Top positive review
405 people found this helpful
exceptional sound and design
on September 23, 2009
I own several PC speaker systems that have a manufacturer's suggested retail price in the same ballpark as Logitech's Z523 system. (I also own several traditional stereo systems for use with stereo amplifiers; I've been kind of a speaker addict since my late teens.) To my ears, as well as to my eyes and hands - in other words in terms of sound quality, visual design, practical hands-on use/user-friendliness, and sturdiness of build - the Z523 system makes all the other PC speakers I own obsolete. If you want to know specifically what I am comparing the Z523 with, here is a list of the other PC speakers I own that are in the same price range as the Z523 system (in case some readers don't know what 2.0, etc., means in this context, a 2.0 system is one with two front speakers, one left, one right; a 2.1 system adds a third component, that being a sub-woofer; Altec Lansing uses 2.2 to refer to a system they developed that has two front speakers each with a built-in down-firing sub-woofer): Creative GigaWorks T20 2.0 system, Creative GigaWorks HD50 2.0 system, Altec Lansing Expressionist Bass 2.2 system, Altec Lansing Expressionist Classic 2.0 system, Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus 2.1 system.
With the exception of the Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus system, I can turn the bass all the way up on the aforementioned systems and sometimes feel that I wish I could turn it up even more. When I have the bass at the maximum level on the Expressionist Plus system I don't necessarily want more bass, but some folks might, and if that were the case, they couldn't get it.
In contrast, I cannot imagine ever wanting to turn the bass control knob on the Z523 system to the maximum level. The knob, which is conveniently located on the lower right front of the right speaker, starts at the 7 o'clock position and stops when turned clockwise at the 5 o'clock position. With rock, pop, and classical music, as well as with "instant watch" movies streamed from Netflix, I do not feel a need to turn the bass past the 10 or at most the 11 o'clock position. This means that there is a lot more bass to be had should I ever want it.
While I love the sound of the Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus 2.1 system, not only does the overall sound quality of the Z523 system surpass it, but the Z523 system has a much more user-friendly design. The bass control and power on/off knob (power for the whole system) on the former is on the sub-woofer, which means that if the sub-woofer is on the floor (and it's really too wide to be put anywhere else), the user must either operate it with her foot or she must bend or get down on the floor (e.g., crawl under a desk). With the Z523 system, once the sub-woofer is where the user wants it (e.g., on the floor under a desk and out of the way of feet, etc.), the power, volume, and bass level for the entire system can be controlled via two knobs on the right front speaker.
I assumed (as I did in my review of the Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus system) that instead of placing a down-firing sub-woofer above a carpeted surface, it would be better sound-wise to put a piece of wood under it. I apparently assumed wrong. I emailed Logitech about this, my email was forwarded to the Product Manager for the speakers in question, and in his (very quick) response, he said, "from a practical standpoint it really doesn't matter the surface the sub sits on - as long as we're not talking 3" shag carpet that's significantly decreasing the space between the bottom of the sub and the carpet." And so I removed the piece of wood that I had placed under the sub-woofer, and I could hear no difference in sound quality, certainly no deterioration. The Product Manager also said, "low frequency sound coming from the sub is non directional so as long as the airflow isn't materially reduced you won't notice any affect on the sound." As far as my ears can tell, he is right.
In addition to being tapered so that they sit on wide bottoms which make it more difficult for them to accidentally tip over (I've knocked over the Creative T20s a number of times, sometimes just by slightly bumping the desk or table they were sitting on), the Z523 speakers have metal grills on their fronts and backs. This means that if I do knock a speaker over or if I should clumsily poke a speaker with a finger or some object, the speakers are well-protected. All of the other speakers listed above have only soft protection, which is no protection at all, over the speakers. (As another reviewer of the Z523 system notes, the down-firing sub-woofer itself is fully exposed, and if one isn't careful one could manage to poke a finger through it when removing it from the carton.)
The Z523 system is billed as a 360-degree or "omnidirectional acoustics" sound system, and indeed it is. I have the system set up in a room that runs 17' by a little over 30' (a living room with a dine-in kitchen off of it separated only by a sofa). I have the sub-woofer on the (carpeted) floor, and the speakers on a card table where I do a lot of work on a laptop. Before I had the Z523, when I moved from my chair in front of the laptop to a place behind it, such as the sofa or the kitchen, I would turn whatever speakers I had on the card table around so they would continue to face me (assuming I was listening to them). With the Z523 360-degree sound system, it is not necessary for me to turn the speakers around, and they sound as good from behind them as they do from in front of them. This is because they have speakers facing both the front and rear.
I think it worth mentioning that the power cord for the system comes out of the back of the sub-woofer, and thus there is no power brick to deal with, and what plugs into your wall outlet or power strip is just a standard-sized two-prong plug. When the system is turned off (by turning the upper knob on the right hand speaker counterclockwise till it clicks and the light goes out), there is no little light that stays on anywhere on the system. All the other PC speaker systems I own have power bricks that have little lights on them that stay lit whether the system is on or off. I should also mention that the light on the Z523 power knob is, unlike, say, the overly bright light on the Creative T20 system, not the kind of light that you may want to cover with black tape.
The Altec Lansing Expressionist Plus system, which is the best comparison with the Z523 system of the systems I own, has a rating if 33 Watts RMS, while the Z523 system has a rating of 40 Watts RMS. The Z523 definitely has more oomph, with no sacrifice in overall sound quality. The system provides my ears with good sounding treble and mid-range in addition to its excellent bass.
As I say above, the Z523 system makes the other PC speaker systems I own that are in the same price range obsolete. It's nice to have PC speaker systems in different rooms so I can conveniently hook up my laptop or MP3 player or a portable CD player. It would be even nicer if they were all Z523 systems. With the amount of bass this system puts out, it probably would not be an option for someone who wants a system for a workspace shared with others, unless of course everyone in the workspace wants to listen to the same music, etc. But for a home workspace and for home entertainment, I think this system is outstanding.