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Logitech Z560 THX Certified 4.1 Speaker System
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Date: Dec 25, 2001
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The Logitech Z560 THX Certified 4.1 Speaker System - Page 1

The Logitech Z-560 THX Certified 4.1 Speaker System
High Performance and Fidelity At A Low Price

By - Dave Altavilla
December 9, 2001

 
It's that time of year.  In the PC Hardware and Peripherals industry, you almost can't keep up with the onslaught of new products hitting the market for the holiday season.  Likewise, the HotHardware Test and Tech Writer Team, almost can't keep up with the volume of new gadgets showing up in the lab for test and showcase.  The key word here is "almost", because we always seem to find a way to squeeze in an article on a new product or technology that really stands out and  gets our attention.

Perhaps, that is a bit over the top for an opener here.  After all, we have to try and remain objective in our reporting to you.  So, we'll tone it down a bit.  Wow, what a lead in... Speaking of tone (oh boy the puns are flowing now), when is the last time you thought about the quality and fidelity of your computer speakers?  Perhaps the speakers attached to you computer are nothing more than a way to audibly alert you to that system stop or invalid command.  On the other hand, maybe you are the type that rips their own MP3s and games on until 3 AM with some 3D first person shooter.  Whatever camp you reside in, chances are you probably haven't spent a lot of time or money really digging into the quality of your speaker setup.  I mean, the real high fidelity equipment is powering your stereo or surround sound theater set up, right? 

If that's the case, I'd like to invite you to "think out of the box" a little.  Think of those speakers plugged into your computer as requiring the type of quality one would expect from a nice set of Bose or Snell Acoutics units you might have in the living room.  This is the framework that we have come to judge the product you will see in detail, in the pages to follow.  The Z-560 THX Certified Speaker System from Logitech, came to us from a company known for their controllers, mice, keyboards and other PC Peripherals not necessarily associated with something an audiophile might be interested in.  If you thought to yourself "Logitech couldn't possibly produce a real high fidelity speaker setup", you would be wrong.  Remember, think out of the box.  Let's start with some details and specs.

Specifications and Features of the Logitech Z-560 Speaker System
The Bass is "phat' but not the price

  • THX® certified 4.1 surround sound speaker system
  • M3D technology provides realistic surround sound for extreme gaming and PC desktop theater
  • Brute force subwoofer design delivers huge, room-thumping bass
  • Revolutionary satellite drivers enhance mid and high-range tones
  • SoundTouch? Control Center lets you "fine tune" your listening environment
  • Revolutionary ultra-wide bandwidth phase aligned satellite driver technology and polished aluminum phase plug design offers, supreme tone quality
  • Feel as if you're right in the middle of it. With our exclusive M3D Matrix technology, you experience amazingly realistic surround sound from standard 2-channel stereo sound sources such as music CDs and MP3 files. Home stereo style connectors use standard gauge speaker wire so you can place the speakers anywhere you choose.
  • 8" diameter "long-throw" subwoofer with wood enclosure delivers thunderous bass performance for the ultimate audio experience.

Power and Dynamic Range:

  • Total power output: 400 watts RMS
    - Satellite speaker power output: 212 watts RMS (53w + 53w + 53w + 53w)
    - Subwoofer power output: 188 watts RMS
  • System frequency response 35Hz - 20kHz
  • Signal To Noise Ratio: 100dB
  • Maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level): 114dB

Kit Includes:

  • Z-560 Subwoofer
  • 4 Satellite Speakers
  • SoundTouch Control Center
  • All required cords and cables
  • Users Guide
  • Two Year Limited Warranty


As you can see, these speakers come ready to play with more than enough power driving them at a rated 400 watts RMS. 212 watts is equally distributed between the the satellites and 188 watts drives the subwoofer.  The set has a relatively low signal to noise ratio of 100dB with a max SPL of 114dB.  For reference, these specs are very competitive to the much acclaimed Klipsch Promedia 4.1 system.  In fact, the Logitech specifications above are slightly better all around for power and fidelity.  Finally, these speakers have been THX certified, which means they meet the fidelity standards set by Lucas Films for audio reproduction.  On the other hand, as you know, specs are a small part of the story.  Let's look into their construction a bit more.

A closer look at the setup

 
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The Logitech Z560 THX Certified 4.1 Speaker System - Page 2

The Logitech Z-560 THX Certified 4.1 Speaker System
High Performance and Fidelity At A Low Price

By - Dave Altavilla
December 9, 2001

 

The box this set comes in is nothing short of mammoth.  However, don't let this scare you away, the satellites are still very much "bookshelf" size and you can always find room to tuck that sub away.

Setup and Construction
Nicely equipped, clean and simplistic

 
This table in the HotHardware lab was almost not large enough to display the setup.  The subwoofer is very large in comparison to the average supplied these days with PC speaker systems. 

The satellites are constructed of fairly heavy gauge cabinetry with steel stands that convert into wall mounts when pulled out of the base, reversed and plugged back in.  This feature we thought was well designed and little things like this really impressed us with this kit.  The legs have rubber skid pads that also double as vibration dampening pads when mounted to a wall.  The satellite's screens are removable for easy dusting of the mid range cones.  Which brings us to another aspect of the satellites.  As you will note in this shot on the left, there is no separate tweeter cone on this unit but rather a port at the top.  Will this affect the natural reproduction of high frequencies with just this single mid range driver setup?  We'll get into some detail shortly on this but for now, let's stay on track with the hardware side of things.  Finally, the back of the satellite reveals high quality wire speed nuts that allow you to crank down a solid connection between the speaker terminal and your wire.  Speaking of which, Logitech bundles in some fairly sturdy 20 gauge cord with this kit.

