When the subwoofer earned its rightful place in the realm of computer audio, one of the smallest computer peripherals became one of the largest overnight. The deep bass and added clarity gave computer audio a tremendous gift, but that gift has been one of the hardest aspects of computing to micro-ize as computer footprints get smaller and monitors universally become flat.
We have seen some excellent smaller, two-piece computer speakers (Bose has a great one for $400). There are also some excellent one-piece systems, like a Polk Audio product for $1,000.
There are several choices in subwooferless computer speakers. There always have been. Most of them suck or are too expensive or both. The challenge has always been to somehow capture the sound that comes with today’s 2.1, 4.1 and 5.1 (even 6.1 and 7.1 that we’ve seen…) computer speaker systems. Let’s face it, a lot of users just don’t feel like mounting a complete surround system around their desktop.
The Altec Lansing SoundBar tries to pick up the slack and give users a compact solution that won’t sound like two tin cans and a string.
At $80, it is not going to compete with the Polk SurroundBar, but it’s a long shot better than the $10 Dell Sound Bar that is made to retrofit their Ultrasharp monitors.
The Altec Lansing SoundBar sits comfortably below any flat monitor and lets you connect your computer and any other headphone-jack device, like an iPod, simultaneously.
Here’s what you should know about the SoundBar: it does its job. He’s a blue-collar, clock-punching factory worker who’s happy with his lot in life. The product has good bass, excellent highs and projects a pretty clear sound. But it’s not going to shake a room.
The SoundBar is still a one-piece speaker system without a subwoofer, and nobody is trying to sell it as anything different. So don’t expect it. It also doesn’t deliver (or claim to deliver) a three-dimensional surround sound experience. This isn’t a home theater unit. It’s not going to make you jerk your head around to see where that sound came from. The SoundBar is essentially a center channel that does a decent job of separating left and right effects.
The SoundBar is powered by three 2″ divers; two of them are active, full-range speakers, while the third is passive and handles the bass. The device is controlled by a single knob that handles power, volume and muting. The line-in and headphone jacks are also useful, and they give you audio ports right at your fingertips.
It’s certainly priced right, and if you’re looking for a clear, compact speaker that won’t need its own room and require multiple wall and ceiling mountings, this is a great choice.