On The Graph And To The Ear
Our measurements showed response that was well balanced, if somewhat irregular, which is no surprise for speakers in this category. Bass was very good - the entire range was well covered, which represents a fine performance for a model of this type. The maximum possible sound level is commendable given the available power and the category the system is in. With 110 dB, it'll be plenty for up-close as well as not-so-close listening.
Very good balance but a slight lack of regularity. But then, many other systems do no better...
The 5051 reproduces the bass range very well. Only the sub-bass is lacking, since a model of this size can't handle it.
Maximum Volume: Approximately 110 DB SPL
In listening tests with music, the good balance the graph showed was borne out, and while the neutrality and dynamics weren't comparable to the best systems available, listening nevertheless remained generally a pleasure and the music came through with good fidelity. Obviously if you like bass that you can feel in your stomach, you'll be disappointed; but overall the sound was satisfying and a pleasure to listen to.
With movies in 5.1 (Dolby Digital or DTS), admittedly - as we'd predicted - surround sound effects are just not the same as with a traditional 5.1 or better system. You won't hear the rockets on the spaceship going off behind you, for example. On the other hand, surround sound is recreated much better than with a stereo-only system, and the fullness of the sound quality the system offers is another point in its favor. If you can't install a true 5.1 system with rear speakers, the 5051 is thus a viable alternative compared to stereo, especially since the center-channel speaker gives you better reproduction of dialogue and lets you adjust its level separately from the other speakers.
With gaming, the results were similar. It was better than with stereo, but it was difficult to precisely place a noise coming from behind you. Still, we felt immersed in the action.
The Altec Lansing 5051 is certainly a compromise, but a judicious one that will let you go beyond stereo even if it won't give you true 5.1 sound. It's a choice anyone who can't or doesn't want to install rear speakers should consider.