Whether you’re blasting away in Quake III or listening to your favourite CD, adding a third, sub-woofer, speaker to your PC sound system makes a big difference to the richness of the audio experience. Here we evaluate two entry-level three-speaker amplified offerings from highly respected names in the PC audio business – Labtec and Altec Lansing.
Both companies develop, design and manufacture their own driver units and are involved in advanced research for PC audio products, including microphone technology. Labtec supplied us with their new £49.95 LCS-2414 speaker set and Altec Lansing their more expensive £69.95 ACS45.1 set, introduced in the summer. Both have compact, magnetically shielded, satellite stereo speakers designed to be placed on your desk, with the larger and un-shielded sub-woofer recommended for a floor-standing position. That, however, is where the similarity ends. Click the ‘NEXT’ link below to find out more.The LCS-2414 satellite units are incredibly small – ideal if desk space is at a premium. The wood-constructed sub-woofer box is also compact as its driver is a relatively small 8cm unit. The on-off switch and power on indicator light reside on the top of the sub-woofer box, which is less ideal than their desktop positioning on the ACS45.1s. Bass volume is not independently adjustable. The single volume control is a wheel on the right hand satellite unit. There is one more cable to manage with the LCS-2414 than the ACS45.1, with three wires sprouting from the right hand satellite unit instead of two for the Altec Lansing unit.
Audibly, the LCS-2414 is a very different kettle of fish to the ACS45.1. There isn’t the thumping bass of the Altecs and the level of amplification is clearly lower, so you will need to turn the volume up from the audio source to really annoy the neighbours.
However, those tiny satellite speakers were a revelation. Despite their size, they delivered a surprisingly big, spacious sound with very clear treble. In fact the spaciousness of the sound was slightly to the detriment of the central stereo image, which was a bit indistinct.Compared to the Labtecs, the ACS45.1 satellite units are larger, though not enormously so, and sport push-button volume controls which double as the on/off switch. The large sub-woofer unit, which houses a generous 12cm driver, is an all-wood box, designed to enhance bass resolution.
The sub-woofer also gets its own separate setting up volume knob. Audio input is via a conventional 3.5mm stereo jack lead from your sound card or any other compatible audio source and goes into a choice of two input sockets on the sub-woofer unit. The satellites are then fed from one socket on the sub-woofer. Apart from the power lead to the sub-woofer, only three cables are involved – one from the audio source, one to the right hand satellite with the volume controls and then one from this unit to the left hand unit.
Sonically, the ACS45.1 has stonking bass performance. You can really rattle the floorboards. The performance of the satellites drew a more mixed response from listeners. They have a smooth, easy-to-listen-to quality about them with a good central stereo image, but the treble was a bit muted, which tended to mask any spaciousness in the sound.The £20 price difference is very evident in these two products. The Altec Lansings look more expensive than the Labtecs and have luxuries like push-button volume controls and a bigger sub-woofer. On the audio front, the Altec Lansings are slightly woolly, but deliver a loud, easy to listen to sound. The Labtecs, on the other hand, are completely different, with less bass and a more detailed treble, and that sense of spaciousness which is missing from the Altec Lansings. If you prefer a thumping mellow sound, the £20 extra would definitely be worth it for the Altec Lansings. Otherwise, the Labtecs are worth the money.
Company: Altec Lansing
Contact: 020 8847 9478