     

The woofer is an almost completely square unit measuring 11"H  X 11"W X 13"L.  It has a rather large heat sink and radiator on the back to cool all 400 watts of the amplifier, that that is located inside.  There are separate right, left, right rear, and left rear connections, as well as a hard wired power cord, a fuse socket and circular din connector for the control center plug.

The control center has controls for volume, fade and bass but no control for treble. Frankly, we aren't sure why Logitech would overlook this with the unit.  There are also push buttons for power and the "M3D" feature, as well as a headphone jack and volume knob.  We think the addition of a headphone jack was a great idea and will make that hook-up significantly easier than crawling around the back of your system.  Finally, the volume knob and M3D button illuminate blue and green respectively, when the unit is on.  All told the Z-560s are a great looking setup but looks aren't everything, especially when it comes to speakers.  Let's talk about sound quality and then wrap this up.

Performance Analysis
Translating the subjective opinion

Test Setup:

  • Standard Pentium 4 2GHz. system with Windows 2000 Professional SP2

  • Sound Blaster Live Value PCI Sound Card - 2 Channel Output

  • 10X/40X DVD ROM Drive

First and foremost, allow me to point out a very important fact relative to judging the performance of a speaker system.  Take it from a former Hi-Fi Store Sales Clerk, speaker sound quality is probably the most subjective science known to man.  What sounds good to my ears may sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to you.  Having said this, as you can imagine however, there are many common attributes, that most people look for in a speaker system, that will ultimately help to define its quality. 

The single most important criteria of any speaker system is accuracy, plain and simple.  The more a sound or instrument, that is being played through a speaker, sounds like the original source material, the better it will generally sound to the user.  You can have all the power in the word driving your speakers but if you don't have a low level of distortion or deviation from the source, you're just going to have a lot of loud noise.  It is with this in mind that we've made our assessments here.

Highs and Lows:
In testing the Z-560s we utilized a number of digitally mastered audio CDs, in order to listen closely to the system's ability to reproduce the songs and instruments being played.  We tried a variety of Pop, Blues, Rock, Jazz and even Grunge discs, including artists like Better Than Ezra, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton,  and Green Day.  The Z-560s did not disappoint.  In fact we were totally impressed.

Bass reproduction was tight and full with the subwoofer of the Z-560 kit.  The tonal quality was excellent and completely natural without muddied or loose vibrations spoiling a bass riff or drum beat.  The power of the subwoofer unit itself is fantastic and loud enough for anyone's taste.  We often found ourselves backing down the volume on the sub at the control center dial.  Down boy... be a good doggie.  This thing was just plain mean.  It wasn't too overbearing however and being able to dial in just the right amount of bass on the control center, was all we needed.

High frequency sounds were amazingly crisp, clean and open.  High hat symbols sound as brassy as they should, unlike the bacon frying sounds that can be produce with lower end "SoundWorks" sets were use to.  The satellites had plenty of high end response regardless of the fact that they don't specifically utilize tweeters.  In fact, we were hearing subtleties with instruments, in some tracks, that we haven't noticed before.  Once again, we were simply impressed by the natural warm sound of these units.

Gaming and DVDs:
We then tried our hand with some basic gaming and play a few moments of Id Software's Return To Castle Wolfenstein.  The Z-560's once again were impressive, producing gun fire, thunder, and other ambient sounds, with clarity and good spatial characteristics for reverberated effects.  Furthermore Logitech's M3D technology really gave the 3D sound component of this game, a nice boost separating front, rear, right and left channels very prominently.  Finally, the same could be said for DVD titles where full dolby digitial was available but due to our sound card's constraints, we weren't able to take full advantage of the feature. 

M3D for music, gaming and DVDs:
This was one unique feature that we can't praise enough.  We fully expected to be disappointed with this as some sort of gimmick more than anything else.  I can't tell you how wrong we were however.  We basically left M3D engaged in every test we did, since it was such a wonderful improvement in spatial acoustics.  When playing music CDs the effect is fabulous, moving left and right surround sound channels to the rear and literally separating instruments from the source recording keeping the vocal track on the front channel.  The effect was impressive, giving you the sensation of sitting amongst the artist being played.  It adds no reverb or echo to the sound whatsoever.  The effect is very natural and subtle.

Gaming and DVDs once again faired pretty much the same with M3D.  Separation and appropriate positioning of sounds into the left, right, front and rear channels allowed for us to get very good quality surround sound effects from our sound card that was really only set up for 2 channel audio.  In short, M3D really does "bridge the gap", to coin Logitech's phrase,  for users with good quality 2 channel sound cards, that aren't interested in investing in one of the newer 4 channel boards.  It may sound like marketing talk folks but it was THAT good.
 

The Logitech Z-560 speaker system is a clearly a top quality high fidelity setup for even the most discriminating audiophile.  Perhaps the market may not perceive Logitech as a pioneer in high fidelity sound but this new PC Speaker System just may put them in the lime light for some time, as a force to be reckoned with.  These speakers easily compete with Klipsch's Promedia line and for some, they may even surpass them.  In our opinion, the Z-560s hit Klipsch square in the eyes on quality and more importantly, on price.  We've seen the Z-560s retailing on the net at a street price of $139, well over $100 less than the Promedia 4.1s from Klipsch.  With the quality and fidelity we've just heard, we aren't sure why anybody would opt for anything but the Z-560s.

The only small shortcoming we could find was the fact that there is no treble adjustment on the Control Center box but this was just a minor setback.  The bass control allowed us to dial in pretty much any tonal adjustments we needed.  As such, we can't score the Z-560s a perfect "10" on the Heat Meter but if there were a 9.9, the Z-560s would have earned every bit of it.

In addition, these little gems are an easy Editor's Choice Award.

 

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