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Manufacturer: Altec Lansing
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: Minijack Audio Port

Altec Lansing 621
April 24, 2002 | Jason Sims

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The 621 is the top-of-the-line speaker set in Altec Lansing's "Music" series of computer products, and not without good reason. They look great and they sound even better. The set includes two speakers (each with a full-range driver and a tweeter), a sub and a wired remote.

There's a lot of hype these days about multichannel audio systems (with four or five speakers and a sub) and various surround sound technologies in home theaters (Dolby Digital and DTS) and in PC gaming (EAX and OpenAL). As a Mac user, it seems kind of pointless to invest in a multichannel audio system, at least for the moment. Mac OS X supports multichannel audio natively, but the little 1/8" (headphone-style) jack on your computer itself will only put out 2 channel stereo. And in Mac OS 9, most audio is handled by the Sound Manager, which only supports 2 channel stereo. In either case, you need special hardware to be able to enjoy multichannel audio on a Mac, and the only option available right now (Creative Labs' Sound Blaster Live!) can hardly be recommended, due to its bug-ridden OS 9 software and complete lack of support for OS X. My point is that unless you are doing professional audio work on your Mac and have a multichannel audio interface, there is really no sense in buying a multichannel audio system.

That said, the 621 is among the very best options for Mac speaker systems. The system is very powerful, clocking in at a total of 200 watts peak for the entire system. In fact, I don't even know how loud it goes, my ears were bleeding before I could turn it up all the way. Let's just say it plays much louder than you will ever want it to (within reason of course; don't try to throw a party for 500 people in a gymnasium and then come complaining to me that these things didn't cut it).

While many compact speakers are heavy on the treble and a little bit weak in the midrange, these ones faithfully represent the audio spectrum; they maintain their clarity even at very high levels. Altec Lansing says the system has a flat frequency response, which means no particular frequencies are emphasized more than others, i.e. the output should be faithful to the original recording. Since I have actual studio monitors (flat frequency response speakers for sound studios), I was able to flip back and forth and verify that they really are quite close to flat, true to their claim. Because of this, I could definitely recommend these speakers to anyone looking to get started in audio production. You may not find these in professional sound studios, but until you can afford to spend $1000 on a pair studio monitors I think these are an excellent choice.


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