Altec Lansing GT-5051

Mar 18th, 2005 | By

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Altec Lansing GT-5051

: 03/18/05 – 06:03:05 AM


: Sound

Page 1 : Introduction

: Altec Lansing

: $149.95 USD MSRP (but can be found online for significantly less)

Altec Lansing is a company with a long history of producing some of the finest and most popular movie theatre speaker systems and studio monitors used from the 1920s until late in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1973, Billboard magazine claimed that more Altec monitor loudspeakers were being used in recording studios than all other products combined; that was 32 years ago though. For those who may be interested in the company history, there is an informative website called that contains everything you may ever wish to know about James B. Lansing. There is also a timeline on the Altec Lansing website, which you can access here. Though still producing some of their well-regarded legacy products, Altec Lansing has largely re-branded itself and become a very popular producer of personal and computer audio systems. With an ear to their fine audio heritage, I will be evaluating the new GT5051 surround speaker system by auditioning CD audio, DVD surround playback, and of course, the latest in positional audio gaming. I will be evaluating these unique, stacked, side-firing speakers in an office situation as well as auditioning them in a more traditional home theatre setup.

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Page 2 : Packaging

Surrounded by green packing peanuts inside a brown, branded, UPS shipping box there is a glossy retail package; the two largest words reading, "Surround & Around".

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Inside the glossy box, all the components are held firmly in place by two Styrofoam forms. The inside flaps show you the steps for installation.

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Contained within the box you get the two satellites, a centre speaker, the subwoofer, three colour-coded mini-jack connection cables, and a very thin product manual. All components are plastic wrapped. Everything was packed tightly and neatly.

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Page 3 : Physical Description

The most notable feature of this package is the unique speaker design. Instead of requiring that you to run cables to your rear speakers, the GT5051s have their rear speakers mounted on top of the front speakers and angled roughly 75 degrees out from the center; the idea being that the side-firing speakers will reflect off surfaces behind the listener and deliver true 5.1 surround sound. Its a novel approach to save space and reduce cable clutter. Ill evaluate how well this configuration reproduces true surround and how well they perform sonically during my listening sessions.

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The drivers are all three inch (two inches wide when measured by a standard ruler from the inside edge of the rubber/foam surround) and appear to be traditional paper cones with (possibly polypropylene) rubber/foam gaskets. I couldnt find any detailed information on the drivers (a8525 is visible on the back of the top drivers) to be sure of their origin. The walls behind the top driver section of the speakers are comprised of a metal grill material. Although the grill continues around the back of the unit, the grill area at the back is covering plastic material and as thus is cosmetic and not required (see photos). The grill allows for the transfer of air to radiate behind the speaker, effectively opening the sound. I suppose this is what Altec is referring to in their literature as the dipole portion of the Side-firing dipole surround. I believe this is a slight marketing misrepresentation as dipole speakers traditionally have drivers that face both front and back, not fire in two different directions nor simply allow the drivers a space to radiate backwards as they do here.

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The left satellite attaches to the subwoofer via a proprietary three-pin connector at the end of a three-meter length of cable. The right satellite has a similar attachment but since it also houses the volume controls, its connector has ten pins. The centre speaker connects to the sub via a standard mini-jack that runs about two and a half meters. Its too bad that the arrangement doesnt allow for custom lengths of cable, but given the likely positioning of the speakers in most settings youll have enough cable to position the speakers correctly.

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Although there are many pictures of the speakers presented without the speaker grills, the grills in fact seem to be permanently attached, or attached in such a manner that it feels wrong to pry them off (more on this a little later). The satellites and centre speaker housings are made of plastic while the subwoofer appears to be made of MDF. MDF stands for medium density fibreboard and is wood fibre and adhesive formed together using heat and pressure. Again, I think there might be a slight marketing misrepresentation where the literature refers to the subwoofer being housed in a wooden cabinet. The listed measurement of the subwoofer driver is five and a quarter inches; although like the satellites, it is again smaller. The driver measures four inches with a standard ruler when placed between the foam/rubber surrounds. The speakers themselves are reasonably attractive and would blend well with any black monitor.

