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Altec Lansing 221
By: KaoMAN
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    Altec Lansing 221

    (Page 1 of 2 )

    The five senses: taste, smell, sight, sound and physical feeling. While the first two usually do not apply, the last three senses certainly need to be considered when describing someone's computing experience. Sight is covered by the monitor and touch by the input peripherals one uses. But what about sound? No doubt, it is at least 1/3 the fun of using a computer, for whatever purpose, and is often overlooked. A set of good computer speakers does not always have to break your wallet (although it definitely can... Klipsch), and lately, companies like Altec Lansing, Logitech, and Creative have been pushing to present the consumer a quality set of speakers for very little dough.

    Altec Lansing, one of the most well-known and respected companies for their history in computer audio or audio in general, has become a name attached to relatively inexpensive and solid PC speakers. Altec's products are often found bundled in OEM packages nowadays, and the company also continues to maintain a very respectable line of retail speakers and accessories from PC gaming and music, to TV/console audio. On deck today are their low-end value computer speakers, model 221.


    20 Watts Total Continuous Power (RMS)

      • Front Satellite Speakers:
        - 3 Watts/channel @ 4 ohms @ 1% THD @ 310 - 22000 Hz (-3dB) 2 Channels Loaded
        - 5 Watts/channel @ 4 ohms @ 10% THD @ 270 - 22000 Hz (-3dB) 2 Channels Loaded
        - Driver (per Satellite): One 3" full-range driver
        - Dimensions: 3.6" (W) x 3.7" (D) x 5.6" (H)

      • Subwoofer:
        - 8 Watts @ 4 ohms @ 1% THD @ 22 – 580Hz (-3dB) Single Channel Loaded
        - 10 Watts @ 4 ohms @ 10% THD @ 20 – 610Hz (-3dB) Single Channel Loaded
        - 50 Watts of Total Peak Power @ < 10% THD
        - Driver: One 4" long-throw woofer
        - Dimensions: 5.6" (W) x 7.7" (D) x 9.6" (H)

    Qualitative Specs

        - Compact Subwoofer
        - Built-In Controls
        - Headphone Jack
        - Total Connectivity
        - Quality Stereo
        - Distinctive, All-Decor Styling
        - Color-Coded Cables
        - Shielded Satellites

    Judging from the given specs, be warned the 221s are not the ground shaking, awe-inspiring speakers capable of getting noise complaints from the neighbors. Here is a quick explanation of the whole watt rating system, mandatory for speaker manufacturers in compliance with FTC requirements:

    (1) Total Continuous Power, also called "Total RMS Power," indicates how many clean watts your system can deliver non-stop.
    (2) Total Peak Power measures the sound level you can expect on the momentary sonic bursts (also called "dynamic transients") found in music and, especially, game tracks.

    Note: Total System Power is the same as Total Peak Power.

    For comparison, the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 system has 160 watts of total continuous power, and 200 watts of total peak power, or burst power. They also run for about three times the prices of the Altec Lansing 221s. I found this little tidbit to be rather interesting:

    "While the FTC power rating indicates power available on a continuous, long-term basis, multi-channel systems do not rely on that type of power. Instead, the amplifier is called upon to deliver large, short-term bursts of power to be able to support today’s digital music, games and movie formats. In addition to the required FTC power rating, we have provided the maximum burst output as a better indication of the product’s true performance." (www.klipsch.com)

    Hopefully this clears about any questions about sound watts and "fake wattage."

    The speaker system comes packaged in a tidy small, blue box. The components are bagged in unsealed plastic, everything encased by a thin Styrofoam structure; all wires twist tied.





    But more importantly is the appearance of the speakers themselves. Altec has chosen to use a contemporary gray and black design. The 221s retain a "classy" feel with their orthodox cube shaped satellites and mesh speaker grill.


    The subwoofer is compact and light, a design which certainly affects its performance, discussed later.


    The 221s two satellites are connected by a predetermined length of wire. The right satellite, which holds the power switch, volume knob, and headset plug, has two more connections; one to the source of sound and the other a thick, green headed cable to the subwoofer.


    One prominent design feature the 221s utilize is a sliding speaker stand. They increase the angle of elevation of the speakers, allowing for sound to "better reach" your ears in most situations.


    Besides the subwoofer and two satellites, the 221s come with a User's guide and quick start card.

    Overall, the appearance of the 221s are decent; the volume knob is smooth, the power switch has a nice springy feel, and the set gives the appearance of quality speakers. Before seeing if the 221's performance attests to this first impression, there are a few things which Altec could have took into account when building these speakers..

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