Considering what the system will be used for and the fact that it is a 2.1 setup, is dropping $130-140 on speakers worth it? Any recommendations on a quality 2.1 setup for less or a better quality one for similar cost? Also, would it be worth it to invest in a soundcard? I've read that onboard audio is much better than it used to be, but if I can improve the sound quality without spending too much (less than $100) I'd be willing to do so.
I've read that the X-Fi cards are fairly good and the XtremeGamer falls within my price range. (Currently $60 at newegg)
The pro media 2.1 is very good (I recently bought one). Crisp, powerful speakers and a thumping subwoofer that is adjustable from one of the satellites. Great for music, great for gaming.
The difference between 2.1 and 5.1 boils down to surround sound. If you want 5 speakers and a subwoofer you have to get 5.1. But a lot of games and most music recordings do not support it.
Personally, I prefer quality over quantity.
Some of the lower end 7.1 sound cards use the CPU for processing, slowing your system down. Many will disagree, but the basic sound blaster (24-bit Digital-to Analog conversion, 96Khz sampling) does a great job with little overhead.
5.1 in a small room works just fine. As for Quality of the speakers, it is in the ear of the listener. Personally, I hear little difference between low end (like labtec or Creative vs High quality. Guess my ears are not snooty enough or smutin.
I use labtec and sound is awesome. And not sure about the comment about not much support for 5.1. maybe my X-Fi is able to simulate it well enough, not sure, but seems to work in all my games. I can hear the critters behind me.
I have the Auzen Forte sound card and Logitech Z-5500 5.1 speakers. OMG, it's amazing! I went to play some of my games but got lost in the sound when I was playing some songs on vh1classic (love my 80's music). Eventually, I did play; City of Heroes and again, the sound quality was amazing!