Ever since I reviewed the Z-560’s last year, I was hoping Logitech would take the next step and churn out a 5.1 solution based on the same technology. In fact here’s my quote from the article:
“I truly hope Logitech puts out a 5.1 system to compete with the Klipsch and if the Z-560s are any indication, they would probably would be the ultimate computer theatre speaker set.”
Well Logitech has not only released a 5.1 solution but these puppies rock! The Z-680’s are here and be prepared to be blown away by the features and performance.
The Z-680 from Logitech is a 5.1 speaker set consisting of four satellites, a center speaker, a sub, and a controlling unit. Let’s start with what’s similar to the Z-560s. The satellites are the same design and shape but now feature a light gray color scheme instead of the black. As you can see in the pictures, the wire connections feature easy thumbscrews for easy attachment and they also double as banana plug connectors. If you never used banana plugs, they make connection of speaker wire extremely simple and Logitech did a superb job in keeping the design from the Z-560s. You can use the included speaker wire but the beauty of the design is that you have the ability to use your own so you are not constrained by length and quality. The speaker stands are made of a bendable metal with four holes lined with rubber to keep from damaging the surface they sit on. Utilizing an included allen wrench, you can flip the stands 180degrees and they now serve as wall mounts. A nice thick screw keeps the wall mount in place. My only minor gripe with the speaker stands is that you cannot position the facing of the speakers without trying to bend the metal. I would’ve liked to see some sort of ball socket to move the facing around but that’s ok. Since they are pretty much the same as the Z-560 speakers, here’s an excerpt from my old review about the innards and power ratings.
“The satellites output at 53 watts RMS, pretty powerful for PC speakers. Removing the grill reveals no tweeter but one 3” driver with an aluminum phase plug in the middle”
Another similarity with the Z-560 is in the subwoofer. All the speaker wire connections go to the sub and the control unit also plugs into there. The power has been reduced a bit to 185 but that’s like saying Bill Gates’ net worth from 76 billion was reduced to 54 billion: you’re not going to notice. While the satellites had banana plugs, the subwoofer features regular spring loaded clips to hold the wire in. I had hoped Logitech would’ve made the connections banana plugs also in the new set but unfortunately they kept the same design. The control unit plugs into the subwoofer via a serial connection and it’s secured by thumbscrews. The housing is slightly larger than the Z-560 and there has been some tweaks to help enhance the already great bass but the general shape is the same. The amplifier is also housed in the sub casing and now the total output is 450 watts RMS.
The Z-680’s center speaker can also output at 53 watts RMS just like the satellites. As with the satellites, it features one 3” driver with an aluminum phase plug in the middle. Interestingly enough, the speaker doesn’t have the banana plugs that the satellites do. Instead it has the spring clips to hold the speaker wires in. I’m curious as to why Logitech didn’t outfit the speaker with the banana plugs as they are a really nice feature of the set. The speaker stand can be positioned to point the center speaker up or down so for those like me who place the center speaker on top of the monitor, you get a better position of the speaker face. Like the others, you can also mount them on the wall with the bracket stand.
While the Z-560 had a very simple control unit, the Z-680 features an awesome LCD equipped control unit. First of all, all the connections to audio sources are here. There are two digital connections: one optical and one coaxial. Sound card connections feature three 1/8” plugs with front, rear, and center plugs. Finally, another 1/8” input on the front of the unit so you can theoretically have four sources connected at once. You can cycle through the digital and analog sources via the input button except for the front 1/8” plug, which is blended into the current selected source. The optical and coaxial inputs makes connecting an Xbox or Playstation 2 very simple as there would be just one audio wire to connect. For private listening, a headphone jack is also on the front of the control unit. Once plugged in, all sound is piped through the headphones and the speakers become silent.
Above the knob is a sensor for the included remote control. All the functions on the control unit also appear on the remote so you can sit back and control the Z-680s. The remote also features a test button, which you can use to test if all the speakers are connected and that they are positioned correctly. If you decide to utilize the Z-680 as part of your home movie setup, you don’t have to sit near the control unit to adjust sound, settings, or turn on the system. If you have a learning remote, you can easily program it to learn the functions of the Z-680 remote. While probably not that much use in a PC configuration, the remote really helps for those using it as a home theater setup.
You can easily select effects for your listening pleasure. From stereo to Dolby Pro Logic 2 decoding to Dolby Digital decoding, you can choose what type of decoding you want to use with a push of a button with the decoding taking place in the control unit. Within some of the modes, you can adjust the effects. For example, the Pro Logic 2 decoding allows an adjusting of a panorama setting whereby the sound is wrapped around you from the sound from the front left and right speakers. There are other various settings that can easily be adjusted with the control knob on the control unit. All information on settings is displayed on the LCD in black letters on an indiglo blue background. Default settings are easily identified as there’s a horizontal line indicator when it is selected so if you do change a few of the settings and wish to go back to the default, there’s a visual indicator of where it should be.