Page 4 : Operation

The top of the right satellite is home to a power button, volume wheel and three volume selection buttons. The volume wheel will spin infinitely; therefore volume is represented by a series of five blue LEDs embedded in a clear ring surrounding the volume wheel. It takes ten very subtle tactile clicks to raise one LED volume indicator. Main volume is the default operation of the volume wheel. There are three buttons that will invoke the volume wheels use to individually tailor the volume of the Surround, Center, and Subwoofer channels. Pressing one of these buttons instantly allows you to dial in the desired volume. The wheel returns to function as Main after a few seconds of inactivity or by pressing it again. Overall the operation is straightforward and intuitive enough, although Id prefer a more granular visual scale for volume adjustment and monitoring. Having a power button available on the top of the unit is actually a great idea; I certainly prefer that to having to crawl under a desk to flick a switch on the subwoofer. Things missing for some people may include a mute button, no remote control, and/or no separate control unit. Although having the controls directly on top of the unit is handy at a desk, it could become an issue if you were sitting back watching a movie and the phone rang. The controls are on the right speaker; left-handed people might find it somewhat awkward. Also, depending on placement (again, more on this a little later) you may not even be able to see the top of the speaker, rendering any visual cues regarding volume adjustment invisible. All that being said, I find the simplicity of the controls are a fairly efficient way to adjust the individual speaker volume to the requirements of the source being used.

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There is also a switch on the subwoofer to toggle between 2/4 sound and 6-channel surround. Essentially 2/4 blends any signal to deliver centre and extra subwoofer information. While switching to 2/4 mode did provide all speakers with a sound signal, it did so at the expense of dynamic range, focus and clarity. It is my recommendation to always leave the 6-channel setting on.

Page 5 : Specifications

The following specifications were taking from the Altec Lansing website:

Altec Lansings superior sound comes from our patent-pending Side-Firing Surround technology and our patented Dynamic EQ technology, which utilizes custom-built, high-fidelity drivers, state-of-the-art equalization circuitry, and a harmonious mix of the following specifications:
Front Speakers: 10 Watts/channel @ 8 ohms @ 10% THD @ 122 – 20000 Hz 2 Channels Loaded
Surround Speakers: 10 Watts/channel @ 8 ohms@ 10% THD @ 101 – 20000 Hz 2 Channels Loaded
Center Speaker: 10 Watts/channel @ 8 ohms @ 10% THD @ 115 – 20000 Hz Single Channel Loaded
Subwoofer: 30 Watts/channel @ 8 ohms @ 10% THD @ 33 – 140 Hz Single Channel Loaded SYSTEM RESPONSE: 40 Hz – 20 kHz (-10 dB)
DRIVERS (PER SATELLITE): One 3" fullrange driver (front channel) and one 3" full-range dipole driver (surround channel)
DIMENSIONS: 3.7" (W) x 3.6" (D) x 7.8" (H) 94 mm (W) x 91 mm (D) x 198 mm (H)
CENTER SPEAKER: One 3" full-range driver
DIMENSIONS: 6.3" (W) x 4.25" (D) x 3.9" (H) 160 mm (W) x 108 mm (D) x 99 mm (H)
SUBWOOFER DRIVER: One 5.25" long-throw woofer
DIMENSIONS: 7.4" (W) x 9.2" (D) x 12.5" (H) 188 mm (W) x 234 mm (D) x 317 mm (H)
14.5" (W) x 9.6" (D) x 17.6" (H) 368mm (W) x 243mm (D) x 448mm (H)
Power rating conforms to FTC Amplifier Rule #16 C.F.R. Part 432. ©

