Lansing is a name that dates back to my parent's generation. The company is known
for their legendary speaker designs that were typically driven by tube amplifiers.
Times have certainly changed, yet the Altec Lansing name continues. They have
recently introduced an affordable 5.1 speaker system called the VS-3151 geared
for gamers and PC users. Priced at an amazingly low $99.95 retail, the VS-3151
comes with five satellite speakers, a powered subwoofer and a Control Pod for
setting the audio levels. The system has built-in audio amplifiers for each of
the channels and is designed to support 2, 4 or 6 channel audio cards via the
3.5mm mini plugs. In additon, the Control Pod accepts a pair of line level signals
from its RCA inputs. The system can even be used with portable audio devices to
give users a full surround audio system. All five satellite speakers are magnetically
shielded, making it safe when placed near CRT-based monitors. A Quick Connect
card provides a series of configuration diagrams for those who hate reading manuals.
Control Pod for the VS-3151 is approximately six inches wide and has a master
volume as well as individual level controls for the surround, center and subwoofer
channels. All of the level controls are analog potentiometers, so the levels do
not get reset in the event of a power failure. A headphone jack is also provided
and automatically mutes the speaker outputs when the user inserts a set of headphones
for private listening. The on/off power switch is located on the top right side
of the Control Pod just above the headphone jack and illuminates the green power
LED on the front panel. The Control Pod looks plain, yet the design cosmetically
matches the satellite speakers with the silver and black colors. The box has rubber
feet and sits firmly on a flat surface making it easy to use the controls.
rear panel of the Control Pod has a pair of RCA inputs for line level
devices such as a television or gaming device. Also located here is a
two-position switch for selecting either 2/4 or 6 channel inputs. The
VS-3151 system automatically processes two or four channel sources to
create a full sounding surround system using all six channels. There is
also a cable that connects the subwoofer via a mini-DIN connector and
a separate cable with three stereo 3.5mm plugs designed to interface to
a sound card. Multi-channel sound cards such as our M-Audio Revolution
7.1 have each pair of audio signals dedicated to a 3.5mm jack. The VS-3151
is designed to plug directly into the sound card jacks. Covers are included
for the unused 3.5mm audio plugs in the event of only two or four channels
being connected. An adapter cable that converts a single 3.5mm male plug
to a pair of RCA plugs is also included.
satellite speaker contains a single 2" driver capable of producing
audio from 150 Hz to 20 kHz according to the manufacturer. The thin flat-panel
design looks great and gives the PC a high-tech appeal. The front of the
speaker consists of a metal panel that protects the driver from damage.
Sloted mounting holes are available on the back of each speaker in case
the user decides to hang them on the walls. Rubber feet to help prevent
the speakers from sliding on a smooth surface. The center channel is designed
to pivot up or down to better direct the sound towards the listener. This
can be especially important when watching movies and listening to dialog.
Due to the size of the satellite speakers, they are not capable of producing
frequencies much lower than 150 Hz, so the crossover frequency used with
the subwoofer must be near this frequency. This can be an issue for some
listeners since we humans tend to localize sounds near or above 80 Hz.
What this means is the location of the subwoofer sound will most likely
be heard by the listener. However, this is very common on PC speaker systems
since most PC satellite speakers are limited in size. Each speaker is
clearly labeled on the back (i.e. Front Right, Front Left, etc.).
The subwoofer included with the system features a single long-throw 5.25-inch
driver capable of producing moderately low bass in the ported enclosure. Unlike
plastic cabinets, this unit is made from wood and helps deaden the enclosure and
reduce resonances. The built-in 20-watt RMS amplifier provides adequate power
to the driver for solid bass output. Due to the size of the driver and cabinet
design, the low-end frequency response is limited to around 40 Hz. Even so, the
bass is fairly tight and quite satisfying in most cases. Like the satellite speakers,
the front of the subwoofer consists of a metal speaker cover that protects the
driver from damage. We think this is a good design since the subwoofer typically
sits on the floor where it can be easily kicked by mistake.
RCA connectors and a single mini-DIN connector are located on the rear panel of
the subwoofer cabinet. Each of the five satellite speakers plug into this back
panel and are uniquely keyed and color-coded to prevent improper connections.
Each connector is also clearly labeled for the user, so it is virtually impossible
to connect them incorrectly. The mini-DIN connector, which is also keyed, mates
to the Control Pod cable.
The Altec Lansing VS-3151 is a great package for a 5.1 system that retails
for under $100. Sound quality was a bit limited, but given the price it
is difficult to be too picky. Movies were quite enjoyable as sound panned
from speaker to speaker emersing the listener with discrete 5.1 audio.
The speakers did have a bit of an edge to them at higher levels, but performed
well overall. Bass was good, but was not quite as deep as more expensive
PC-based systems. Overall, the system created a spacious soundfield around
worked well on this system considering the size of the satellite drivers.
Some of our DTS 5.1 encoded recordings revealed good detail. The subwoofer
played at reasonably high levels and was fairly deep, making movies more
enjoyable than what one would hear with typical PC speakers. The rather
high crossover frequency (150 Hz) required the subwoofer to fill the frequency
gap. This caused the satellite speakers to sound a bit thin in some instances.
Given the cost, the VS-3151 5.1 speaker system is a bargain. The system
is designed to be very easy to install and supports a variety of configurations
depending on your PC's capabilities. The performance was good, but not
great especially when compared to some of the more expensive PC speaker
systems available. If you are picky about sound quality and are willing
to pay the price for it, you will find better sounding systems available.
However, for less than $100 (<$75 street), this affordable speaker
system will deliver full 5.1 sound to your PC.