A step in the right direction, but another step backwards ?

Amongst all the ‘commodity’ 2.1 speakers, 2.0 desktop speakers and iPod docks on show at Altec-Lansing/Plantronics stand at CeBIT Australia 2009 was two particular sets of multimedia speakers that caught our eye. These speakers stood out from the rest of the pack due to their unique style and design and our suspicions of these particular units were confirmed by Altec’s representatives who revealed that these speakers were unreleased pre-production models on show for the first time.

We only have some basic specification for these units which should be sufficient to give our readers an impression of the product direction Altec is heading this year, which seems promising comparing to the speaker line-up which we saw at last years CeBit.

These products are not even listed on Altec-Lansing’s websites so we will endeavor to update when we receive new information. Model number are to be confirmed.

Expressionist Plus

2.1 channel compact contemporary/lifestyle type multimedia speaker

Judging by looks alone, the Expressionist plus takes some DNA and design cues from both Altec-Lansing's existing hybrid speakers, the Expressionist Classic and of other contemporary 2.1 lifestyle sets such as the THX Certified Mako from Razor and the E3350 series from Edifier.

Altec-Lansing Expressionist Plus

Since the speaker is intended as a compact desktop solution, the volume control is integrated into the subwoofer unit rather than an external unit or pod.

Connectivity features include the typical green coded analogue 3.5MM input and power is supplied by a plug pack rather an internal AC power supply. From a design and performance perspective we were not too impressed by this feature however given the segment and target market for the product this is acceptable.

Altec-Lansing and their supply/manufacturing channel need to ensure that the power pack that will be included in shipping examples of this speaker is compact to ease of installation into tight AC outlets and energy efficient, preferably Energy Star compliant.

Multimedia Speakers are often left on for extended periods and their high current power packs sometimes run warm and can be a source of failure.

Altec-Lansing Expressionist Plus

A down-firing 12CM coated woofer, of what we speculated to be paper cone type handles bass duties. The subwoofer units stand performs double duty as a bass port, especially when sealed against a hard surface such as a desk.

Total power output is 30 watts RMS. Price and availability to be advised.

Expressionist Halo

2.1 channel high end/high performance style multimedia speaker

This large format speaker set is what PC multimedia enthusiasts would be more familiar with or looking for, especially with a market filled with very high performance multimedia 2.1 speaker sets from Creative, Edifier, Kiplisch, Logitech and Razer.

Judging by looks alone, the Expressionist halo takes after its namesake, the ported sub woofer/amplifier unit is quite large for a 2.1 set. The triangular cabinet takes after some older Kiplisch speaker designs.

Altec-Lansing Expressionist Halo

Due to its size and design, the sub woofer unit is intended to be placed under a desk or in a corner with the satellite speakers on the desktop. Unlike the Expressionist plus, a wired remote control pod is included with LED indications of the volume level, a handy and attractive feature but not that innovative as has been implemented by Razer on the Mako.

Connectivity features include the typical green coded analogue 3.5MM input and power is supplied by an AC power cord with a power supply internal to the subwoofer/amplifier unit. We were unable to gauge extent of specific features such as automatic sleep/shutoff mode or specific specifications due to the early nature of the demonstration unit. For ease of use  the 3.5MM audio input is fed into the control unit rather than the amplifier itself as the control unit would be closer to the user and their equipment. The user may use this feature to easily switch audio sources or connect devices without needed to reach behind the subwoofer unit.

Each of the speaker channels is driven by an independent amplifer (Tri-Amp) and the two-way unidirectional satellite speakers feature silk tweeter domes.

Note the unconventional design of the satellite speakers themselves, comprising of a very compact cylindrical cabinet with a Perspex stand, quite different to the conventional plastic or wood reflex type cabinets we are used to seeing on multimedia speakers. The split design of the satellites with mid range and tweeter improves dynamics and frequency response over design which use a single or multiple full range drivers in the satellite speakers.

As the subwoofer cabinet is an unconventional shape also, the woofer is front firing complemented with a frontal bass port.

Total power output is 200 watts RMS. Price and availability for Australia is $399 AUD RRP, August 2009. Global price and availability to be advised.

 

As these new speakers are 2.1 channel designs we discussed Altec-Lansing’s intentions for 5.1 or higher channel multimedia sets and were informed that no such products were in Altec-Lansing road map, at least for the time being.

In addition, 5.1 set especially the FX5051 USB speaker which we previewed last year has been given end of life status in the US. Australia often lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to product life cycle and different product and marketing strategies will likely lead to this speaker being available here for some time more yet.

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