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Subjective Listening Tests

Initial impressions were mixed. I think that with some minor tweaking, MidiLand could have a product that couldnít be touched by anyone else. When I cranked up the woofer box, I heard various buzzing and air "chuffing" noises. I thought I forgot to torque a few screws down properly, but a second inspection, using a Kleenex, revealed a design compromise.

The sub driver is screwed and glued into the front of the case, but the rear connectors use screws only. There were no seals or goop to assist in preventing air leaks and high listening level rattles. The Kleenex was used to "see" the small puffs of air emanating from the speaker wire hold-downs and RCA input jacks. If the user chooses to place the boomer box near the monitor so the volume controls are within easy reach, the aforementioned problems become obnoxiously loud. However, I placed the sub enclosure on the floor approximately 36 inches from me under my computer table. With the exception of bass guitar or low frequency synthesizer solos, the buzzing nearly disappeared.

This is an easy, cheap fix if MidiLand so desires to remedy the situation. A sub $100 price point is difficult enough to work with but a simple rubber seal and some goop in the appropriate places would dramatically reduce much of the rattling. The sub enclosure does produce almost the same volume as the Altec ACS-48 6-1/2 incher and I suspect that MidiLand underestimated their 6-1/2 incherís capabilities.

The woofer is quite a nice piece to behold. While everyone else spits out paper cones and foam surrounds, the 490 uses a polypropylene type cone and rubber surround. This gives new meaning to the term "long-throw." I donít know how such a quality part can be included at such a low price. Shhh, donít tell anybody I told you.

Music selections included tracks from Unreal Tournament, which I ripped with the help of MODplayer. My usual staple of hardcore rock, pop and dance provided ample insight into the 490ís strong and weak points. Aside from the woofer box woes, the satellites had a good clear sound quality that was only offset by the lack of tweeters. Extreme highs in the 10-20KHz band were severely muted. This effect was noticeable even on non-multimedia material such as the keyboard typing sounds produced by ICQ. A small amount of "cupped hands" effect was heard in the midrange, but this could be easily remedied by increasing the sub volume.

The sub overall shines like something in this price class that shouldnít. Iím being entirely too critical when I realize that comparing a 5 piece setup to a 3 piece setup with twice as much power and tweeters. The 490ís woofer almost had me fooled into thinking that somebody put the ACS-48ís woofer box in its place. While not quite reaching down into the depths of 40 or 50Hz land, the sub makes the 4.1 arrangement shine. Only those with $300 or more to spend will be disappointed in the bass output.

The wires provided were a welcome surprise. Instead of line level 1/8th inch stereo to dual male RCA jacks, the dual end has female RCA jacks. Not to worry, those 21-inch adapter cords are followed up with 10-foot RCA male-male patch cordsóthree sets of each! The rear speakers wires were of the greatest concern. How can you connect up rear speakers without enough wire? So many surround sets gyp the buyer with paltry 10 footers. Not so with the MidiLandís, as the rear wires are a generous 16 feet each.

Conclusion

For the asking price of $99 USD and selling for as low as $77, the MLi-490ís are quite the steal. Aside from the woofer buzzes, the sub does its job without breaking a sweat, even at high volumes. The satellites are typical single driver units that reproduce a reasonable frequency range, just not the extreme highs. This is a great package that once again drives home the concept of value, MidiLand value. Not marketed at picky high-enders, this 4.1 configuration should easily satisfy the vast majority of price conscious shoppers. Recommended.

William Yaple

00/02/12






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