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Altec Lansing 251 Speaker System

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by Altec Lansing

Altec Lansing has graced us with picks from their latest lineup, and the company hasn’t looked this good in years. Coming on strong with both console-oriented and PC-oriented lines, these are some of the snazziest-looking and best-sounding speakers available right now, and they give it all to you at an incredible price. The Altec Lansing 251 Speaker System is not the top of their lineup, but at $99 MSRP they are an unbeatable deal for amplified, worry-free 5.1 surround sound.

The 251 Speaker System comes with six speaks: five small satellite speakers and one 5.25" subwoofer. Pumping out a beefy 90 watts peak power, these bad boys are just the thing to get your games bumping, crashing, and exploding not just into the next room, but well down the block. The 251 is designed to work with PC systems, and has been created with the gamer in mind (not many other users have a desperate need for such high-end audio on their PC). Toss in a stressful FPS title and these speakers will put you right in the action. Game designers have taken good advantage of the ability to create believable soundscapes, so a good set of speakers is absolutely essential to your gaming experience.

The Altec Lansing 251 Speaker System is a snap to install. Simply follow the color-coded installation card (or just blindly shove cables into sockets – Altec Lansing has smartly fitted each cable end and socket in a unique way that makes it truly impossible to screw up the connections) and you’ll be up and running in no time. To take advantage of the 5.1 surround sound, you’ll need a sound card that supports it. Don’t have one? That’s OK – the 251 Speaker System is adaptable enough to work with 4 channel surround or 2 channel stereo sound, so whatever your sound card puts out will sound better with these speakers attached.

There are two drawbacks to the system, and they are the same basic drawbacks mentioned in our review of the 5100 Speaker System (the high-end of Altec Lansing’s lineup). The satellite speaker cables must plug into the subwoofer, which limits where you can place your subwoofer in large part due to the fact that the wires just aren’t as long as we’d like. I can understand being more upset about the limited placement in the high-end 5100 System, but at $99 I’m content to deal with the placement issues. Also, the cables are long enough to allow you to position your speakers around your immediate computer desk area – you just won’t be getting optimum placement for whole-room listening (although far more than the whole room will be able to hear the sound). The other drawback is also tied to speaker placement. Altec Lansing gives you stylish detachable stands for the satellite speakers, so you can get that "elevated" look if you desire, but there is no way to mount these things on the wall. It seems like a wall mount bracket wouldn’t be much harder to include than a mini-stand, and being able to wall mount the speakers would alleviate some of the placement issues coming from the wire length.

Overall these are small quibbles, and I recommend this setup to anyone looking to upgrade their sound quality and get the most out of their games. When I heard these speaks cranked up over the din of E3 I was impressed. When our friendly Altec Lansing representative yelled to me that the 251s cost only $99 my jaw dropped. And now that I have this setup blasting the sound out of my PC, I just smiled contentedly and waive off those who would intterrupt my game by feigning deafness. What’s that? Can’t hear you. My ears are busy.

Shawn Rider   (09/18/2002)


Ups: Great sound; great price; stylish design; incredibly easy to install.

Downs: Wires could be longer; wall mounts would be nice.

Platform: PC, DVD, consoles, portable audio.