Before we go any further, it's important to note that despite what anyone says, you're not going to find "audiophile quality" multimedia speakers from Parasound or any other manufacturer, whatever their background. For one, the personal computer is way too noisy to provide a clean signal to any pair of speakers, no matter how high-quality. Even high end sound cards such as the Sound Blaster Live pass their digital signal through several filters before outputting to S/PDIF. The other main reason is that you simply get what you pay for. Whether it's a $100, $200, or $300 set of speakers, you're getting just that.
However, the fact remains that most of the PC speakers sold the market today are in a rather sorry state. If they're not small, underpowered and tinny-sounding, they're large, clumsy, and they warble. A focus on creating quality products is a good sign, especially from an audiophile manufacturer such as Parasound.
Music and Sounds
One of the best and easiest ways to test the sound quality of a pair of new speakers is by using a set of reference music. This doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a special kind of audiophile CD. Rather, it's using the songs and music that you're well familiar with, that allow you to drive the speakers in the preferred range that you desire. Knowing the music well lets you more easily identify the differences between speakers, especially when comparing a new setup to your reference system.
To put the ML-1s through its paces, we hooked them up side by side with our standard Microworks. A head-on comparison would be the best determination of how they perform relative to each other. Using a few reference CDs and MP3s, the first thing we were able to see was that the ML-1s were much warmer than the Microworks. Whereas our reference speakers were incredibly bright in the highs and powerful in the bass, the Media Lab ML-1s were particularly melodic in the midrange.
Holes in your midsection
It's an especially interesting note because the Microworks exhibit this common characteristics of the satellite/woofer combination. The small drivers on the satellite are much more suited to clearly reproducing sound in the high range, while the woofer excels similarly in the low. This often results in a noticeable hole in the midrange, which can sound drowned out by the bass and treble.
The ML-1s were clearly designed to avoid this behavior, and the both the treble and bass remained clean and never overwhelming. The Microworks has a very bassy woofer - it can pound out the lows, but you usually only hear a dull rumble in the low range - there's no percussion or cello, no discreet notes. With a little adjustment of the bass knob, we found that the ML-1 woofer was capable of a beautifully smooth, melodic bass. The midrange was much more prominent than with any other satellite/woofer combo we've tested, but there were a few things we noticed…