Altec Lansing BXR1220 review: Altec Lansing BXR1220

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Decent sound quality for the price; light, compact design fits in small spaces; USB power eliminates travel clutter.

The Bad Speakers don't grab audio from USB port; fixed angle; hardwired cords; no option for battery power.

The Bottom Line The Altec Lansing BXR1220 computer speakers deliver solid audio quality for the price and are sure to satisfy shoppers who don't have the luxury of desk space or open power outlets.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 7.0

The Altec Lansing BXR1220 speakers aren't meant for house parties unless your "house" is a closet-size studio apartment in New York City, and they certainly won't compare with a three-piece PC speaker system like the Altec Lansing Expressionist Ultra MX6021. These $20 pint-size tubes are better for folks who can't stand their laptop speakers and need a simple, cheap, and easy way to listen to music or watch movies on the run without worrying about tangled cables and cluttered power outlets.

At just 3.7 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 7.5 inches deep, and a combined weight of less than 2 pounds, the Altec Lansing BXR1220's compact design makes them an easy choice to pack for a trip. Each speaker features a 2-inch driver mounted behind a thin mesh screen and is wrapped in an attractive matte black tube that shouldn't attract too much negative attention.

However, our main complaint with the design doesn't involve its looks, but rather its functionality; both speakers are held up by a silver stand attached at a fixed angle that points toward your chest, assuming your desk isn't up to your chin. We enjoyed a much more pleasurable listening experience after stacking books and other objects to boost the speakers up to ear level, but we'd appreciate a tiltable stand next time.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the BXR1220s and some of the bigger speakers on the market is these draw power directly from a USB cord hardwired to the right silo, which also happens to have a volume control wheel on top and a power switch on the back. We usually prefer standard computer speakers to include detachable audio cables that are easy to replace down the line, but for $20 we can't complain too much.

You'll notice that there's no bulky AC adapter in the box to clog up your outlets at home, which makes for a very easy setup process: plug the speakers into an available USB port, flick the switch in the back to power on, and plug the audio cable into an audio source and you're ready to jam. However, one downside of this feature is that aside from the USB port, there is no alternative means to power the speakers, so you need to have a computer around with an open USB port to play audio. And with no battery slot available for power on the go, don't expect to take these to the park or an outdoor barbecue without a fully charged laptop in tow.

On the other hand, the BXR1220s have you covered if you're just looking for a simple set of computer speakers to listen to music and videos; just make sure you're not expecting too much. We pumped media into the speakers from several audio sources including a laptop, a desktop, and an iPhone, and the audio quality is surprisingly effective for most types of music that don't employ very deep sub-bass. Still, the speakers can capably produce a dynamic range of sound and stereo harmonies that easily surpass the second-rate speakers built into most laptops and smartphones.

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