Every computer needs a good set of speakers. Computer speakers are becoming so good that you can easily use them for your home theater as well. Logitech has been making computer peripherals for a long time now. At first they focused on mice, keyboards and joysticks. For a couple years now they have also been making speakers. This has been a good decision because Logitech puts quality workmanship into each and every one of their products. The Z-5500 Digital speaker system is no different.
- Powerful, distortion-free bass
- Innovative driver technology
- Digital equalization
- DTS 96/24 support
- Amazingly powerful controls
- Innovative satellite design
- Connect to multiple sources
Computer system speakers have been around for a long time and just like everything else they continue to be improved upon. Logitechs Z-5500 digital speaker system is an improvement on their previous model, the Z-680. In fact, the exact speaker system that I received has improvements that were not available when this model was first released.
The Z-5500 speaker system is THX certified, which is targeted at computer users and home audio enthusiasts who don’t want to spend a fortune, but still want all the quality of a higher end system. This is currently Logitechs high end speaker system and it has all the features of a more expensive system. In addition to being THX certified, the speakers can play back several formats including Dolby Digital, PCM (uncompressed stereo), DTS and DTS 96/24.
The Logitech Z-5500 Digital is one of the few speaker systems that supports DTS 96/24. DTS 96/24 is a format that you don’t normally use and is not widely available to the general public. It is mainly used in recording studios where they need the absolute best quality. Even now 96/24 is currently used on a limited number of enhanced DVD and audio discs as well as some high-end PC sound cards. Normal DVDs audio is formatted at 48/20 and CDs are at 44/16 (higher numbers are better). So even with the ability to play audio at 96/24 you won’t find many opportunities to use it until more media is released using that format.
The Z-5500 has connections for just about anything that outputs audio. On the back of the Digital SoundTouch control center you will find the connectors that you need to get your computer, DVD player or stereo hooked up. There is one digital optical and one digital coaxial input for DVD or CD players, PS2, Xbox or PC sound card with digital outputs. There is also a 6 channel direct (3 stereo-mini connectors) input for uses with 2, 4 or 6 channel sound cards or for 3 stereo analog mini audio sources. Lastly there is an analog stereo mini jack at the side of the box for portable CD or MP3 players. Also, on the side just above the mini jack is a headphone jack.
All your bass with come out of a 10″ subwoofer. You don’t see 10″ subwoofers in many computer speaker systems, but you sure do notice the difference. The subwoofer is also graced with a large 4″ tuned port. Including a port on a subwoofer serves to increase the amount of bass that you hear, but also complicates the design. This is because the port has to be tuned. Which is often reserved for a much more expensive system. The back of the subwoofer is where the system all comes together. Here you will find all the speaker connectors, which are the same spring clips that you find on most stereos, a 15 pin serial plug for connecting the Digital SoundTouch control center and a master power switch. Once it is all connected you control everything from the control center.
The Z-5500 also includes its own decoder. This is a big feature because it means you don’t have to have a separate receiver to do the decoding for you. All you need to have is the control center and that will take care of everything for you.
The Z-5500 is a 5.1 speaker system so that means there are 4 satellite speakers, 1 center speaker and 1 subwoofer. Each of the five, including the center speaker, are 3-inch digitally equalized aluminum phase plug satellites which combine two drivers into one, providing the clarity of a tweeter with the richness and fullness of a mid-range driver. The satellite speakers have a very stylish look to them. They are mostly black with a silver front that is covered by a black grill. If you like the look better you can remove the grill and display the bare speaker. If you have kids around I recommend you leave the grill on for added protection.
Each of the 4 satellite speakers has a stand that can be rotated. When fully rotated the stand can be used as a wall mount. Unfortunately, once the speaker is mounted there is no ability to swivel the speaker so that is faces you, so you need to pick a mounting spot that faces your general direction. On the back of the speaker is the port and spring clip wire connectors — now this is where the speaker design differs from the first release of the Z-5500. The first release had the cables integrated into the back of the speaker so you could not remove them. On the other end of the 25 foot cable was a single RCA plug. This made connecting them easier but complicated the process of installing the speakers. Since the wire was only 25 feet long you had to find a place in your room that was only 25 feet away. If your house is already wired for speakers then you could not plug these in because they did not use standard plugs. The new and improved speakers do not have the wires attached to the speaker and they use a spring clip so you can easily attached them to a pre-wired house. This also allows you to easily purchase and attach longer and better quality wires. The system comes with 15′ of wire for the front two satellites and the center channel speakers. The two rear satellite speakers each have 25′ of wire.
