If you want to add 5.1-channel surround sound to your computer without breaking the bank, Logitech's X-530 multimedia speaker system will do the trick. Four satellite speakers, a center-channel speaker, and a subwoofer that houses the system's amp comprise the X-530 ($79 list), which delivers adequate sound despite lacking the power and the clarity of more formidable 5.1-channel multimedia speaker systems.
The X-530's physical design is a mixed bag. Each of the average-looking satellite speakers has a black-plastic casing, a see-through black-cloth grille, and a built-in plastic desktop stand that swivels and conveniently converts into a wall mount. The matching, horizontally oriented center speaker can be placed on your desk or perched atop the monitor; it tilts up or down. A power switch, a 1/8-inch headphone jack, and a system-volume control sit below the drivers on the front-right satellite speaker. Logitech put the bass control down on the subwoofer, which requires you to hit the ground to make adjustments. Another annoyance: with the lightweight satellites set up on our desktop, we easily and frequently nudged them out of position every time we accidentally tugged on their cords.
The X-530's satellites and center speaker have dual 2-inch drivers. One produces treble and midrange frequencies, while the other produces only midrange, helping close the gap between the satellites and the subwoofer. The ported subwoofer uses one side-firing 5.25-inch driver. The X-530's 70 watts (RMS) of total system power are normal for its price point: 7.4 watts to each satellite, 15.5 watts to the center speaker, and the remaining 25 watts to the subwoofer.
The X-530's only audio inputs are the three analog miniplugs required to connect the speakers to a 5.1-channel PC sound card. Unlike some models, the X-530 doesn't have digital inputs or a jack for connecting a music source such as an iPod.
When we fired up Unreal Tournament 2004, the X-530's performance fell short of really gripping us. Although the rear speakers enhanced our ability to detect approaching enemies, the small, loose sub failed to make explosions feel threatening. That said, the satellites and the subwoofer blended exceptionally well, especially in making music sound full. Dialogue in the Jurassic Park DVD was reasonably clear, and the soundstage had enough depth to seem convincing. For more detail and openness, we would have preferred a slightly brighter sound overall.
The X-530 represents a good value for non-power users. Hard-core gamers and others who require serious bass will be better off stepping up to a more robust model, such as Logitech's Z-5500.