I'm going to break this
up into four categories: Lows, Midrange, Highs and Imaging. First, the low
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
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.
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.
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...
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.
October 13, 2002