The set-up: I arrived as invited to listen to this new product without pre-conceived ideas. All I was told was that I should be prepared to be amazed. (They all say that!)
I sat on the comfortable couch about 12 feet from a big screen TV. On either side of the TV sat tall and very expensive Martin Logan speakers. Atop the TV was perched a trim box measuring just 2.5” x 16.7” x 9”.
I was ready to test-listen. The Gladiator DVD came to life, but it was the sound that caught my attention. Wide stage, with great depth. Those were my first impressions. My ears were drawn to the bases of those top-tier Martin Logans, as my head told me that was the source of this amazing sound. Was this possible? I was here to listen to that box on the TV and not the Martin Logans. It must have been that I was being primed for those, but that was to come later.
I asked to stop and then sheepishly said I thought the sound I heard came from those Big Guns. Grins from my host revealed the truth. I was already listening to what I came to hear – the name is MAINstage. It was true. Crisp, clean, sharp and accurate sound only appeared to be coming from two large and separate speakers, when, in fact it was all MAINstage.
The MAINstage “box” contains a pair of incredibly small, efficient speakers aimed forward and a centrally located subwoofer under the top-facing grille. The room-filling sound is generated by 80W of power. On the back of the unit are four inputs – two analog and two digital (SP/DIF coax and Optical), plus the plug for the power supply and a few other controls, including an output for an outboard subwoofer instead of using the onboard subwoofer. Among the most impressive characteristics of the MAINstage product is its simplicity. That is what I REALLY liked. It’s one of those no-brainers that comes along every once in a while and that I relish. It is product that is so easy to use and to enjoy. The intimidation factor is simply not there. Just connect two audio cables (L and R) from a VCR, TV, DVD, shelf audio system or even a plain old clock radio (using a cable with standard headphone jack on one end into the clock radio and with standard L and R RCA jacks on the other) and that’s it. It goes into low-power sleep mode if there is no signal present.
How is it that MAINstage is so simple? Part if not most of the reason can be traced to its designer, international acoustic expert Dr. Godehard Guenther. Most of you may not be familiar with Dr. Guenther. Similarly, many of you WILL know the brand he founded and the award-winning products he designed for the a/d/s brand.
All of this brings me back to the product at hand. Yes, I was surprised and terribly impressed. One box that makes anything plugged into it sound better. I sampled it connected to the audio output of a DVD player. The effect was very pleasing. I had the sense of a much larger environment and was completely fooled, not immediately realizing that such a small product could produce such rich sound, whether dialog, sound effects or music.
I used the supplied small and simple wireless remote to adjust the volume and to switch between the so-called Surround mode in which MAINstage produces this amazing theater-like sound and the standard stereo mode. There is no balance adjustment and none is needed. ANYONE will be able to use this remote. No one can mess up this product by changing settings.
The unit is so lightweight and portable it can easily be moved for use in any environment – connected to a TV in any room, or connected for music only to an inexpensive stereo system in a workroom or garage, or how about using it to enhance computer or console video gaming? One of these can be a welcome addition to a student room or dorm, connected to just about anything that could be there, producing HUGE sound, yet taking up little space.
I’m sure you are wondering about the price, and I have saved the best for last.
Amazingly, MAINstage sells for only $299. Yes, for $299, you can purchase a simple device that transforms ordinary sound into a theater-like experience with effective simulated surround sound qualities. Two speakers and a built-in subwoofer. These are the makings of a marriage saver.
A marriage saver? Sure. You know, the “MAN” wants to install all kinds of fancy and expensive theater-sound audio equipment with what the “WOMAN” perceives as imposing speakers hanging from the walls, built-in to the ceilings or otherwise commanding lots of space and with difficult installation. For many of you, the solution will be a MAINstage unit. MAINstage is also the perfect addition to the bedroom TV.
I left the demonstration with the feeling that I had experienced something very special.
For more information visit http://www.soundmatters.com/or call 1-800-698-SOMA. MAINstage comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee. I doubt you will think about returning it.