Review: Altec Lansing VS4121

by on September 14, 2004

Digital music is an integral part in the computing experience. Whether it be with a computer running iTunes, an iPod, or just playing some audio CDs, all the music ends up in the same place – headphones or speakers. Since many of the Macs out there come with lackluster speakers, we decided to take a look at a replacement VS4121 by Altec Lansing.

VS4121 Right Satellite
VS4121 Right Satellite

VS4121 Right Satellite
VS4121 Right Satellite Controls

VS4121 Left Satellite
VS4121 Left Satellite

VS4121 Subwoofer
VS4121 Subwoofer (with hat for scale)

Essentially the replacement for the ATP3 system, the VS4121 system offers slightly more power with 31 watts RMS, a redesigned subwoofer, a headphone jack on the right satellite, and a slightly new look, while keeping a tried-and-true design. I wondered if the sound produced by these speakers was worth the $100 price tag.

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 two small full-range drivers facing the listener and a midrange driver facing the desk. They feature a color scheme and design that should look good with any PowerBook or Power Mac (they are black and silver), but won’t look out of place around a consumer Mac, either. The satellites have dimensions of 4″(W)x4.7″(D)x9.2″(H).

The subwoofer, with its 6.5″ long-throw woofer, sports a new design from the ATP3s, looking more like a bigger version of what my older, lower-end Altec Lansing 221 system included. The subwoofer’s dimensions are: 8″(W)x9.9″(D)x13.6″(H). Setup was a snap. I merely had to connect the color-coded cables to the appropriate locations on the back of the subwoofer, connect another cable to my iBook’s headphone jack, and plug the subwoofer into the electrical outlet.

Operating the speakers is straightforward – controls for volume, treble, bass, and power are located on the right satellite. The bass and treble knobs both have a tactile click at the 50% mark. A blue LED indicates whether or not the speakers are on.

An RCA to 3.5mm adapter is also included in the box, perfect for those who want to connect their VCR or video game console to the speakers instead.

The system performed very well in all of the tests. These included listening to a wide range of classic rock songs (including selections by Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, and AC/DC), newer songs (including REM and Lazlo Bane), jazz (Grant Green, Lalo Schifrin), and movies (Kill Bill 2 and Super Troopers). Audio was very crisp and clear, and I could hear things that I did not notice previously.

I was able to turn up the volume on the speakers all the way and still have clear, undistorted sound. Turning up the bass to the highest amount resulting in being able to “feel” the music from across the room, but still gave excellent quality sound.

The headphone jack on the right satellite is similar to those found on many other computer speaker systems. Plugging in any standard set of headphones results in the speakers muting. Having the jack on the side of a satellite, rather than somewhere else made it very easy to reach.

Overall, the VS4121s are a great system, with the only downside is that they only include one input, instead of two, like the cheaper VS3121. It would be nice to use one speaker system when watching the office TV or using the computer. The slick design and easily-accessed layout makes these a great choice for anyone who wants a midrange speaker system with quality that rivals some of the higher-end systems.

The One-Sentence Verdictâ„¢

The Altec Lansing VS4121 system provides Mac users with excellent audio quality for a price similar to other systems in its class.

Pros: Fast and easy set up, powerful bass, crisp sound, satellites have a small footprint

Cons: Only one audio input

The Facts

5/5Product: VS4121
Company: Altec Lansing
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $99.95

Speaker Facts

Maximum Continuous Power: 31 Watts RMS
Satellites: 6 Watts/channel @ 4 ohms, 10% THD
Subwoofer: 19 Watts @ 4 ohms, 10% THD

Frequency Response:
Satellites: 150-20000 Hz
Subwoofer: 20-150 Hz

This post has been filed in Reviews, Speakers/Audio