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July 22, 2004|By Kevin E. Washington

Altec Lansing sets offer good 2.1 sound at very sound prices

Some of my best friends are audiophiles. But for the life of me, I don't understand why they spend thousands of dollars to get sound to their ears.

Sure, I can hear the difference between their speakers and mine, but I wonder if it's worth all of that money.

I guess it is if it makes you happy.

However, I'm no great fan of 5.1 sound systems. I love the sound they provide, and regular stereo just doesn't compare to a solid surround-sound experience. But putting in the time and energy to lay the wire and position the speakers for the perfect sound experience is just too much of a headache.

That's why I have liked a lot of the speaker systems offered by Altec Lansing, which produces reasonably priced computer speakers good for both listening to music and playing games. The output from most of its offerings makes me happy and suits my level of hearing (it's slowly fading as I get older).

Altec Lansing has released two really solid midlevel speaker systems in the past few months that are worth taking a look at if you're playing music on your computer or gaming - and you don't want to be bothered with setting up a 5.1 sound system in your living room or den.

If you like good sound without the hassle, you'll not do much better than the sleek Altec Lansing MX5021 ($200), which is a 2.1 stereo speaker system that carries sweet music from your computer hard drive to your ears.

This system provides wonderful sound from two speakers and a subwoofer, and has both a connected controller and a remote.

I'm good at losing remotes, so I rarely take them out of my electronics drawer. But having the controller right there next to the computer allows for easy access and solid control.

These speakers have 2.1 THX certification, which means they'll make a movie sound pretty good, too, even though they're not vaunted 5.1 speakers. And because you don't have to hook up all of those satellite speakers, it will work for anyone who has limited patience when hooking up a stereo system - many of us don't bother to place the two speakers behind us in a 5.1 setup because of the hassle factor.

While much of my testing involved CDs and DVDs played on my computer, I found that these speakers were no letdown in the gaming arena, either. Moreover, I thought they sounded crystal clear right up to the last incremental measure on the volume control. That was impressive.

I believe the MX5021 is a good system, but not quite as cool as its cousin the FX6021 ($300), which sounds a tad better.

The highs on the FX6021 were superb. While I thought the bass was more than adequate for music and gaming, it wasn't quite as good as the MX5021's bass performance.

The FX6021 has the same simple 2.1 sound system setup, but the satellites are super-cool silver stalks.

Once again, you have a tethered controller and a remote to choose from for control. I thought the sound was spectacular on all of my applications.

If you're short of space for your computer, either of these two sound systems will give you the kind of high-end 2.1 sound that you can enjoy or enhance your entertainment center sound experiences.

Information: 866-570-5702 or www.alteclansing.com.

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