Our computers have increasingly become the digital media centers of our households. Many users play more audio through their computers than their stereos. DVD’s get watched through computers via their DVD drives as well. Internet radio satisfies every taste imaginable, and a few more. The latest computer games have soundtracks and sound effects to rival any Hollywood blockbuster.
The speakers included in most desktop systems are barely adequate for most sound reproduction duties. Most included speakers are quite underpowered, two speaker setups. The speakers built into most notebooks are at least a notch worse than even the most inexpensive desktop solutions. They have virtually no bass whatsoever. Even so called “media center notebooks” can’t produce anything close to room filling sound.
Fret not, as there are many aftermarket solutions to provide the audio worthy of the rest of your computer setup. Logitech manufactures a whole line up of speaker solutions. Today, we’ll be looking at the Logitech Z-2300 speaker system, one of their premium audio solutions.
The Z-2300 is a 2.1 speaker setup. While I’ve used 4.1 speaker systems before, I find that more speakers and more wires, leads to more tangle, exponentially. This quickly turns into a cluttered mess. Even though the rear speakers are intended to go behind you for a surround sound experience, unless you plan on taking over a room with wires, the placement can be a challenge. I think a three piece setup is preferable for many users. Let’s just refresh ourselves as to the various speaker setups:
From the chart, we can see that a 2.1 speaker setup is ideally suited for audio reproduction. As such, we’ll focus the testing on audio tasks. I’ll connect the speakers to both a notebook to test integrated audio, and our Shuttle desktop which has a dedicated chip on the motherboard. I’ll also hook them up directly to a CD player, and an MP3 player (SanDisk’s Sansa, our current best sounding, LD Approved player). I’ll listen to a variety of music of several styles, in both compressed and uncompressed (direct from CD) formats. Some DVD’s will be played as well. While speaker tests are subjective, we at Live Digitally strive to be impartial and objective, and I’ll do my utmost to uphold that. The audio will be compared in back to back tests with earbuds, other computer speakers, and a dedicated stereo system (Proton satellites, Altec-Lansing subwoofer).
What’s In The Box
Be prepared for the UPS guy to not be thrilled with this delivery. The rather large and heavy box includes the following items.
-left and right satellite speakers
Here are the technical details for the gearheads.
-Total RMS Power: 200 Watts
Satellites: 40 Watts each
Subwoofer: 120 Watts
-Total Peak Power: 400 Watts
-Signal To Noise Ratio @ 1 kHz > 100 dB
-Frequency Response: 35 Hz – 20 kHz
Satellites: 2.5” polished aluminum phase plug drivers
Subwoofer: 8” long throw with 6th order bass reflex
Satellites: H 6.75” x W 3.5” x D 6”
Subwoofer: H 11” x W 11” x D 15”
The Logitech z-2300 stands out right away for its THX certification. Just over a dozen computer speaker products attain the lofty standards to achieve this high quality certification. This means that these speakers have been tested rigorously, and found to meet the highest standards for sound reproduction. Also, it is one of only 5 speaker systems that has a 2.1 setup, and one is the predecessor of the z-2300, the z-2200. This is an elite club indeed. THX certification is a lot more demanding than the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval!
The left and right satellite speakers are the workhorses of the z-2300 system as they reproduce the majority of the sound. They each feature a removable grill, and a polished aluminum phase plug driver. Each speaker pumps out 40 Watts of audio, from a compact 2.5” driver. Overall, the speakers pack a lot of punch from their small design. The driver is housed in a heavy plastic enclosure, attractively styled out of silver and black. The only way to tell left from right is their color coded RCA jacks that fit into the subwoofer. Unfortunately, the wires are permanently attached to the speakers, and the length cannot be adjusted. In the manual, it is recommended that the speakers be less than 6 feet apart for optimal stereo separation. For testing, I had the speakers 5 feet apart.
This massive unit accounts for most of the mass in the box. It is constructed out of wood. It has a large 8” driver that is the .1 of the system. It has a large bass reflex port on the left side to enhance the sound. The satellite wires connect to its rear as detailed in the setup section. The power supply of the unit is housed in the unit as well. This means there is no bulky power brick, and just a standard plug, so it takes up minimal room in the power strip without blocking other outlets. The rear of the unit has a large heat sink to keep it cool. It’s recommended that you keep the subwoofer 6” away from a wall and that seems prudent advice to allow for air circulation for cooling.
The subwoofer provides the bass for the audio. Real bass is felt, as much as heard. The subwoofer was placed on the carpeted floor about 8 inches away from the wall. Although placement is not crucial, it was placed between the satellite speakers.
The Remote Control
The wired remote allows full control of the system from one location. It is designated the “Sound Touch” remote control. The button on the right controls the power. With the unit powered on, the center blue LED glows. The large knob at the top is the volume control. The knob to the left is the bass control. It’s nice to be able to dial in the bass without having to get on the floor to the subwoofer like I’ve seen with other systems. Both knobs rotate with a smoothness that just oozes quality. Finally, there is a headphone jack which cuts out the speakers for use with a headset.
