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.
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
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.
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.