Page 6 : Overview

Ive always taken sound very seriously. Having been involved in audio and audiophile equipment for more than 20 years, I have grown accustomed to a certain level of audio performance. I have become interested in the area of computer audio for a number of reasons; the surprising rise of fidelity in computer applications and gaming, the increased use of multi-channel playback in both movies and sound via computer and primarily, the whole cost/performance ratio that has been such a large limitation in computer audio playback. Ill take this opportunity to applaud AOpen for having the fortitude to produce a few motherboards with a tube audio section over the last few years. (AX4B-533 Tube, AK79G Tube, AX4GE Tube-G) It was an exciting step; one I had hoped would be followed up and improved upon over time. Alas, it seems they seem to have stopped producing these motherboards, as there hasnt been a new model in some time. Thankfully, there has been a steady increase in quality in the sound card arena. The dominant SoundBlaster branded cards have come under increasing pressure during the last 10 years, most recently by some very able chipsets like the Envy24 from VIA.

It is my hope that many companies begin to make serious moves to create real audiophile components for computers in the near future. As more and more people are centering all of their entertainments in one device, it seems that now might be the time to help develop a market for audiophiles with new high-end audio computer components. With the advent of near silent PCs and the highest end video cards costing upwards of $800 CDN dollars, it seems within reason to provide similarly high-end audio cards and speakers.

With all of the above in mind, it is my intention to review products based on as much of an audio-centric model as possible. I am not a sound engineer and will not be making detailed measurements, although if there is enough demand I may procure a sound pressure meter and delve deeper into the specifications. Instead, I will try and focus on musicality, sonic fidelity, and try to describe the sound of components as much as possible. As such, I will cite and refer to specific recordings across many musical spectrums, I will audition speakers in both desktop/office and theatre-like/larger-area placements, I will cite and refer to specific scenes in movies that contain surround channels as well as other movies that may not contain multi-channel audio, and finally, I will do the best I can at citing and referring to specific sections of games, hopefully without producing any spoilers along the way. Please be liberal with comments regarding your opinions on the article.

Page 7 : Setup

The office setup has a pair of large CRT monitors placed at the corner of a large desk area. The office is largely rectangular although it does contain a few anomalous pocket areas. Speakers are placed roughly 60 centimeters (2 feet) from the rear wall and 15 centimeters (6 inches) to the outside and slightly in front of either the right or left monitors which makes them somewhat more than one meter (1 yard) apart. The theatre placement is a large open area that is roughly rectangular. In this environment the speakers are placed on stands roughly one meter off the floor and about one meter from a rear wall. The speakers are placed about 2 meters apart in this configuration. Future reviews will note any variation in placement if the speaker performs better in another location. I hope these real world placements will provide ample information with which to compare your specific concerns regarding the reviewed products and the placement within your setup.

For reasonable comparisons, I intend to listen to any audio component via Windows Media Player 9/10 and without any source processing (no EQ, WOW effects, etc). I chose this based primarily on the fact that I could be reasonably sure that most readers have access to or would be running at least one version of Windows and have access to the same player and likely the same drivers and thus could recreate similar sound scenarios if they so desired. Although I was originally hoping to be platform independent this seemed like the most prudent path to take.

Sounds cards used in evaluation include the Sound Blaster Live! (Live driver version dated Feb. 28 2003 auto-updated) and Sound Blaster Audigy2 (Live driver version dated Jul. 29 2004 auto-updated); both computers are running Windows XP SP2 with all recent updates. I know there are alternate, possibly better sounding cards available, but again I am trying to present findings based on commonly used equipment.

