Altec Lansing's barrel-shaped BXR 1220 USB power speakers offer an expansive sound with credible bass that belies their size, but be prepared to ride the volume control.
The Altec Lansing BXR 1220 USB powered speaker system has two separate speakers, joined by a cable, to allow wide stereo separation. Each of them is roughly the size of 400g tin of baked beans. The lay on their sides, with a round end pointed towards you, and an integrated stand canting them up a little from horizontal. Not by much though; they'll be firing towards the chest of the typical laptop user.
The right hand speaker has the electronics and the cables which connect to the headphone output of your notebook computer, plus a USB cable for power. It has a hard-wired power switch on the back, and a knurled thumb wheel on the top for volume. The 50mm speaker drivers are behind the cloth grilles facing the user. The left hand speaker gives a better sense of the construction of the system, given that it is basically a bare-bones speaker enclosure. This weighs 183g alone.
Setup and cartage
There's nothing special about setting up the system. Just put one to the right of your computer, the other to the left and plug in the 3.5mm audio cable and the USB cable for power. Rotate the switch on the back of the right speaker (they are labelled) and adjust the volume to your pleasure.
The system may be a little on the bulky side for hauling with you on your travels, and the fixed cables need managing, but it is no worse than any other two-speaker system.
The first thing to note about these speakers is that they give a surprisingly balanced performance, with quite respectable bass. Oddly, Altec Lansing specifies their bass end down to 180Hz, but we measured usable bass all the way down to 110Hz. Below that point the frequency response plummets, to by 30dB at 90Hz. We suspect that they've put an electronic filter in there, so precipitous is the drop.
At the other end, the usable response extends to 19kHz.