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Altec Lansing Expressionist Classic FX2020 review: Altec Lansing Expressionist Classic FX2020

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MSRP: $79.95

The Good Distinct design; affordably priced; relatively decent sound at lower to mid volumes.

The Bad Not terribly detailed; sound gets a little rough around the edges at higher volumes.

The Bottom Line Altec Lansing's Expressionist Classic FX2020 PC speakers may not blow you away with their sound quality, but their distinctive look will win them some fans.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

To date, Altec Lansing has two models in its Expressionist line of PC multimedia speakers, each of which boasts a distinct design. The larger Expressionist Bass FX3022 speakers are cone-shaped and have a somewhat retro futuristic look that's reminiscent of the setting of BioShock. The more affordable Expressionist Classic, which is also referred to as the FX2020, has a more arty design with speakers that look like tubes that sit in a square sheet of tinted, translucent plastic. The speakers have 3-inch drivers and are relatively compact, though the "tube" extends back about 5.75 inches, so they have a bit more depth than your typical multimedia speaker. We liked the design, but it is distinct, so not everyone will be smitten.

The power button is located on the back of the right speaker and the volume controls are on top of the same speaker. The buttons are rubberized and easy to access if you're sitting at your computer. Some PC speakers come with a remote, but at this price ($80 list), we weren't expecting one.

The two speakers are hardwired to each other. That's unusual, but, arguably a good thing because you don't have to worry about the cord falling out or connecting properly. The cord that joins them is about 6 feet long, so you do have some degree of flexibility in terms of placement and separation (most people will probably space them about 3 feet apart, on either side of a PC monitor). Around the back of the right speaker, there's a port for connecting the speaker to your computer with the included 3.5mm minijack cable. You also get an auxiliary input for connecting any device that has an audio output or headphone jack (a second 3.5mm cable isn't provided, however).

As you might expect, the Expressionist Classic FX2020s don't deliver as much bass as the Expressionist Bass FX3022s. At low to mid volumes, we thought the FX202s performed pretty well, especially when we listened to them at more or less ear-level sitting at a desk (with the speakers on either side of a monitor). They offer a reasonably amount of detail and bass--and they compare favorably with other entry-level PC speakers. However, they still sound like sub-$80 speakers, which is to say, they're not fantastic.

The important thing to note here is that at higher volumes they just don't hold together that well and the music sounds a bit muffled. In other words, for near-field listening, they're quite solid. But if you're looking to fill a whole room with full, crisp sound, these probably aren't the right speakers for you. For gaming and movies, the FX2022s did just fine, but if you want something with more punch, you're better off stepping up to the FX3022s. That said, we'd take the Expressionist Classic over the more expensive Bose Companion 2 Series II speakers.

In the end, what it comes down to is whether you like the look of these speakers. For the price, they perform up to expectations. If you dig their design, they're a good value, especially if you can find them a bit below their list price. Getting to the next level (in terms of sound quality) will probably cost an extra $30-$40. For some, that jump will be a good investment; for others, the FX2022s will be sufficient for everyday casual listening, YouTube or Hulu watching, and gaming.

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