Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Logitech Z-5500 5.1 THX Certified Speakers Review

I am not an audiophile. I prefer the joy of sight over the joy of sound, so naturally, you will have to read the following review with that rather large grain of salt. With that caveat aside, I will introduce you to what my experience has been with PC speakers. In ascending chronological order, here are the speakers I have been listening to with my PC for the last 3 years:

  • Creative Cambridge Soundworks 5.1 surround sound system
  • Logitech X-530 5.1 surround sound system
  • Logitech Z-10 2.0 sound system
  • Creative T20 2.0 sound system
And now I'm back to a 5.1 setup. The move to a 2.0 setup actually coinceided with my moving out and getting married period, where we lived in a small 600 sq. ft. apartment and real estate was limited. I do like to game in 5.1 and have missed it, but I also enjoy having a clean desk with little clutter (my wife would disagree but that's another story). I was very happy with my T-20's and they performed exceptionally well for a 2.0 system. I chose to try out the Z-5500 because my friend owns the Z-680 (the predecessor to the 5500) and he absolutely raves about them. That and the deal site I frequent had found these on sale for $250 Canadian. The price was just too sweet to pass them up so I took the plunge. Setup: The subwoofer that comes with this speaker package is a 10" sub enclosed in a wood housing with amplifier and a large aluminum heat sink. The box the whole set comes in is rather large and it was a challenge trying to get in into the trunk of my Mazda 3. However, once it was home and I started to set it up, it was a painless process. The Z-5500 uses regular speaker spring clips and speaker wires for its connection. It's not hard to connect these speakers but it does take a bit of patience and wire stripping. Just make sure you either have a sharp utility blade or a $10 wire stripper from home depot. After you have connected all 5 speakers to their inputs on the back of the amp (sub woofer), you should connect the massive, wired, desktop remote. The remote does more than adjust volume, all the appropriate controls are on there with the audio inputs. You can select which input, effects, and speaker levels all on the remote with the help of a 2 line LCD display. Performance: The Z-5500 accepts a Dolby Digital signal with support for Prologic II decoding and DTS 96/24 as well. You can hook up the speakers using direct 6 channel connection, Digital Toslink, or regular stereo input. I used both the direct 6 channel and Toslink to test these speakers. As most games do not output a encoded Dolby or DTS signal, you are forced to use the 6 channel (green, yellow, black) for positional audio. But for movies, such as the Matrix, you can switch the input to Digital Toslink and allow the Z-5500 to decode the DTS or Dolby track for you. I currently run a 5.1 surround system for my main TV and I really enjoy the loud bang that comes with all 5 speakers firing. And let me say my only complaint about watching a movie with these speakers is that my office chair doesn't transform into a Lazyboy! These speakers are the echelon of PC audio there is no doubt. The sounds from them are very clear, with great separation and well defined lows. The only thing I would like is a more distinct bass instead of a steady rumble, it would be nice if the bass could vary a bit with more life. Gaming is a joy with the Z-5500. You get a great sense of position with them. Bioshock is positively freaking when you can tell which direction a Big Daddy is in just by hearing it from behind....brrrr. Conclusion: I am very pleased with these speakers. They could be had for cheaper come Christmas time I'm sure and with the boxing day and year end sales, you should be seeing regular prices fall closer to the $200 mark. $200 for a set of speakers is expensive. But if you are someone that uses their PC for more than word processing and more for entertainment, then get yourself some decent speakers. There's a reason the majority of people out there call PC enthusiasts geeks and nerds, it's because we spend all this time and money oiling and greasing silicon chips in a box. So if you are going to be putting a HEMI in a Toyota, make sure you give it a good intake and exhaust so it can sound like a monster too.

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