When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

An audio system even Nero could love: Pyrotechnical effects have apparently gotten slightly out of control with Philips Consumer Electronics MX920 speaker systems, 25,500 of which have been recalled due to fire hazards from overheating voice coils. Four such incidents have been reported since the MX920 went on sale in June 1997. No one has been injured, and property damage has been limited to one scorched rug.

Philips is cooperating with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which urged the recall after consumers reported that the speakers could burst into flames. The systems are being retrofitted with less incendiary drivers, and will then be reshipped to dealers.

The MX920 is an entry-level six-piece surround-sound system sold primarily through discount outlets such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Service Merchandise, Lowes, Montgomery Ward, and Best Buy. Its $350 suggested retail price has proved to be a smoking deal for at least a few customers, who were surprised at the high degree of realism they experienced when viewing films like Backdraft, Ron Howard's gritty portrait of firefighters.