CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Altec Lansing MX5021 review: Altec Lansing MX5021

Altec Lansing MX5021

Troy Dreier
3 min read

With the Roady and the subsequent Roady2, Delphi introduced two mighty-mite XM radio receivers; they're small, loaded with features, and easy to install in cars--hence the name Roady. With its beefy three-piece MX5021 speaker system, Altec Lansing lets Roady users bring their iPod-size receivers indoors so that their listening doesn't end at the driveway.


Altec Lansing MX5021

The Good

Lets you bring Roady or Roady2 XM receivers in from the car; solid sound reproduction; includes a subwoofer; provides line-in support for other audio devices.

The Bad

Remote doesn't control the receiver, just the speakers; not a full stereo system (doesn't receive AM or FM signals); speakers take up much more room than standard desktop speakers; there are less expensive ways to hook up a Roady or a Roady2 if you already have speakers.

The Bottom Line

Altec Lansing's three-piece speaker system lets you get more mileage from your Roady XM radio.

For the record, Delphi already offers a home-adapter kit for the Roady receivers. The $40 add-on plugs into your existing speakers or A/V receiver. You'd upgrade to the 2.1-style MX5021 system if you'd prefer listening to XM programming in a room of the house that doesn't already have an audio system. (Note that Altec Lansing also makes a PC version of the MX5021--except for its lighter color and the lack of a Roady cradle, it's basically identical.)

The THX-certified Altec Lansing MX5021 comes with a desktop docking station that attaches to your Roady or Roady2 and the subwoofer; left and right speakers are plugged into the sub's rear. You also get an XM antenna, which you'll need for home reception, and a small remote. The cable length is adequate for most setups, but it also creates a rat's nest of wires in cramped spaces.

The speakers offer 20 watts of power each, while the subwoofer pumps out 50 watts. The left and right speakers are larger than most PC-style models, but they are magnetically shielded, so they won't interfere with monitors or televisions. The subwoofer isn't shielded, but its omnidirectional nature means you can place it anywhere without adversely affecting sound quality. The dock has a volume knob and two buttons for bass and treble. Press either the bass or the treble button, and the volume knob will temporarily control that setting--it reverts to volume control after a few seconds of inactivity.

The included remote is especially small and has only five buttons: one each for treble, bass, and standby, and two for volume. Unfortunately, the remote controls only the speaker system, which means you'll still have to get up to change the channel on the Roady itself. (The Roady Home Kit includes a remote; Delphi also sells a remote separately for $20.)

The MX5021 doesn't offer other stereo functions, such as an AM/FM tuner, but it's a little more versatile that a satellite-radio system alone. It comes with two cables, one of which lets you plug in any portable device with a standard headphone jack, such as an iPod. The other is a Y-cable that lets you attach any standard A/V component with RCA jacks, for example, a gaming system or a VCR. There's also a headphone jack for late-night listening.

We were happy with the MX5021's sound quality, which was rich enough to fill a large room without distortion even when we cranked the volume. If you're a serious XM radio fan, though, you should consider investing in a Polk Audio XRt12 and pairing with a high-end receiver/speaker combo.

Is the $200 MX5021 a must-have for the Roady fanatic? The aforementioned Roady Home Kit will handle home hookups to existing stereo systems for much less. But a better comparison to Altec's offering would be the identically priced Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDockXM. The PlayDock offers luggable, all-in-one portability and a rechargeable battery. But if you want to get your Roady a homebound listening rig that can also handle a second audio source, the MX5021 is a viable alternative.


Altec Lansing MX5021

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 7