In a lounge-room home theatre environment, elaborate surround sound systems are virtually essential to ensure an enthralling viewing experience. On the other hand, for a home or office PC, the placement of five or more satellite speakers in a more confined space can be tedious, and the tangle of wires connecting each speaker to the subwoofer difficult to conceal. It's in these situations that a simple 2.1 (two satellite speakers, one subwoofer) system provides obvious benefits. Further, if you choose wisely, the drop in sound quality when compared to a more expensive unit isn't as much of a deal breaker as it used to be. Enter the TDK Tremor xa-60.
In typical TDK style, the xa-60 boasts an attractive futuristic design and an overall package that won't consume your entire desk space. Each satellite speaker measures just 86x226x80mm (WxHxD), with a black facade and a silver body. The matching subwoofer is also fairly compact at 190x110x236mm and can be positioned either horizontally or vertically depending on space constraints.
While most users might like to keep the subwoofer under their desk, this is impractical with the xa-60 as the headphone jack, bass control, treble control and power switch are located on the subwoofer itself. This isn't a significant hindrance due to the compact size of the sub, but we fail to see why TDK didn't relocate these controls to one of the satellite speakers instead. Further, the power switch is located on the rear of the subwoofer, which soon becomes tedious despite the existence of an automatic stand-by mode.
Installation of the system is child's play, as all cables and inputs are colour coded and the speakers are simply placed to the left and right of the user.
It's important to note that, in addition to a PC, the xa-60 can also be connected to a TV or portable MP3 player. However, it's not nearly powerful enough for an enjoyable experience with the former, and certainly not portable enough to be suitable for the latter. If you're looking for a set of speakers specifically for your MP3 player, a product like the Creative TravelSound 400 is far more fitting.
Each satellite speaker is equipped with TDK's "NXT Surface Sound Technology", which when you cut away the marketing-speak basically means that the speakers offer enhanced directional capabilities. In fact, TDK claims that the "system offers almost 360 degree directional sound properties in every frequency bandwidth". While this is true in part - you don't have to be sitting directly in front of the speakers to enjoy great sound quality - optimal positioning still has the user facing the speakers head on.
At 60 Watts RMS, the overall power of the xa-60 isn't earth shattering, but still adequate for PC use. The 80mm long-stroke sub is rated at 15W and features a minimum frequency response of 20Hz, while each satellite speaker is rated at 7W with a 25mm exciter and an impedance of 8 ohms.
We tested the speakers under general PC use, DVD viewing, music playback and games, and found that the overall sound reproduction was of a high standard compared to similarly priced units. The subwoofer's bass production is clean and doesn't distort the output from the satellite speakers, and the system can reach pleasing volume levels with minimal distortion. That said, the xa-60 clearly lacks the overall oomph of a higher powered system, particularly when it comes to low-end sounds. This is most noticeable when watching DVDs or playing games, but occasionally shines through in music playback as well.
Yet when one considers its low AU$129 price tag, most of the qualms we have with the system are reduced to minor inconveniences. Sure, its raw power is hardly capable of shattering windows or creating grievances with the neighbours, but TDK's Tremor xa-60 is still leagues ahead of the tinny speakers that are typically bundled with OEM desktop and notebook PCs, and therefore makes an attractive upgrade.