Altec Lansing MX5021 Speaker System
Physical Examination and Packaging
Before going into the performance evaluation, let's take a look at the speakers itself and the packaging. The first thing you will notice about the MX5021 is its classy looks - the whole ensemble is a dark piano black that will match any dÃ©cor.
The satellite speakers have an elegantly modern and slim design which only takes a mere 5.25'x2.25' on your desktop (about the same size as a 5.25' drive bay bezel). This is a bonus for crowded desks and for those looking to achieve a minimalist style. Because of the small footprint and their 10" height, you may want to secure the speakers in place using some extra rubber footing or even sticky-tack putty to keep them from tipping over. This is especially applicable to those of you thinking of putting these on stands or placing them in high-traffic areas. (Aside: Our Audio forum moderator Lidistick has mentioned to me that sticky tack will help tighten up the mid-bass. He recommends trying it. :).
The grills are a soft cloth mesh that can be removed though I found taking them off very tricky — just be careful not to break the grills. I suggest keeping the mesh on anyway to keep dust from collecting on the cones and to prevent damage to the membranes.
The casing is made of shiny plastic that attracts and retains greasy finger prints easily. Luckily, Altec Lansing has thought ahead and included a lint-free cloth for you to remove those unattractive smudges and smears.
The MX5021 is a magnet for smudges.
Altec Lansing provides a lint-free cloth to
clean the speakers.
On the back are standard speaker terminals (positive and negative) which give you the flexibility in case you want to upgrade or extend the cables. The terminals are big enough to accommodate typical consumer-grade speaker cables. If you're using beefier speaker cables, you may need to terminate the leads to make them fit (like I had to for my home theater speaker cables).
The MX5021 uses standard speaker wire,
not hardwired cabels.
Judging byhow nice the satellite speakers look, you would expect the same treatment in the subwoofer but this isn't the case. The subwoofer in contrast is big, heavy, and boxy. It measures 8.5'x12'x15' and requires a fair amount of floor space.
Unlike the satellite speakers, the cabinet of the subwoofer is made of wood for better resonance.
On the back of the subwoofer are the main connections for the MX5021 speaker system. There are terminals for the satellite speakers, line input for the audio source, and a connection for the control module. Though the input only takes a stereo jack, the MX5021 bundles a RCA-Stereo adapter.
Aside from the MX5021's good looks, the control module is one of the other features that makes it unique. Like the satellites, the controller uses glossy black plastic and elegant curved edges. The whole module itself is slanted giving it a sharp style while improving accessibility.
The controls are intuitive and simple. There is a power button to turn on the speakers, a large knob to control the volume, and treble and bass buttons to modify high and low frequencies (adjusted via the knob).
When turned on, the LEDs on the module glow a cool blue.
There are a set of 5 LEDs in a row just above the main knob that act as a meter for the bass, treble, and volume. As you turn the main dial, the LEDs will light up in sequence to show you how high you have set the level with 5 LEDs being the maximum.
On the side of the controller are headphone and auxiliary-input jacks which are very convenient. No longer do you have to crawl to the back of your computer to plug in your headphones or MP3 player since you can now do it from the controller on your desktop. The only feature I would consider missing here is a microphone jack to help those business users who record demos and game players who use online voice chats.
To put the icing on the cake, the Altec Lansing MX5021 has a remote control and replicates all the same functions of the controller module: power, volume, bass, and treble adjustments. It is very slim and uses a 3v lithium battery (similar to computer CMOS batteries) which should last a very long time.
When not in use, the remote has a place in a holder on the back of the controller module. This shows some nice design thought by Altec Lansing.
When not in use, the remote control slips into
the back of the controller module.
Contained in the box are all the cables you need to connect the MX5021 to your system. The speaker cables and stereo cable are all 30 feet in length which is more than enough for typical home computers, but a blessing for those of you need the extra slack for home theater setups. There is also an RCA-Stereo audio adapter for in case you use RCA interconnects.
The speaker cables are color coded to help prevent wiring mistakes. The bare speaker wire at the end of each cable is also soldered so you don't have to worry about it fraying.
As mentioned earlier, because fingerprints collect so easily on the glossy plastic, Altec Lansing has thoughtfully included a cloth so you can keep your MX5021 looking sharp.
There is a brief manual included that describes your basic installation procedure, wiring diagrams, and troubleshooting tips. Also included are wall-hanging clips to allow the MX5021 to be placed up onto the wall.