Logitech Z-3

Logitech Z-3

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 2/19/2004 for PC  

Logitech has been making a huge splash in the hardware industry as of late. Just a few years ago I used to look at the company as a viable alternative to other industry giants such as Microsoft and Klipsch. Today I view Logitech as a no compromise juggernaut for which I refuse to accept an alternative. The company has done an admirable job of conquering the mouse market in the past years and now it has set its sights on owning the speaker sector. It all began last year with the amazing Logitech Z-680s and in an effort to continue this dominance the company has decided to take on the 2.1 market. Can the Z-3s successfully carry the company’s torch? We’d say that the answer is a resounding yes.

To be honest I was expecting Logitech to go the lazy route and just repackage the Z-680 satellites in a 2.1 form with a sub and call it a new product. Luckily they decided to develop an entirely new speaker set that not only sounds great but looks great as well. Each of the satellites is coated with a faux wood paneling that gives them a look of elegance that any big-time executive or esteemed college professor might desire. Most of today’s speakers have a habit of looking high-tech and cold but these satellites look highly professional and elegant. As a nice touch the subwoofer (which is significantly smaller than the one packaged with the Z-680) is covered with the same faux wood as well, matching the satellites. Instead of using a foreboding material to cover the satellites Logitech opted for a nylon-like polymer that really completes the elegant and subdued look of the set. The package is rounded out by a wired remote that’s about the size of a mouse and features the power button, volume slider and input jack for a set of headphones. But enough with the aesthetics. You don’t buy a set of speakers to admire their physical beauty; you want to make sure that these puppies can satisfy your aural needs.

I won’t get into technical specifics regarding wattage and RMS output because quite frankly, most of the population could careless about such gibberish. Instead I’ll divide up my thoughts into the four main categories of usage; movies, video games, PC games and music. Starting off with movies I noticed that the subwoofer had a major tendency to drown out the sound from the satellites. This was fine until I found myself constantly adjusting the bass throughout the course of the same viewing. At a benchmark for the movies I used Saving Private Ryan because it’s a movie that features sequences with heavy dialogue and sequences with intense action. In some circumstances the bass would be so booming that I had a hard time deciphering dialogue while in the next instance I had a difficult time feeling the rumble of the explosions. Also the 2.1 set was a little too hollow sounding for my taste. However, when watching a more dialogue heavy DVD such as Family Guy I had no difficulties with the set. If you watch a lot of TV-based DVD box sets then you probably won’t have too much trouble with this set but audio enthusiasts might want to search for a full 5.1 setup.Next up was video games. I put this in a separate category as PC games because the set comes with a nice splitter that allows you to plug the red and white RCA cables directly into the speaker set without any sort of intermittent amplifier. For this I decided to test out Champions of Norrath on the PlayStation 2, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on the Xbox and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube. Champions of Norrath doesn’t utilize too many surround sound effects so I had absolutely no qualms with the audio. In Crimson Skies I began to feel a little empty and started to desire more from the set. With the sole use of the audio, I had a difficult time discerning whether my enemies were actually behind me or in front of me. Also, the bass tended to drown out the sound effects and the occasional narratives that popped up over the action. Crystal Chronicles was an excellent experience as it was very low on the bass and very heavy on higher pitched sound effects. Overall I’d say that the unit is a good investment for GameCube owners because the system lacks support for a TOSLINK digital connection. PS2 and Xbox owners who are on a tight budget might want to consider this setup because it doesn’t require any sort of external amplification.

Hooking the unit up to my Sound Blaster Audigy 2 was a simple and painless process. The unit comes with a standard input jack that’s comparable to the kind that you would find on a set of headphones or earphones. With the direct connection going into my PC I was able to get some pretty clean audio samples during my time spent with Battlefield 1942 and Call of Duty. Again, although the sound was clean I had a hard time stepping down from 5.1 to 2.1. However, I could definitely see myself toting this set to LAN party as it still gave me an amazing bang considering the unit’s relatively small stature.

Music is where the device really excels, if you’re looking for a compact setup that will give you the most out of your musical experience then look no further than the Z-3s. It excelled when it came to what mattered most, delivering clean samples while providing the ample bass to back it up. Most of the 2.1 sets that I’ve had a chance to play with generally had problems with music. Either the sub would be too overpowering and the vocals would be drowned out or the vocals would be too overbearing and the sub would be lacking. This simply isn’t the case here. The satellites and the subwoofer complement each other perfectly to produce a clear signal that rivals what I’ve heard from most of today’s top of the line 2.1 sets. One of the Z-3’s largest handicaps comes in the form of its wiring situation. The satellites and the wired remote are attached to one single cable that can break apart three ways, much like the RCAs that you would expect to find from any A/V unit. This causes problems right from the start in regards to convenience. It’s bad enough that the wires have a nasty tendency to get tangled up but its even worse that the wires are painfully short. In terms of total length between the satellite and the subwoofer I’d say you have a total of six feet of leeway, and that’s being awfully generous. Take into the account also that the wire splits off from the remote and you have about three feet each way from wherever you decide to place your remote. Also, the bass control resides on the back of the subwoofer as opposed to the wired remote. This means that you’ll have to crouch down on the floor and reach around to the back of your sub each time you feel its necessary to adjust the bass level. Placing a simple adjustment knob on the wired remote would have easily remedied this situation.

Aside from the impractical wiring situation I’d say that the speaker excels in all forums. It’s intended with the casual consumer in mind so it won’t take a computer nerd to figure out how to install and set up the set. The user friendliness also extends to the console and television realm as all that the consumer needs to do is to plug the RCAs into the set and they’re ready to go. This ease of use adds another notch to the Z3’s already hefty belt.

So what have we learned today? We learned that some less than stellar design decisions marred what could have been a flawless 2.1 setup. We learned that the unit has a couple of issues with the bass control and that some movies are difficult to watch on it. Even with these minor problems we learned that the unit provides an awful lot of bang for its buck and that it’s the number one recommendation for the 2.1 market. Make it your first choice if you’re looking to add some sound to your office or dorm room.
It doesn't have the same amount of features as the Z-2200 but its steller sound and intriguing price point will make it appealing to most mainstream audiences out there. A great buy for its user friendliness and clear audio.

Rating: 8.7 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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