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Logitech Z680 5.1 Channel Speaker System
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Date: Feb 06, 2003
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The Logitech Z680 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Page 1

The Logitech Z-680 5.1 Channel
THX-Certified Speaker System
A Killer Home-Theater Sound System for Your PC...

By - Marco Chiappetta
February 5, 2003

PC enthusiasts are constantly upgrading their systems in an almost never-ending endeavor to improve their multimedia and gaming experiences.  All too often we find ourselves replacing our once top-of-the-line video cards and adding RAM or a faster processor, only to be unimpressed with the overall impact made by these upgrades.  That's not to say having a fast system isn't paramount to an enjoyable gaming experience though.  If your games, or movies for that matter, are chugging along at sub-par frame rates they're not going to be very enjoyable.  There is however, an often overlooked upgrade that can have a tremendous impact on your gaming experience... your speakers.

It doesn't matter how fast your system is or how large and crisp your monitor is, if you're gaming, listening to music or watching movies with a set of inferior poor quality speakers, the overall atmosphere will never be "just right".  Over the past few years, in an attempt to remedy this situation, companies like Klipsch and Altec Lansing have released some high-end speaker systems targeted squarely at users who are serious about their PC audio.  After witnessing the success these companies were awarded, Logitech, long known for their line of input devices, entered the fray with a few speaker systems of their own.  Our EIC, Dave reviewed Logitech's excellent Z-560 4.1 channel speaker system back in December 2001 and was immediately impressed.  I treated myself to a set of Klipsch ProMedia 4.1s and was similarly blown away by the volume levels and audio clarity coming from my system.  If you have never experienced a heated death-match in surround sound, you are definitely missing out!

Today on HotHardware.Com, we're going to take a look at Logitech's latest 5.1 channel speaker system, the Z-680s.  These speakers improve upon the already impressive Logitech Z-560 models, by adding a center channel, a wireless remote and by increasing the peak output power, among other things.  Read on to see what we thought...


Click On Any Image For An Enlarged View

Specifications and Features of the Logitech Z-680 5.1 Channel Speaker System
Bass That'll Make DJ Magic Mike Proud...

         
(Specifications Taken Directly From Logitech.Com)

Home Theater Sound:
  • True Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound with built-in hardware decoding
  • Dolby Pro Logic® II decoding creates a 5.1 soundfield from two-channel sound sources
  • THX® certification ensures top sound quality
  • Connects to PlayStation®2, Xbox?, DVD players, satellite receivers, PC sound cards, and more to deliver immersive gaming and movie experiences
  • Home-stereo style connectors use standard gauge speaker wire
  • Four stylish satellites stand on desk or mount on wall to provide smooth mid and high frequencies
  • Center channel speaker rests on your monitor, on your desk, or mounted on the wall
  • Magnetic shielding in speakers protects your equipment
  • Internal power supply eliminates bulky wall adapters
  • Removable cloth grills on satellites deliver improved sound and variable aesthetics
  • Wireless remote control, batteries included
  • Uses regular stereo speaker wire (included)
  • Two-year limited warranty

Specifications:

  • Total output power: 505 Watts RMS
  • Subwoofer power output: 188 Watts RMS
  • Satellite speaker power output: 317 Watts RMS (62 Watts RMS per channel for satellites; 69 Watts RMS for center channel)
  • Total peak power: 1000 Watts
  • Maximum SPL: 114 dB
  • System frequency response: 35Hz - 20kHz
  • Input impedance: 10,000 ohms
  • Shielded satellites for use near video monitors

Source Inputs:

  • (1) digital optical for DVD or CD player, PlayStation 2, Xbox*, or PC sound card (requires optical cable, sold separately)
  • (1) digital coaxial for DVD or CD player, or PC sound card (requires coaxial cable, sold separately)
  • (1) 6-channel direct (3 stereo-mini connectors) for 2-, 4-, or 6-channel PC sound cards
  • (1) Analog stereo-mini for portable CD, MP3, or MiniDisc® player

