Home Theater Lite
The popularity of this type of system, and the number of companies that offer them, continues to grow. Don't dismiss these simple systems as mere toys, however. Some of the more sophisticated systems- from manufacturers such as KEF and Yamaha, for example - easily cost more than $1,000. Others, as you can probably guess, are available for significantly less. Most provide internal signal processing and amplification so all that's required to get the system going is a simple connection from the analog stereo output of the TV or other A/V source to the all-in-one system's input.
One of the more affordable systems, the MAINstage from soundmatters, inc, is what the company calls an "All-in-One Surround Sound System" that consists of a single unit containing speakers, four inputs, a built-in subwoofer, and 80 watts of total power for $249. Now soundmatters has announced a higher end version, the MAINstageHD - "a hi-fi theater console with upgraded speakers and twice the power of the original model."
soundmatters says the new model offers improvements in power and overall sound quality, and it includes the company's ClearVoice Dialog Enhancement Technology for enhanced dialog intelligibility at low volumes. The MAINstageHD's digital amplifier provides 160 total watts (80 for the speakers plus 80 watts for the internal subwoofer) and a greater signal-to-noise ratio (85dB). In addition, the all-in-one system comes with front-panel controls for volume levels and a standby/mute indicator. For those who really want to walk on the wild side of simplified multi-channel sound, the MAINstageHD features an output on the rear panel for adding powered back speakers or a second MAINstageHD (simulating a 6.1-channel system). The back panel also contains a threaded insert for wall mounting the 2.6" x 16.75" x 9.6" (H/W/D), 4.85-pound unit. The MAINstageHD is scheduled to be available in early April, 2005 for $379 MSRP.
soundmatters, inc. will also bring to market a new compact, thin-footprint powered subwoofer. The SUBstage100 utilizes the company's patent-pending "flat-magic" technology that creates high internal pressure in the unit's steel enclosure - coupling the SUBstage100"s spiderless, dual neodymium magnet six-inch driver with two 6" x 6" "moving walls". The combination is said to produce output equivalent to a single 14" driver.
The SUBstage100 includes a built-in 100-watt Class D amplifier and can be daisy-chained with additional SUBstage100s to smooth out bass response in the room or increase the overall output. The new model measures 8" x 16.7" x 4.05" (H/W/D) and is magnetically shielded. Available in April, 2005, the SUBstage100 will carry a MSRP of $329. Optional wall-mount and pedestal kits will also be available, although no pricing has yet been announced.