Altec Lansing's PT8051 offers an alternative if you really want to do away with the need for an amplifier in the home. At the same time, though, the lack of HDMI passthrough, lack of an included subwoofer and high asking price detracts significantly.
There are two very key things that you'll notice about this 5.1 surround sound speaker system, and both of them relate to the underlying design. The first is that, for a 5.1 system, they'll tax your mental arithmetic ability somewhat. The entire system is comprised of two speaker units — one front, and one rear. That's because it uses flat panel NXT drivers rather than discrete speakers for each function.
The second thing you'll notice is that the entire system is big. Very, very big — we lined it up against a 32-inch LCD TV, and the front speaker was marginally wider than the TV itself. If you suspect we're over-egging it, consider that the main speaker measures in at 1,021x152x170mm.
We found it somewhat astonishing that Altec Lansing refers to these monolithic speakers as "barely there", as once we'd installed them, we weren't sure whether to listen to audio through them, or just start hitting each over the head with jawbones.
Big, however, can be beautiful, and there's no denying that the PT8051's cabinets are quite attractively designed. Whether you'll be able to get over how solidly they protrude into your home entertainment environment is a matter of taste.
The PT8051 is a 125W wireless 5.1 channel surround sound speaker system with most of the features of a traditional AV receiver built into the front speaker unit. This includes the following inputs: two optical audio, one coaxial digital and three analog audio, as well as an audio output to feed to a self-powered subwoofer. Critically for the PT8051, there's no included subwoofer with the system, but more on this later. There's also no facility for HDMI passthrough, which could prove problematic for users with lots of HDMI equipment — a surprising amount of it doesn't offer a discrete optical audio output option as well.