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Alesis M1 Active 320USB Speaker System
$99 speakers with audio recording capabilities
By Joshua Virata

If you've got room on your desk and are looking for a pair of desktop speakers, the Alesis M1 Active 320USB is a pair that you should check out. They are pro-grade speakers that offer both audio playback and audio recording capabilities. The M1's have a multitude of inputs that allow for different equipment playback or even recording to your computer through the USB interface.

The speakers are dressed in a matte black composite material with silver plastic accents around the woofer and tweeter. The simple design seems perfect for a home desk or even in a studio setting. The materials used in the speakers also make it feel that the speakers are durable and can withstand rough situational placement. The M1 Active 320USB speakers are also magnetically shielded against interference from devices such as televisions, cell phones, and computer monitors. All of these devices can cause spikes or loss of audio playback in speakers that aren't shielded.
Simple on and off control is done through a turn switch on the right side speaker, which also controls the volume level. On the front of the right speaker there is a TRS Headphone output jack along with a blue LED on and off indicator. On the back of the right speaker are a USB port, 1/8" stereo, pro-grade 1/4" plugs, and analog RCA input jacks. The power supply is not only switchable but also built-in to the speaker itself. On the back of the speaker is a Bass Boost switch that changes the way the speaker emphasizes the bass frequencies.

Setup and use of the speakers was as easy as unpacking and plugging in the correct inputs to the back of the speaker. For use with the USB input there are no special drivers required, as they are simply plug and play, though a setting may need to be changed in the audio output selections settings.

The M1 Active 320USB has a rated frequency response range of 80Hz - 20 kHz, and a signal to noise-ratio of 88 db. The speakers also have a digital conversion of 16-bits and a sampling rate of either 44.1kHz or 48kHz. Each speaker has a rating of 10 watts per channel.

In my use and testing of the speakers, I used them on a MacBook Pro playing a select set of different media. I also changed a few settings in the Audio MIDI Setup tool in the Utilities pane. There I changed the sample rate to 48000.0 Hz and 2 ch - 16-bit audio outputs for the speakers. After I had the settings changed I proceeded to play a selection of various types of music, from pop to jazz, and classical to alternative. I also played a few action scenes from various movies, before I finally settled down to view National Treasure in its entirety while writing this review.

In my opinion these are an excellent pair of speakers for those who care about the quality of the sound they listen too. While a little on the big side, they offer great audio playback and frequency response allowing for the playback of great high tones and clear mids, although I did notice a bit of distortion and a little under representation of those frequencies with or without the bass boost on.

For $99 USD the Alesis M1 Active 320 USB speakers are competitively priced against other desktop speakers on the market such as the Bose Companion 2 series II multimedia speakers. Many desktop speakers out there though aren't magnetically shielded against interference from computer monitors and even cell phones, and if you've ever been a room with unshielded speakers and a cell phone rings, that buzzing can get annoying. Though the speakers are pretty loud at their max, they offer great audio reproduction at both high and low volumes which is great for large or the small room settings they can be put in.

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Joshua Virata is a 2008 graduate of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. He has been using computers since the age of 2 and is proficient in the areas of home wired and wireless networking, music creation, secure computing, cell phone communication and GPS navigation. You can email him at

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