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Subjective Listening Tests

 

I'm going to break this up into four categories: Lows, Midrange, Highs and Imaging. First, the low end impressions.

Lows

The low frequencies or bottom end can be described as extended, mildly loose, round, full and somewhat undefined. Since the 621 and the 48 shared the same woofer, the only method of extending the bass without using a massive EQ curve and also drawing much more power, is to raise the Q factor. This effect increases the distortion of the driver itself because it "doesn't know when to stop." When the electrical bass peak sent to the unit stops, the woofer ideally should stop. When the Q is higher than 0.707, the woofer keeps going. This incarnation easily reproduces to a usable 35Hz, whereas the 48s end around 50Hz. A higher Q also creates some of the dreaded "one-note bass" whereas most low frequency sounds appear similar. Kick drums are more difficult to tell apart. The 621s driver exhibited a moderate, but not obnoxious amount of this undefined bass tonality.

Since the 621s have a boom control, take heed. The best sound comes with a turn of no more than 20-30% of full scale, otherwise you'll get nothing but wall shaking bass with zero tonality.

Midrange

My belief has always been that if what's parked in front of your ears can't do the basics right, there's no point in listening further. If voices and midrange type instruments sound like other instruments, all is lost. The only complaint I have is that the upper midrange is too pronounced. The 3-5Khz area is a very sensitive one and its effects are immediately noticeable. Possibly after 50-100 hours of break-in, the effect will diminish. Other than that mildly noticeable aspect, the midrange was extremely listenable and non-fatiguing.

Highs

Simply put, most computer/gaming speakers don't have anything appreciable above 8Khz. The 1" mylar tweeter had output well above the 10Khz mark, which made the highs sound airy and extended. High-hats and vocal sibilance came through with aplomb. Airy highs also improve imaging to a degree.

Imaging

Possibly the least talked about speaker characteristic, imaging is the placement of instruments and vocals in such a manner as to give the appearance of a "sound stage." This is where all other manufacturers should take note. Altec Lansing has achieved true superiority at a rock bottom price to a degree that should embarrass everyone else. Voices were solidly placed and didn't experience the typical drift of most other models. This means that the satellites had closely matched frequency responses. Wide, airy and forward are the other words used to describe the imaging experience. Forward is when the soundstage appears to be to close to the listener. A close soundstage leads most listeners to believe that they are hearing more detail, but in many cases it causes me to lean back in the chair. Altec should correct this...

Conclusion

The 621s will sound impressive in the showroom, and with proper setup, will sound impressive at home. If you fancy yourself an audiophile and don't want to fork over more than $300 for a two-channel set, grab the 621s. Yes, they are the best speakers for all situations that I've heard for twice their price! I made note of a similar experience with the long departed ACS-48s years ago and I'm ecstatic Altec has a replacement that in most areas surpasses the original benchmark. The 621s have earned three things: TargetPC's Value Award, Editor's Choice Award and a permanent spot on either side of my 21" monitor.

William Yaple
October 13, 2002

 





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