It is amazing what a year and a kick-up in price range brings in the Computer Speaker business. Last year, I had the chance to take a look
at the Logitech X-540 speaker package, which retailed at $99. I believe the rating I gave it was a 9.0 of 10.0, with quality and value getting very high marks.
This season, I was given the opportunity to review the new Logitech G51, where I noticed immediate and positive changes even as I unpacked the box. While this is a review of the G51, which is a notch higher on the 5.1 system options, I will be comparing it to the Logitech X-540 as that is my previous reference point.
As I removed the components from the box, I was reminded how well Logitech does at both packing and protecting the components of the products it sells. The G51 was packed in three main sections, with the sub wrapped in cardboard and plastic in the center of the box and the satellites and Control Pod split up between two cardboard boxes flanking it. In addition, any premium (high-gloss/scratchable) surface is covered in plastic cling wrap to prevent it from being scratched or scuffed.
One thing I griped about last year was the fact the X-540 was packed with the speakers in the “wall-Mount” position. Well, a box and packing layout change had the G51 ready to roll with the desk stand position the default setting. While it still posses the innovative quick change controls (loosening a screw and rotating the base to the other position), it was still nice to not have to re-configure the four satellites. Installation was a snap, as everything is color-coded and the extra-long surround speaker cables.
The G51 Control Pod is absolutely the heart and soul of the unit, with complete control over all audio functions at your fingertips. Frankly, it just looks and feels impressive. It is connected to the sub via a special 6-ft cable, and is weighted with non-skid pads to prevent it from falling or being pulled off the desk. The control options are almost unlimited, as power, volume, speaker level, muting, matrix modes and external connections for a mic and headphones are all located on the unit. A definite step up from the X-540 and its volume, bass, matrix and headphone jack.
The volume dial on the G51 is located in the center of the Pod and is surrounded by a lighted volume indicator above and speaker indicator and selector button (for audio level) below. The left side has dual input jacks for both a headphone and microphone along with mute buttons for both audio and mic. The right side has the power and matrix buttons, which has three-way capabilities for gaming, music or off. I noticed that the audio has a variable increase (in relation to the lighted indicator) as you turn the volume up and down.
The Matrix Mode (which controls the surround capabilities) has option for both music and gaming. As we know from the X-540, the matrix mode enhances traditional 2-channel stereo and creates a 5.1 soundfield out of it. I will get into more detail on these modes below in the actual testing.
Logitech has always been innovative with their products, and the G51 is no different. One of the largest trends in computer and gaming is to personalize of customize your gear with skins or graphics. The G51 gets into the act with the ability to customize the graphics on the satellite speakers. The review unit I received was accompanied by several skin samples featuring Crysis, Quake Wars and a couple of generic inserts. Owners can also head out to the web and download and print off their own unique patterns at www.logitech.com/G51skins
After getting everything unpacked and set-up, the natural thing to start testing was my music collection. As usual I broke out “Real World” from Queensrÿche off the ‘Last Action Hero’ Soundtrack and let it roll. As the song was playing, I immediately notice the full, deep base that the G51 was producing as opposed to the X-540. When I checked the specs, I saw the sub had a frequency response down to 36Hz range, which is quit good for a smaller sized unit, which explained why it sounded so good. I was very impressed with the G51, as it handled all facets the song presents (orchestra, thundering bass, extreme highs) with no obvious signs of strain. I switched over to the Music Matrix mode and wasn’t quite as wowed. While it created a nice soundfield, I am more of a traditionalist and like my stereo sound to be coming out of two speakers in nice crisp, clean sound. The Music Matrix mode not only chopped it up, but created a softer sound all-together. Not a terrible thing, just not my style.
To get in some testing while gaming, I broke out Halo 2 (Vista), Shadowrun and Guild Wars as my benchmark games. Having played these games extensively using the X-540’s, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they sounded with the G51. Things I was used to hearing (gunshots, background music, environment sounds, etc) seemed to be much clearer and pronounced. And much like the music, the bass was deep and full and worked well across all the titles. I was able to crank the volume up well-above safe listening levels without much distortion. There isn’t much else to say, as the unit simply blew me away with the more accurate reproduction of these games that I had ever heard.
I didn’t spend a lot of time using the unit for DVD and Video, but I did put in a Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the Pod Race. The G51 played it loud and tight and I was happy with the performance. It certainly isn’t a stand-alone surround system, but the unit won’t disappoint when it comes to move and video playback.
Total RMS power: 155 watts RMS
Satellites: 20 watts RMS x 4 (into 8 ohms, @ 1 kHz, @ 10% THD)
Center channel: 19 watts RMS (into 8 ohms, @ 1 KHz, @ 10% THD)
Subwoofer: 56 watts RMS (into 2 ohms, @ 100 Hz, @ 10% THD)
Total peak power: 310 watts
Frequency response: 36 Hz–20 KHz
Subwoofer crossover frequency: 150 Hz
Satellites: (2) 2-inch laser-tuned drivers
Subwoofer: Down-firing 5.25-inch high-excursion driver
Speaker dimensions (H x W x D, inches)
Satellites: 4.2 x 5.6 x 8.5
Center channel: 8.0 x 3.9 x 5.6
Subwoofer: 7.7 x 10.4 x 13.1
Speakers: 4 satellites, 1 center channel, 1 subwoofer
Color-coded audio cables
2-year limited hardware warranty
All in all, I was extremely impressed with the quality and sound of the G51. Whether it was music, movie or game playback, it handled everything impressively. The $200 price tag may be a bit much for some people, but until they experience a top-notch audio experience off a PC, they truly don’t know what they are missing. Much like the X-540, Logitech has a gem of a speaker system on its hands that provides the flexibility and quality that everyone should demand in their PC speakers.
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