Page 8 : First Impressions

Speakers always require some sort of break-in period. Driver gasket material needs to loosen so that driver travel is maximized and the speakers are most able to recreate the sounds theyre supposed to mimic. Given that, initially I found the GT5051s to sound as though they were wrapped in a thick blanket. While the dynamic range was reasonably well reproduced, there was a constraining factor limiting them from any kind of sonic freedom. Clearly something needed to be done. Although I had started with strict guidelines, I was curious if simply bumping up the top end of the audio spectrum in an EQ would help. Doing so may have helped, but it didnt stop the feeling as though I was listening to speakers that were drowning. The next step was to prop up the front of the side and centre speakers with a section of cork. This went some way to correcting the obvious flaws, (I hope that Altec Lasing considers integrating adjustable stands in future releases) though I wasnt yet sonically satisfied that things were correct. Revisiting the grills, I realized that brute force was required to remove them. There are plastic folds on a section of the centre, middle top, and bottom of each grill that grips a silver plastic form that surrounds the driver. Given enough leverage, the grills came off; Id definitely like to see an easier removal method. The centre speaker required even more leverage to remove. Now that the actual drivers were visible, it appears that the centre speaker driver is the same as all other drivers only housed in a somewhat larger speaker casing. What was most shocking about the grill removal wasnt even the immediate benefit one gained in sound quality, though there was obvious improvement, but the massive amount of plastic material that the grills actually covered. Without boring you by presenting the actual volume of air that is restricted by the plastic grill Ill instead provide you with a photo of the grills. I still havent risked prying the even larger subwoofer grill off. (*Note – After a few days I found that the subwoofers grill was actually glued in place, though I managed to carefully remove it without any damage to either the grills or cabinet, I found it was less affected by the grills presence.)

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Given the speakers newfound breathing room, I played various music sources for about a week before it became time to actually begin an evaluation.

Page 9 : Music

I must re-iterate that for the best sound out of these speakers, the 2/4 mode should be avoided. Leaving the speakers at the 6-channel setting simply directs information to the appropriate channels, meaning that in the case of most audio CDs, youll be hearing music from both main/bottom speakers and the subwoofer. There is a certain advantage to listening to music coming from a single source from each the left and right channel; when only one driver is loaded it means that there is a minimum of processing being done with electronics or crossovers. Having almost all sound, minus the deep bass, emanating from a single source allows for a very clear, direct sound, no sound waves competing with each other or canceling each other out. Of course there are always trade-offs. With regards to the GT5051s, it means that there is only so much air the 2-inch drivers can actually move.

In characteristically unfair fashion I started with Jean Langlaiss Missa Salve Regina (Hyperion CDA66270). This is a work for choir, chamber orchestra brass ensemble, and two organs; to say it moves a lot of air is definitely an understatement. At moderate volume levels the GT5051s put on a brave face, but when the volume is increased to more realistic volume levels, complex passages start to knot up: the top end became crunchy while trying to deliver so much information. The subwoofer has a very polite characteristic and it was not impossible to leave it at its maximum volume setting, though it sounded less out of breath and more natural with only four LEDs illuminated. Next I selected Mozarts Requiem. Frequently, the Requiem in D minor gets an overblown treatment, however here, I auditioned the much smaller, and far superior recording performed by Le Petite Bande and the Netherlands Kamerkoor under the direction of Sigiswald Kuijken (Accent ACC8645D). It really is a recording that should be far better known and infinitely better regarded. Regardless, the recording finds the speakers sounding more comfortable and less out of breath, though still not quite up to the task of delivering the denser choral sections without the high end suffering from distortions. The speakers fair much better, seem happier, and are more appropriately suited with smaller, less challenging recordings that show off solo piano, string quartets, and chamber works. The solo bass viol from the soundtrack of Tous les Matins du Monde (Auvidis Travelling K4640) sounds thick; you can clearly picture the bow scraping sharply, and fingers sliding heavily over the strings.

