Z-5450 Use and Conclusion
The system controller is very simple and functional. Once you have plugged everything in and powered up the controller, the display will immediately tell you which input and effect is selected.
To adjust the speaker levels, simply push the "Level" button until the speaker you wish to adjust appears. Then use the large control knob to increase or decrease the level. Your options here are "Subwoofer", "Surround", and "Center."
The "Effect" and "Settings" buttons work the same way. The choices for "Effect" will depend on your source material. The "Settings" button will also give you choices based on your Effect settings. In Dolby PLII Music mode, you can adjust Panorama (on/off), Dimension (fade from Front to Rear), or Center Width (adjust from Narrow to Wide). In Dolby PLII Movie mode, you can adjust the Surround Delay.
In all modes, the mute button instantly mutes the sound completely.
release the mute by turning the large control knob or by pressing the mute button again.
The remote falls into the "not sexy" category, but has everything you need clearly labeled. One nice feature that surprised me was a "test" button that generates a pink noise test tone. The tone cycles through the speakers 舑 Front Left, Center, Front Right, Rear Right, Rear Left, Subwoofer. To cancel, just click the test button again. This makes setting up your speaker levels a breeze, and is quite a nice feature for a desktop system (thank THX for that one). Another positive is direct access to each of the sub, center and surround speaker levels with dedicated +/- buttons for each.
Using the System - Sound Quality
The Logitech Z-5450 Digital system sounds great right out of the box. You will find yourself completely immersed in games such as Ghost Recon when using the Dolby Pro Logic II: Movie mode. You will jerk your head around when you hear a twig snap behind you as you sneak around a wooded encampment. Voices of the enemy in the distance will cause your heart to pound as you try to get close enough for a clear shot. Debris seems to fall all around you as a grenade explodes nearby. Your desk rumbles as a tank rolls past. This how games are meant to be experienced!
Movies come alive on your computer monitor when backed by the huge sound stage that this system can deliver. The subwoofer really shines in DTS and Dolby Digital modes on action adventure movies such as the opening sequence of Tomorrow Never Dies . The surround imaging is excellent with full, rich sound coming from the wireless rear speakers.
Concert DVDs are also great sounding on the Z-5450. I listened to U2 Vertigo 2005 Live From Chicago in DTS and was very impressed at how clean and loud the system was. The sub handles LFE channel sound very well "tighter/cleaner" than I would expect on a system this size. And did I mention LOUD?!
Steely Dan's Two Against Nature DVD provided an interesting test of the rear speakers. This disc, although recorded in front of an audience, is more of a "studio" than "live" recording. It has what I consider a "gimmicky" surround mix, as they throw things like background vocals and horns in the rear channels. But this did give me a chance to hear some full range instrumentation in the wireless speakers, with good results. For example, during the song "FM", the sax solo is completely in the rear speakers - not ambient, but full range. The system handled it with ease. I am floored at not only how loud that the system will play, but how clean at these levels. The LFE channel stays tight and punchy as you would expect from a Steely Dan recording.
I can't stress enough how impressive a DD or DTS soundtrack can be on this system. It will really take you from thinking "computer speaker system" to "small home theater system" on my desktop! The Z-5450 Digital system is loud, rich, and will shake your desk.
Listening to stereo music sources, such as MP3s from my iTunes library, or CDs, I found the system to sound pretty good at moderate levels. But as I turned the volume up, I was having to continually adjust the subwoofer level from song to song. As is typically the case in my experience with satellite speaker systems, the sub seems to be too boomy or muddy when listening at higher volumes. But with the system playing as low level background music, the tone is quite warm and toasty. Some of this you can minimize with subwoofer placement, but keep that sub level adjustment handy.
Uncluttered recordings such as John Hiatt's Crossing Muddy Water sounds incredibly rich and detailed. But harder rock material, such as the power trio Wolfmother are a bit more boomier and brash.
It was also fun to play with the Dolby Pro Logic II: Music settings. I normally have no interest in listening to music recorded in two channel stereo through a processed surround setting, but it did make for a full and interesting sound field. I especially like the "Center Width" adjustment, which spreads out the sound stage (N/narrow), or tightens it up (W/wide). The "Dimension" setting is fun too - it sends weight to the front or rear. Yes, these are the "gimmicks" I have referred to earlier, but they sure can liven up a dull recording. And let's be real - we all have guilty pleasures (that we never admit listening to) that could stand some sonic improvements.
Conclusions and Overall Perceptions
The convenience of wireless surrounds comes at a price. The list price of $499 is steep, although the street price appears to be around $299, which would seem more reasonable for the performance. If you do not need the wireless surrounds, the Logitech Z-5500 is a more powerful system, and possibly a better value, for the same price.
Overall, I find the system much better for movies and games than music. For casual music listening at lower volume levels, it is fine. But as you begin to turn it up, you need to tweak the settings from song to song to find a sweet spot. Games and movies sound great right out of the box.
With this system Logitech continues to innovate, providing an alternative to a traditional full size receiver and speaker setup in areas where running cable to surround speakers was previously impractical. There are better choices on the market for listening to music from your computer in stereo. But if you are interested in a desktop THX 5.1 surround system, this is a great system, capable of volumes that will get you kicked out of your office, and maybe even your dorm!
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
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