The game adaptor consists of 2 RCA connectors on one end, and a female mini jack connector on the other end. This allows the speakers to be used with a gaming system. I could also see the adaptor being used with other sources, such as a DVD player, VCR, or CD changer. This allows the speakers to be used with any device that has standard RCA left and right connections. This is a useful addition to round out the package and make it easier to connect.
This system is relatively “idiot proof” to setup. With just five connections, you’re ready to go:
1-plug in left speaker
2-plug in right speaker
3-plug in wired remote
4-plug into computer or other source
5-plug into wall outlet
That’s about the simplest speaker setup you’ll find. The speakers attach to the subwoofer using cables built into the speakers, and with RCA connections. This makes it extremely easy to connect and be up and running in less than 10 minutes.
The disadvantage is the wires are a fixed length, and cannot be extended without a soldering iron. If you want to put your speakers further away, a speaker setup that uses a standard speaker cable will be better suited.
I started first with listening to some MP3’s from the SanDisk Sansa. The MP3’s were 128 kHz, and were encoded from audio CD’s. I listened to “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits, “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp, and “America” from Simon & Garfunkel. The MP3’s all sounded good, and the audio was reproduced accurately. The subwoofer had plenty of bass, and the highs and lows sounded accurate. The mid section sounded a little thin. “Money For Nothing” was reproduced with a nice crunchy electric guitar. Logitech’s speakers gave just the right amount of thump to “Jack and Diane.” In retrospect, the mildly thin middle was due to MP3 compression which is lossy (and means data is lost). In truth, this was the first set of speakers that revealed the compression artifacts of the MP3 encoding process. Let’s just say that my next MP3’s will be encoded at 192 kHz or better!
Next I turned to some audio CD’s to see how the z-2300 would do with a noncompressed audio source. The CD’s were played back with a portable CD player, my notebook (Averatec 3250HX) with integrated audio, and my Shuttle SN41G2 which has an nForce2 motherboard (while the audio is integrated onto the motherboard, it has its own sound processor that rivals many mid level sound cards). Frankly, between the various sources, there was no big difference in the audio, with the Shuttle winning by only the slimmest of margins.
Eric Clapton’s “Pretending” hasn’t sounded this good since I heard it live! The bass was quite powerful, but not overwhelming to the rest of the song. The guitar was accurate up top as well, with great stereo separation. Even from 20 feet away it sounded more like from a high end stereo than any set of computer speakers. The Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’ Band” was reproduced accurately, with excellent balance between the top and low ends. Things sounded very full. Throwing in Vivaldi’s “The Four Season’s” reinforced my impressions. The accurate, full sound was awesome from wherever in the room it was listened to. Also, the volume sounded thick at lower volumes, but scaled wonderfully to the point of breaking plaster, and causing neighbors to summon the police (just kidding). Seriously, if this system isn’t loud enough for you, you need hearing aids, and a flashing light for your phone when it rings.
I was more than impressed with the audio quality on the above tracks as well as others. For the computer user who wishes to listen to music, the Logitech z-2300 is a great audio solution to accurately reproduce the tracks from a variety of sources. The CD tracks sounded especially vibrant and full. I decided to listen to a DVD next.
The movie “Hitch” features a lot of spoken voice, as well as some background music. The stereo separation was ideal. The dialogue was very easy to hear. The audio was so good that I heard more than when I watched the movie through my set top DVD player connected to a 200 Watt Kenwood stereo! Also, on the DVD was the trailer for the upcoming movie “Stealth.” It features futuristic aircraft screaming across the sky. The Logitech speakers sounded cleaner and more accurate than my local Sony theater that I was at recently. By the way, the movie theater is not THX certified, but these speakers are! The afterburners from the planes rumbled through the subwoofer. What makes the sound so vibrant is you really can’t tell exactly which speaker is producing which sound. It’s more like a rich hearty soup, that you know the ingredients involved, but they work together to make something larger than the sum of the ingredients. I’m planning on watching a lot more movies through these speakers. For a college student, a notebook with these speakers would be wonderful for both audio and DVD tasks.
The above comments were confirmed by frequent comparison with the other speaker setups mentioned previously. In short, the Logitech z-2300’s bested them all, hands down!
Strengths, Weaknesses & Wishes
-awesome, room filling sound
-wall shaking bass
-remote includes headphone jack, LED, and bass control
-no power brick
-so accurate I can hear the thinness of my MP3’s!
-fixed wire length
-satellites not labeled left/right
-will have to reencode MP3’s at a higher bitrate!
Wish List (These are features I would love to see added, but I won’t count them against the product)
-auxiliary input jack
-ability to mount satellites on the wall
Who should buy this?
Logitech’s Z-2300 speaker system is designed for the audiophile computer user. Whether listening to tunes, watching DVD’s, performing demanding audio tasks, or just playing games, these speakers are more than up to the task. If you listen to your computer more than your stereo, than your ears deserve the upgrade to these speakers. If you have a multimedia notebook computer, and wish for room filling sound, then this is a must have accessory.
Special thanks to Logitech for supporting this review.