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Review: Altec Lansing XT1

by on May 12, 2005

What happens when you take the proven drivers found in the Altec Lansing FX6021 and inMotion speaker systems, and put them in a portable system? The result is the XT1, a pair of speakers perfect for anyone who wants speakers better than the small ones found on many laptops, but don’t want to lug a lot of equipment around.

Unlike many computer speakers in the $100-$150 price range, the XT1s do not include a subwoofer, power supply, or many controls. Don’t let this fool you, as the XT1s are not your average speakers. In case you were wondering, the speakers can pump out 1.5 watts , which is quite amazing for something USB-powered. Also included with the speakers are a zippered case, two USB cables (one is a cool retractable one), an audio patch cable, and cable to connect the two speakers. The outside of the cables are nylon, to eliminate some tangling.


XT1 Case + iBook

XT1 Speaker

XT1 Controls

Just as any other speaker review, I’d like to lay down my little disclaimer: 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.

As mentioned earlier, each satellite features 2 small drivers (the same as the ones that can be found on Altec Lansing’s inMotion iPod speakers and the FX6021 desktop speakers) behind a non-removable grill. The speakers look like a mini version of the FX6021 satellites.

Setting up the speakers is a fast process, especially since these are meant to be portable. They’re powered by the computer’s USB port, which is also the way they get the audio signal (much like using an iMic). The USB cables included with the speakers are like those found with many digital cameras. You have the option of using either a retractable USB cable or a plain one. After that, the two speakers must be connected using the special patch cable (it doubles as the stand for each speaker). The final step is to pick the speakers in OS X’s Sound Preference Pane.

An auxiliary jack is also located on the side of the speakers for iPods, VCRs, or just about anything else. You can use the included 3.5mm to 3.5mm patch cable to connect things, but the speakers still require a USB port for power.

It’s worth noting that the power and volume buttons act just like the mute and volume keys on any Mac keyboard. Out of the many speaker systems we’ve tested, this is by far the best computer integration we’ve seen.

Despite the lack of a subwoofer, the speakers sounded good. I did some real-world tests — some video files and Keynote presentations — in front of a small group of about 30 people and even those in the back could hear with no trouble. One of our other staff members used them with a computer and a VCR in a similar situation with no trouble. Audio was crisp and clear, in a wide variety of tests.

We liked the fact that Altec Lansing includes a plethora of cables and a carrying case for the XT1s. The case could be a tad larger, to allow the cables to be packed more comfortably.

The XT1s are great for anyone who wants speakers that travel well and don’t require their own power source. Although the price may seem steep, the convenience and USB connectivity help justify it.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Altec Lansing XT1 system is great for anyone who wants a portable speaker system that sounds good.

Pros: Small, convenient, crisp sound, USB integration, auxiliary input

Cons: Expensive, auxiliary input still requires USB port for power, case a bit small

Rating: 8/10

The Facts

Product: XT1
Company: Altec Lansing
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $129.95 ($80-$110 street)

Speaker Facts

Maximum Continuous Power: 1.5 Watts RMS
Each Speaker: 750mWatts Watts/channel @ 7.7 ohms, 10% THD

Frequency Response: 100 – 20000 Hz

SNR @ 1KHz: > 65 dB

This post has been filed in 'Book Accessories, Reviews, Speakers/Audio