In today's ever changing world of gaming, it is almost mandatory that our gaming system (Console or PC) be decked out with the latest and greatest add-on peripherals. Without some upgrades, you probably aren't getting the whole experience. One of the most important of these peripherals (that has taken center stage within the last several years) has been a good set of digital 5.1 surround speakers, which can make the difference between pulling off a surprise ambush, or becoming lunch for some unworldly creature. For those looking for decent surround system at a moderate price, the Logitech X-540 digital 5.1 speaker package for $99 is a good place to start.
Having played many years of PC gaming with just a stereo-speaker setup, I knew I was getting decent sound, but not the type of audio that would let me "feel" the game. After getting a Xbox 360 and piping it through my Home Theater system, I knew then and there that I needed to upgrade my PC audio package. When the request came to review the Logitech X-540, I jumped at the opportunity to put the system through the three primary uses: Audio Playback, DVD playback and Game Play.
A quick summary of the Logitech X-540 reveals a product full of user-friendly designs and good specs for the value. The system has 70 total watts, which includes a 25 watt sub with a 5.25" driver in a ported enclosure, five satellites with two 2" drivers with the following power ratings: Front and rear speakers have 7.4 watts each, and the center has 15.4 watts. The power is complimented by a good frequency response of 40 Hz - 20 kHz. The user friendliness stems from such features as a Center Channel LCD clip (allowing the speaker to be clipped to the top of virtually all LCD panels), innovative rotating speaker stands/mounts and wired control center for the ultimate desktop level control.
When the product arrived, I was immediately impressed with the design and quality of the packaging and the speaker components. As I pulled the system out of the box and started unwrapping and hooking it up, everything seemed to emit and an aura of the X-540 being a good product. However, I came across one small annoyance right away, which was the speaker stands/mounts were all oriented for wall mounting out of the box. Not sure if Logitech understands human nature, but when I get a new toy, I want to test it right away before I put it in its permanent location. After testing the connections with the speakers awkwardly leaning on their side or against the monitor, I took a few seconds with a Phillips screwdriver and fixed the issue thanks to the rotating system on the mounts. The reasoning (in my estimation) the orientation was set for wall mounting appears to be for packaging purposes. If the mounts were oriented for desk standing, it would have forced the use of a larger box due to the increased length of the speakers.
After installation and setup, I decided to start putting the X-540 through the paces with a little music . Whenever I demo new stereo speakers, I never go into a store without a copy of the 'Last Action Hero Soundtrack', which contains one of the single best songs I have ever used to push speakers to both ends of their extremes. After queuing up track 4, the familiar opening to "Real World" by Queensrÿche came streaming out of the front channels. For those unfamiliar with Real World, the song has characteristics of a rock ballad backed by a string orchestra, which eventually descends into some thunderous drumlines overlaid on some hardcore rock. If you aren't sure what that means, it basically makes the tweeters sing and the sub boom.
When it came time to test them with a movie, I went a little off the beat and path by using THX clips, as well as a couple benchmark sections of different films. I first ran the X-540's through several of the THX trailers, including their most recent 'Cavalcade'. The sound emitted was well within line of a PC surround system, but could not come close to matching the earth moving and ear splitting levels of what a higher-end receiver and speakers can do in a home theater. Nonetheless, still good quality for an Office Space roughly 12' x 12'.
As for movies, one of my favorite testing scenes is in "Clear and Present Danger" where an F/A-18 Hornet comes ripping through the
soundfield to drop a cellulose encased bomb on a drug lord's house. The speakers and especially the sub held up wonderfully, reproducing the sound as I expected they would. I also dropped in the ever-popular Pod Race scene from 'Star Wars - Episode I, The Phantom Menace'. Again, the X-540's handled the engine explosions and popping noises during the racing action perfectly. Even the gravel kicked up by Sebulla's pod as it crashes to a stop splashes from left-to-right across the front channels.
I decided to give the Matrix mode a test with some gameplay. Going back a couple years, I loaded up "Guild Wars" and played through a section to get a feel. Although the Matrix mode essentially splits up the stereo output into five channels, it still created a very good soundfield that enhanced the overall gameplay. I was able to detect all the background noises within the game, and it helped provide a better sense of directionality. Like the Music and Movie playback, the overall sound and bass were exceptional and exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, the X-540's did nothing for me while trying to make it through the Snake Dance in Droknar Run.
Overall, the X-540s provided exceptional quality and playback across all three of the tests I used. The base, mids and highs either met or exceeded my expectations. Most impressive was the game playback which opened up a complete new way for a former stereo speakers gamer to experience games. While the X-540's wont be mistaken for a nicer receiver and 5.1 surround speaker package, they most certainly will allow gamers to jump into the surround experience with a modest investment.
The Logitech X-540's can be found at major retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City for a MSRP of $99.99.
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