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

Altec Lansing 641
August 2, 2002 | Jason Sims

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How To Make A Great Computer Sound System. Altec Lansing wrote the book. It's a simple recipe: 1. Take a great set of speakers (the Altec Lansing 621), 2. Add two more speakers, 3. Double the subwoofer and the overall system power, 4. Include a much nicer wired remote with a headphone jack and bass & treble controls. The Altec Lansing 641 set delivers high-powered, exceptional quality audio at a great price.

The Power To Get You Kicked Out
The 641 set is the top-of-the-line speaker offering in Altec Lansing's "PC Gaming" category. The speakers feature the same great charcoal and silver look of the 621, and there are now four of them instead of two. The subwoofer is also twice as powerful, so the overall system power output is twice that of the 621 set--an astonishing 400 Watts vs. the 621's already-impressive 200 Watts. As with the 621s, you can really crank the 641 system a lot higher than you should before any audible distortion is introduced. You will not want to do this in an apartment building, but if you decide to have a back-yard party, this speaker set will rock the crowd.

Bottom's Up
The subwoofer/amplifier unit is huge--in fact, if you stand it next to your G4 tower, it's just as wide, just as deep and taller. The subwoofer features two 6.5" drivers and the difference is amazing. The subwoofer in a speaker set does more than just play bass sounds--by assuming playback of low frequencies (which require the largest amount of energy to reproduce), it takes some serious load off the rest of the speakers, which in turn boosts their output levels as well. The subwoofer is the cornerstone of a good sound system, and the 641's sub is a monster.

Dear Mom...
You will want to write home about the wired remote included with this set. It's pretty cool. Whereas the 621's remote only includes a power and up/down volume buttons (which are a little awkward to use), the 641 has a volume dial (which is also used to adjust the bass and treble levels in combination with the respective buttons), and a button to switch between stereo modes. And at last, a remote includes a headphone jack! I've always wanted a convenient headphone jack in a computer speaker system's remote, and--finally--Altec Lansing delivers.

In your letter to your Mom, you'll want to tell her that the 641's remote has five lights on it that display the volume, bass and treble levels. And that unfortunately the volume knob is not continuous, but has distinct "steps" and some of the steps are quite unproportional to the others. I often found myself trying to set the volume to a level between two clicks of the dial; at certain points, going up one click of the dial increases the volume level substantially. It's definitely nicer to have the dial than the buttons on the 621's remote, but it could still use some improvement.

Finally, I wish the remote included fade and balance controls to adjust the left/right and front/back balance (this gives you more control over where you can place each of the four speakers, as it's often difficult to find four places to put speakers in a room that are exactly the same distance from the listening position (your computer chair)). If you use these speakers with a Sound Blaster Live you can use the Creative Mixer application to do the pan/fade adjustment, but these speakers should still have included these controls.


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