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Altec Lansing Expressionist Ultra MX6021 Review

Highs

  • Power to spare, for PC speakers
  • Chest-thumping bass, crisp treble
  • Sleek, modern design
  • Included desktop remote control

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 0

Lows

  • Audible hiss even at moderate volume
  • Slight lack of presence
  • Non-standard speaker cables
  • Enormous subwoofer hard to hide
  • Awkward desktop controller
Altec Lansing’s brawny Expressionist Ultra MX6021 moves enough air to elicit grins and noise complaints alike, and looks good doing it.

Introduction

That old adage about children being seen and not heard should be flipped around for speakers: They should be heard, not seen. In an ideal world, anyway. But until the Invisible Speaker becomes reality, a lot of manufacturers have taken to interesting ways of making those plastic chunks that spit out music look as good as they sound – like making them transparent. From Harmon Kardon’s iconic SoundSticks to Ferguson Hill’s FH007 and the stunning GLA-55, glass (and its more practical buddy acrylic) really catches the eye as much as the ear. Altec Lansing gives the trendy see-through look some rumble with the capable MX6021, a 2.1-channel PC gaming setup that combines a room-rattling subwoofer with a pair of exceptionally chic satellites you won’t be ashamed to prop up beside your Post-It dispenser.

Features and Design

The MX6021 comes with two rather runty desktop speakers, each standing just under nine inches tall, and one massively disproportionate subwoofer that seems to have been hogging all the chow while these three were growing up on the speaker farm together. It measures roughly 16 inches tall, 10 inches wide, and 14 inches deep, devouring about the same chunk of under-desk room as a mid-sized tower. While that might not be an issue for those with spacious desks, anyone with a desktop PC and drawers already hogging space under their desk (or God forbid, in a dorm) might find legroom impinged upon when the MX6021 moves in and starts collecting foot scuffs.

A UFO-shaped remote just slightly larger than a hockey puck offers a power button, headphone jack, aux input, and volume control from the desktop, not to mention separate bass and treble adjustment. Altec claims the MX6021 system puts out about 200 watts.

Design

Unlike some other clear speaker designs, the MX6021 treats the smoked acrylic merely as a facade – the enclosure for each driver rests in a gloss black tube. Both desktop speakers lean back on coffee-can sized cylinders on the bottom, which house the 3-inch midrange drivers. A smaller one about the same diameter as a Coke can (but only about an inch deep) sits on top for the 1-inch neodymium tweeters. Only a thin strip connects them, maintaining the illusion they’re both floating in the glass. Exposed hex screws and a bright faux metal ring around the midrange driver help add accent to an otherwise very dark design. The subwoofer gets the same style ring around its 6.5-inch driver, but otherwise sports a more subdued color scheme. No clear plastic here: It’s basically a monolithic black block.

Bottom line: In a field that mostly consists of black plastic boxes peppered with drivers, Altec has really managed to give the MX6021 a distinct and attractive look. We also liked how short the speakers are, which kept them from interfering with overhead shelving the same way the skyscraper Creative GigaWorks T40 did.

Setup

Setting up the MX6021 takes no longer than five minutes. Every component strings together with color-coded cables that plug directly into the sub, which itself just needs a stereo cable running to a PC and power. The color coding makes setup a breeze, but unfortunately, the cables are hardwired directly into each speaker, and use proprietary jacks (which look like S-video connectors) on the other end, making it impossible to extend them. Each cable measures 6.5 feet, which should be ample for most desktops, but might limit your options for alternative setups.