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The Altec Lansing 5100 5.1 Speakers


Growing ever more popular are sound reproducers that offer a tremendous set of features. Goodies such as surround sound, center channel, subwoofer, and even remote control can be had for under $200 today. These systems can be marketed not only to the PC user, but to gaming console users. I've often wondered what's the difference between a "gaming" audio system and a "music" oriented audio system. Last week, Altec provided TargetPC with the excellent 621 3-piece speakers and they performed beyond expectations. They also fit into Altec's marketing box known as "PC Audio." Can Altec's 5100 "PC Gaming" speakers provide a top notch audio experience?

Factory Specifications
Altec Lansing 5100
  • Power Output: 58.4 Watts RMS @ 1% THD, 73 Watts RMS @ 10% THD, 100 Watts Total Peak Power
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-20KHz
  • Drivers: Dual 4" Woofers, 1" Tweeters, No Midrange Drivers
  • Shielded Satellites
  • Input Impedance: 10Kohm
  • S/N : >70dB
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • List Price: $179.95 USD

Altec Lansing

5/10 Rating

Description & Specifications

The subwoofer unit has moderate heft. Weighing in at 13 lbs., the apparent heft is quite a welcome change from many of the welter weight cheap plastic enclosures that seem to dominate the market. The front grill cover should not be removed as it is glued at six points to the front panel. I removed it for pictures anyway, but had to re-glue the posts to assure a buzz-free listening experience.

The satellites are much heavier than most considering their diminutive size. Their weight is primarily due to the heavy metal base, which is required to keep the vertical 1" driver array from tipping over. A fully separate audio control also reclines in a similar heavy metallic base. The entire package is actually quite visually stunning. The woofer is in a wooden box that stands upright to minimize the footprint.

Altec is one of the very few companies that doesn't rate their gear based on fabricated specifications. For example, I've tested many speakers that claim hundreds of watts of "max power" or "peak music power" and those numbers are completely meaningless. After all, who listens at 100% distortion? 10% distortion involves serious cracking sounds and a few others that turn most people's stomachs, so I usually refrain from exceeding (or caring) about distortion levels over 3%, which is where most sine waves aurally and visibly (on an oscilloscope) commence to clip.

In tabular form let's examine Altec's power claim:

Distortion Level
1% THD
10% THD
Total (Peak)
Power Output
58.4 Watts (RMS)
73 Watts (RMS)
100 Watts

Akin to the 621 review, I almost passed out due to overwhelming surprise when my eyes met the quoted power FTC specifications along with useable power ratings.

The power module, which houses the port and various connectors, appears (from the outside) to be a similar design to the ACS-48 and 621 module. A peek into the woofer box, revealed striking differences however.


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