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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.

The Unit
  • Frequency Response:20Hz - 20kHz+3dB Satellites
  • P.M.P.O.:1000W
  • Function Controls:Power/volume, subwoofer volume, LED power indicator
  • RMS Power:Total 70W
    Satellite 10W + 10W + 10W + 10W Subwoofer 30W
  • Input Sensitivity:300mVrms

The 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.

The 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.

Objective Tests

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 S-2000.

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