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The Expressionist Classic Speakers have a very solid industrial design that's one part floating glass — well, floating plastic, but nobody who doesn't touch them will know that — and one part old school stage spotlight. The look is definitely arresting, and it's not without its charm. If you've got your new unibody MacBook Pro set up in the centre of your desk and want something equally as visually show-stopping, these speakers would be a decent match, but you'd be giving up a fair chunk of desk space for the privilege. Each speaker measures in at 127x159x127mm, which is chunky on a busy desk. Then you've got to incorporate the cables joining the two speakers, power cable and audio output cable. Altec Lansing describes the Expressionist Classic Speakers as "visually intriguing", and while we're intrigued by what they mean by that, you can't miss the fact that these are speakers.
In essence, the Expressionist Classic Speakers are just a pair of pretty ordinary stereo PC or MP3 player speakers. Sound output is an ordinary 15 Watts RMS, which is acceptable for a pair of desktop PC speakers. You don't want to be blasting your work colleagues or family away every time you start up "Kung Fu Fighting" after all. As with most PC speakers, input is via a 3.5mm input jack, and a standard green-tipped cable is provided for plugging in audio sources.
One aspect of the Expressionist Classic Speakers that we did like were the design of the admittedly limited controls. The power button is big and chunky, so when you do unplug a music source, it's easy to switch it off and avoid the inevitable speaker buzz when the 3.5mm jack touches a surface. Likewise, the volume buttons are large and easy to adjust. There's no display to show relative volume levels, but then again, this is what ears were invented for.
We tested with a variety of input sources, from a PC to a second-generation iPod touch, playing back music of varying fidelity, just as most ordinary PC users would, as well as some light gameplay with F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin, to give the unit's stereo output a real workout. Almost irrespective of source or quality, we found the Expressionist Classic Speakers to give a fairly flat and plain sound. Not bad per se, but equally not punchy on bass lines or sharp on trebles. The kind of sound, in short, that you'd expect out of a set of PC speakers, which is ultimately what the Expressionist Classic Speakers are.