Microlab M1910, 5.1 Speaker System Review
Over recent months we've often remarked on the ever increasing popularity of SFF cases and the irresistible creep of the PC towards the lounge and living areas of the house. This is no bad thing of course, with M-ATX and M-ITX boards packing greater and greater levels of punch per pound it's now an eminently viable proposition to build yourself a high end gaming system that fits happily in its Low profile SFF case nestled under our beside your Large screen TV, for now at least, happy to nudge up alongside your DVD or Blue Ray player and share the home entertainment duties. If you've already gone down this route one of the first things you will have noticed is that the cinematic experience can be somewhat let down by the poor sonic abilities of modern Flat panel TVs when compared to their separates counterparts.
With this in mind we here at OC3D thought it was about time we looked at some audio set ups that could potentially be up to the job of filling your lounge, or for that matter dorm room or bed room with poster rippling bass. It's exactly into this fray that the M1910 from microlab steps, hoping to fill the sonic gap in your heart and restore the big game, big movie and big music sound you're expecting.
The M1910 arrives in a large cardboard box. Two tiers of polystyrene packaging separating the upper layer of satellites from the large subwoofer/amplifier combo below. The box also contains a full set of 5.1 RCA phono connections as well as Coaxial (Toslink) and Optical (SPDIF) digital connections, and of course the all-important remote control. Removing the satellites first we find that the high gloss piano black finish applied to their front surfaces is further protected by a film layer, with each of the speakers again separated in its own plastic bag. This is indeed some serious packaging and although the external box appears to have taken a knock or two in transit the contents within have remained perfectly protected. Top marks to the packaging guys at microlab.
With everything out on the desk we can better assess the set up. Essentially the M1910 is a 5.1 sub/sat set up with the sub also doubling up as the amplifier. Measuring 190x267x400mm and made from 9mm MDF, the amp/sub assembly is reassuringly heavy. The amplifier is able to output 65Watts RMS over a frequency range of 30-20,000Hz. While this isn't exactly a class leading Hi-Fi Specification, it should be plenty for a setup such as this. Bass, as you might imagine comes via the large inbuilt side mounded driver. microlab have also added a foam baffle with a ribbon attached to make it easier to remove should you wish to trade a bit of bass clout for clarity. Each of the four Satellite speakers are to all intents and purposes identical, measuring 95x218x103mm (WxHxD). Unlike the Sub which is made from 9mm MDF the sats are constructed from a much thinner 4mm MDF. Where the Sub is reassuringly weighty, the satellites give the impression that they would need to be tied down in a strong wind. This though is nothing unusual for satellite speakers, with the sub outputting all the bass, they don't require big drivers with heavy magnets to output the sort of volume required of them. Microlab don't give much away in terms of the specs for the drivers in the sats, but what we appear to have is a foam covered midrange unit with a much smaller tweeter sitting above it. The final piece in the jigsaw is the centre speaker which measures 198x106x103mm and like the sats is constructed from 4mm MDF. The centre speaker eschews the tweeter, instead sporting two of the same mid-range units found in the sats. As with the sats, each of the speakers is covered in a non-removable foam baffle with a nice brushed metal effect rim encircling it. The only real difference between the front and satellite speakers is that those intended for use as surround sats have 575cm of speaker cable as opposed to the 175cm allowed for the fronts. It's also worth noting that all the speakers have their speaker wires hard wired into the back of them, so it would be no easy task should you wish to extend the wiring.
We tested the M1910 with a variety of Audio, Video and Gaming media and found it surprisingly good. When playing audio tracks the M1920 was able to project a decent stereo image. At low to medium volume levels the system copes well with little adjustment to levels required. Winding the dial up to "Loud" which for some reason is numbered "32" on the digital volume read out, meant we had to spend a few minutes balancing the sub as it tended to sound more than a bit overblown lacking definition and becoming quite muddled, perhaps due to the ninety degree angled bass port, or perhaps just because we were reaching the limits of the system.
Turning to video, whether on the desktop or positioned for home cinema use, we were again pleased with the performance of the M1910. It was able to deal well with everything we threw at it, whether set up as a desk top system or in the living area as a more conventional home cinema rig. The projected sound stage was ample and the movement and action on screen was well placed and differentiated.
We ended our testing session with a canter through a few of our favourite gaming tittles. The M1910 was able to accurately plot the movement of sound around the listening position, giving a feeling of much greater feeling of immersion than standard stereo. The 5.1 set up left us with the feeling of having a slight edge over players using conventional Stereo set ups.
We think the only real limiting factor of the M1910 is its ability to fill a large room with sound. On the desk top it's excellent. In a smallish lounge, dorm room or bed room it's also fine and certainly better than the speakers found in your TV our any sound bar on the market. Stick it in a large lounge though where by necessity the speakers will need to be further apart and it starts to struggle to fill the space. Putting the speakers too far apart causes them to become sonically isolated from the Sub and spatially isolated from the listening position.
On the whole we're pleased with the M1910, we think it's perfect for beefing up your desktop sound set up and also great for filling a box room, bedroom or dorm room with sound. If your Lounge isn't too large then it's also a great option for a home cinema set up, sonically bettering anything your TV or aftermarket sound bar speakers can produce.
Thanks to Microlab for sending in the M1910 in for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.