Reading through the above list of specifications should impress all but the most discerning audiophiles out there.  The Logitech Z-680s are a very feature rich set of speakers.  Their total output power is rated at 505 Watts RMS (Root Mean Squared).  317 Watts are distributed amongst the satellite speakers and center channel, with the remaining 188 Watts powering the 8" ported sub-woofer.  Peak power output shoots all the way up to the 1000 Watt mark, but don't read too much into that number.  High RMS power ratings are what translate to clean, continuous power output.  The Z-680's maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level) rating is also rather impressive at 114 dB, but that number is tough to quantify.  The environment in which in which the speakers are tested, will affect the maximum SPL rating. One thing we can say with certainty though, is that these speakers can produce some serious volume levels!  If you live in an apartment building with thin walls, expect to alienate your neighbors.  The Logitech Z-680's frequency response is also quite good, but falls slightly short of a competing 5.1 channel product from Klipsch.  Being THX certified means these speakers have passed the audio output quality standards set by the discriminating engineers at Lucas Films.  George Lucas established the THX standard to ensure consumers heard and saw music and movies as the director intended.  You can read more about THX and the certification process right here.

The Z-680s also have built-in hardware for decoding true Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound, making these speakers ideal for use in a PC-centric home entertainment system.  Users looking to spice up the output of two channel recordings will also appreciate the Dolby Pro Logic II decoder incorporated into the Z-680s.  The Dolby Pro Logic II decoder can simulate 5.1 audio channels using a 2 channel recording.  We sampled quite a bit of music in "simulated 5.1 channel" mode, and found the output for the most part to be rather pleasing to our eardrums.

Up Close & Personal

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The Logitech Z680 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Page 2

The Logitech Z-680 5.1 Channel
THX-Certified Speaker System
A Killer Home-Theater Sound System for Your PC...

By - Marco Chiappetta
February 5, 2003

We found the Logitech Z-680 satellites and center channel speaker to be very stylish and aesthetically pleasing.  The dark grey fabric grilles compliment the metallic silver and grey enclosures very well.  If the satellites look familiar to you it's because they are identical to the ones included with the Z-560s.  The center channel also uses the same full-range driver, but unlike the satellites the enclosure is not ported.  The two holes that look like ports at either end of the center channel are not functional.  They are only there for looks.

Setup & Construction
Great Features, But no Tweeter?

 
  

It is hard to tell from the pictures above, but the drivers used in the satellite and center channel speakers are constructed of rigid paper cones, with real rubber surrounds.  Rubber surrounds are desirable because they are far more durable than ones made of foam, that tend to become brittle and crack relatively quickly.  Visible at the center of the speakers is something Logitech calls a "Phase Plug".  According to Logitech, these Phase Plugs help increase the clarity of the audio output by directing sound waves from one side of the speaker away from the other side, thus decreasing distortion.  They also claim the Phase Plug acts as a heatsink for the primary and bucking magnets, which helps decrease resistance when the magnets heat up during heavy use.  Lastly, Logitech claims the Phase Plug reduces the weight of the cone itself because no dust cover is needed, which should allow for greater sensitivity.  All of these claims seem reasonable, but it would be very difficult to prove or refute them.  Also visible are the metal stands, which can be inverted and used as wall mounts as well.

     

The 8" sub-woofer is housed in a rather large, tuned port enclosure with the amplifier mounted directly to the rear.  The output from this sub-woofer is simply amazing considering its size.  You would never think that a single 8" driver could push enough air to shake your walls, but that is exactly what this sub-woofer is capable of.  The port used in this enclosure is also rather unique.  It is not a simple straight tube, but rather a curved, flared design that helps increase bass response, without adding any unwanted port noise.  The amplifier mounted to the rear of the sub enclosure can be considered the heart of the unit.  Visible in the shots above are the large fins on the heat-sink used to cool the amplifier, as well as all of connectors for the satellite speakers and control pod. 

     

The remote control and the control pod are the Z-680's command center.  From the remote, users can adjust sub, center channel, surround and overall volume levels.  You can also choose the input used, and toggle through the available effects.  There is also a test button available that was very useful, when setting the speakers up for the first time.  The test sends pink noise though all of the channels, making it easy to verify proper speaker placement and adjust relative volume levels.  The control pod offers all of the same controls.  It is equipped with a two-line, backlit display that shows various information like which input is being used, the volume level and which decoding method is currently in use.  On the back of the pod you'll find digital coax and optical inputs, and analog inputs for front, rear and center / sub channels.  On the front of the pod, there is also a line-in jack as well as a headphone jack.  The remote and control pod are very functional, but we do have two minor gripes.  One, the buttons on the remote and control pod should be back-lit, and two, the control pod is bulky. 

