Review: Logitech z5500 5.1 PC/Home Theater Speakers
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This review of the Logitech z5500 5.1 Speaker is written from the viewpoint of an average user. I am not a professional reviewer, I am not paid to do this, nor am I an audiophile. Before purchasing the z5500’s I also read many reviews and compared other products. Budget was a big concern–we all know a $1,000 system would be better, but most people don’t budget that much for audio. Fortunately you can pick the Logitech z5500 speakers up at Amazon for about $250 shipped! Note that the price on Amazon fluctuates a bit, but anywhere around $250 is a great deal.
I am also a mid-20’s, tech-savvy user who has had roommates or family members to consider for noise factors (bass can really travel through walls!) I am a gamer and love music so having surround sound, good balanced music quality (though certainly not audiophile level) and connection options are important. If this sounds at all like your situation, or even if it doesn’t, read on–you will find some valuable insights from someone who has used the system daily for almost 2 years.
Upon first receiving the box I was blown away by how large it was. To me, this is a negative as I do have space to consider. The subwoofer is GIGANTIC and weights a ton. I believe I read 60 pounds. The Control Center is also larger than I had anticipated so you’ll need to find room for it on your desk, along with the 3 front speakers.
I am no expert on audio, though I do feel I am slightly above average when listening for speaker quality. If you’re like me, you can certainly tell when a cheaper system is muddled, tinny, or distorted. Rest assured the z5500 is none of these. With some quick adjustments via the control center (15-25% subwoofer, 75% surround, 40% center is my standard configuration for music) you’ll get wonderful clarity. You’ll be able to clearly hear the subtleties of each instrument. The subwoofer is especially powerful and can easily fill a room with movie theater quality rumbles if set above 25%. For movies and gaming, if noise level is not an issue, you’ll get an incredibly immersive experience by raising the subwoofer and center speakers up a bit.
Quick note: on the Logitech z5500, you CAN turn the subwoofer completely down using the remote or control center. This is handy for late at night to keep noise levels down for other household members. Many other systems allow you to control the subwoofer, but never turn the volume level completely down.
The 5.1 surround sound does a great job of immersing you. On my previous system the rear speakers were much less powerful than the front speakers and really did little other than fill in a little noise from the rear. Logitech did not skimp on the rear speakers here, they are just as powerful as the front speakers and do a great job of letting you hear footsteps of players behind you in a game, or of adding in other positional noise from movies. If connecting your gaming console via a 5.1 channel connection like the optical-in, you’ll even get surround sound in console games like Halo–a distinct advantage.
As far as advanced analysis of the audio quality, I will refer you to this great review complete with a graph and all that fun technical stuff.
SUMMARY: exceptional! Movie enthusiasts and gamers will be impressed by the positional audio and bass. Music lovers will be more than happy with the clarity and subtleties present, but you’ll need to keep the subwoofer down to keep it from being overpowering.
One of the big draws of the system is it’s advanced (and usually rather expensive) decoding abilities. Most systems at this price range simply will not have the ability to decode THX or DTS sources. Also, Dolby Digital Pro Logic II will upscale regular 2-channel stereo audio to surround sound. You can set the system up for Pro Logic Music or Movie, though I did not like the results of the Dolby Digital Pro Logic Music and ended up not using it. Be aware that this is no substitute for a true 5.1 surround audio source however.
Movie watchers will appreciate the THX and DTS decoding. You will be impressed by the effects and happy you don’t have to purchase an extra receiver.
SUMMARY: way above average decoding sources for this price range. Dolby Digital Pro Logic II is a nice touch, but not so great for music.
All audio input sources are connected via plugging into the control center (covered in detail below). The z5500 features all the connectivity options most people would need:
- Headphone jack
- 3.5″ Mini Stereo audio input jack: mp3 player/ipod/zune/etc
- Digital Optical: Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, Playstation 3, some DVD and CD players
- Digital Coaxial: Some PC’s, DVD and CD players
- 6 Channel Direct: generally for PC’s, also an option for gaming consoles
Personally, I use many of the connections and am much happier now than when I had to use many many adapters and switch inputs manually. I have wireless headphones set up to be plugged into the headphone jack, a stereo male-to-male cable for connecting an mp3 player for direct output through the speakers, an optical (SPDIF) connection for 5.1 surround sound on the Xbox 360 (requires a purchase of the extra cord, can be had for $5 on eBay), and of course the standard 3 stereo jacks coming from my computer’s sound card for 5.1 PC audio.
