Despite its humble appearance, the heft of the system tells a different story. Each satellite speaker is 4" long by 5 1/2" high by 4" deep, and weighs in at just under 2 pounds each due to the use of large permanent magnets in their dynamic driver assembly. The woofer measures 11 1/2" long by 8" high by 10 3/4" deep, and is described as "direct-radiating," which should allow it to produce sufficient bass without the traditional placement concerns of a bandpass system.
Like the Microworks, the Media Labs ML-1 uses an electronic crossover to separate the bass from the signal driving the satellites. The ML-1 also incorporates a separate power amplifier for the woofer, rated at 25 watts R.M.S. (root means square). This serves to further compartmentalize the woofer and The power amp for the satellites rates at 20 watts R.M.S.
Cabling and Setup
One of the most notable aspects of the ML-1s is the enormous length of cabling provided for each satellite - 20 feet per speaker. This is a great consideration for people who don't have the desktop real estate to situate speakers, no matter how small. With the ML-1s, it's possible to position the drivers anywhere you'd like, 30 feet apart or more if you're so inclined. The cable for the left satellite is twice as thick as for the right, as it incorporates a mini plug to input to the woofer/amp. The positive and ground contacts of the unamplified satellites are soldered to prevent fraying, analogous to holding a broken shoelace to a flame. Though it's not incredibly hard to do, it does show an excellent attention to detail.
Another notable point is the use of snap-lock clips to secure the speaker cables to the amplifier/woofer unit. Most speakers (including large loudspeakers, personal and portable stereo systems, etc) use a spring assembly to attach and secure cables, which is a two-handed process and can be very awkward in cramped situations. With the ML-1s, you simply position the contact and snap the contact shut. They also included a stereo-RCA male to Mini female connector for those Awe-64 Gold owners (we know you're still out there). As a complete package, the ML-1s go far to deliver -more points for Parasound
The "Control Satellite" has a volume control and two mini inputs, and a physical flip-switch to choose between them. With such an accommodating spaghetti of cabling, I was greatly saddened to see a measly 5-foot mini-to-mini interconnect to the PC sound card. With so much attention to detail everywhere else, why was this left so lacking? While the sats could be placed 20 feet away from the woofer, they can only be 5 feet away from the PC?
In order to space out the speakers a bit more, I disregarded the sat-to-woofer mini, and plugged the sound card output directly to the woofer. This worked out great, but cancelled out the volume knob on the Control Satellite, as well as the optional inputs. If you're satellites are going to be positioned 10-20 feet away from your listening position, it's not too big of a deal (since you'll be adjusting volume from software anyway), but it's still annoying.
The easiest solution was to connect the Control satellite contacts to the right-speaker output on the woofer instead of the default left. Since neither of the satellites are labeled as Left or Right, this wasn't a big deal, but still doesn't solve the problem of placing the speakers farther out than 5 feet from the PC. A quick solution to that would be to go out and purchase a longer mini-to-mini cable. In the grand scheme of things this isn't a big deal, but for a setup with so much attention to detail, it shouldn't have been missed in the first place.