In which I graciously thank Altec Lansing for their generous gift.

Altec Lansing Logo

The year was 1997. Pentium IIs were starting to invade the market and I was a budding college student and had scored a paid internship (yes, they still had paid ones back then!) at Tandem Computers (bought out by Compaq, then absorbed into HP) with a fellow geek buddy from school. His parents were gracious enough to let me live with them, so we had a blast playing computer games into the late night.

Altec Lansing ACS495Being my first real venture into endless summer nights of computer gaming, I wanted to get me a really nice set of computer speakers to go with the experience. Drifting down the aisle at Fry’s Electronics, I stumbled up on a set of Altec Lansing ACS 495 speakers.

These speakers were awesome. There was a really crisp sound and the subwoofer pounded some great beats. My computer only had a basic sound card installed on it, but using the USB port and special drivers, I was able to get a surround sound experience. The design was nice too since the 4 speakers were mounted into two “towers” so I didn’t have to send wires everywhere. There was many a game, and a DVD (the quality was just as great) enjoyed on these speakers that summer.

But that was only the beginning of my relationship with these speakers. As I moved back to college, on to other colleges, got married, went to work, these speakers followed me everywhere. My coworkers would chuckle a little at me when I first brought them in to my office computer, but when they heard the sound through them, they knew why I loved these so much. It was especially nice when I worked a few late nights and could really crank the sound up.

Alas, as such things are with life, a couple weeks back the ACS 495s finally came to rest. Nothing crazy or annoying, they just stopped working. I checked all the necessary plugs and settings, but they just lasted for a good long life. Having the geekish tendency that I do, I decided to put a quick RIP out on the twitter-verse:

Today I say goodbye to my Altec Lansing speakers. They have served the family well for 13 years. Hard to find good quality like that.
8:32 AM Jan 13th from threadsy

To my utter shock and amazement I received the following reply via Twitter the next day:

@DillieO Hey Sean, you’ve been so loyal over 13 years, we would love to send you some new Altec speakers… how are you listening?
9:11 AM Jan 14th from TweetDeck in reply to DillieO

This couldn’t be real now, could it’! I checked out the profile, poked around the web a little bit, and sure enough, this was the real deal! This was the VP of Marketing and Product Management for Altec Lansing!

We exchanged a few more twitter messages, an e-mail or so, and the following package arrived on my doorstep yesterday:

Altec Lansing FX5051
This is all sorts of AWESOME.

That, my friends, is the Altec Lansing FX5051. A 6 speaker system (including the subwoofer) that delivers amazing performance out of some pretty small speakers that are unobtrusive to the desk in which the family computer sits. It uses a similar USB connector, but now no special software is needed. Windows 7 detects a 5.1 speaker system and away you go!

The sound is simply amazing. While testing the sound out last night and dancing with my wife, it felt as if Norah Jones was in our living room with her band serenading just us. Early this morning I kicked up some of my trance music and I’m surprised I didn’t wake up the wife, the beats were that good. Tonight I test out the movie surround sound with my the Star Wars Podracer scene, it always gives a great test for the low rumble of the engines and the zoom of the racers flying by. I’m giddy all over again!

Out of all this “geek gushing” I do REALLY want to thank the folks at Altec Lansing, and especially Bernice Cramer. I never expected in my wildest dreams that a random tweet would upgrade my computer speakers at home. More importantly, your generosity and dedication to the customers out there is simply amazing. You could of easily tossed out that initial tweet, waited for my response, then gotten busy with most important issues and lost me in the paperwork. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it for that. But the fact that you kept in contact and came through on your initial offer speaks volumes to your integrity.

I’m not sure if I’ll actually need to buy a new set of speakers again (considering the lifespan of my last set) but I won’t be going anywhere else to you guys for my next set of speakers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

P.S. My twin 3 year old twins want to thank you too. The box came with lots of bubble wrap that they had fun dancing on and making popping sounds with while I was unpacking everything. 8^D

17 thoughts on “In which I graciously thank Altec Lansing for their generous gift.

    1. I’m running two sets of the ACS 495’s. One at work and one set at home. Had some software for them to run on XP Pro, but can’t find it anymore. Still work with the manual setting mode.

