Compact stereo system brings big sound to any room, at a...

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November 29, 1999

Compact stereo system brings big sound to any room, at a low price

Sharp's MD-C2 bookshelf system ($399.95) is an amazing value. It offers features you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, especially in this price range: a three-CD changer, a three-MiniDisc changer, a cassette deck and an AM/FM radio.

This all wouldn't mean much if the sound quality was as low as the price, but this compact system delivers clear and dynamic audio that can fill any room. The system, with a whopping 100 watts of power, has a variety of controls for shaping the sound to the type of music you're listening to.

A five-band equalizer lets you chose the type of music (rock, pop, jazz, etc.) and there's a bass boost for bottom-heavy tunes. There's a faux surround-sound option that creates the illusion of a four-speaker system. The AM/FM radio can store up to 40 station presets, and a 100-character title generator lets you identify the album and track titles on your MiniDiscs. With the full-function remote, you can control the system while you lounge around on the couch.

The only big drawback to the MD-C2 is its styling. It's the muscle car of mini-audio systems and looks surprisingly like Konky, the boom box robot on "Pee Wee's Playhouse." Five different colors of light flash on its displays while the music is playing, making it look like a department store Christmas tree. Luckily, there's a dimmer switch, but it doesn't do much to dim the system's '80s "Disco Duck" aesthetic. The speaker cabinets are not much better, with grille covers that look like black lava lamps.

But with this list of impressive features, above-average sound and low price, you won't care much what the system looks like. It's a wonderful gift for a teen and would look great flashing away under the tree on Christmas morning.

Information: 800-Be-Sharp or www.sharp-usa.com.

- Gareth Branwyn

For reviews of this and other gadgets, point your Web browser to www.streettech.com.

Laser printer from Brother produces sharp images, fast

When it comes to speed, the Brother HL-1240 leaves comparable printers in the dust.

The laser printer market is teeming with models in its price range, but few can shoot out 12 pages a minute like the HL-1240. Efficiency, however, doesn't seem to compromise quality. At a resolution of 600-by-600 dots per inch, documents reproduced from Microsoft Word files were crisp and exceptionally easy to read. Reproductions of images downloaded from the Web weren't always clear, but most people printing a lot of pictures will be buying color machines rather than the typically black-and-white laser models.

The HL-1240 is probably best suited for small businesses, though the machine would work well for families, too, provided desk or home office space isn't at a premium. The HL-1240 sucks up more room than many monitors.

One other nit to pick: It doesn't include a printing cable that attaches to the computer. Inexplicably, many manufacturers still ship units without them.

The HL-1240, which comes with a 250-page paper tray, retails for about $299. It has parallel and Universal Serial Bus ports and works with Windows, iMac and G3 computers. Click on www.brother.com for details or call 800-521-2846 to receive information by fax.

- John Hanan, Knight Ridder/Tribune

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