Around six years ago, I decided it was time to upgrade my PC speakers . There was nothing really wrong with the ones I had, but they were just the basic speakers that had come when my PC was purchased, and just really not that special .
The replacement I chose was this set of Altec Lansing 2100 speakers, which if I remember correctly, cost me about £60 at the time . For me, thats rather a lot of money to spend in one go, but having had the chance to try out these speakers in store, I'd been really impressed with what was on offer for the money .
The set includes two satellite speakers, with stands, a subwoofer, and a remote control. The satellite speakers in particular are really quite sexy looking in black and silver. They are slim - 5 or six centimetres wide at the top, and just under 20 centimetres in height, and only a few centimetres thick. They are quite square and boxy, and although the colours are smart, not that pretty looking - until you slot them into the silver stands, when they then sit nestled in the curves, looking slinky. It really is the silver stands that make these speakers look good. Similarly, the remote control also nestles in one ofthese silver stands, more about the remote itself later though!
The Sub Woofer seems to be more functional in design - it's still black and silver, but it is, design wise, just a big box. It's also mains powered, and is the point to which all your other speakers will also need to be connected. Luckily, this is very simple, with the ports for the left and right satellite speakers being clearly labelled, and with a pleasing length of wire enabling a lot of flexibility in the positioning. There is also a control at the back of the subwoofer unit to set the subwoofer level - this is a very small dial, and a little fiddly to use, and I do feel that the rear of the unit is perhaps an inconvenient decision in terms of practicality (with it being hard to access if your subwoofer, as mine is, is positioned against a wall), but an excellent one in terms of design, keeping the front of the unit itself clean and uncluttered.
This unit should not really be placed directly against a wall though, as, additional to the the two speakers on the front, it has a kind of hollowed out bit at the rear. I'm not technical, but I'm pretty sure that serves some kind of purpose, and shouldn't be blocked off!
As regards actually installing these - theres not a lot of effort involved at all - they simply required plugging in the the back of my PC tower, and they were ready to go .
These sexy little beasties really do kick out the sound an awful lot better than my diddy old speakers did. The sound is crisp and clear, and the subwoofer really does deliver on the bass. I find the biggest difference to me personally was noticable in gaming, with every big boom and explosion really hitting home. Thats not to say that these don't work for quiter, less bass led music - calmer songs play just as well, with every note, every intrument, being clear and distinct. There is no crackling or distortion of sound, although I do find that if I have music playing, and I'm using my microphone at the same time, there is a lot of feedback. I put this down to having a small and cluttered desk though, and it it not the fault of the speakers themselves .
My one small bugbear is the remote control - which is connected, by a wire, to theback of the subwoofer. The very fact that it is wired makes it much less 'remote', and as I have a large bedroom, a wireless remote would be much more convenient for me in terms of adjusting volume from the bed. As it is, I have to get up, and walk over to my desk to adjust volume levels .
Sadly, after a good six years of use, one of the small satellite speakers has begun to crackle a lot . I've fiddled with various controls, but it does rather seem that this one speaker is on it's last legs, which unfortunately does affect the balance of the sound. This sadly means that these speakers too will need to be replaced soon -but I would have no hesitation in buying another newer model of speakers from Altec Lansing.
These speakers are sadly discontinued, but can be purchased second hand on ebay for around £20 . I would have no hesitation in recommending them, as they've delivered many years of crisp clear sound, although unless you listen to a lot of music, or play a lot of games, they may actually be overkill for use on a home pc.
