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2.1 Hi-Fi Audio Bigs Up

Altec Lansing VS.2121: The Least Shall Be First?

With its 2121, Altec offers a very small 2.1 system - the smallest we've ever tested. Obviously, it will be attractive to anyone who's short on space, but the issue with this type of product is always the same: Has the reduction in size been achieved at the expense of performance, and is the choice viable?

The design of the VS.2121 is very simple, and so is the setup. The system has only two separate elements: a set of two satellites with a cable network and a subwoofer that houses the power supply. All you do is plug the cable network from the satellites into the subwoofer and the source (your sound card or another source), and then plug the power cord into a wall outlet and you're set to go.

The controls are located on the right satellite, with a potentiometer for controlling the volume and turning power on and off, and a pushbutton for enabling a "3D" effect called Sound Field Expander. There's also a headphone jack, which can come in handy. The satellites themselves use a 5-cm wide-range speaker, which is well protected behind a metal grille. With their aluminum border, the satellites are aesthetically pleasing if you like classic, discreet styling.

The subwoofer is wider than it is high, which is fairly uncommon. Its 10-cm loudspeaker's half-roll suspension allows large excursions for its size. The enclosure is a classic bass-reflex design. The port opens on the front of the enclosure, to one side, which facilitates installation (you can place it against a wall or partition with no problem). One observation: there's no relative level adjustment for the subwoofer.

Manufacturer's specifications:

  • Subwoofer power output: 16 W
  • Satellite power output: 2 X 6 W
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz - 20 kHz (-10 dB)
  • Inputs: 1 line
  • Headphone jack: right satellite
  • Satellites: 2" full-range
  • Subwoofer: 4" woofer
  • Satellite dimensions: 81 mm X 210 mm X 79 mm (3.2" x 3.1" x 8.3")
  • Subwoofer dimensions: 251 mm X 146 mm X 209 mm (9.9" x 8.2" x 5.7")