The center channel speaker has the same design as the satellite except the speaker is laying on its side and it does not have a rotating base. Instead, the base is set up to allow you to tilt the speaker up and down. This design is made so you can place it above or below your monitor. If you have a CRT you should place it above and if you have an LCD you should place it below.
The subwoofer is the hub of connectivity for the system. It is a big beast — it houses a 10″ subwoofer on the front and a 4″ port on the side. The subwoofer also holds the 500 watt amplifier, as evident by the huge heatsink on the back. Also on the back are 5 sets of spring clip speaker connectors. One for each of the satellites and the center speaker. Below the clips is a 15 pin serial plug for connecting the Digital SoundTouch control center and below that is the main power switch. There is also a fuse located below the power switch.
Even though the subwoofer is where everything connects, you will not interact with it very much. Your main center of attention will be with the Digital SoundTouch control center. The control center contains all the controls and settings that you could want. The control center is made up of a power button, large volume dial, 5 setting buttons and an LCD display. The 5 buttons that it has are input, effect, settings, level and mute. The input button controls which input will be using the speakers. Pressing the input button will cycle through the available audio sources. The effect button moves through the different effects that are available. Each type of input has different effects that it can use. The effects include DTS, Dolby Digital, Pro Logic II Movie, Pro Logic II Music, 6 channel Direct, Stereo x2 and stereo. Adjusting the settings is much like adjusting the Effects. Only certain settings are available for each input type. The settings include Panorama, Dimension, Center Width, Surround Delay and Night Mode.
There is also a remote control that you can use with the control center. At the top of the control center is the IR port so make sure that is not blocked by anything. The remote can perform all the same functions as the Control center itself. The only problem is that the LCD display is so small that you may not know exactly what you are doing unless you get really close to read the LCD display, and if you are going to be that close you might as well not use the remote.
There is one bit of warning that I want to give you. The Control center is really fragile. There are lots of warnings in the documentation and on the back of the subwoofer that tell you not to plug in or unplug the control center unless the main power has been turned off or the system has been unplugged. These warnings should be followed. If you do not follow these warnings you could end up with a dead control center. I have to say that I am severely disappointed that the control center would be this fragile. I would think that for a setup this expensive Logitech would have put in a circuit breaker or fuse that would prevent the circuits from getting fried. None the less, you really need to be careful so you do not also end up killing your system.
Another complaint I have is the length of the cable on the control center, it is only about 7′. This means that you cannot put the subwoofer in the corner, where it produces the best sound, unless the rest of your entertainment system is within 7′ of the corner. If you are more then 7′ away from a corner you must decide if you want the best bass or if you want the control center on your desk or with the rest of your entertainment center. You are not allowed to extend the cable for the control center, doing so may damage your system.
It is really hard to quantify the performance of a speaker system without going into a lot of numbers that for the most part do not matter to most of us. Most of us just want to know how it sounds. Let me tell you, it sounds awesome.
When you turn on this speaker system with your favorite game or DVD just make sure you don’t have anyone sleeping anywhere in the house. This system easily raises the hair on the back of your neck and the subwoofer can really shake things up.
Logitech says that the system outputs a very impressive 505 watts (RMS), with 62 watts going to each of satellites, 69 watts dedicated to the center, and 188 watts allocated to the huge subwoofer’s 10″ driver. This is really a lot of power for a speaker system that is for computers. These kind of numbers are normally only seen in much larger systems.
Warranty & Service
This speaker system comes with a rather good 2 year limited warranty. I have not had a reason to contact Logitech for any support so I don’t know how that is, but I have not heard very many bad things either.
Overall, the quality of the sound that this speaker system produces is out of this world. You won’t find a better speaker system for the same price. There are several things that I consider flaws, but if you are willing to put up with them then I don’t think you will be disappointed.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|