Not everyone likes the idea of having PC speakers with a separate subwoofer. But the reality is that unless you step up to something like Audioengine's fairly large and pricey Audioengine 5 bookshelf speakers, you tend to need a 2.1 system to deliver a richer, more bass-laden audio experience.
Altec Lansing's Expressionist Plus FX3021 2.1 system isn't nearly as beefy as the company's current top-of-the-line PC speaker system, the Expressionist Ultra, but it manages to deliver decent sound at an affordable price--less than $100. It also looks good, though the speakers' glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet.
The system comes with a small, cone-shaped subwoofer with a downward firing 5.25-inch driver and two small satellite speakers with 2-inch drivers that are mounted on thick wire stands that let you tilt the speakers up at an angle, instead of them pointing straight ahead. The speaker cables are hard-wired into the satellites and--as is the case with virtually all 2.1 PC speaker speakers--connect to ports in the subwoofer, which is small enough to set on top of a desk but will most likely end up placed on the ground.
The only inputs for the speaker system are two 3.5mm jacks located on the rear of the subwoofer. That means you can connect up to two PCs to the system at once, or a PC and a portable audio device. Unfortunately, if you have the sub on the floor, it makes connecting an iPod or a music phone inconvenient. We prefer to have at least one input integrated into the left or right speaker, or the sort of standalone wired remote found on some systems, including Altec's Expressionist Ultra.