Full technical details : http://www.dabs.com/products/altec-lansing-altec-2100-3-piece-1YY3.html
Episode One of the January Sale Saga, in which "The Not-At-All-Famous One" goes ape in a computer store with his flexible friend. My current PC, which I built myself, has (or rather had) a rather unconventional sound system, i.e. a spare hi-fi. I had long fostered the idea that one day, I'd transfer all my crackly old vinyl albums to CD-R via a turntable. Since these only push out a matter of a handful of millivolts, they need pre-amplification to a suitable level for the "line in" sockets on most PC sound cards. Therefore, I pressed an old but good quality Technics amplifier into service to raise the output from the turntable to a suitable level, i.e. the usual one expected of tape decks, CD players and the like. It didn't take much of a leap into the unknown to add real speakers to this lot, and before I knew where I was, my PC was playing at being host CD player to a complete sound system, way in excess of one's normal expectations for PC sound. This is all well and good, but my little bedroom, which we use as our office was starting to look like a recording studio. Coupled with the fact that turning precious vinyl into CD-Rs is actually quite labour intensive, especially if you try to "de-click" the results, I'd rather gone off the idea, preferring to scour second hand record sales for a replacement CD where possible. The urge to spring-clean and generally de-clutter is strong in me at the moment, so I set about looking for a worthy replacement. My brother had just bought a PC (is it me or am I the only one who hasn't lately?) and was showing off its audio capability, which, to be honest was impressive, especially since the sound seemed to emanate from two tiny and very stylish silver and charcoal aluminium-framed loudspeakers. Of course, at this stage he forgot to mention the 50-watt floor standing sub-woofer (yes Sue M, it goes under the dog!), but even so, it was
tempting. So I got a set of my own - Altec-Lansing 2100 multi-media speakers, for just under £80. No doubt some Herbert will now tell me where you can get them for 50 quid, but no-one likes a smart-a***, and anyway, I'm not at home to Mr. Boastie, OK? INSTALLATION These truly do represent the real meaning of Plug and Play. You plug 'em in and play 'em! The sub-woofer, which has its own built-in amplifier, is mains-operated. All low voltage wiring routes through here first. The stereo co-axial cable from the PC sound card's output socket plugs in here, and each of the "satellite" speakers also, with a clear indication of which is left and which is right. Nothing remarkable about that I guess, but there's one more plug socket, set aside for a wired remote control. This sits on your work-top cradled in a similar silver aluminium frame to the speakers - all very stylish in a charcoal grey "Braun styling" kind of way. From here, you can actually power up (or down) the sound system, and alter volume levels. A generous lead is supplied in case the sub-woofer is stationed some distance away. The satellite speaker leads are somewhat shorter but still adequate over the sorts of distances most PCs would dictate. If at first, your sound is too bassy or too flat, there is a volume control on the back of the sub-woofer to adjust this. Presumably, you're not intended to use this too often since, once the speaker is placed near a wall, the dial is difficult to reach. The sub-woofer has two forward-facing 4" drive units and a rear reflex port, which deters you from putting it right up against a wall. You can however sit it more or less where you like. Off to the far left or right, on the floor, it's all the same to bass notes. After all, you can't tell where they are coming from at the best of times, especially when you're trying to get some sleep! It's the treble that gives
you a sense of direction, and therefore stereo sound, hence the dinky matching pair of speakers, which you place either side of your monitor. You are warned that the sub-woofer is not magnetically screened and shouldn't be placed near monitors or hard drives. The matching treble speakers are OK though and carry no such health warning. IN USE The first thing that hits you on boot-up is that the system doesn't power itself up, which is probably just as well, if you get up early in the morning to lob a few e-mails off to friends on the other side of the world. The last thing the rest of the household want to hear at 5.30 a.m. is the "Windows Fanfare". Sound quality when playing a real sound source, like an audio CD, is excellent, once you've got your bass level sorted. Turn up the gain on the trimmer and it sounds far too punchy and thumpy. Halfway seems, like Goldilocks clandestine porridge, just about right. It's almost a shame to sideline these to PC-only use, but their lack of alternative inputs is a deterrent to using them as some kind of minimalist hi-fi. I believe Altec-Lansing do make a "5 channels + 1" version for those with home cinema and a lack of lounge space. For my part, I'm tempted to see how they sound in the lounge as pure stereo speakers. All in all, very good sound and an impressive design and build quality from a respected company with many years in the audio business.