Review: Logitech Z553 2.1 Speaker System

The Z553 is beautiful. But does it deliver?

The Z553 is beautiful. But does it deliver?

Owing to a sound enthusiast father, I have had the pleasure of working with fine audio equipment both in our family’s sound studio and to a much lesser extent, my own system. I am personally not into sound the way I am to visuals but being exposed to quality audio from a young age meant I couldn’t appreciate audio being churned out from integrated chips and lowest end speakers. So, my search for PC audio has always been on the value end. I don’t want to spend much on it but I still would like pretty good sound. Logitech’s Z553 slots in that very range standing at a price of S$199. That is actually S$100 lower than the maximum I will ever spend on PC speakers. The question remains – can it deliver?

 

 

Hardware

The expectations are set high the moment you take a look at this set of 2.1 speakers. The design team has gone on an overdrive in crafting a rather sleek yet slightly traditional looking set of speakers. This is the best looking set of PC speakers I have seen for a very long time. It is not just visuals, the device is well crafted, solid and sturdy. Every movable part comes with a degree of resistance, giving the user a very firm feedback when handling it. The colour choice of contrasting black and bright orange draws attention while retaining a premium-like feel.

 

The design team has gone on an overdrive in crafting a rather sleek yet slightly traditional looking set of speakers.

 

The satellite speakers are larger than most counterparts such as Creative’s T3. They each run at 10 watts (RMS). The vertical angle in which the speakers face is adjustable allowing you to place these satellites at varying heights. The adjustable stands are also supported with 3 rounded spikes which would make any audiophile smile. However, the effect of reduced contact area to the ground is debatable considering the context. The satellites come with double teeters and are connected to the subwoofer via fixed RCA cables. Thus, upgrading the cables is not an option for most users.

The subwoofer is the central hub. Also note the fixed RCA cables to the satellites.

The subwoofer is the central hub. Also note the fixed RCA cables to the satellites.

Much of Logitech’s marketing has gone to the subwoofer. The 20 watt (RMS) sub is much more powerful than competing options even against some from the pricier range.  The down firing sub comes in a unique cylindrical form factor with an up facing vent. Like all PC speakers, the subwoofer doubles as the amplifier and is the central hub of all wired connections. The satellites, control pod and all input cables are connected to this central piece of hardware. The sub is adequately hefty and its unique form factor is eye catching.

The control pod is the wired volume control for the Z553. It is tilted at an angle facing the user and emits an orange glow beneath the dial when the speakers are switched on. The control pod also allows the user to adjust the bass via a small dial at the back of the pod. This means you don’t have to reach for a dial at the sub which is what most speakers do. Also, having the bass dial behind the remote prevents accidental or unwanted bass adjustment. The pod also allows you to connect your headphones and line in cable to it. All in all, the control pod is well designed and offers plenty of functionality in a small form factor.

Control Pod - Well built and classy with a great feature set.

Control Pod – Well built and classy with a great feature set. Note the bass dial and inputs.

There is a touch of class in the design and execution of the Z553’s hardware. The only improvements that can be made is to allow removable RCA cables from the satellites and also possibly a dust cover for the exposed teeters. Besides that the Z553 is a sight to behold and a finely crafted piece of hardware.

 

 

Specifications

Here are the specifications for the Z533. I went to personally measure the cable lengths because this might prove useful for those who have their PCs set up differently on their desks.

What comes in the box.

What comes in the box.

  • Satellites:
    • 2 x 10 watts (RMS) (into 4 ohms, @1kHz, @10% THD)
    • 2 inch drivers
  • Subwoofer:
    • 20 watts (RMS) (into 8 ohms, @100Hz, @10% THD)
    • 4 inch driver
  • Connection options:
    • 2x 3.5mm inputs
    • 1x pair of RCA stereo inputs
  • Cables included:
    • Fixed RCA speaker cables
    • Fixed serial cable for remote
    • 1x 3.5mm input
    • 2x power cables (3pin and 2pin plugs)
  • Cable Lengths:
    • RCA speaker cables – 1.9m
    • 3.5mm input cable – 2m
    • Serial cable for remote – 2m
    • Power cables – 1.6m

As mentioned earlier, the selling point for the Z533 is the higher than usual wattage (power) that dwarves competing 2.1s. The cables in most part were adequate for spreading the speakers sufficiently wide for a double satellite setup.

 

 

Testbed & Methodology

Speakers are half the story. The soundcard and software utilized are equally important. I use Creative’s SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium PCIe sound card on my system. It falls short of being a top of the line card but offers significant performance for a good value. The rest of the specs for the testbed can be found here.

Driving the Z553: X-Fi Titanium PCIe

Driving the Z553: X-Fi Titanium PCIe

The X-Fi Titanium was set at 96kHz at 24 bit as that is the best performance the card can offer. I used a series of different audio files to test the speakers. These include six 3,000kbps FLAC Hi Def audio files from HD Tracks and twenty 320kbps MP3 files. The genres range from orchestral live performances, vocals, country, blues, rock and pop. This would allow me to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the speakers.

Besides pure audio files, I also tested the speakers with a high definition video file. An 18GB MKV H264 1920×1080, 23.976 FPS Transformers II file was used. This master copy utilized DTS Audio (6 channels) @ 48kHz and was the highest quality movie I had.

 

 

Sound Performance

There’s no speaker that is going to tick all the boxes. Speakers have ‘character’. Some are built to cater to a bass loving crowd. Some are optimized for crisp highs while others produce resounding mids by compromising the ends of the spectrum.

It is also difficult to write a purely objective piece on sound quality because what is music to my ears can be an awful din on yours. The best review is always for you to go down and listen to the speakers live. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the Z553 in my opinion.

 

Logitech’s Z553 delivers top end performance in the highs and mids.

 

Logitech’s Z553 delivers top end performance in the highs and mids. Vocals were delivered strongly and you could distinguish minute details in a singer’s performances. The deep rapsy voice from singers such as Neil Diamond were rich and even the shrill highs of soprano performances did not disappoint.

The bass performance is good but not mind blowing. Maybe my expectations were set very high by the beefy 20W subwoofer. The Z553 delivers deep and rather tight base which is to my liking. However, this will not suit those who prefer a ‘boomy’ type of base that can fill the entire room.

For all its positives, the Z553 is unable to produce a wide sound stage. It is fair to say that most 2.1 setups often struggle to produce an immersive experience and the Z553 does not differ at this point. Live performances felt narrow even though they were clear and crisp with great transparency.

 

Live performances felt narrow even though they were clear and crisp.

 

The Z553 is not a jack of all trades but is a master of certain aspects. Whether you enjoy its performance heavily depends on the type of music you listen to. Before buying, head down and test drive it with your own sound files. I felt that the Z553 delivered a balance performance with its strengths firmly planted in the mids and highs.

 

 

Conclusion

The Z553 ticks many check boxes  It is beautiful, delivers a rather pleasing audio performances and is cheaper than some of its competitors. However, most audio enthusiasts will immediately detect its weaknesses on low frequencies which does affect certain audiences such as movie buffs that prefer an expansive, rumbling bass performance especially in high action movies.

Nonetheless, if you do not fall in such categories and are looking for a solid set of speakers that are focused more on the mids and highs – the Z553 may fit your listening profile well.
 

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