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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.17.03]
Manufactured by: Altec Lansing 

MSRP: $179.95
Est. Street: $140 appx.

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Enclosed in the impressive looking subwoofer enclosure, besides the amplifier of course, are two 4" long-throw woofers, spec'd at 18W RMS, 23W peak.

They have the sound range specs at 30-85 Hz, but again you know how I feel about paper specs.  Unfortunately I do not have the means of testing these specifications, so this is all subjective, but I can tell you that they seem to be pretty close on the low end of the spectrum.  You might think 4" woofers seem too small to make big noise, but don't forget that the throw capability has a lot of effect on sound frequency, and these long-throw woofers definitely make some noise, probably in the mid-30's Hz.

If there is something about the range on these subwoofers, I think it's that they operate on a higher than optimal frequency.  Perhaps to make for the lack of midrange capability on the 1" satellite drivers, Altec Lansing seems to have set the crossover to a higher than usual level.

Subwoofers in systems are normally 'capped' at just above 80-100 Hz.  This prevents high frequency sound from going to the subwoofers that are not designed to replicate such a sound.

Of course, the 1" drivers may be somewhat lacking in sound levels as low as 100 Hz, so to prevent having no sound at all at around that level, the crossover had to be tuned to have some extra sound in the mid range. 

What you end up with is sounds coming through the subwoofer - such as voices, etc - which you would not want coming from them.  This is rarely noticeable, however, and only in minor cases.



Take Control

As usual, Altec Lansing uses a tethered remote, to accomodate a headphone port.  This is really nice to have, and unlike TV speakers, having a cord attached is not such a big deal; just another to add to the tangled mess under your desk.

Above is the top part of the controller, where you can control the speaker mode.  If you're watching a movie or playing a 5.1 capable game, switch it over to 5.1.  If your sound card and DVD software are set up properly, you should be getting true, unmodified 5.1 surround sound.

To accomodate gaming, Altec Lansing have included a "4.1 Gaming" mode.  Many 3d games are still programmed in 4.1, so this is probably the best way to make effective use of your center speaker, through which the both front channels will be played.  4.1 Gaming mode is hit and miss, and level of quality varies between games.  Try all the modes and see which one works the best with the game you're playing at the time.

Finally we have "Stereo X2" mode, which takes a stereo source, such as say Winamp, and multiplies the stereo over to the rear channels.

Considering that music is not intended to be listened to on more than 2 front speakers, I wish there had been a 'regular' stereo mode instead.  I don't see much difference in using "X2" and "5.1", especially if the "Center Mix" switch is enabled.

For listening to stereo music, you must resort to turning the center and rear levels down to zero.

Having a wired remote also allows for analog volume control.  I don't care HOW much "digital lifestyle" progresses - it will NEVER replace the solid tactile feel of knob for controlling volume.  There are LEDs above the knob to show current levels.

You can control the Bass and Treble levels by pressing the buttons above the LEDs and using the volume knob.  The LEDs will also indicate current levels of Bass and Treble.  Hold each button to control Center and Rear channels.  This is more tuning than you often see on this level of PC speaker, and I'm glad to see it.

To keep the remote seated on your desk, Altec Lansing have created a beautiful looking cradle that perfectly matches the rest of the set (as well as my MX500 mouse and Logitech keyboard, and LCD monitor!).  This is definitely a nice touch, as anyone who's had their cabled remote slide off their desk everyday will attest.

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