Performance Analysis
Subjective Testing...

 
Test Setup:

 

Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz (2800MHz) 

Soyo P4X400 DRAGON Ultra Platinum

VIA P4X400 Chipset

512MB GEiL PC3500 Platinum DDR RAM

ATi Radeon 9700 Pro

On-Board NIC

Western Digital 80GB 7200RPM HDx2

Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional with SP1

VIA "Hyperion" 4-in-1 Drivers v4.45

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 (S/PDIF Connection)

Logitech 5.1 Channel Z-680 Speaker System

 

Windows Media Player and Winamp 2.80 (CD and MP3 Playback)

PowerDVD XP 4 (DVD Playback)
 


Before we get to our testing results, we have to make a very important point.  Testing speaker systems, for the most part, is a highly subjective process.  There is equipment that can be used to test sound pressure levels, frequency response and accuracy, but in the end what sound best to you is what's important.  Some people are partial to bright highs, while others prefer booming bass.  The best approach when purchasing a speaker system is to head to your nearest retailer and to listen to them for yourself.  Keep in mind though that speaker placement and even the size / shape of the room will affect the output.

To test the Logitech Z-680s, we used a wide variety of music, movies and games.  We listened to Enya's "A day without rain", Eminem's "The Eminem Show" and Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits CDs, as well as a variety of top 10 hits in MP3 format sampled at 320kps.  We watched the Star Wars: Episode II DVD, a few episodes from the Soprano's Second Season DVD set and we also watched the Spiderman movie.  We also did some gaming with the Z-680s using UT2003, Max Payne and Quake 3.

Music:

Music playback was excellent with the Logitech Z-680s.  Our only concern was that bass seemed a bit overpowering at times.  This was easily remedied, however, by lowering the subwoofer volume, but unfortunately we found ourselves adjusting the subwoofer volume often.  Highs were crisp and clear, but because of the single-driver, full range nature of the satellites, highs weren't quite on the same level of the dual-driver Klipsch ProMedia speakers I have been using for the past few months.  Vocals were reproduced very well, and remained clear an undistorted at very low, and extremely high volume levels.

DVD Playback:

Watching movies with the Z-680s was a very pleasurable experience.  Channel separation was excellent, and the bass did not seem nearly as overpowering as it did when listing to music.  Dialog during the Sopranos was extremely clean, and the action sequences throughout the Spiderman movie took on a whole new life.  Watch Spiderman using your TV's built-in speakers, and then watch it in 5.1 surround sound and you'll understand exactly what we mean.  Watching DVDs in 5.1 surround sound is definitely the only way to go!  By far, our favorite moments when testing the Z-680s had to be in Episode II, during the chase scene in the asteroid belt between Jengo Fett and Obi Wan.  When Jengo unleashes those asteroid busters, I could almost feel the shockwave!

Gaming:

Our gaming experience was also top-notch.  Footsteps, rocket blasts, explosions, dialog and other ambient sound effects were all reproduced very well, in every game we tested.  Playing UT2003 on an Audigy 2 with the Logitech Z-680s was great.  Believe it or not, I especially liked the opening sequence in UT2003 when the six combatants are introduced to the screaming crowd, WWE style!  Of course, the game itself is great, but there's just something about that into! :) The sound effects in Max Payne and Quake 3 were also great.  It is very tough to describe the overall "immersion factor".  Gaming in surround sound is something that has to be experienced first-hand to be truly appreciated.

Overall, our experience with the Logitech Z-680 5.1 channel speaker system was a very pleasurable one.  The Z-680s are arguably the best 5.1 channel speakers currently available.  As a long time owner of a set of Klipsch ProMedia's, I tend to think the Klipsch speakers are better at reproducing high frequencies, but the Logitech Z-680s seemed more adept at producing internal organ shifting lows!  The sub-woofer included with the Z-680s is fantastic.  The Logitech Z-680s have more features than the Klipsch ProMedia's, and they cost about 20% less.  As of this writing the Logitech speakers can be found for about $280, while the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1s command about $360.  Based on their competitive price, excellent feature set and top notch audio reproduction, we're giving the Logitech Z-680 5.1 Channel, THX certified speaker system 9.5 on the HotHardware Heat Meter, and a coveted Editor's Choice Award.  Highly Recommended.

 

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