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Altec Lansing Expressionist BASS FX3022 - 2.0 Speakers review

Andy Vandervell

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

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.

Marko

April 8, 2009, 5:59 am

Bless, reviewers really do trot out a load of generic cliched nonsense when it comes to trying to convey the subjective nature of playback quality for speakers and headphones. Not a criticism of Andy per se, every reviewers seems to suffer from this apparently insurmountable problem.

Ed

April 8, 2009, 2:02 pm

If it's insurmountable, why mention it? What alternative method of assessment do you suggest we use? Graphs?

Marko

April 8, 2009, 2:36 pm

Well quite, if a comment doesn't add anything to the review then it's not worth making. Anyway, don't take yourself so seriously, it's a beautiful day outside in London...

ruthless

April 8, 2009, 4:51 pm

It's god awful here in Paris

Dave W

April 8, 2009, 6:01 pm

If the bass driver is built into the same cabinet as the remaining ones, surely it is simply a woofer. Doesn't a subwoofer need to be in an entirely separate enclosure? I've been irritated by the whole 'built-in subwoofer' thing so beloved of the flashy-light 'hi-fi' makers for ages. (I realise this doesn't add a great deal to the review)

Andy Vandervell

April 8, 2009, 6:20 pm

@Dave W: No, it's a good point and you're absolutely right. Changed.

StuAndrews

April 8, 2009, 7:07 pm

I don't want to go too far into the realms of beardy Hi-Fi debate here, but my understanding of a subwoofer is that it simply goes down to lower frequencies than an ordinary woofer (down to 20Hz rather than the 40Hz of the typical woofer). It should be a separate speaker, but it doesn't necessarily need to be in a separate enclosure. However, in this case it looks like the 'built-in subwoofer' doesn't hit that range and so is actually more of a woofer, in which case I think your point still stands. Erm. I'll go away now. Stu.

Keithe6e

April 8, 2009, 7:09 pm

@Marko: Bless, reviewers really do trot out a load of generic cliched nonsense





Struggling with that, even re-read trying to find these cliched bits. Seemed to explain his findings in plain English without going all retro, what exactly was you referring too?.

ChaosDefinesOrder

April 8, 2009, 9:47 pm

@Keith: I believe Marko is referring to bit like "where the intricate percussion lacks a little bit of punch" and generally describing how a song sounds on the speakers.





I agree that it's a little bit strange reading that kinda thing, but at the same time I'm fully aware of how near-impossible it is to describe how a set of speakers sound compared to another set without resorting to "um... they just sound better, ok?"

Keithe6e

April 9, 2009, 2:27 pm

@ChaosDefinesOrder, That was my point, how else would you explain it. It was pure English, described the sound, and I could certainly understand what he was trying to describe. And "where the intricate percussion lacks a little bit of punch" still doesn't sound cliched to me. He didn't add "Asta La Vista Baby", or "I'll be back" did he without me noticing. :)

Marko

April 9, 2009, 5:51 pm

I think that's the wider question, are perjorative comments on speaker sound quality largely redundant. I don't dispute that there's no alternative to the current type of comments, but I'm not sure acknowledging this makes the comment any more useful in making a purchasing decision. Bottom line, anyone spending anything meaningful on speakers should try before they buy.

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