A short while ago, I wrote a short post on my speaker buying adventure before Christmas. I eventually settled on the new Logitech X-540 5.1 speakers and promised a review. This is that review.
The X-540s are a pretty standard set of PC speakers. A 25W sub-woofer, four 7.4W satellites and a single 15.4W centre speaker make up the set. These aren't perhaps the most powerful speakers out there, but they are certainly enough for most tasks. The satellites and centre speakers each have two 2" drivers with something Logitech like to call FDD2 (Frequency Directed Dual Driver) that ensures uniform sound reproduction rather than "hotspots" of sound produced by other speaker systems. This works well in practice, and I have found that the sound is consistently good anywhere in the room.
The sub-woofer is downward firing, which means that, like the satellites, the sound is not directional. The driver is not enormous at 5.25", but at 25W it kicks out enough power to add a good bass to the sound, and the sound reproduction is much better than in most PC speaker setups I've tried.
Logitech have been thoughtful enough to add some niceties to the system to help it fit in with its intended environment. The satellite bases swivel to become wall mounts, and the centre speaker base unhinges to become a clip to attach to the top of a monitor or, in my case, a flat-panel TV. It isn't a clip in the most common sense of the word, and is actually more of a hook, but it sits in place securely and ensures that the centre channel comes from the right place rather than just whereever you could find room to put it.
All the controls are on a wired remote that can be positioned anywhere you like (within the limits of the not-very-long cable), thus allowing power, volume and the individual bass control and the all important Matrix Mode button to be up front and convenient. In reality I have it right on top of the sub, but it could be positioned under the monitor for easy access.
Of course, all this talk of hardware is well and good, but what does it sound like? I'm not much of an audiophile, but I know what I like, and I like these. The bass is very good, not intrusive as in many PC speakers, and has good sound reproduction rather than the "dull, thumping noise" of many others. The treble is handled very well, too, with a good range and clear reproduction of music and sound effects (explosions et al) with no distortion at all. It's nice to be able to listen to music and appreciate all the sublties of it, from the percussion to the rhythm to the vocal, without any of it being overwhelmed by lacklustre treble or over-enthusiastic bass.
The piece de resistence of these speakers that sets them ahead of previous Logitech offerings is the aforementioned Matrix Mode. This is a clever bit of electronic gimmickry that converts a standard 2 channel stereo input into full 5.1 channel output. I've not been able to find details of how this works, but from my experiments it seems to push more bass to the sub and mid-range to the centre speaker, making it a bit "meatier", and then pushing high-end to the rear speakers enhancing the ambience and giving a fuller sound. Of course, turning off the Matrix Mode makes them act like any other 2.1 speakers and, frankly, I can't imagine why anyone would do that.
Overall, then, and if you couldn't tell, I'm very happy with this purchase. I would recommend them to anyone looking for general purpose speakers for music and film, even if you only have standard stereo output. Turn on the Matrix Mode and the only way you could possibly upgrade is to listen to everything in true 5.1 surround, and given that most music doesn't come in that format yet anyway, this is the best you're going to get, at a very reasonable price.