Small and useful to complement another more advanced remote. There are not so many buttons that it is cluttered, but the features you need are immediately available with one button press–no menu access is necessary. You can increase or decrease the volume of the subwoofer, center speaker, and surround speakers all directly via their own volume up or down buttons on the remote. I will most commonly control only the sub volume to turn it down later at night and appreciate this immensely. It also has a master volume control that gets used often. The other useful buttons are mute, power, settings (to tweak things like surround delay), and each different input also has its own button to switch between audio sources.
In actual use, I generally end up using my Windows Media Center remote in conjuction with this remote and can control everything I need in this way. The only real use the z5500 remote gets is controlling the subwoofer, though it would potentially also be used to switch inputs if my setup were slightly different.
The Logitech z5500’s have a unique addition not found on most speaker systems. The control center stands a little under 1 foot tall and will likely be positioned on your desk. It MUST be placed rather close to your subwoofer because of its short connection. The control center is a connection hub and appears to be the center for decoding of the high quality audio formats like Dolby Digital Pro Logic II, THX, and DTS. It is a convenient way to keep everything connected in one place, control volume levels and other settings (though it’s quicker to use the remote usually). One great feature is its gigantic volume wheel, which actually feels extremely well built and it is actually fun to spin when turning the volume way down. There is a 1″ tall lighted led screen that displays volume level and the current audio source. This is perfect for sitting at a computer desk but is too hard to read at any further distance.
INSTALLATION & SETUP
HANGING REAR SPEAKERS:
The rear speakers are rather tough to install if hanging them on a wall. An extra couple inches of clearance would have made it extremely easy to screw them into a wall using the included screws and holes in the legs of the stands. Basically, you will rotate the stand around so it is flat against the wall and placed up toward the ceiling. Unfortunately because there is such little clearance around the body of the speaker, you will struggle to get the screw in when using a standard screwdriver or drill (note that if you have an EXTREMELY short or a snake style screwdriver, this shouldn’t be a problem). When installing in a small room, the speakers will automatically angle down at the perfect angle for a small to medium sized room. Unfortunately you can’t adjust beyond this. In different sized rooms this may be a problem. It is also important to note that you’ll really need 2 people to install the speakers or you will struggle to hold the speaker and screw it in. I researched and tried different things, but there did not seem to be a way to detach the speaker from the stand.
If routing both rear speaker cables along the same side wall, which you will likely do, you’ll find the length of the one cord reaching the farthest speaker will be much too short. I personally had to extend the cord in even a small to medium sized bedroom by simply twisting the wires together with another, shorter speaker cable I happened to have lying around and wrapping this in electrical tape.
Another short cable problem will be with the control center’s connection to the subwoofer. These two will need to be placed rather close to each other–something that will be inconvient at best for most people.
After a large amount of research, all reviews and user opions I read pointed to two main choices for audio quality in this price range of $200-$350. The Logitech z5500 or the Klipsch 4.1 speakers (which are basically discontinued and only available in 2.1 setup but 2 sets can be hooked together to create a 4.1 system).
The z5500’s are a great choice for gamers and movie enthusiasts with the immersive bass and great positional surround sound. With the subwoofer cranked, you can really get the movie theater effect.
This is the perfect choice in the $250-$350 price range for a desk media center (PC, gaming, music, etc). This would also be a great system for a living room with a Home Theater PC based on the audio quality and connections, but the aesthetics of the speakers and control center would not fit well in a living room. There are a couple of small connection problems, but nothing that can’t be fixed. This is absolutely the best choice in this price range and I recommend it completely. I would purchase it again and would recommend it for any users who demand high quality audio and an impressive array of connection possibilities.
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