Thursday, September 20, 2007

First Impressions - Altec Lansing mx5021

First impressions: Holy Shit!!!

My last stereo speakers were a pair of bar-fridge sized boxes made by Cerwin Vega with some cheap-ass replacement 12" drivers in them. Needless to say, my expectations were high, especially in the bass response department.

The mx5021 are a 2.1 stereo system consisting of 2 x 20 watt sattelites, each with 2 x 3" midrange drivers and one tweeter. The subwoofer is a 6" driver in a large, wooden, ported enclosure that is driven by a separate 50 watt amplifier.

The specs are deceptive though, the sound coming out of these things is HUGE! The bass especially, if anything it's a little overpowering on the default setting. I can't over-emphasise how massive the bass is, just unbelievable. The subwoofer does has a particularly large enclosure, but I never thought a little 6" driver could rumble like that. Just amazing.

It uses a digital controller with an infra-red remote for volume, bass, and treble which has the usual problem of not providing enough resolution at lower settings - there's a big gap between too quiet and slightly too loud. Also, there is a noticeable 50Hz mains hum coming from the subwoofer at all times which is really inexcusable for such an expensive system - I paid $AU290 because I couldn't be bothered ordering one from ebay - probably caused by the fact that the mains power cable is only a two pin, double insulated type. Hacking in a earth lead might cure the hum, or electrocute you in the process of trying.

Aside from that, the sound is increadible, I was definitely not expecting anything near as good. The mids are lacking slightly, or perhaps I still need to wind the bass back some more. Overall, completely awe-struck.

Update - a week later:

Still amazed by these speakers, but one thing lacking is any chest sensations. I'm not able to really crank these things in our little apartment, but one thing I've noticed is that when they are turned up loud enough to fear invoking the wrath of disgruntled neighbours there's still no floor-shaking, chest-rattling levels of bass. I mean, you can really *hear* the bass, but you can't really feal it. The one thing about my old 12" speaker boxes was that you could use them as a pace maker if you turned them up a bit.

Update - movie listening: earth shaking bass!

Well, a few weeks into my experience with the mx5021 I finally just had a chance to try them out with a movie and the volume up a bit. Keeping in mind that in our apartment building I'm afraid to turn it up past the second lowest volume setting, it seems that any volume settings after the second LED comes on is really where it comes to life. I'd previously mentioned that you can hear the bass but not feel it, but it seems this is really only true for music at reasonable listening levels. For movies where sound effects like explosions are loaded with low frequency energy, the THX certification demonstrates it's worth by punching your chest and shaking the walls and furniture without any trace of distortion. It makes for a truly exhilarating movie experience.

I'd imagine if you could get the third LED (of 5 total) to come on with a movie you'd experience a whole new world of rib cage rattling bass that is belied by the softer, more accurate bass produced at comfortable listening levels by music tracks.


Gman said...

I have seven pairs of these for my home audio zones. When 4 pairs are on, the house is shaking.

I love them and now they are hard to get.

beet said...

Seven? That's 350 watts of bass altogether... you'd show up on a seismograph if you had them all on at once!

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