Likewise solo guitar and country blues find an able companion in the GT50501s. Mississippi John Hurt is captured here, his gentle, gentlemanly, but gravelly vocals clearly articulated over his distinctive guitar technique on Worried Blues (Rounder CD 1082). Jazz too is largely well matched, saxophones and trumpets being best served, as the drivers seem to be finding their output fall squarely within the majority of the instruments natural range. Often McCoy Tyner is missing in action on Part 2 Resolution from John Coltranes A Love Supreme (MCA/Impulse MCAD-5660 JVC-467) but here his steady left hand can be clearly heard centering the rest of the band. What is missing is the lowest mid-range or upper bass; percussion, and the bottom bass strings seem most affected. It makes sense too. Given that we are jumping from a 2-inch cone to a 4-inch subwoofer means something was bound to go missing.

Though these frequencies arguably contain less music than the mid and upper range, there are a few recordings, Black Sea by XTC (Virgin CDV 2173), Ginger Baker Middle Passage (Axiom 539 864-2) and even Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin come to mind as recordings that use a big drum sound that is somewhat diminished with the GT50501s lack of that low middle. Surprisingly though, some of the music more traditionally rooted in the bottom end such as reggae and rap fair well due to the capable, though subdued subwoofer. The big beats opening Eric B & Rakims Follow the Leader (UNI UNIXD3) are satisfying and full. On Burning Spears 100th Anniversary (Mango CCD 9377) the dub complexities of The Ghost are clearly defined; round, fat beats roll freely around in space, like they should. Where these speakers truly shine though is on a recording like Radiohead Hail to the Thief (EMI 7243 5 84544 2 0). The speakers seem uncannily adept at keeping pace with the dynamic, sonic twists of the record; Thom Yorkes vocals easily careening through their sound world.

The subwoofer may be a disappointment to some. If you like a boom-y, big, sloppy bass, this sub will leave you wanting. It is a nice, neat, and tight bass, it delivers a reasonable bottom end for most recordings, it just does not delve as deep or drive as loud as some might like, though the amount of bloom can be adjusted by positioning the sub closer or further from adjacent walls. You also loose something on detail and soundstage in the lower registers.

For most, the idea of a great recording is to transport you to a space, a space inside the stage (imaginary or real) of the performance. Details should come alive, every nuance heard and appreciated. Unfortunately though, these speakers do not shed much light on the details of a recording, the weight of piano keys, the buzz of a slightly miss-hit fret, the exact location of where a stick lands on a cymbal are all absent. Nor do these speakers present the sounds you hear in any kind of a real sound stage, despite numerous placement attempts, you are never really aware of the size of a concert hall or where the players stand on stage, the stage is too shallow for such refinements; however, they do present material with an earnestness that is largely pleasing despite their deficiencies. I found listening to them easy and I enjoyed digging out the next CD or song I wanted to hear. Across the board Altec have had to make choices to meet their engineering demands and more than likely, their production costs. With this comes trade-offs; a big subwoofer is one of them, a big sub means more power and more cost as well, producing a two-way speaker or one very able driver is likewise not a likely choice given their price-point. As long as you know this going in though, I think the bass is quite adequate and the pleasure you can derive from the musical reproduction is quite high. You wont have neighbors pounding at your door demanding you turn down the racket, and you wont find nuances in recordings you thought you knew well, but the music will still be served quite well despite it all. Given what I imagine to be Altecs constraints, I think the balanced choices that have been made for these speakers have served the music rather well. If I may borrow a quote from Tom Norton of The Stereophile, they don't do any one thing particularly well, but spread their compromises around in an engaging manner (From a review of the Vandersteen 2Ce loudspeakers written by Chip Stern in October 2000 found here).

Page 10 : Movies

Is it really 5.1? Yes and no. Is it immersive? Not strictly by dictionary definition. Does it sound better than 2, 2.1, or 4.1? Yes! While the speaker design and marketing suggests truly immersive 5.1 audio, what you get is an incredibly wide soundstage of audio that does what it can to suggest 5.1. It was only on the rarest of occasions when the sound waves bounced just right off a side or rear wall that I felt as if I heard something happening behind me. After a large sampling of A-B comparisons I can confidently say that these speakers are preferable for watching movies to a standard stereo speaker arrangement though.

