Aural Showdown - 2.1 Multimedia Speakers Shootout


Altec Lansing MX5021 & Bose Companion 5

Altec Lansing MX5021

Altec Lansing has been in the computer audio business for a good number of years, and many more years in the general audio business. The MX5021, is one of the higher-end speakers from Altec Lansing that we could lay our hands on.

In terms of design, the MX5021 is about as interesting as watching paint peel off a wall. They are black, as most speakers are; and have a smooth lacquer finish, not unusual among speakers as well. Looking past the aesthetics, we found that each satellite has a one-inch tweeter and a pair of three-inch full midrange drivers. The satellites are complemented by a 6.5-inch subwoofer. Apart from the Razer Mako, it is the only other speaker system to be THX-certified. All this sounds decent and impressive on paper, and given Altec Lansing's reputation for making quality audio products, we were having big expectations of it.

Other accessories that come with the MX5021 include a wired remote control hub and a wireless remote controller. The wired remote control is rather handy as it allows you to adjust volume, bass and treble. It also has LED lights that light up to indicate what levels your controls are at, and that's rather cool. Conveniently, there's also input jacks for headphones and auxiliary devices at the side if the control hub. The wireless remote control, on the other hand, works as it should, but we found the remote control to be really small and thus prone to getting misplaced.

During testing, we noticed that the satellites are physically a little on the thin side and thus prone to being knocked over. The cloth mesh used to shield them is stretched very thin, and looks as if it could be prone to tearing. Caution is advised when handling the satellites and choosing where to place them.

Bose Companion 5

Audiophiles would need no introduction to the name Bose. Founded by Amar G. Bose, a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1964, Bose has been churning out quality audio products ever since.

The Bose Companion 5 we have here is their absolute best 2.1 speaker system. Bose has traditionally been very coy about their product specifications, and the Companion 5 is no different. We know little about the Companion 5 besides its basic specifications, but it looks good, and has a unique TrueSpace surround digital circuitry which attempts to envelope sound around you to create a much wider soundstage (which does work to a certain extent). It is also one of two speaker systems in our shootout which makes use of a USB connection rather than traditional stereo or RCA jacks.

At a recommended retail price of S$749, the Bose Companion 5 is the most costly system in our line-up, and it shows. The speakers, with their aluminum finish, exude sheer class, and certainly looks its cost. The speaker's specs are humble such as its 5.25-inch subwoofer's cone size, but it still delivers in audio quality which is what counts the most. It also comes with a handy wired remote control pod that allows you to adjust volume, a one-touch mute button and has both headphones and auxiliary jacks. You can adjust the level of bass from the speakers, but the good people at Bose have strangely decided to leave the control dial behind the Acoustimass subwoofer unit. This makes adjusting the bass a real chore, but thankfully, the Bose Companion 5 is really swell as we found from our testing and requires little adjustment after the initial setup.