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First INQpression Logitech Z-5500 THX speakers
Mon Apr 16 2007, 21:50

Product: Logitech Z-5500 Digital
System Requirements: any speaker out will do, preferably a 5.1 surround sound card
Price: $287.00

ONE OF REQUIREMENTS for an immersive experience in gaming or watching movies, or listening to music is the quality of your sound subsystem. It does not matter if you have the fanciest sound card out there, if your speakers are producing weak and crackling sound.

With the R600 series having integrated HD audio, we are one step away from having a complete system of a single PCIe board, but what about the quality of the video and audio experience?

In order to meet the demands of gamers and users that want to have powerful desktop sound, Logitech tried to create an affordable, but powerful product that should be the cause of your neighbourhood wars. We have used this speaker set since the beginning of the year, and we managed to learn about its strengths and weaknesses.

Lost in Trans...cabling
Speakers feature 500 Watts of immersive experience

Logitech Z-5500 belongs to premium family of Logitech speakers, featuring well over 50W per channel. For our less-techie readers, bear in mind that these 50W are not same to those 500W per channel, as a lot of low-quali ty speaker vendors like to point out. Whenever you see a cheaper sound system that promises hundreds of watts of power, manufacturers are declaring theoretical peak power, also known as PMPO, while we are writing about RMS values. Difference between the actual power is heaven and Earth. Front and rear satellites are both declared at 61W, Central speaker is 69W, while subwoofer can make some decent noise with 187 Watts. Packaging is really heavy, weighing over 20 kilos and it isn't easy to carry due to distribution of weight inside the package. In fact, unless you are raising 80kg on the bench with ease, you are bound to have issues with this box or you will need help for your relative, friend or a colleague.

Once that the box starts to be unpacked, be prepared to have whole floor filled with contents of the box, and we would advise you to arm with coolness and patience, because this process will last for some time.

First look on the speakers clearly shows that the speakers are certified for Dolby Pro Logic II and dts signals and bear THX seal of quality, because the logos are all over the place. In fact, THX logo is featured on every speaker, showing that Logitech's payment for the qualification process will not go to waste. The speakers were built from decent quality plastic, but there is always room for improvement: you could get brilliant looks if you opt for a modification like Logiwood from Finland.

To get back on the subject, this speaker set comes in eight separate components: five speakers, one subwoofer, DesktopStation Dolby Digital/dts mixer and a remote. DesktopStation is central place of control for everything these speakers can do, anthe fact that big part of it is IR receiver for the remote. This is a very good thing to do, because you are paying for the remote and very often, that remote has a tiny received and is practically useless. This is not the case here, with DesktopStation able to receive signal from 10m apart with no significant issues.

To setup 5.1 speakers correctly, it takes quite some time to sort out all the wiring. I do not consider myself to be slow as a turtle, but to set up a 5.1 speaker set under one hour is just mission impossible. Of course, if you are setting a 5.1 in real surround configuration instead of putting everything on your table. Z-5500 comes with abundance of cables and we would highly advise you to check the manual how to configure everything correctly.

As it usually happens, your regular black/red wiring is used for connecting speakers with the back of the DesktopStation, so you can replace bundled cables with something longer. Company did not save of the cabling, though. Our set came with 5m cables for the front three satellites and 10m cables for the rear ones, which proved to be insufficient to connect the rear ones to their ideal position. Luckely, yours truly already has surround cabling in place, and Z-5500 satellites proved to be capable enough of receiving fully-fledged Hi-Fi class black/red cabling. We would not go into the price difference between those cables and the speaker set itself, but our experience wasn't different than the tiny cabling, even though the DesktopStation thingie had to push more power through fat cables - kudos to Logitech for leaving some current in reserve for not-bundled cabling.

However, if you are dead set on 5.1 from Logitech, perhaps wireless rear speakers in the form of Z-5450 could prove to be a better (and cheaper) solution for you. I've tried different configurations of Z-5500, but putting them in real surround really makes things cooking. Owners of smaller rooms will be even in advantage, because default cabling will be sufficient for covering whole room, and sound will be quite impressive. Decision to include both stereo and mic in connectors on the DesktopStation sound system was really a good one, because you can easily switch After around an hour and a half, we were finally done with the preparations and the system was switched to life.

Connecting everything at the back of the subwoofer

Testing speakers proves to be the very same challenge as other subjective components of computer. Just like testing keyboards, mouses, gaming pads, each human ear is different and unique result cannot show you is the sound good or bad.

We tested these speakers in a variety of applications, from games with standard sound mix (to test upsampling capabilities) to the DTS ones, and we used our test DVDs from Dolby Laboratories and THX as well. For movies, we use scenes from Lord of The Rings: Return of The King, Armageddon, Terminator 2 and concert DVD of David Bowie.
Games tested were World of Warcraft, Ned for Speed: Carbon, GTR2, F.E.A.R. and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. In all cases, sound was extremely sharp up to a certain.

For starters, we have to warn you to keep devices sensitive to magnetism at least 60cm from the subwoofer, because it contains very powerful magnets. In fact, we did experience some interesting interaction between sound on the woofer and the Logitech MX Revolution wireless mouse that was too close to the woofer.

Sound is just brilliant. The woofer was really powerful for sound effects of car engines in both NFS: Carbon and GTR2, with the small fact that GTR2 has far better engine mapping algorythms. At 75 per cent of maximum power, we had zero distortions and all the windows in the house were producing *interesting* sounds. The the sound was audible from 30 meters outside the house. No sound distorition was present at 90 per cent power as well, but the sound generated was just mind boggling. We have here 180W per channel component Hi-Fi from Yamaha with Magnat speakers, and the sound generated by much smaller speakers was greater than 230W, so Logitech was indeed true to its claims. The company states peak power is 1000W, but we know that this is more powerful than two 2x180W, 120cm tall speakers.

In Short
This speaker set showed its worth during our tests, so we see no reason why should we not recommend this one. When we received the kit, the price was set at steep $400. The Z-5500 showed enough power and quality not to think about getting an cheaper alternative. Right now, you can find these babies for as little as 245 dollars, over $150 less than it was when we received the speaker set.

The Good
+ Brilliant quality of sound
+ Number of connectors
+ Price came down by $150 in three months

The Bad
- Lost in cabling, and the rear ones can prove too short
- Only analogue cabling provided

The Ugly
Nothing to write home about - premium PC speaker set with premium speaker quality.

Bartender's Report

Reviewed and tested by Davor Baksa and Theo Valich


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