compare this set with other sets I have experienced (quite a bit actually).  For super-extensive speaker reviews, Mikael over at 3D Sound Surge does an excellent job.  If you want to know everything about speakers, he's the guy to talk to!

So what I can tell you is that for only $99, you are getting a very capable set with the XA3021.  I was quite surprised with not only the clarity of the satellites, but the nice bass thrown by the woofer! The bass won't exactly knock you on your ass, and things get pretty hairy when the volume is cranked, but overall I was more than pleased with how far Altec Lansing stretched these $99 speakers.

Now we have to look at these speakers on two different levels.  As replacements to your TV speakers, I don't think you can get a more complete package for this price.  The XA3021's are truly plug and play; you don't need an amp or receiver, or anything! Just plug them into your AUX output either on your TV or directly from your console, and you're ready to go! Ross' monkey never sounded better!

There were some problems though; for one I wasn't too fond of the wired remote.  Granted it does offer analog volume controls, and dual headphone outputs, but I just don't want wires crossing my living room (or even going along the wall).  Another problem you might come across using these for your TV is speaker placement... Where are you going to put these things? The wireframe stands just aren't going to be easy to attach to anything.

Surprisingly, the XA3021's came across better as PC gaming speakers! I know Altec Lansing may not like to hear that, but they obviously come from PC speaker roots, and are much handier for that.  You will not have a problem with the stands - just sit them on the desk! And the wired remote will not be an issue - you can just have the wires go along side the millions of other wires you have behind your desk.

In any case, these speakers sound great, and for $99 you absolutely cannot lose out.  Whether it's music, gaming, or watching TV, the XA3021 set is a winner.

A $199 5.1 set with Dolby Pro Logic support is slated to be released next month.  Hopefully we'll get to look at that set as well, as Altec Lansing have increased the specs a bit as well.

  • Excellent performance for the price
  • They look cool!
  • A great all-in-one package to replace your puny TV speakers

  • Speaker placement may be a hassle
  • I thought corded remotes died in the 70's
  • Volume control is too touchy

Final Score: 84%