400-Watts of gaming goodness
Earlier this year, we were given the chance to review Logitech’s Xtrusio DSR-100 speakers, and we liked what we heard. While not quite at the level of the ear-bleeding Klipsch Pro Medias, the Xtrusio DSR-100′s were solid speakers for gaming and desktop media. Somebody at Logitech obviously didn’t like being second to the Pro Media’s, and the new Z-560′s are here to challenge the crown for best 4.1 PC speaker system. The Z-560′s represent the high-end of Logitech’s Z-series, boasting a wide range of features and sound quality that is absolutely phenomenal, yet still priced a full $100 less than the Klipsch Pro Media 4.1 system. Interested? You should be. High quality speakers can completely change the way you look at computer gaming and movie playback, taking your PC audio system to levels close to that of a home theater system. We’ve had the Z-560′s connected to our gaming rig for a couple of weeks now, subjected to everything from DVD playback, MP3s, to many, many hours of loud gaming. Was I impressed? That would be an understatement. We broke out the Klipsch Pro Media 4.1′s, and a set of Logitech Xtrusio DSR-100′s for a little comparison testing, and prepared to make some noise, neighbors be damned. Before we get to the test results, here is a quick rundown of the Z-560′s features and specs:
THX Certified 4.1 Surround Sound System
M3D Matrix Technology
Subwoofer with 8″ driver
Four satellites with aluminum phase plug
400-Watts of power (188W Subwoofer, 53W each Satellite)
SoundTouch Control Center
Wood subwoofer enclosure
And a look at our test system:
Hercules Game Theater XP
256MB PC150 SDRAM
Windows 2000 Professional
Taking the speakers out of the box, I could not help but be impressed with the quality and shear size of the Z-560. The subwoofer cabinet is slightly larger than the Pro Media, housing the 8″ long-throw sub and the system amplifier. The back of the subwoofer cabinet is dominated by cooling fins for the amp, and also features spring-type connectors for the satellite speaker wires. The cooling fins on our model were squared at the ends, but we were told the actual production units will be cut at an angle to remove the sharp edges. The SoundTouch Control Center plugs into the back of the subwoofer as well, using a PS/2 type connector. I like having all of the wires routed to the sub, but I would have had the connectors across the bottom of the sub box, rather than down the side. This would have made tucking the wires a little easier. Ok, I’m getting a little picky here, but it would have been a good idea though. Perhaps I have a future in PC peripheral ergonmics.
The satellites each contain a single mid-range driver, with a unique aluminum phase plug in the center. The speakers use rubber surrounds rather than cheap foam, and the phase plug is extremely solid, not thin like one would expect. The speaker grills are removable, for the people that like to see their speakers in action. I found the satellites produced a slightly more crisp sound with the grills removed, as well. Logitech used post-type connectors to attach the speaker wires to the satellites, which gives the user a variety of connection possibilities, as well as the option to invest in higher quality wire. The included wire should be ample for most users, but Logitech should be commended for allowing users to add longer/higher grade wires as needed. Each satellite also includes a stand, that can be removed by way of a single thumb screw. Inverting the stand converts it to a wall bracket, leaving the user with several different options for speaker placement. All of the audio controls are contained in the SoundTouch Control Center, so the front speakers are not limited to the desktop. The THX logo is splashed prominently on the speaker grills and the speaker itself, for the brand and logo conscious users.
The SoundTouch Control Center contains the volume, master power, fader, bass, and M3D controls, in a compact desktop box. The unit comes with a small stand that allows the box to sit flat or on its side, similar to the configuration used by Iomega on their ZIP Drives. The power button is backlit in green when switched on, and the volume knob glows blue (very cool). Along with the controls, a headphone jack is included with the Control Center. The jack is active with the main speaker power off, while still allowing volume adjustments with the main control knob.
For movie testing, I opted to use the Star Wars Episode I DVD; given the THX certification of the Z-560′s, it seemed like the obvious choice (for more info on THX, check out the official site here). From the opening sequence to the closing parade, the Z-560′s were flawless, even at extreme volume levels. The bass was incredible, booming from under the desk in ways I had only previously heard in home theater systems. The satellites provided very crisp, clear highs, and smooth midrange, with no detectable distortion or hissing. The surround sound was excellent, filling the room with a convincing movie-theater atmosphere. Now if I could just talk my wife into a 50″ plasma screen, my computer room would be complete.
Gaming on the Z-560′s was pure audio bliss. I loaded several of my favorites; Counter Strike, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Quake 3, and even a little Nascar Heat, and let the Z-560 shake the plaster from the walls. Rockets exploded with enough force to rattle my monitor, and the whistle of the falling shells in RTCW gave me that “I’m going to die” feeling. Racing in Nascar Heat reached new levels of realism for PC gaming. The visual sensations of the graphics and force feedback effects of the Thrustmaster Nascar Pro wheel, combined with the over-the-top surround sound of the Z-560′s was nothing short of amazing. For me, it was as close as I will ever get to turning laps at Daytona. The only drawback with speakers this good is the urge to play them loud. Neighbors and spouses can get annoyed, and hearing loss is permanent.
Logitech’s M3D Matrix Technology is a surround sound simulation, that plays stereo sound through four speakers. It can be switched on or off with a button conveniently located on the Control Center. We toyed with the M3D on both movies and games, and found it to be generally well executed. I switched the DVD playback to a 2-speaker mode, and then enabled the M3D technology. The simulated surround sound was very good, rivaling the actual 4-speaker mode.
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