Mission's M3i range consists of many different speakers, which can be mixed and matched to your heart's content. Here we're assembling a budget package that attempts to get by without a subwoofer, as the floorstanding main speakers (a pair of M33is) have a quoted frequency response of 44Hz-20kHz. The M33i carries a single 165mm mid/ bass driver with a 25mm tweeter.

The M3c2i centre box completes the front soundstage. This carries a pair of 100mm mid/bass drivers and a 25mm tweeter and has a frequency response as low as 56Hz. It's not a perfect match for the main stereo pair, but the discrepancy isn't glaring.

Rear guard

For rear duties we're opting for the smaller M30i model. It carries a single 100mm mid/bass driver and a 25mm tweeter.

All the speakers are magnetically shielded - you could use the rears as front speakers in a sub-sat system, adding an M3as active subwoofer for bass duties. The driver layout is unusual, in that it is inverted, with the tweeter mounted below the woofer. This is intended to improve the focusing of the audio delivery.

More powerful floorstanders are also available, in the form of the M34i and M35i, in case you like the sound of this system but fancy a bit more muscle.

Speaking of muscle, these are sensitive speakers, requiring less amplification to hit a given volume level. This makes them a suitable partner for modest amplifiers, without sacrificing volume unduly.

Present tense

Audio is beautifully presented, with a lightness of touch and an ability to bring out detail in speech. Sound effects also benefit from this subtlety, moving convincingly around the soundstage and being clearly presented as individual elements, rather than an overall noise.

The front soundstage hogs the limelight. An ideal surround sound system would have equal drivers in all speakers, but the rears are not eclipsed. An ideal system would also have a subwoofer to handle the .1 of a 5.1-channel soundtrack. This system does a good job with bass, but it cannot offer the rumbling impact of a dedicated sub - good news for the neighbours if you live in a flat.

However, the M3i speakers are more than comfortable when being fed a DVD-Audio disc or CD.

This is a great package as it stands. It could be improved by the addition of a subwoofer, or even more powerful speakers from the M3i range, but it's nearly always possible to improve a system by throwing more money at it. But for just £500, we think you'll be impressed with this system.