On older, pre-surround movies the speakers deliver audio that is comparable to the music audio results. In Alfred Hitchcocks North by Northwest, the classic scene where Cary Grant is left in the middle of Kansas and then shockingly attacked by a crop-duster plane, sounds pan left to right convincingly, the soundstage is presented accurately and dynamically. I was disappointed with some movies though; in Platoon there is a long scene at the climax that contains intense firefights. The GT5051s seemed unable to deliver convincing explosions while gunshots seemed to lack focus. I think this may be the same frequency range that was also missing during the audio evaluation. Likewise I was left under-whelmed with Natural Born Killers chaotic (quixotic?) riot scene. While I was hoping to be surrounded with the clamor of violence and destruction, I was presented instead with a large disorienting wall of sound. While this is largely in keeping with the tone of the movie, I was hoping for more. The speakers fared better with native 5.1 source material. When the grasshoppers burrowed into the ant colony to express their dissatisfaction with the lack of food in A Bugs Life, you could nearly make out where the next hole would appear. The even more exaggerated sounds in Lord of the Rings allowed the speakers to do as much shining as they could. During the scene when the Orcs attack the party in Balins Tomb you clearly hear the clash of swords, the release of arrows, and the hollers and thumps in all their intended complexity. Where things get really complicated though are the moments when the sounds really should be coming from all sides. In the kung-fu epic Hero, the battle with Skye- an elegant battle between two foes that occurs in a classic open-air temple with rain falling insistently, sizzling on the rooftops and dripping down over the sound of a masterfully played qin (its a traditional Chinese string instrument that is played on ones lap or low table)- I was almost distracted by the rain. What should have been a gentle immersive surround experience was instead replaced with an ever-present rainfall, which although it never overtook the action, did somehow sound wrong.

All this isnt to say these speakers were unappealing; they are in fact quite appealing. Just as with the music, they seem to deliver more than you think they could. While there are indeed times that the sound may be better served by a true 5.1 system, the GT5051s do an excellent job at conveying the emotional content that the sound of movies are supposed to deliver. If you find yourself watching movies on a monitor in a smaller space rather than in a cinema environment, this is especially true.

Page 11 : Gaming

If youve arrived here having slogged through the whole review, I congratulate you! Thank you very much for reading. For those of you just joining us via the handy menu, Id strongly recommend that you read the article up to here so you can catch up on the trends. Jumping section to section is a good and handy thing but in this case I think you'll benefit from working from beyond the gaming headspace first. While traversing the sonic landscapes during gameplay, it seems that gaming is burdened by similar issues as the other sound sources, though perhaps even more so regarding directional audio cues. Read on!

Its a funny thing how a new set of speakers can alter the way you listen to games. After playing many hours, I think Ive found out something obvious: games that leverage 5.1 sound technologies are more immersive. Half-Life 2 sounds very different in 5.1. I played through the entire Follow Freeman section and while I cant quite recognize or specifically locate sounds coming from behind you with these speakers, you do sense things to about 270 degrees. Beyond that, the space more-or-less directly behind your head, is kind of a fuzzy, dead zone, but its a world better than a 2.1 setup. The focus of the front 180 degrees is terrific with sounds coming from believable space and appropriate direction. The subwoofer performs admirably here; being under attack by striders is as sonically punishing as it is deadly. Doom 3 doesnt fare quite as well despite being sonically impressive. The surround aspect comes off less focused with the GT5051s, the surround sounds tend to switch quickly from right to left giving the impression of a much smaller sonic field-of-view. I gather this is largely due to the tight indoor areas that are predominant in the game with little area for the rear channel information to breathe. The weapons also sound a bit thin too. The shotgun, while delivering a blast, doesnt carry the weight it should to sound really convincing. Need for Speed: Underground also sounded weaker than it should have. Although the car sounded fine, no information was being delivered to the centre channel, and as a result youre left with the car sounding underpowered. While this may not specifically be an issue with these speakers, it seems worth pointing out and something that doesnt occur in a 2.1 setup. Despite not delivering any information to the centre channel, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 sounds terrific. The soundstage meshes very well with the ambient sounds and the gallery applause in tournament mode. While playing the Harbour Town Golf Links course you can hear the ocean off in the distance clearly in the far left channel on the 12th and 13th holes. It definitely adds to the immersion and enjoyment during game play. Finally, for fun I fired up an older game, Diablo 2; it sounded fine in its 3D audio mode, everything well placed and correct.

