Hands-on Friday: The Altec Lansing SoundBar

Don Reisinger gets his hands on the new Altec Lansing SoundBar. And while it's sleek and can fit practically anywhere, its sound is sub-par.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
3 min read
Altec Lansing SoundBar Don Reisinger

When Altec Lansing asked if I would take a look at its new desktop speaker replacement, I was interested in the possibilities. According to the company, the SoundBar was designed to fit onto a desk with little room left without sacrificing high-quality audio. Unfortunately, the SoundBar only delivers on the first goal.


The Altec Lansing SoundBar is designed to fit snugly under any LCD monitor and help you save as much room as possible. Luckily, the company succeeded on this promise, as the SoundBar is nicely sized and should be able to fit under any LCD monitor you put over it.

Altec Lansing SoundBar Back Don Reisinger

By and large, the SoundBar is quite plain, but Altec Lansing planned it that way. With a large speaker on the front that dominates its face, the SoundBar doesn't leave much room for anything else. But what it does leave room for is a simple knob to the right that allows you to control volume and if depressed, will mute the audio.

On the left side of the SoundBar, a headphones port and an Aux port are there for the taking. I especially liked Altec Lansing's decision to include an Aux port because if you have an Aux cable handy, you can play songs from your iPod or other media device right through the speaker without being plugged into a computer. In essence, the SoundBar can be a portable speaker or a desktop speaker replacement depending on your needs.

Altec Lansing SoundBar Side Don Reisinger

The back of the SoundBar is equally simple. With just an Audio in port and its power input, the SoundBar is low on options, but high on simplicity, which can be both good and bad. My thoughts? Good for a device of this nature.


Once you turn the speaker on and connect it to either a computer or a media device, you'll see a nice accent light emerge over the knob. It would have been nice if Altec Lansing made the light indicate your volume level, but either way, it adds some elegance to an otherwise boring device.

As I stated above, the knob is the only way to control the SoundBar and to be honest, it's quite under-powered. You won't be able to adjust Bass or Treble on the SoundBar, and without that option, it quickly becomes a bit frustrating when songs just don't sound as well as they should.

All in all, the SoundBar is a bit feature-less. It plays audio through your computer and will let you control volume. Other than that, you're pretty much left out in the cold.


Altec Lansing is quick to point out that the SoundBar is a 2+1 speaker system that uses the company's proprietary SFX technology to widen the audio and make for a better audio experience. And while it does do a better job than other small speaker units, its sound quality could have been better.

If Altec Lansing had decided to give user's the option of adjusting bass and treble settings, you would probably find that the SoundBar is one of the best desktop speaker solutions on the market. But alas, this key feature was left out and you're left with an average sounding speaker that could have been so much more.

Bottom Line

With a $99.95 price tag, the Altec Lansing SoundBar is an easily affordable desktop speaker replacement that packs a solid punch. It would have been nice if the sound quality was a bit better, but it's hard to argue with the ability to bring it anywhere you'd like and connect your favorite DAP to it.

I wouldn't recommend the SoundBar to those looking for an above average desktop speaker system, but if you want something simple and you would like to bring a portable speaker with you wherever you go, the SoundBar is a great solution.

Check back each Friday on The Digital Home as Don performs a hands-on evaluation of some of the hottest home products around. Next week: Epson Stylus 790 SW. If you want to see prior Hands-on Friday articles from Don, click here.