Technology Tuesday: Altec Lansing Expressionist MX6021- Kick Ass Speakers For Your Desktop On The Cheap

The explosion of ways to listen to music via the internet over the last few years has been mind blowing. Everything from your own tunes like Google Music or Subsonic, to subscription services like MOG to streaming radio like TuneIn Radio to social listening in Turntable FM…music is always at your fingertips. It is imperative that you have a decent pair of desktop speakers if you want to enjoy the plethora of music available in its full glory.

Desktop speakers with rich, deep bass, tons of power, and room filling sound don’t need to break the bank. At my office, an old pair of speakers that I bought with one of my very first computers, in the early 1990’s, finally kicked the bucket. Not a bad run really. Anyway, I wanted to spend about $125 – $150 and replace them with something that will give me great sound. I settled on Altec Lansing Expressionist Series MX6021 and I couldn’t be happier. They boast 200W of power and pretty impressive sound for the money (about $125).  This week we’ll review these marvelous speakers that will give impressive results for everything from music, to YouTube videos, to games to anything else you throw at it.

Design: The first couple of things that you’ll notice is the relatively striking design of the desktop speakers and the immense size of the sub-woofer. The speakers each have a mid-range driver and a high-range tweeter that are housed in a sleek looking smoked acrylic casing that basically looks like a flat-topped pyramid. The subwoofer is similar in shape as well but is solid black and monolithic looking. However, measuring in at roughly 16″ tall and 15″ wide, this isn’t something that you can tuck onto the corner of your desk.

The satellite speakers connect directly to the subwoofer with a proprietary cable connection. Unfortunately, the cables are not very long so you are limited as to where you can hide the sub as your satellites need to still reach it. The cables are roughly 6′ long so that’s the maximum distance they can be placed away from the subwoofer. In my case, since I am using it on a desk, it was not an issue as I was able to place it under my desk and still have plenty of length to spare. I can definitely imagine some people being disappointed with the lack of flexibility.

[Satellite Speaker]

Control:  At home, I use the Bose Companion speakers and one of the things that I simply love about it is the control mechanism. I hate twisting dials on desktop speakers or having to control volume through my computer. Fortunately, the MX6021’s have a pretty sweet controller that can control power, volume, bass & treble. Additionally, there is a headphone jack and 3.5mm jack for plugging in mobile devices. Of course, you can also use an RCA adapter and plug in practically any device like a TV or turntable. The dial doesn’t turn quite as smoothly as Bose’s counterpart, but overall it works very well and is awfully convenient. One minor irritation is that the volume light indicators move in the opposite direction as you twist the dial which is a bit confusing at first.

[Controller with headphone jack and audio in]

Sound: In one word: Impressive. At full volume with something with deep bass, these speakers can literally shake your room and rattle your bones. Of course, even cheap speakers with artificially boosted bass can provide this sensation. But what makes these impressive is the overall crispness, clarity and natural sounding balance. One of the albums that I love testing new audio devices on is Dark Side Of The Moon. Particularly tracks like Money or Breathe with sound effects, shrill highs, deep bass and everything in between. When I can hear everything crisply and cleanly, I know that I will be pleased with most anything else I listen to. True enough, anything I tossed at them gave me very good results. I was particularly pleased with the guitar and vocals from There’s No Leaving Now, the new album from Tallest Man on Earth. Getting ready for Phish’s upcoming summer tour, I played some gems from Worcester past through the MX6021’s including the hour-long Runaway Jim and 2010’s amazing Harry Hood. As was the case with Dark Side, the results were impressive. My only problem was that I couldn’t jack the volume too high as I was in an office setting.

Similarly, watching video or movies gave very good results with great, natural sounding dialog. I asked my son to fire up Steam and play a few games. Needless to say, he was begging to keep them and was blown away with the rumbles, explosions, and overall sound quality of blowing people up.

Bottom Line: Great value at $125 for stylish speakers that will give impressive performance with music, games or movies. The desktop controller is a convenient way to plug in mobile devices or headphones.

I’d love to hear suggestions for any other budget conscious desktop speakers as I have one more computer to outfit in the coming months. What do you use?

Altec Lansing $129 

Amazon $150


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