altec lansing atp-3 multimedia speakers


finding critical reviews of multimedia speakers can be a challenge if not impossible. usually, you get statements like, “the bass is awesome!” or “they play really loud!” or “it doesn’t play loud enough.”

besides system beeps and mail notifications, my speakers usually play music. accurate sound has become important to me, although budgets hold me back from putting a big audiophile music system in with the computer. 🙂

i bought a set of altec lansing atp-3’s for my brother as a christmas gift on a suggestion from a coworker. impressed by their performance and value i picked up a set for myself. i’ve owned them for about four years now. i thought i’d post my critical review.

they are discontinued now and available on overstock sites or (fl)ebay. however, they were replaced by the updated altec lansing vs4121 speakers.


2 satellites, 1 subwoofer. amplifier is integrated into the subwoofer. volume/power and bass/treble controls are integrated into the right satellite. each satellite has two 1″ front-firing tweeters and a down-firing 3″ midrange/midbass. the subwoofer appears to be of the 4-5.5″ variety. each satellite gets 12 watts and the subwoofer gets 18 watts.


the subwoofer makes a great footrest in its natural home under my desk. the (generally) omni-directional nature of bass lets you put this anywhere you want.

i have the satellites on my desk 3-4′ apart, facing straight back. this gives the speakers a wide soundstage and a good center-image. if i point them towards the center at me (the listener,) they lose the soundstage width and the center-image loses its clear definition.


the volume control also acts as the power switch. altec lansing was kind enough to include a treble and bass knob. these knobs have held up through constant use over four years, none are scratchy and maintain their solid feel.


the feeble amp tries, but there isn’t much headroom for really loud music. when it gets to the point where you have to yell at others in the room, distortion becomes more apparent. i don’t have any fancy SPL meters to give you a real measurement. another side to the modest power-output of the amp is low-frequency and high-frequencies fall off fast. this amp is no different.

from the subwoofer, low-end extention is non-existent. if i play something that has 20-40hz in it, i don’t hear it or feel it. anything above that sounds great. i usually turn the bass knob down a tad because it overpowers the rest of the sound. the sound falls off quickly. when the drummer hits the kick drum

this set is one of the only multimedia speakers that have dedicated midbass/midranges and tweeters. the 3″ midbass/midrange does a great job filling its responsibilities, providing a warm full sound. recordings with floor-toms or chellos come through wonderfully, especially given the speaker sets’ price. since the midbass/midranges are down-firing, they can have a bit of a reflected sound to them. however, the reflected sound was only apparent when listening to other direct-firing speakers in comparision.

front-firing tweeters have a bright sound but they don’t extend to a very high frequency range. high-frequency response might be the amplifier’s fault, it’s hard to tell in a system like this. the upper-midrange and lower high-frequencies are strong but not overpowering. i happen to like a bright sound though. they appear to have a wide-dispersion pattern, given how they “image” i have to turn up the treble slightly to gain some high-frequency extention.


imaging is good for a 2.1 set of speakers. in my book, if a set of speakers can perform well for music, it can perform well in movies. this speaker is no exception.

wish it had:

  • more cleaner power (less distortion) – keeps the highs clean and deeper low-frequencies
  • larger subwoofer – aid the low frequency extention
  • direct-firing midbass/midrange – lose the reflected sound

for $80 in 2002 dollars, they’re a good speaker. listening to music or watching movies, i’m still impressed to this day. the sound coming from them is almost forceful, like how a trumpet is forceful. it can take you by surprise.


  1. Would the subwoofer be more powerful without a towel in it? 😛 j/k

    jer, February 23, 2007
  2. Oh, on a more real note, I would love to find a cheap, lower-mid range speaker system for my home entertainment center… bare minimum, I need a pre-amp (or some other sort of control system for the sources), a solid amp, and some speakers… (surround is probably unnecessary, as I’m unsure as to whether or not I can do decent surround on DVDs through the XBox, but a decent sub would be nice).. as my resident sound expert, any suggestions on a reasonable price range in which I can expect to get okay equipment?

    jer, February 23, 2007
  3. Would the subwoofer be more powerful without a towel in it? 😛 j/k

    that’s my front-room stereo. this is the computer system.

    Nick, February 23, 2007

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