To put it simply, the Z-680s sound incredible. Let’s start with music. Music has always played well on my Z-560 and the trend continues here. It’s not surprising as the two units are pretty identical in terms of satellite design. The bass is powerful and loud. The mids and highs also sounded well in all types of songs I played. Utilizing the Dolby Pro Logic II decoding, some songs actually did sound pretty good in my opinion. If you don’t know what Dolby Pro Logic II is, here’s an except from the Dolby website:
“Dolby Pro Logic II is an advanced matrix decoder that derives five-channel surround (Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, and Right Surround) from any stereo program material, whether or not it has been specifically Dolby Surround encoded. On encoded material such as movie soundtracks, the sound is more like Dolby Digital 5.1 (see below), while on unencoded stereo material such as music CDs the effect is a wider, more involving soundfield. Among other improvements over Pro Logic, Pro Logic II provides two full-range surround channels, as opposed to Pro Logic’s single, limited-bandwidth surround channel.”
For some songs you’ll get a nice rich surround sound from a normal stereo source. Everything came through nice and clear even at a very deafening mid volume level. I didn’t want to risk going too high as the speakers had a lot more to go to before my ears were hurting.
As with music, movies sounded awesome in full 5.1 surround sound goodness. With a true center speaker now, you can experience movies as they were meant to be. With the inclusion of digital inputs, it’s easy to have a home theater setup with an Xbox or Playstation 2. Just plug the digital connections, turn on Dolby Digital in the console menus, place the speakers where you want them, and fire up the movie. I used the Xbox in my testing and just plugged the Xbox into the Z-680. All the movies I tested sounded great. Sound effects from Star Wars: Episode 2 came through loud and clear while the dialog emanated from the center speaker. The bass provided by the sub woofer provided some great lows in enhancing the explosions. Sometimes the bass did drown out a lot of the other sound so you might be better off adjusting the bass down a bit and turning the center channel up to hear the dialog better. I was quite pleased at how well movies came through in the Z-680 especially since the unit decodes Dolby Digital.
It won’t probably be until when Doom 3 comes out that you will fully appreciate how surround sound adds to a game. Even so the few that are out there that incorporate some sort of surround sound do sound great with the Z-680s. With Medal of Honor the speakers sounded so good you’d swear you were in the middle of the war. The great bass really enhances the sounds of each gun. When shooting a machine gun, you’ll almost feel each shot as it bursts from the barrel. I also like to play Half-Life when testing various surround speaker setups and the Z-680s really shine with that game also. Turning on EAX, I was greeted with a great audio experience while playing the game. I could clearly hear aliens running up behind me and bullets flying by as I was facing an onslaught of soldiers. Just like with Medal of Honor, firing the machine gun produced some very impressive sounds which was enhanced by the great bass. Playing Madden 2003, I was treated with some great crowd noise that made you feel like you were in the stadium as all the speakers resonated with the cheers. You could almost feel the tackles as the speakers and bass pumped out some loud and clear sound. I’m just anxiously awaiting some true Dolby Digital games on the PC to really appreciate how well the Z-680s are.
For the Xbox and PS2, you can fully appreciate the 5.1 setup with the digital connection into the Z-680. Games like Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Halo, and NCAA 2003 in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound bring out the best in the set. It wouldn’t happen if Logitech didn’t include a digital connection and I’m really glad that they decided to put that in there instead of just supplying three 1/8” connectors for computers. The PS2 already has an optical connector while you’ll need to purchase the Advance A/V port for the Xbox to get the optical connection. The digital connections and Dolby Digital and DTS decoding really make the Z-680 versatile with consoles and PCs.
Logitech has one sweet set of speakers in the Z-680. More than just an addition of a center channel, the Z-680 also features Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding. The included remote allows you to sit back and adjust all the settings with ease. In fact, the Z-680 seems to have morphed into more of a hybrid set instead of being strictly for the PC. The Z-680 and a DVD player with a digital connection is all you need for a home theater setup. Using an Xbox or a Playstation 2, you can also play games and enjoy movies in surround sound. The great sound that was prominent in the Z-560s can also be heard in the Z-680s. At $399, the speakers are rather expensive. The set isn’t like the Z-560 where you got an unbelievable sound at an unbelievable price. But you do get a lot in the Z-680. You really can’t go wrong with the set if you want a high performance computer speaker set. With digital inputs, decoding, and crystal clear sound the Z-680s are one of the best computer speakers money can buy.
Logitech has churned out a set that's just chock full of features. More than just a 5.1 speaker set, the Z-680s offer Dolby Digital, DTS, and Pro Logic II decoding. Oh and they sound incredible too.
Rating: 9.1 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.