Date: April 25, 2005
Author(s): Rob Williams
You think just because you have a Notebook PC, that you have to have poor sound? Altec Lansing disagrees, and they prove it with their XT1 Notebook Speaker set. Read on to see how they perform.
If you own a Laptop, you already know that the sound quality definitely leaves a lot to be desired. It’s certainly not meant to be full of Treble and Bass, rather just standard sound so you know what’s going on. I actually think I would prefer to listen to music through a telephone than I would out of a laptop.
Usually, even the speakers that you get from your Laptop manufacturer, still are not the greatest quality, and deserve the nickname, “Tin Cans”. Altec Lansing has recently released their XT1 Notebook speakers, which were developed to give you superior notebook sound, that’s very easy to carry with you.
As noted in the previous section, the XT1 speakers are meant to give you great sound, and great portability. Firstly, the speakers are USB powered, which means that you do not require a power supply, which automatically lessens the load you will need to carry around.
The speakers are incredibly compact, as you can see in the pictures. When I first showed a few friends the case that the speakers can be carried in, they originally thought that it was a CD carrying case. It’s *that* compact.
When you first hook up the speakers, you quickly realize that this is not your ordinary set of speakers. The whole package screams quality. You won’t see plastic cords running to your laptop, as all the cords, minus the expandable USB cable, are sleeved.
In the pictures above, you can see the sleeved cables I mentioned. It’s definitely a nice touch, as it adds class. You can also see on the right speaker, that there are three buttons, one for the power, and two others for the volume. It appears that the speaker is scratched or chafed, but it’s actually not. I have no idea why it appears so in the picture.
To install the speakers, you don’t need any software. As long as you have Windows 98SE or higher, or a Mac OS X or higher system, it will automatically set itself up and work. Since I primarily use Linux on my notebook, I wanted to make sure that the speakers worked there. There was no tinkering to be done at all.. I simply plugged in the speakers, and rebooted the system. SuSE automatically detected and installed it as a USB Audio device.
When you click the Power On/Power Off button, it does just that. When you use the Volume Up/Down buttons, they actually turn your Windows [If that’s your OS] sound up and down. I would have preferred to see the sound control independent from Windows, for only a small reason. If you switch sound devices, it will keep the sound setting. So if you turn the speakers all the way down, you will have to turn it back up when you have a different output. Not a big issue, but it’s something I noticed.
You will see that there is another plug in the speaker. This is for Auxiliary use, and the connector you need comes with the XT1. This is your MP3 Player, DVD Player, Video Game system or anything else that’s compatible.
While this is a welcomed feature, it does have it’s fault. In order to use the sound for your MP3 Player for instance, you will still need to have your laptop or desktop computer turned on. Since the speakers can only be powered by a USB port, you cannot use them otherwise. In that instance, it would just make more sense to run the music off your laptop to save your MP3 players battery.
I tested the sound from the speakers by listening to different types of music, as well as checking out a movie. My music tastes range from Metal to Rock to Dance, so I couldn’t wait to see how each genre sounded.
I first threw on some Nine Inch Nails. I was immediately impressed with the bass from the songs, especially from a set of 2.1 speakers. Oh wait, these aren’t 2.1 speakers, so where’s the bass coming from? The speakers have something called Quality Bass, a technology that allows great bass from your speakers, without a woofer. Altec Lansing doesn’t go into the exact technicalities, but it works well.
I also threw on a track from the Global Deejays. Once again, the speakers had excellent quality, and even at high volume there was no distortion.
Next up was a scene I like to test sound with.. the final freestyle session in 8 Mile. Quit laughing. No, really. This scene is a good one for testing sound, because there is a lot of background noise and freestyling along with music. It all takes place in a basement shack, so we hope it would sound just like that.
Again, I loved how the speakers performed. You could easily hear the background noise, which you are meant to, subtly, in this scene. The echo, people talking the background.. it sounded awesome. The music and freestyling was VERY clear. I would not have any problems whatsoever watching movies with this kind of sound.
I also tested the speakers with Counter-Strike: Source, and again, it sounds much better than the regular speakers. If you are a lan party type person, and have a gaming notebook, then these speakers would compliment it perfectly. The sound was crisp, and was easy to listen to. Playing the game with the regular Dell speakers I have, used to give me a headache, but these didn’t.
I mentioned earlier that the speakers also work in Linux, as well as Windows and Mac OS. I should mention, that Linux does not utilize the speakers as well as the other two OS’s, and that’s why it’s likely unsupported. The only way to control the volume, is through the Linux sound manager, not by the volume control on the speakers themselves. Also, the speakers sound much better in Windows than in Linux, so if you were to get these speakers for a Linux only notebook, I would not recommend it, as the sound quality is not that great, but sounds similar to the tin cans you received with your notebook. I am unsure why exactly they don’t sound as good in Linux as they do in Windows, but that’s the way it is.
Either way, these are great speakers, and I recommend them to anyone who wants great sound out of their notebook. The design, physical quality and superior sound makes these certainly worth the money. I’ve personally only had good experiences with Altec Lansing in the past, and my primary computer speakers are Altecs as well. Check them out for sure. Thanks to Caroline from Altec Lansing for allowing us to review the XT1 speakers!
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