One of the intriguing things about speakers is how different they can be. Sound being the subjective and inherently analogue element that it is there's almost no end to the different approaches companies can take to creating the best experience. A good case in point is the Altec Lansing Expressionist Bass speaker set we're looking at today.
Similar in price, size and purpose to the outstanding Creative Gigaworks T40 Series II speakers, they nonetheless take a completely different approach to audio production, featuring a 4in woofer beneath each speaker and full-range drivers at the front. This means a slightly higher overall output than the T40s of 24W RMS and slightly different frequency range of 40Hz to 16kHz against the 50Hz to 20kHz of the T40s.
This slightly unconventional driver arrangement and the highly unusual aesthetic design are clearly the inspiration for the ridiculous name. Yet, despite the silly name, these speakers have a lot going for them. Visually, it must be said, they are an acquired taste. Finished in gleaming glossy white with golden accents at the top and around the full-range driver, there's more than a little steampunk influence in its idiosyncratic conical casing. In the right environment we dare say they could look very good, but in another they can just as easily look hideous. It's probably just as well a black version exists, too, given the ambiguous reaction white products can sometimes generate.
One thing that can't be questioned, though, is the build quality. One important facet here is the permanent cable that connects the two speakers. This does restrict flexibility somewhat, though the 1.8 metre length should suffice for most needs, but the thickness of the cable is very reassuring. Likewise the main speakers themselves feel very robust, constructed from thick and substantial plastics. At £83.99 they're not particularly cheap, but they actually feel as if they could cost even more.
On top of the right channel speaker are rudimentary controls consisting of just power and volume buttons. This is a little disappointing since some treble and bass controls would be very helpful, Moreover, the lack of dial controls means it's impossible to know the volume until you've started playing, which is a little irritating. We'd add, too, that unlike the T40s, which are more desktop speakers than anything else, the Altec Lansing's seem better suited to a living room environment; in which case a remote would have been a useful addition, too.
Like the Creative set there are two 3.5mm inputs, but they are both on the back. One can only assume Altec Lansing chose not to disrupt the largely uncluttered front of each speaker, but a front-facing input is one thing that any speaker set like this really ought to have given most people will want to connect an MP3 player. It would be handy, too, if Altec Lansing included a stereo phono adapter - something that would be particularly handy to those using games consoles.