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Soundmatters' tagline, "One box, two wires, and $300 make any TV a home theater," sums up the Mainstage's appeal. This set-top powered speaker is refreshingly simple to install and use. For big sound anywhere in your home or office, just add the Mainstage to a digital or analog source, such as a DVD player or a TV--you'll have a complete virtual-surround system. We like the $299 Mainstage's trim good looks and hearty audio, but don't expect the unit to deliver surround effects like a true multispeaker ensemble. In cramped quarters, however, where a 5.1 setup is out of the question, the Mainstage will serve with distinction.
The Mainstage is sleek, weighing 4.85 pounds and measuring 16.7 inches wide by 2.5 inches tall. It's available with a charcoal orfinish.
A rocker-style power switch is at the rear, but we relied on the automatic on/off feature, which shuts down the Mainstage one minute after the source stops transmitting a signal. The only front-panel control is a button for selecting the input.
The contoured remote felt extracomfy in our hands, and its five buttons--Volume Up, Volume Down, Surround, Source, and Mute--were easy to see in the dark. Whatever you do, don't misplace the remote. It's the only way to set the volume and the surround mode.
Designed to be a self-contained sound source, the Mainstage has a pair of 2-by-2.75-inch speakers and a top-mounted 4-inch woofer. The unit's amp delivers 10 watts to each speaker and a whopping 20 watts to the woofer.
Considering the Mainstage's size, its connectivity quotient is generous. You get one stereo minijack for computers and portable audio devices; one set of RCA inputs for conventional home-entertainment gear; two digital-audio ins (one optical and one coaxial) for your DVD player, PlayStation 2, or satellite/cable box; and a minijack subwoofer output that will work with any powered sub. A bass-level control is also back there. As we write this review, Soundmatters is adding a free optical digital cable to the package.
Soundmatters' two-year warranty on parts and labor is a darn sight better than the usual 90-day coverage.