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Posted: December 19, 1999
Written by: Chris Burek
Speaker installation is usually easy, but always requires connecting lots of wires. Luckily for us, Advent took the initiative and placed tiny labels on each wire explaining its purpose. While we love to see colour-coded wires and connectors, this is the next best thing. The right satellite is where the mass of the connections are made, and the connectors are placed on the back of the speaker. The stereo input wire runs from you sound card to the stereo in connector, another wire connects the left satellite to the right, and a wire with both a mono connector and electrical connector run from the satellite to the subwoofer. Lastly, we're ecstatic to say that this system doesn't come with an annoying wall-wart adapter, but the power adapter has been integrated into the subwoofer housing. This will save considerable amount of space if you use a power bar. A removable electrical cord runs from the sub to the power outlet. If you have any trouble, the detailed installation manual will help guide you.
Testing of the Advent AV 390PL was performed in conjunction with Aureal's Vortex 2 SQ2500 sound card. As this system is geared more towards the gamer, our testing involved the use of many of today's newer games, which make use of either A3D 2.0 or Dobly Surround. Our evaluation was done with Half-Life (A3D), Quake III Arena Demo (A3D), NHL 2000 (Dobly), and Unreal (A3D).
To say the least, the AV 390PL is competitive to systems even above its own price range of around $100. The sound reproduction of our games was some of the most clearly produced sound from computer speakers we've heard. The highs and lows were produced with applaudable accuracy. The satellites are, without question, exceptional in performance for a system around $100 or so. Also, distortion was almost non-existent at high volumes.
Unfortunately, the subwoofer isn't as good as its satellite counterparts. The sub does pack enough power to make an impression, but it does fall short in terms of power compared to other subs we've previously tested. No complaints as for sound quality of the subwoofer, but only a small lack of power.
In this area we found that using the Enhanced Stereo or Dolby Surround mode settings improved the experience a lot, and then some. Enhanced Stereo works best with games using A3D or DirectSound, while the Dolby Surround setting is best coupled with games supporting Dolby surround.
We tested with a variety of different music genres using both CDs and MP3s. The sound quality was still excellent, however bass reproduction fell short due the somewhat underpowered sub. Still, this system is a great combination for music as it is gaming.
When playing music, we've concluded that you should refrain from using Enhanced Stereo or Dolby Surround because it either adds too much echo or it makes the music sound tinny. Stick with the normal Stereo setting.
While this system is a saint in terms of performance, we were plagued by one of the AV 390PL's features. While the idea is great, the automatic power saving addition to the system plagued us with annoyance. We found our system constantly shutting on and off due to our PC doing different tasks that either do or do not send sounds to the speakers. While you wouldn't think that would bother you, when the system powers on each time it makes a loud, deep popping noise. This even startled me a few times. The AV 390PL definitely could have used an option to turn off the power saving function.
If your speaker budget is around $100, we can recommend Advent's AV 390PL. Its superior game and music sound quality, features, design, and ease of installation makes this system a winner. If you can put aside the slightly underpowered subwoofer, look into this system. If you're looking for something more powerful or high-end, the AV 390PL might not serve your purpose.
All together, a superb effort by Advent.