As the world of home theater audio becomes ever more popular, companies are
building their consumer base by reaching out to every audience, every price point
imaginable. There is obviously great potential here for the video game console market.
Todays DVD format games have soundtracks that pack a bigger punch than most puny TV
speakers can handle. Altec Lansing is stepping up to give your consoles a little audio
muscle without emptying your bank account.
The Altec Lansing XA3021 2.1 Speaker System
is, essentially, a powered subwoofer with two stereo satellites. It does not require an
expensive receiver; everything you need to connect it to your console and TV are in the
box. In terms of set up, all you have to do is plug in the subwoofer, connect the stereo
speakers to the output of the sub, the RCA cables of your console system or TV to the
input of the sub, hook up your wired controller, and voila! Turn the thing on, tweak the
levels a bit, and you are ready to go.
The system features roll out like this: it has 40 Watts of total system power
(20 Watts RMS), two 3-inch satellite speakers, and one 5.25-inch long-throw subwoofer. In
addition to the primary RCA inputs and outputs, there is a 3.5mm stereo auxiliary input
(i.e. headphone style jack) for portable CD or MP3 Players. The system is controlled via a
wired controller that includes power, volume, two headphone jacks, and an EQ mode
selector. There are three modes of bass equalization to choose from: TV, Gaming, and
Max-Bass. In TV mode the system provides a normal amount of bass for standard TV
programming. Gaming mode boosts the bass level to what is, for this system, a happy
mediumit accentuates the bangs and booms without rattling the windows. Max-Bass is
for those who are not content until their rib cage is vibrating.
While perfectly suitable for any home audio needs (DVD, CD, MP3 players, VCRs, etc.),
the XA3021 was created to satisfy a console gamers specific needs. Aside from the
convenience of having everything you need right in the box, and being very affordable
(MSRP: $99.95 U.S.), it is small and light. No one will be nagging you about this system
cluttering up the room. The satellites are equipped with adjustable stands that allow them
to sit on a shelf or, if rotated, hang on the wall. The wired controller cord is about the
same length as a game controller cord, and the systems two headphone jacks (one for
you, one for a friend) are located in the controller for easy reach. Last but not least,
it looks right at home next to any console, with stylized speaker grills and a very funky,
So, all tech-specs, geek-speak, and mumbo jumbo aside, we get to the big question: how
does it sound? After checking out the various ultra-affordable, out-of-the-box speaker
systems that are the peer group for the XA3021, I can confidently say that this is a solid
set up. And it blows away the stereo speakers in your average TV. The only complaint I
have about the performance is that 3-inch stereo speakers cannot possibly deliver the kind
of mid-range sound that is needed to bridge the gap between the high and low frequencies
in order to create a fuller range of sound. But I think this is expected.
XA3021 is an affordable, less intrusive home theater alternative for those who would
rather avoid the cost and headache involved with piecing together a more complex system.
Also, as more and more children have their own TVs and consoles, it is a great system for
a kids room. Of course, parents will have to make rules for the bass level on the
sub (there are always those headphone jacks), but that is always the case. It looks great
next to any console, though some will have aesthetic issues with the odd, bomb-shape of
the sub. In the end, at this price, you know about what you can expect. But this system
sounds pretty good; it ranks at the top of its price range. If a hundred bucks is what you
are looking to spend, this is the system you want.