This past Christmas my wife gave me a pair of Alesis M1 520 powered monitors. She knows that I really like good powered monitors to mate to my Slim Devices Squeezeboxes. Now that I’ve had a couple of months to listen to these little boxes I must admit that I’m pretty happy with them.
The 520’s are the smaller of the two pictured to the right. These are a little smaller than I normally would choose, but they do the job and are reasonably easy to hide around the house. They’re bi-amped, with 50 watts for the lows and 25 watts for the highs.
There’s a blue LED just in front of the power switch on the top of each speaker. If I drive them really hard the LED flickers to red indicating overload. The amps have overload protection to they limit themselves to protect the drivers.
The input level control is not just an input trim. It has the ability to turn the level completely down to nothing, like a volume control. This is a little unusual in this type of gear. The crossover has a few basic controls for tonal balance and to compensate for positions against a wall or in a corner.
Technically I’m driving them a little low. Pro gear runs at +4 dbm with 1/4″ or XLR type interconnects, whereas consumer gear typically runs at -10 dbm with RCA type connectors. In feeding each from a Squeezebox I use an adapter cable that is RCA to 3-conductor 1/4″ plug. So the Squeezebox is 14 db low meaning I turn the volume on the back of the 520’s right to max. I’ve proven that the Squeezebox can drive the 520’s into limiting, so the level difference is not a problem at all.
I’m thinking about an approach to “whole house audio” that involves several Squeezeboxes around the house, each with a small pair of powered monitors. Since Squeezeboxes can playback in sync with each other it would allow me to have distributed playback throughout the house. In special cases, like halloween, I could have different soundtracks in each section of the house.
The 520’s are inexpensive, under $200 a pair which a not much more than some computer speakers. They’re a whole lot better than any computer speakers I’ve heard. They’re certainly a good value. I could easily put five or six pair around the house without needing a second mortgage.
How do they sound? Well, they don’t have the bottom end of my larger Behringer B2031A monitors or older Paradigm 5SE MkIII speakers. But the top end is smooth and even, not at all strident. I’d heartily recommend them to anyone looking for good sounding powered speakers for a PC, ipod or steaming media device.