Product Review (November 2004)
Logitech Z-5500 5.1 THX® Certified Speaker System

By Kevin Nakano


Logitech has introduced their new THX® certified Z-5500 5.1 speaker system that includes both DTS and Dolby Digital decoding capabilities in a single package for under $400. The Z-5500 replaces the award-winning Z-680 5.1 system and includes five satellite speakers, a subwoofer with built-in power amplifiers, the SoundTouch™ Control Center, wireless remote and cables. Total power output is 505 watts RMS, 188 of which are dedicated to the subwoofer. If you think this is a lightweight package, you'll be surprised to find out that the boxed system weighes nearly 60 pounds . The Z-5500 has a frequency response from 33 Hz - 20 kHz with a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB (typical) according to the manufacturer. The SoundTouch™ Control Center accepts analog and digital inputs and performs all the audio processing within the main console. The low-level analog signals are then sent to the subwoofer chassis over a seven foot cable where multi-channel power amplifiers reside. Each of the satellite speakers uses a 3" polished aluminum phase plug driver in a ported enclosure. The well built, ported subwoofer cabinet includes a 10" high-excursion ported driver. The system is designed to satisfy music and movie enthusiasts as well as PlayStation®2 and Xbox® gamers. Based on our tests, we think they have succeeded in all areas.

Design
The brains of the Z-5500 reside in the Digital SoundTouch™ Control Center where the digital processing takes place. The easy to read high contrast LCD display provides the user with all the information needed to operate the system. Five buttons control the functions allowing the user to select the input, modify the effects, change the settings, trim the levels and mute the audio. The large weighted knob on the front panel work well and is used to change the appropriate setting when selected. The power button on the lower right illuminates orange when in standby mode and turns blue when the system is powered on.

Inside the SoundTouch™ Control Center lies a Cirrus CS494003 32-bit DSP to handle both Dolby® Digital and DTS® bitstreams including DTS® 96/24 data for unsupassed sound quality. A Cirrus CS42526 data conversion chip is used to move signals between the analog and digital domains. The CS42526 contains an amazing number of high-quality converters including six 24-bit DACs and two 24-bit ADCs. The same chip includes digital audio interfaces (S/PDIF) used for the coaxial and optical digital connections. Finally, a pair of Cirrus CS5351 stereo ADCs are also used to convert the remaining analog inputs to the digital domain. Cirrus has an excellent reputation among audio enthusiasts and their products are commonly found in some of the best audiophile equipment. We were glad to see Logitech has chosen to use them in their Z-5500 product. The result is a great sounding 5.1 system with features found in more expensive products.

The rear panel of the SoundTouch™ Control Center has inputs for both coaxial and optical digital signals. Three stereo analog inputs are also located on the back allowing the Z-5500 to benefit from a 6-channel sound card installed in the PC. Setting the 2-position switch to "6 ch direct" setting will pass the analog signals straight through without any decoding. A seven foot cable with three 3.5mm male stereo connectors at each end is provided to interface to a six-channel PC sound card. Our setup utilized an M-Audio Revolution 7.1 audio card. There is also an auxiliary input jack located on the side of the console for convenient connection of portable devices such as CD or MP3 players.

The easy to read LCD on the SoundTouch™ Control Center has a pleasant backlight that displays the input and effects settings when the system is in idle mode. Whether the room lighting is good or bad, you won't have a problem seeing the display on the console. During level adjustments, bargraphs are used to show the setting. If the input signal contains 96/24 DTS data, the display will indicate this in the upper right corner with "96..24".

Speakers
The Z-5500 THX® approved speakers produce great sound considering each speaker only has a single driver in the ported cabinet. The removeable black cloth grill neatly covers the front of the speaker and helps protect it from dust and possible damage. Even without the covers the speakers look attractive. The rotating pedestal stand allows each speaker to be table or wall mounted. The center channel offers even more flexibility allowing the user to direct the speaker towards the listener. Amazingly, the 3" drivers used in each of the five speakers include rubber surround material instead of the cheap foam surround often found in less expensive speakers. We were impressed to see this in the Z-5500 system. This system uses what Logitech calls digital equalization, which sounds like a good marketing name for active equalization to compensate for frequency response non-uniformities.

Remote
The wireless remote included with the Z-5500 was a handy addition to the system. The Power button turns on the system and is indicated by the blue LED on the front of the console. The Test button verifies that each speaker is properly connected. Pink Noise is generated in 2.5 second intervals in the following order: Left Front, Center, Right Front, Right Rear, Left Rear and Subwoofer. Dedicated buttons for the Optical and Coaxial digital inputs are provided. The Effects button selects the sound effects and the Settings button adjusts the corresponding parameters. The Mute and Volume Up/Down buttons control the volume level. Separate Sub, Center and Surround level buttons are provided that make it easy for the user to adjust each speaker to the appropriate level. The Direct button selects the analog inputs and if the two-position toggle switch is set to the Stereo 1-3 mode, pressing the switch will cycle through the three sets of analog inputs.

