Review: Altec Lansing FX6021

by on April 21, 2005

After spending a few grand on what most would think the ideal Mac system, many would find it hard to locate speakers that match their Cinema Display or Power Mac G5. Enter the Altec Lansing FX6021 speaker system, which looks great with any modern Mac. We put this $300 (street prices are closer to $200) speaker system to the test.

FX6021 Satellites (With and Without Removable Base)

FX6021 Control Pod + Remote

FX6021 Connections

FX6021 Subwoofer

The FX6021 is clearly Altec Lansing’s flagship 2.1 (2 satellites and a subwoofer) system, and it offers quite a bit of power with 75 watts RMS. Included in the system are two satellites, a large subwoofer, plenty of cables, and Altec’s signature control pod.

First of all, this review is intended to be a review of general sound quality for most computer users, as well as roundup of the features. I’m no audiophile, although I do enjoy listening to all kinds of things in iTunes, as well as watching movies on my computer.

Each satellite features 6 small drivers (the same as the ones that can be found on Altec Lansing’s inMotion iPod speakers) behind a non-removable grill. A heavy aluminum base can be used to put them on a desk or table; otherwise, they can hang on a wall. Cleverly, the cables from the satellites snake underneath the bases if you choose to use them. The bases also allow the angles of the speakers to be changed to match your display.

Everything plugs into the back of the subwoofer, which is similar to — but bigger — Altec’s other subwoofers. Setting up the speakers is a cinch. The connectors are color-coded and are designed to only plug in a certain way. You can either use the stereo RCA jacks or the 3.5mm miniplug on the back of the subwoofer to connect to your computer or other audio source. Connecting things to both kinds of inputs will mix audio from the two sources. Altec also includes extension cables for the satellites, which appear to be identical to S-video or ADB extension cables.

Operating the speakers is straightforward — controls for volume, treble, bass, and power are located on the control pod. I find the control pod idea to be quite convenient, as you are free to put the satellites wherever you want. A mess of blue LEDs indicate power, the volume level, and if bass or treble adjustment is selected. A remote, which can be stored in a holder in the back of the pod, allows you to to control the system from across the room. Unfortunately, the infrared receiver for the remote is easily blocked by a keyboard or other desktop peripheral.

Also found on the control pod is a headphone jack and an auxiliary input (it mixes the two inputs allowing you to use your iPod or other small audio device and your computer at the same time). Although many will find the blue LEDs a cool addition, they can be quite bright and distracting.

The system performed very well in all of the tests. As each pair of satellite drivers has its own amplifier (Altec Lansing’s inConcert™ technology), the sound is not only loud, but clear. The sound quality is amazing when listening to various musical selections (rock, instrumental, jazz, pop, and more) and watching a few DVDs. Even with the volume at high levels, sound was undistorted.

The large subwoofer, with a 6.5″ driver, can be placed almost anywhere, due to its non-directional nature. You’ll want to keep it away from CRTs, external hard drives, and computers, as it isn’t magnetically shielded. At 50 watts, bass from this rivals some home audio subwoofers triple its size.

Our only other nitpick is that there is a slight hiss when the speakers are turned on, but no audio is coming through them. It could be because of the individual amplifiers for each pair of satellite drivers, or the analog connection. We would’ve liked to see a USB connection, like the XT1s, which would have provided a direct signal from a computer, but having three inputs (two on the back of the subwoofer and one on the control pod) that are mixed together make up for this.

Overall, the FX6021s are a great system, with the only downside for most being the list price. The huge towers look at home next to any Macs, especially the Power Mac G5, mini, or a PowerBook. The high-quality sound, great aesthetics, and simple setup make these a suitable choice.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The FX6021 system is the top of the line system from Altec Lansing, and with the power, features, and design, it shows.

Pros: Fast and easy set up, powerful bass, crisp sound, satellites can hang on a wall or stand on a desk, control pod’s accessibility, multiple inputs
Cons: Slight hiss when there’s no audio, pricey for a 2.1 system, control pod could use some design changes
Rating: 9/10

The Facts

Product: FX6021
Company: Altec Lansing
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $299.95 ($200-$250 street)

Speaker Facts

Maximum Continuous Power: 75 Watts RMS
Satellites: 12.5 Watts/channel @ 4 ohms, 10% THD
Subwoofer: 50 Watts @ 4 ohms, 10% THD

Maximum Sound Pressure Level: 105 dB

Frequency Response:
Satellites: 180-15000 Hz
Subwoofer: 40-180 Hz

SNR @ 1KHz: > 75 dB

This post has been filed in Reviews, Speakers/Audio