The $80 Altec Lansing Octane 7 2.1 speaker system is powered by seven custom audio drivers that might make for decent-quality sound if not for the strange decision to make the midrange driver fire downward into the ground. The company claims that this unique design is meant to reflect sound from a hard surface below, but we're disappointed by the resulting imbalance between the mids and the contrasting lows/highs. Furthermore, these speakers require constant bass and treble adjustment and the end result isn't nearly as gratifying as the similarly priced Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus FX3021, a similarly priced three-piece 2.1 system that offer a more balanced, richer sound.
The Octane 7 isn't as stylish as the other speaker systems offered by Altec Lansing. The two satellite speakers are reminiscent of the conical ATP3 and don't give off the "modernist" vibe compared to the Expressionist series. The right satellite houses three knobs that control volume, treble, and bass, and you also get an auxiliary port to connect external devices like an iPod.
Unfortunately, the set is missing a headphone port--an unacceptable omission for an $80 speaker set. For that price, we're also disappointed that Altec Lansing doesn't include a remote found on some its other premium models including the Expressionist Ultra. But our issue with the Octane 7s isn't with aesthetics as much as the physical placement of the drivers inside.
Each of the satellite speakers contains two 1-inch micro drivers powering high-frequency sound at 7.5 watts per channel, but we're not sure why the company placed the 3-inch midbass drivers underneath them. According to the marketing language, the theory is that downward-firing drivers will bounce off the surface below and reflect sound in all directions.
Unfortunately, the reality is that our sound test lacked harmony and balance across all genres and media applications including high-definition video from streaming sites like YouTube and Hulu. We achieved an acceptable medium on Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" by fiddling with the bass and treble adjustments on the right satellite, but we can still hear considerable muddiness attributed to an overbearing low end drowning out the rest of the instruments--even more so when we switched genres to more bass-heavy tracks like Drake's "Fireworks."
If it isn't obvious by now, we recommend staying away from the Altec Lansing Octane 7s unless you don't mind constantly adjusting the settings every time you change tracks. As an alternative, we suggest the Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus FX3021. At less than $100, the price is comparable to the Octane 7, but you get a richer, more balanced sound and tighter bass in a sleeker package.