(MONEY Magazine) – Sound upgrade Even as the war over digital music rages, Americans download. In fact, according to research firm Ipsos-Reid, by February of this year nearly 25% of Americans over the age of 12--about 50 million people--had downloaded music or MP3 files from the Net. Now there's some good news for downloaders. Although few computers come with great sound systems, PC audio components are coming down in price. It's easy to install a high-quality soundcard like the $72 Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, which allows you to plug in up to six speakers and gives you onboard MP3 decoding so your processor can focus on other tasks. For bargain speakers, check out the Altec Lansing AVS300: $40 gets you a subwoofer and two solid satellite speakers that provide good sound. Gamers and DVD watchers who want a complete Sensurround experience should look at the $170 Polk AMR130 system, with four satellites, a subwoofer and a center speaker. There's an amplifier built into the subwoofer, which has its own power supply to give you bone-rattling bass. If you want to rip music from your home collection--whether LPs, cassettes or even, dare we say, eight-tracks--and put it on your PC, the new iMic from Griffin Technology ($35) plugs into a USB port and lets you dump music from any source directly into your computer. Finally, if you'd love to listen to your digital music on your stereo but it's in another room, the wireless Kima KS-110 Audio System will send a signal up to 1,000 feet. The Kima is available at www.kimawireless.com for $70.
The West has stellar skiing right through April. Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado is offering 50% off a night's stay at the Pines Lodge--that's $110--with a two-night minimum, based on double occupancy, through April 30 (888-830-7669; www.vailresorts.com). In Park City, Utah, post-Olympics March Madness trims 30% off the price of more than 1,000 condos, private rentals and hotel rooms (800-401-9913; www.parkcityski.com). Through mid-April, the central reservations office in Jackson Hole, Wyo. will set you up with five nights' lodging, four days of lift tickets for two, and round-trip air fare from Texas, California or the Midwest for $575 per person (double occupancy). For information about other flights, call 800-443-6931 or visit www.jacksonhole.net.
After Sept. 11, the glut of cruise ships returning to Mexico and the Caribbean from European ports forced prices down. Not so for Alaskan cruises, which have remained in high demand and at close to full price. Now World Explorer Cruises, which peoples its trips with biologists, lecturers and guides, is offering 50% off companion fares in many cabins, and waiving the sticky single supplement. Cruises begin and end in Vancouver; ports of call include Glacier Bay, Kodiak, Ketchikan and Valdez. For early- and late-season cruises (May 5, 14 and Aug. 6), the first passenger pays $1,525 for a nine-night cruise--$1,995 for 14 nights--and the second person pays half. Prices include port charges and taxes. For reservations: 800-854-3835 or www.wecruise.com.
Reported by Brian L. Clark, Andrea Bennett and Stephanie D. Smith