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

Altec Lansing VS4121
September 17, 2003 | Tim Morgan

Altec Lansing has always been a steady presence in the world of computer speakers. Known for their economy, rather than their performance or luxury, the brand name has tempted many household or introductory computer users. Because of this, the VS4121, a unique 2.1 system (two satellites, one subwoofer), with a retail price of $130, falls very much towards the high end of Altec Lansingís stereo-audio offerings.

The VS4121 is certainly a stylish, modern speaker system with a few tricks up its sleeve, but in a consumer-audio world where the Altec Lansing name must compete with the likes of Harmon Kardon and Yamaha, can the VS121 prove that Altec Lansing is capable of producing a speaker that can dish out auditory bang for its buck?

First Impressions
The VS4121 is certainly a unique speaker system. Although the two satellites appear to be flat-panel at first glance, they are certainly not. The design is unique: two micro-drivers face forward, mounted on a thin panel. The midrange driver is a cylinder behind the tweeters, and faces down into the desk. The idea, according to Altec Lansing, is that the down-firing midrange driver will disperse midrange frequencies into the room, which can often be muffled as distance from the speaker increases. Nestled in the side of the panel of the right speaker is a headphone jack, and on the front are a captivating blue power LED, a satisfyingly grabbable volume control, and smaller treble and bass controls with notches in their centers.

Accompanying the satellites is a subwoofer of moderate size, in an unimpressive (if not convenient) square profile. The subwoofer draws the power, and a serial cable and RCA cable connect the right and left speakers, respectively. Altogether, the system seems to fit the word ďcompact.Ē Itís certainly not small enough to carry around with a laptop, but for the amount of power Altec Lansing is aiming to bless these speakers with, it seems on the quaint side of size.

Sounding it Out
Thereís one thing Iíd like to point out: the VS4121ís subwoofer is not magnetically shielded. It must be kept at least two feet away from your computer to avoid damage from the subís magnetic fields. Iíd also like to point out that nowhere is this mentioned on the product, short of a quick note at the bottom of one of the pages of the manual. As itís entirely conceivable that some will not read the manual for something as basic as setting up a speaker system, please be aware that the sub has no magnetic shielding.

Setup is simple enough, and within minutes I had connected the speaker system. Because the VS4121 simply looks like a pair of flat-panel speakers, itís easy to make the assumption that they will sound like such -- however, they certainly do not. They are full-fledged magnetic-driver speakers, and are capable of the performance one would expect from such a system.


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