Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Arresting audiophile

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Gaming is an audiovisual slaughterfest. While some games manage to preserve curious sound effects — ambient and spooky — the eye-candy may be dilapidated. Or valuable development hours might have been spent sprucing up graphics while ignoring eerie sound bites. And even when the perfect balance is achieved, potency is lost in the dungeon that is two-channel stereo.

Gaming now has a new, inexpensive ally.

Though it doesn’t have the superpower to transform ugly audio into a carnival for the ears, the S4 Midiland 7100 Plus is a whooping addition to any low-budget home-theater rig. Fetched for a mere $299, this package is, by all means, deserving of its “Plus” subtitle. In addition to five 10-watt midget speakers and a sufficient 50-watt subwoofer, a digital audio station is provided in-box, oozing custom-fitted Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound decoding.

At such an economical price point, the 7100 Plus was constructed from ground up with ease in mind. Virgins to the audio arena might slip over the technicalities of installation, but once connected properly, nearly any game will rocket to life.

“SSX,” a rip-roaring snowboarding fantasy for PlayStation 2, blurs the boundary between gaming and pure escapism. Pounding techno beats and rhythmic pulses swell all around the player; an electronic dance club, poured into your living room. With “Madden 2001,” the playing field jumps into your entertainment quarter, full-throttle and bruised with realism.

Unfortunately, pitfalls do exist — no matter the glorious advantages of the 7100 Plus. In a large living room, the system’s 10-watt speakers sound more like small puppies than ravaging bloodhounds. And the subwoofer, though powerful in the comfort of a home office or bedroom, lacks authority in larger entertainment spaces.

But for $299, this entire setup costs less than one super-wattage, studio quality speaker. For gaming enthusiasts and low-rent home theater buffs, the S4 Midiland 7100 Plus is an outstanding value — primed to explode any den where the sign, “Quiet please/Gaming in progress” hangs above the entranceway. Visit www.midiland.com.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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