The rear panel of the subwoofer chassis uses color coded RCA connectors for each of the five satellite speakers. A high density 15-pin connector interfaces to the Digital SoundTouch™ Control Center over a seven foot cable where it receives the analog signals processed by the console. A master power switch and fuse holder occupies the lower part of the panel along with the non-detachable power cord. We were impressed to see the large heatsink fins used to cool the amplifier modules contained within the subwoofer chassis. Each speaker has its own amplifier circuitry and shares a common heavy duty power supply. Due to the power rating of this speaker system and the linear amplifier design, a significant amount of heat can be generated when driving the system hard. Logitech has taken measures to ensure that heat can be properly dissipated by the power electronics when required. We took a look inside the subwoofer chassis and were pleasantly surprised to see good build quality and internal cabinet bracing. The port design uses smooth edges to prevent wind noise through the port at low frequencies. The power supply design in the Z-5500 has a large toroidal transformer with two 10,000 µF capacitors to store energy for the power amplifier rails. This is something that one might see in a more expensive product, but is certainly not typical in a PC-based speaker system. We must commend Logitech for using such a hearty power supply design in this system.

Performance
The Logitech Z-5500 is a great product that surpasses any of the PC-based speaker systems we've tested to date. The design, performance and user interface is sure to please. This system is ideal for those who use their PC for both music and movie watching. This 5.1 speaker system produces great fidelity at good loud levels. Bass was great and provided a level of impact that was very satisfying. The satellite speakers did a good job at reproducing music as well as movie dialogue.

We liked the flexibility of this system and its ability to accept both analog and digital inputs. Making use of our existing 5.1 audio card had its benefits, but we were not limited in any way to use the digital connection with the Z-5500. Once engaged, the digital decoder displayed the format detected and produced great sound. The ability to trim the levels of the satellites and subwoofer made for an overall better sounding system. Since all the satellites used the same type of driver, sound panned seamlessly between channels giving a more realistic experience when sound engineers move the audio around the listener. The wireless IR remote is a feature and allowed us to lean back and still fully control the system.

Conclusion
Logitech's THX® certified Z-5500 has proven to be a great performer and offers features that we would rate as highly desirable. The design of the SoundTouch™ Control Center user interface is attractive, feature rich and simple to use. There is plenty of power available in the system to produce satisfying levels of music or movie soundtracks with audio quality not expected from a PC-based system. The Z-5500 is designed to accommodate virtually any common digital format with the ability to decode Dolby Digital, DTS and PCM bitstreams. If your system already benefits from a six channel sound card, then the Z-5500 can accept three stereo line level analog signals as well. In fact, the cable for this application is included.

While the Z-5500 system is not inexpensive for a PC-based 5.1 audio system, it is by far one of the best sounding PC systems that we have heard to date. The THX® certification is more than just a fancy name attached to this system. The certification does ensure a level of performance that many PC-based systems could never achieve. If you really want to experience impressive sound quality with your PC audio whether it be for music, movies or games, the Z-5500 will likely put a big smile on your face.

- Kevin Nakano




OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Desktop PC - Sony Vaio PCV-RX550, 1.5GHz Pentium 4
Display: Viewsonic G810
21" Monitor

Audio Card: M-Audio - Revolution 7.1


Review at a glance


Logitech Z-5500 5.1 THX® Certified Speaker System

Specifications

Total RMS power:

505 watts RMS

Satellites:

3-inch polished aluminum phase plug drivers
317 watts RMS (2 x 62 W front, 2 x 62 rear, 69 W center)

Subwoofer:

10-inch high-excursion ported driver
188 watts RMS

Total Peak Power:

400 watts

Frequency Response:

33Hz - 20kHz

Amplifier

Ultra-linear, high-capacity analog

Signal to Noise Ratio

>93.5 dB, typical 100

Input Impedance

8,000 ohms

Features

  • THX® Certification
  • 10” high-excursion ported sub driver with a 6th order bass reflex enclosure.
  • 5.1 configuration
  • 505 watts RMS
  • Wireless Remote
  • Hardware decoding for Dolby® Digital, DTS®, and DTS®, 96/24 soundtracks
  • Dolby Pro Logic II (Movie and Music modes)
  • PCM (uncompressed stereo): 44.1 kHz / 16 bit through 96 kHz / 24 bit
  • Digital optical and coaxial inputs for DVD players, CD players or PC sound cards.
  • 6 Channel Direct Inputs
  • 6 channel direct (3 stereo-mini connectors) for 2, 4, or 6 channel PC sound cards
  • Package Contents

  • 4 Satellites
  • 1 Center Channel
  • 1 Subwoofer
  • 6-Channel Direct Cable
  • Digital SoundTouch™ Control Center
  • Wireless Remote Control (batteries included)
  • User´s Manual
  • 2 Year Limited Warranty

    Company Information
    Logitech Inc.
    Corporate Headquarters
    6505 Kaiser Drive
    Fremont, CA 94555 USA
    Phone: 510-795-8500
    Sales: 800-231-7717
    Support: 702-269-3457

    Part Number 970115-0403
    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    MSRP: $399.95
    Warranty: 2 year limited warranty

    URL: www.logitech.com


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