Reviewer: Anthony Fordham
For AV enthusiasts who want surround sound but hate having speakers dotted around the room connected via foot-entangling wires, Altec-Lansing offers its PT8051. The unusual form-factor allows for simulated 5.1 surround without the need for either satellite speakers or wires connecting the front unit to the rear. But the PT8051’s strengths are also its weaknesses, as this form factor won’t suit all living rooms.
The PT8051 handles audio only: donÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¾ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â´t be fooled by the composite video output socket. That’s just so you can configure the system using the TV. While there are three stereo RCA inputs for analog devices, where this unit shines is in having three digital inputs: two optical and one coaxial. This means you can connect up to three digital sources – such as a DVD and CD player, cable and digital TV set-top boxes or Blu-ray and HD DVD players – directly up to the front unit via a digital link. (The video output of these devices would need to connect directly a television.)
The slim design (15 cm) is thanks to the use of NXT Digital Flat Panel drivers, which combine woofer and tweeter into a single driver, saving precious space.
Surround is created thanks to a wireless rear unit. This still needs its own power supply, but receives its audio signal from the main unit via a 2.4GHz radio signal.
While the speakers on their own do handle bass, an output is provided for a separate subwoofer – and we recommend you invest in one. A fairly tinny remote to tweak some limited EQ settings is also supplied.
Hate complicated set ups? Then the PT8051 will bring welcome relief. Unpack the boxes, arrange the big one at the front of the room and the little one at the back, plug in your devices, and you’re finished.
That said, this unit does rely on bouncing audio to the edges of the room to create a proper surround environment, so the positioning of the rear unit is crucial. The remote also controls front and rear volume, and you may find you need to boost the rear speaker somewhat. Positioning it at ear level also makes a big difference.
While Altec-Lansing doesn’t specify which digital formats are supported, we tested the usual flavours of Dolby Digital and also DTS without any trouble.
This isn’t an audiophile-grade system by any means. Audio is fairly thin, though adding a third-party powered subwoofer beefs up the bottom end considerably; but consider that other systems at this price include a sub.
The surround envelope the system creates is only truly convincing from a couple of sweet spots in the room. Move too far to the left or right and it’s almost like you’re being excluded from the bubble of sound, being unable to hear audio from the channel furthest from your position. Folks used to putting their front left and right speakers in the corners of the room will find the spread away from the centre channel too narrow.
However, the PT8051 does have decent volume for essential TV and movie watching. Nuanced soundtracks with complex layering won’t be served well, but action blockbusters and the nightly news will be fine.
As we’ve mentioned already, the strength of this unit is also its weakness. If you have a wall-mounted TV and don’t want to spoil the clean lines of your elegant living space with boxy speakers and AV receiver, the PT8051 is ready to serve – provided you can stash your source components and associated cabling inside a credenza. It has a wall-mount kit in the box, and sits up snug beneath a 40 inch or larger flat panel TV.
On the other hand, if you have an entertainment hutch or unit, positioning the PT8051 is almost impossible due to its metre-plus width.
But the wireless functionality and simple set up is certainly alluring. You can get better audio kit for this price, but for the right environment the PT8051 will be a convenient and perfect fit.