Altec Lansing AVS300 Multimedia review: Altec Lansing AVS300 Multimedia

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MSRP: $39.99
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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Cheap; wide-range satellites; proficient subwoofer; exceptional sound.

The Bad No treble and bass controls or headphone jack; distortion at high listening levels.

The Bottom Line Cost-conscious consumers who prefer good sound to myriad controls and user perks need look no further than the Altec Lansing AVS300.

9.0 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice Jun '01

Altec Lansing's AVS300 Multimedia is an extraordinarily adept three-piece speaker system that sounds far bigger and better than its low $39.95 price point implies. Although several conveniences have been nixed to keep the cost down, the AVS300 delivers great sound and ranks as one of the finest budget sets on the market. Altec Lansing's AVS300 Multimedia is an extraordinarily adept three-piece speaker system that sounds far bigger and better than its low $39.95 price point implies. Although several conveniences have been nixed to keep the cost down, the AVS300 delivers great sound and ranks as one of the finest budget sets on the market.

Loud and clear
Whereas most sub-$40, two-piece systems offer no bottom end and most sub-$40, three-piece systems are vastly underpowered, the AVS300 has enough muscle to fill almost any moderately sized computing environment with meaty sound.

In fact, the unit decimates similarly priced systems not equipped with subwoofers, such as the Cambridge SoundWorks GCS300 ($39.95), and it certainly compares favorably with significantly more expensive three-piece units, such as the Boston Acoustics BA735 ($69.95).

The secret to the AVS300's performance can be summed up in one word: size. Although each satellite sports a modest 4-by-4-inch footprint, the comparatively large 3-inch driver inside produces strong midrange and enough treble to portray the crash of a cymbal or the fragile nuances of the female voice. The satellites sound a bit boxy and don't effectively disperse instruments and effects across the desktop, but these are forgivable shortcomings considering the unit's low price.

The system's subwoofer is the real star of the show. At 5.25 inches, the sub driver is substantially bigger than comparably priced units, and its 11-by-7-by-6-inch cabinet is nearly as big as models priced at more than $100. Although it fails to rattle the floorboards, the AVS300 sub successfully explores bass tones normally reserved for upscale rigs. Even the thumping, pulsating bottom end of Tone-Loc's hip-hop favorite "Funky Cold Medina" is suitably punchy.

The AVS300's solid sound and bargain price comes with some trade-offs. The unit tends to distort at high volume levels, particularly if extra bass is added with a software-based equalizer. The design shows some shortcuts; for example, the rear of the particleboard subwoofer cabinet is unfinished and unpainted, and the bulky power transformer is inconveniently positioned right at the end of the AC cord. Although Altec Lansing includes an on/off switch and a master volume and subwoofer volume control, treble and bass controls and a headphone jack are conspicuously absent.

Value play
For such a low price, you can forgive the AVS300 a few design and sound deficiencies. It still handles virtually any type of music or gaming experience with stunning bang-for-the-buck performance.

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