    2. You’re surely not the only survivor :) I’m so fond of my set of 495’s, I’m just on the route of finding a Win 64 driver, to get them sound again.

  1. Still loving these speakers after all these years too. I am refurbishing my home office so I am presently looking for newer speakers as my wife will be sharing the office and my wife is more concerned with appearance than actual sound it seems.

    Interesting note, my speakers have died on me a couple of times too but a quick play around with the tiny fuse at the back of the subwoofer always kicks them back into life. I almost hope there is no way I can replace these because I will hate to see them go. These speakers have followed me everywhere too.

    The certainly don’t make things this well these days.

  2. I’m still using mine as well. In fact they seem to go nicely with my old Steelcase desk. I would be nice to have a Mac based controller to fine tune the settings, but they are still too good to replace.

    1. And they’re still going, just getting yellower and yellower with age.
      As long as you replace the fuse, no reason why these will ever die

  3. WhooHoo!!! I got my Altec ACS495’s with matching subwoofer out of a dumpster and they rock!!! Good luck finding this quality now unless you spend a ton of money I am sure. Love these speakers!!!! I have had wonderful experiences with all Altec speakers. They are an excellent company. Thank you Altec for making such awesome speakers.

    Here is a helpful note I found by someone on the net concerning these exact speakers:

    You don’t need “drivers” for these speakers. If what you’re really asking for is a version of the sound management GUI that works in WindowsXP, it sounds like Altec Lansing has no plans to do so. But, the good news is that you don’t need it!

    The same functionality of the AMS package can be achieved by using the buttons on the speakers and the volume control software that comes with your Windows system.

    If you double click the yellow speaker icon in the system tray, you can make adjustments to the system volume level. Otherwise, just turn the volume knob on the right speaker.

    STEREO or PRO LOGIC modes can be selected by depressing and holding the center control down for approximately three seconds. The mode selected will be indicated by the color of the LED on the front right speaker. When the light glows yellow it is in the STEREO mode. When the light is green it is in the PRO LOGIC mode.

  4. Very glad to help. I hate seeing perfectly good gear get thrown into the trash. You would not believe what people throw away these days. It is insane. Newer is not always better.

  5. I have the ACS 295 speaker system, which was the next model down from the ACS 495. It came bundled with our first Windows PC, a Dell Dimension XPS R400, in Xmas of 1998. (IIRC, we had 3 different choices for the speaker bundle; the ACS 495, ACS 295, or the Harman/Kardon HK195) The ACS 295 lacks the virtual surround system that the ACS 495 has, but it is still one of the BEST PC speaker systems I’ve ever heard. Compared with most other pc speaker systems, the ACS 295 has a very clean and clear sound, with high treble clarity, solid midrange, and a good, deep bass tone. (Not that mid-upper bass I’ve heard from other speakers).

    Several years ago, the rotary knob began only working intermittently, which then progressed to the sound only working intermittently, and finally the speakers only powering on intermittently. The right speaker jack on the back of the subwoofer needed to be re-soldered, which took more effort than normal since there were several THROUGH-HOLE solder pads that had lifted. If they were surface-mounted solder pads I’d understand, but having through-hole pads lift so easily is indicative that Altec Lansing really cheaped out on the PCBs. I was quite surprised, considering how great they sound.

    Thankfully, the repairs were successful, and the ACS 295s rock on to this day. They may look ancient, dated, and out-of-place on my current pc setup, but to judge speakers by their looks is like judging a camera by what it smells like–it’s meaningless. What matters is that they are still some of the best sounding PC speakers in 2016, let alone 1999. Heck, I knew someone that used their ACS 295s as a temporary speaker system on their home theater stereo b/c their main speakers were shot!

  6. Mine just died yesterday. My parents got a set with a Dell in the late nineties and I ended up buy a used set on ebay (also while on a paid internship with DuPont) in 2003. My first experience with these was blasting Mech Warrior on that old Dell Pentium. They stuck around through thousands of records, many apartments, girlfriends and cities and recently a cross country move and starting a family with my wife.

    Now they will be moved to the garage and I’ll see if I can get around to trying to fix them one day. sigh…

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