Editors' note: Updated on August 21, 2009, to reflect its new lower price.
The M-Audio brand name may mean more to musicians and music producers than gamers and iTunes junkies, but all you really need to know is that the company makes one of the best-sounding PC and multimedia speakers you can buy. Unfortunately, those speakers are called the Studiophile AV 40, they run $150, and we raved about them back in March of 2008.
The speaker set featured here is the Studiophile AV 30, a smaller set that borrows heavily from the design and sound of its lauded sibling. The AV 30 sacrifices on some of the sonic power and professional features that made the AV 40 exceptional, but it also sacrificed the price--cutting it down to an attractive $99.
There's a lot you can forgive once you reach a price tag in the double digits. For instance, we can forgive M-Audio for using a cheaper amplifier in the AV 30 than the class-A/B amp used in the AV 40. We can also forgive it for ditching the studio-quality 1.25-inch TRS audio inputs and going strictly with RCA ins. These missing features may have audio purists turning up their noses, but those of you simply looking to coax great sound from your computer or MP3 player shouldn't care one bit.
Most impressive about the Studiophile AV 30 are the features it has in common with the knock-out AV 40. Both use the same .75-inch, ferrofluid-cooled, silk, dome tweeters, the same solid pro-audio construction quality, and both include headphone output and aux input minijacks on the front of the left speaker, along with an illuminated volume control knob.