Date: November 10, 2006
Author(s): Greg King
As enthusiasts, we expect a performance premium from our hardware. A lot of the time, this premium comes at a cost. What if we didn’t have to take out a second mortgage the house to get the performance that we so desire? Today we are taking a look at the latest offering to the audiophile on a budget from Logitech.
For those of you not turning your PC on for the first time, Logitech really needs no introduction. However, to be fair of those who might not know any better, Logitech has been a staple of the PC community for the past 25 years offering gaming peripherals, audio solutions, presentation hardware. Basically, if you can plug it into a PC or make it work with a PC, more than likely Logitech has something for you!
With that said, today we are taking a look at Logitech’s X-540. The x-540s are a 5.1 surround sound speaker system designed with the ‘ballin’ on a budget’ group. Weighing in at an MSRP of $99.99 (US), the X-540 should be obtainable for all but those on the tightest of budgets. On paper, the X-540s sound good but our goal isn’t to read the press sheet, but rather to find out how they perform and if they are worth your dollars. Do they provide a level of immersion in games and if so, how well do they do it? How do they sound when watching a movie or just listening to MP3’s or an iPod. Let’s find out.
Upon arrival, the X-540 speaker system came in its retail packaging. The box is rather big but not cumbersome at all. On it, you will find any and all information that you could want to know about the speakers. The thing that stands out the most to me is the claim that the X-540 will work with your gaming console, DVD or CD player, iPod as well as your PC. This is nice for me as I run my XBOX 360 though a Dell 24′ 2407 LCD and because it’s so close, using the X-540s for the 360 is a convenient little extra.
Once open, we see the X-540s securely packaged in styrofoam, and a manual. Once removed, we see the subwoofer and the satellite speakers in all their glory.
The sub itself is large compared to it’s satellites but certainly not unmanageable. The sub has an open port in the front to allow the air movement in the box. On the bottom of the sub, we see the speaker itself. For whatever reason, Logitech decided that the speaker did not need to be covered so should you decide to purchase the X-540s, please be careful as a little mishandling of this could ruin your entire setup. One thing I do like is the rubber feet on the bottom of the sub. This should protect any surface against scratching should you not place the sub on the floor.
On the back of the sub box, we see all of the connections for audio in as well as audio out to the satellite speakers. Also, there is a corded remote that you use to control the X-540’s volume and this cord also comes out of the back of the box.
Speaking of the wired remote, the unit is roughly 2 inches by 3 inches and is attached by a cord that is roughly 5 feet long. The remote is designed to sit on your desk and allows easy access to volume and bass controls. There is also a power switch and a matrix on/off button. In the front of the remote, there is a plug in for a set of headphones.
With the X-540 being a 5.1 system, there are 5 satellite speakers. These include 4 speakers for front right, front left, back right and back left. There is also a center speaker that can be sat somewhere or be attached to the top of an LCD monitor.
The center speaker, can be mounted to the top of an LCD monitor as I mentioned. The speaker itself sits on a base that is small enough that it can be sat on top of a CRT monitor should you have one. If an LCD monitor is your flavor of display, the base of the center speaker folds down and can easily be ‘clamped’ onto the top of your monitor.
The ability to clamp the center speaker on top of your monitor is a small feature but one that I particularly like. It sits up high and out of the way but is slightly angled down towards my head.
The center speaker is not the only speaker that has multiple mounting options. The other 4 satellite speakers can be mounted on the wall or sit on the desk. Their movable base is what allows this to be done. If you have a large desk and want the speakers on the top of your desk, you can pivot the base around to allow a vertical positioning. If you want to mount the speakers to the wall, the base can be pivoted around to where it is parallel with the speaker itself. This will allow you to mount the speaker on the wall, leaving you with more desk space or more importantly, will allow you to place your speakers where they sound the best for you.
Also included with the X-540s are cords. There is one cord that connects your speakers to the back of your computer. These are color coordinated and are for your rear, front and center speakers.
Also included is a splitter audio cable for component hook ups. This is you want to use the X-540 with your gaming console, CD or DVD player or virtually anything else that you can think of with audio out.