The GT5051 speakers are a hit and miss affair for gaming, some games sound great, others less so. What is for sure is that 5.1 gaming is a major advancement to gaming and should be utilized as much as possible in the future. However, in most cases youd be better served by an actual 5.1 setup if space permits. While there is nothing detracting here for the most part, there is too much missing to consider them as a real gamers gaming speaker.

Page 12 : Conclusion

After spending more than a month with these speakers, listening to anything and everything, Im left with mostly positive feelings. Its a funny conclusion given that many of my observations are critical, and that I generally find the speakers lacking, that I should still remain so positive overall. I think its a testament to Altec Lansing that they have indeed balanced all the shortcomings so well that the speakers actually have room to present themselves so positively over time. I have put these speakers through the ringer and they have somehow managed to still perform beyond their faults. Though they are still too quirky to get a broad-based recommendation, I can certainly say that if you are in the market for a set of speakers that perform well under almost all circumstances, have the ability to deliver 5.1 audio when required, take up no more room than a typical 2.1 setup, and most of all can provide frequently delightful musical playback, these may be the speakers for you. Now I know thats a pretty specific list, but given that many of us spend many hours in front of work computers and work in largely square spaces, the GT5051s can provide more for less, much more than many 2.1 speaker setups. If you are a hardcore gamer or cinephile you really ought to spend more and get a dedicated surround system, but if youre in a smaller space and need a jack-of-all-trades speaker, this just might be the ticket.

Given that recommendation, there are a few things Id love to see Altec Lansing do with these speakers. Topping the list is the obvious choice of more easily removable grills and the addition of speaker stands. The front speakers sound much, much better tilted back. I also think that the top/rear speakers should rotate, and therefore you could adjust the balance, directing where reflected sound should go. It would be even more terrific (and clever) if the bottom drivers were a little larger and the top speakers were removable and could be placed wirelessly behind the listener for sources that would benefit from true 5.1 playback; and when not used as such, would integrate as the tweeter of a front, two-way speaker arrangement. It would also be nice if there was a dedicated control pod which would therefore allow for standard speaker cable to replace the proprietary pinned arrangement, facilitating a larger range of speaker placements. And while Im suggesting improvement, I think a slightly larger, more powerful (though equally musical!) subwoofer could replace the current one. While Altec Lansing has done an interesting and excellent job with the GT5051 speakers, I think integrating my suggested improvements would allow the next generation (GT5052s?) to be more accessible, more versatile, sound better, and be easier to locate at retail stores.

Finally Id like to sincerely thank Altec Lansing for the opportunity to review these speakers; it has truly been a pleasure to listen to them. However, I also feel that I need to issue them a challenge. Given your historic domination of large-scale theatre sound as well as having created many very fine loudspeakers, Id like to see you deliver a best-of-class 5.1 speaker setup to reclaim your former place as one of the finest speaker manufacturers. Given the success of the newcomer Logitech, as well as the stalwart Klipsch, in producing some very fine computer based audio loudspeaker arrangements, Id relish the opportunity to put the best Altec Lansing has to offer up against these two manufacturers in a three-way comparison. PleaseAltec Lansing, dazzle me with what you can do.


-Quality music reproduction
-Multi-channel playback with a small footprint
-Innovative design


-Rarely convincing 5.1
-Restrictive speaker grills hard to remove
-Proprietary speaker attachments

Thanks to Altec Lansing for making this review possible

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