What We Like
- Great I/O cluster with lots of options.
- Decent core performance suitable for beginners.
- Awesome yet unusual features that give these speakers additional value.
What We Don’t Like
- Cheap looking design that could have been done better.
Alesis never fails to surprise us with their unusual designs. Alesis M1 Active 320 USB is one such model, while it is also one of the best choices for a monitor speaker under $100 at the moment.
To put it simply, design is definitely not the strong suit of Alesis M1 Active 320 USB. These look like your average set of cheap desktop features. However, this isn’t really something we can hold against Alesis. Considering the price range, there is only so much we can expect in terms of looks.
Cabinets are black, compact and boxy. Front panel features light gray baffles around each transducer, as well as fixed grilles. If you look at the front of the active cab, you will see a volume knob that is also a power switch. On the other side, there is a 3.5mm headphones out. Both of the cabinets are ported in the rear, so some caution is necessary when positioning them back first against a wall.
If the somewhat bland design doesn’t bother you, Alesis M1 Active 320 USB can prove to be pretty great once we take a look at what they can do.
Configuration of transducers in Alesis M1 Active 320 USB are standard for this price range. In other words, you get one 1″ tweeter sitting above a 3″ woofer cone. In this particular case, both speakers are capable of delivering 10 Watts RMS. Even though this isn’t a whole lot of power, Alesis has tuned the transducers so that they dig pretty deep into the low end of the range. As a matter of fact, you are looking at a 58 Hz lower limit, which is fairly impressive considering it is done using a 3″ driver.
What really sets Alesis M1 Active 320 USB apart from its competition is that USB port in the rear and the Bass Boost feature. With both 1/4″ TRS and 1/8″ stereo inputs, you can plug in any kind of keyboard, mixer, or instrument to the speakers and then use the USB drive to record the output directly to your computer.
Performance wise, Alesis M1 Active 320 USB rank right around the average for this segment. The main metric of any monitor speaker’s performance is its transparency. In case of M1 Active 320, transparency is on the border of usefulness. Again, that is the case with most speakers in this price range.
Response is decent across the range, with obvious bias in the lows. Flip that Bass Boost and you can dig a little bit deeper should you need to. However, it is worth keeping in mind that this feature definitely takes away from whatever transparency is there to begin with. On the other hand, Alesis M1 Active 320 USB work awesome as desktop speakers and that USB recording feature is an awesome thing to have in a home studio.
These can literally serve as an interim recording interface until you get something better. Alesis has definitely found a niche that appeals to the beginner producer.
While they might not be the most transparent monitors out there, Alesis M1 Active 320 USB definitely offer a great combination of features and performance. Some of them are actually pretty useful in a home studio environment.