Installation of the X-540s was simple and to the point. After routing the cables around and behind my desk, I simply plugged in the color coded cables and I was off to the races. You are left with quite a wired mess but that comes with the territory.
The X-540 features quite a few significant features, most notably, Frequency Directed Dual Driver (FDD2) technology. This supposedly evens out the sound, spread it out if you will, and not just produce sound directly in front of the speaker itself. Also, if you have a sound card only capable of delivering 2 channels, the ‘matrix mode’ will create 5.1 surround sound. While this doesn’t make up for true surround sound, it is a nice feature for those running non-HD onboard sound. Now for some company specs.
Frequency Directed Dual Driver technology
FDD2 eliminates uneven response created by conventional dual-driver designs.
Creates 5.1 surround-sound effect from 2-channel stereo sources.
Innovative centre channel LCD clip
Speaker attaches to the top of most flat-panel monitors.
Satellite speaker stands
Rotate for easy wall-mounting and positioning.
Dynamic, real-time bass equalization
Maximizes low-frequency response at all volumes.
High-excursion, ported, down-firing subwoofer
Displaces more air for deeper bass.
To test out the X-540s, I focused on a few areas. I primarily used them for gaming on my PC and XBOX, but also listened to music though my PC, iPod and finally watched pieces of movies. My ultimate goal is to get the broadest ranged of use out of the speakers and relay my results in this review. In the testing, I used an Audigy ZS2.
For starters, I played a few different games to get an all around feel for the sound quality of the speakers. I started off with Counter Strike: Source as it is easily one of my favorite games for the PC at this moment. From there, I played some Rise of Legends and then Battlefield 2.
Each of these games has their own unique sounds to them. The main game I used was BF2. The surround sound qualities of it make is a great game to test out audio equipment. The rumbling of the tanks and the high whines of the planes all sounded great and added a bit of realism to the game itself.
When we get to movies, I decided to watch Die Another Day. There is something about Bond that makes me feel more like a man’. or less of one if a comparison is being made, but whatever. The sounds of the movie, be it high or low came though clear and crisp. The action scenes in the movie such as the car chase on the ice at the end of the movie sounded incredible.
The final testing I did was with the XBOX 360. The 360 hooks up easily to the X-540 with the provided component audio cable. This allowed me to play CoD II on my Dell 2407 LCD as well as use the audio of the X-540 to hear the action. With the second picture, all I want you to know is that you should never drop acetone on anything. This includes your XBOX 360s power supply.
The audio of the 360 sounded far better than the speakers on my television and with the 720p settings of the Dell, the experience was awesome to say the least. With the hi-def components plugged into the back of the monitor, I simply used the provided adapter to run the audio component plugs into the X-540. From there, it was only a matter of turning up the volume or turning it down.
The X-540 5.1 speaker system from Logitech does not disappoint. While it isn’t as loud as my home stereo system, the entire system is smaller and costs way less than my receiver alone, let alone everything else. The whole goal of the X-540 is not to replace a home theater stereo, but rather to be an affordable PC stereo system that sounds good and doesn’t take up a lot of space. I have spent the better part of the last 2 weeks with the X-540 speakers on my desk and in that time, I have appreciated their sound as well as their build quality. They are a sturdy bunch indeed.
The included adapter can be picked up at any local Radio Shack but the fact that it’s included really makes the X-540 system that much more versatile. Having my XBOX running though the speakers was a nice addition and being able to plug my iPod into the remote’s headphone jack was nice as well. With all these positives, we can’t loose sight of the downsides of this system as well. I personally do not understand how Logitech can justify leaving the subwoofer’s speaker unprotected. While this would be perfectly fine almost all of the time, it is almost inviting something bad to happen.
Speakers are not extremely tough and one good boot could do it in. I suppose I could also pick apart the overall sound of the X-540 but that really isn’t that fair. I personally have not heard anything in this price range, currently going for around $89.99 (US), that sounds as good as these do. For a sub 100 dollar set of 5.1 speakers, the X-540 has my recommendation. Because of the experience that I had with the X-540, and factoring in the price they are selling for, I can happily hand Logitech and their X-540s an 8 out of 10.
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