The MLi-490 4.1 Surround Speakers: Value, Thy Name Is MidiLand
I can hardly believe that speaker configurations
like the 490ís exist. Listing for $99, you get a 5-piece setup, hookup wires
out the wazoo, and full 5-channel amplification that is compatible with Dolby®
Surround sound. To be fair, competition in this price class is growing with
contenders like the Altec Lansing ACS-54 and others. Five years ago, the status
quo included single driver stereo speakers that were un-amplified for
under the triple digit price cutoff. In 1998, surround sets were scarce at
any price and subwoofers were just coming into vogue. Sporting a rather large
6-1/2 inch sub and four 3-inch satellites, you may just want to pick up a
set regardless of the following review. Thatís what MidiLand is all about--value.
Thanks to the gracious folks at MidiLand
for providing this evaluation set.
- Frequency Response:20Hz - 20kHz+3dB
- Function Controls:Power/volume, subwoofer
volume, LED power indicator
- RMS Power:Total 70W
Satellite 10W + 10W + 10W + 10W Subwoofer 30W
- Input Sensitivity:300mVrms
490ís arrived packaged very efficiently.
So efficiently that I had to check that all the pieces were indeed in the
box. There are many, many pieces. Since these are billed as a surround setup,
you get 5 boxes (1 big, 4 small), wires, wires, more wires, a large black
external AC power transformer and a manual. The satellites are an attractive
almost perfect cube-like design. They house a single 3-inch driver--no tweeter
to fill out the high frequency range.
The sub box
is the largest in this class that I've seen so far. A whopping 6-1/2 inch
driver hides behind the removable (so you can stare at it) front panel. The
sub volume and overall volume controls are on the front panel as well. The
sub can be turned completely off if desired by turning the sub control fully
counter-clockwise although I would have no idea why anyone would want to put
a damper on the most worthwhile control that most people complain they don't
get enough of.
rear of the woofer hides the remaining hookups, AC power plug, and low frequency
sub port. All drivers including the sub are fully magnetically shielded so
proximity to sensitive monitors wonít prompt users to constantly push the
degauss switch. All wires are included to connect this conglomeration to a
4 channel sound card. The rear input panel actually has 6 inputs, but the
Dolby® surround support is limited to an external decoder as the only
slider switch located there indicates that simple center channel and sub mixing
takes place when activated.
Being a long time audio high-ender,
I always love to poke my head into every box possible to see how the thing
works. The few specs that MidiLand provides prompted a good "look see"
into why the FTC instigated standardized tests to keep unscrupulous vendors
from making outrageous claims touting product performance specifications.
Keenly aware that the buying public
by and large reasons new purchases by comparing raw data (i.e. watts, inches,
etc.), I have made it a TargetPC policy to uncover inconsistencies and whine
when manufacturer claims are blown out of proportion. These tests by no means
discount the sound quality as they are objectively measured, not subjectively
measured. If I believe that the product sample was tampered with or is defective,
I request a second evaluation sample, just like in the case of the Sonix