When either playing games or watching movies, surround sound gives both of those activities a greater experience. A problem though is that you have to run a good amount of wire to the rear speakers and besides being ugly when not covered, there might not be a good path to route the wires as well. Logitech, always looking to innovate, has come up with a set that uses wireless rear speakers to help alleviate the problem. Let’s see how the Z-5450 holds up without wires.
The Z-5450 set up is the traditional 5.1 setup with four satellites, one center, and a subwoofer. A control unit and remote is also included. Taking a look at the front satellites first, you can see the shape has evolved over the years from the Z-560 set I have pictured next to it. In fact, a progression of the high end sets from the Z-560 to the Z-5450 show the satellites slimming down to a more rectangle shape. Taking off the cover, you can see there’s that single 2.5" aluminum phase plug. In Z-5500 set I reviewed , I was disappointed that Logitech reverted to directly attaching the speaker cable to the satellite on a high end set rather than having banana plugs like the Z-680. Thankfully, Logitech has put wire clips back onto the satellites and center channel but not use the great banana plugs that were prominent in their previous sets. At least you are able to use any wires you want now though so I can’t complain too much. With that you can use any length cable now that suites your needs and will help with a clean setup, which the Z-5450 is aiming for. Power on the front satellites is 38 watts. As with the previous sets, you can rotate the stand so that you can either hang the satellites on the wall or set them on a horizontal surface.
A 42 watt center gives you most of the dialog and other center channel sounds. As with the satellites, there’s a rotating stand and they can also be angled up or down. The single 2.5" aluminum phase plug is also featured here. The shape of the center is mimics many center channel speakers being positioned horizontal rather than vertical. If you took a satellite and set it on the side, you’ll have the same shape and orientation of the center channel.
Now, the big emphasis of the set is the wireless satellites. Wireless speakers aren’t new and you can find a few if you search for them on the Internet. Some home theater systems such as the Kenwood HTB-S620DV have two wireless satellite speakers. Logitech’s design has each rear speaker being an independent entity. A power cord on each speaker is the only wire that’s coming from the rear speaker. So while you do have some freedom placing the rear speaker, you are limited to the point where it has to be near a power outlet. The cord is of generous length though and the worse case scenario would be stringing an extension cord to the speakers.
Each speaker is labeled so you will know where to place them. Make sure you read the back so you don’t flip them in your setup. This does make it a little easier as you won’t spend time synching a speaker to which position it is going to be. Also, there’s a small red LED on the front of the speaker that lets you know at a glance that they are working.
Wireless transmissions of audio signals are done on the 2.4GHz band. That’s already a crowded band and in my office with a wireless router, 2.4GHz phone, and 2.4GHz wireless controllers this could get messy. To help with interference, the signal automatically jumps between 38 different channels in the band. We’ll see in the test later on if this poses a problem. The Digital SoundTouch Control Center, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, converts audio into a 2.4GHz signal and sends it out to the rears. The rears contain an amplifier and a digital decoder that takes the signal, converts it back to audio, and outputs it. Latency for transmission and reproduction of sound is .02 seconds. That’s pretty low and should be imperceptible to our ears. To also help curb signal lost, the Digital SoundTouch Control Center also does redundant signal transmission and the system determines when it is needed. All these complex processes working together help to deliver a clean and lossless sound to the rears.
Now as far as the range goes, it’s listed in the fact sheet as 28 feet but Logitech claims that in their testing, they can work up to 300 feet. I think the 28 feet range can be limiting for some but as a computer setup it shouldn’t be an issue. Those looking to use these for their living room won’t like the 28 feet range but we’ll get into the issue of this set in certain types of environments a little later on.
Like the fronts, the rears also feature the rotating stands. Unlike the fronts though, power for the rears are a little stronger coming in at 40 Watts versus the 38 Watts for the front.
Logitech’s high end systems always had big subwoofers and this one is no different. Rated at 116 watts RMS, the subwoofer provides the bass and also holds connections to the control unit, speaker connections, and power cord. It’s about 72 watts less than the Z-5500 set but that shouldn’t be a problem as the subwoofer for high end Logitech sets seemed a little bit too powerful in my opinion compared to the rest of the setup. The design of the sub is different from the past subs I’ve encountered from them. As you can see in the screenshot, the front is completely enclosed where you’d normally see a grill. I do like the cleaner look of the sub and hope future sets take on the same characteristic.
The control center for the system has gone onto another overhaul in design. The Z-680 and the Z-5500 feature a vertical standing control center but the Z-5450 has a horizontal style control center. An LCD that takes up the left side displays all the information about the system. To the right of it are five buttons for Effects, Input selection, Settings, Levels, and Mute. To the right of those buttons is the main volume knob that’s also used to adjust settings. Finally, the power button rounds out the front of the control center. I did find the lettering on the LCD to be more easily read than the Z-680’s from a distance.
On the rear of the control center, there are seven inputs available. Two digital optical inputs allow you to connect an Xbox and a PlayStation 2 at the same time for digital sound. There’s also one digital coaxial input so that you can connect your computer that way as well provided your sound card has a coaxial digital out. Three 1/8" connectors lets you use them together for 6 channel sound from PC sound cards or use them independently for three separate stereo inputs. Finally, there is 1 analog stereo-mini plug for MP3 devices or devices with a similar connection. I really like the flexibility that Logitech provided in this set for audio connections. To see two optical inputs is a blessing as now I don’t have to switch my console optical cables depending on which one I am using currently.
Also on the rear of the control center, there’s an antenna for transmitting of signals to the rear satellite speakers. It’s actually a small antenna on the right side so it’s not too obtrusive. You get to rotate the antennae around a little bit as well. Along the lines, there are two indicators on the back that light up green when the rear speakers are active.
As with other sets, you connect the control center to the subwoofer via a RS-232 plug. The plug screws in ensuring a tight solid connection. I know I had problems with the plug on the Z-560 being weak and they changed the design to an RS-232 plug a few sets back. The length of the line to connect the control unit to the sub is pretty generous so you shouldn’t have too many problems placing it where you need to.
For the front speakers, you will attach them to the rear of the sub. I would’ve liked banana plug options but the spring loaded wire clips will do just fine. Since the rears are wireless, there are only three plugs on the sub. Logitech includes some speaker wire for connecting your front speakers but you are free to use higher grade wires if you so desire. Instead of coming in pre-wired like some sets, the choice of using your own speaker wire won’t limit you to distance.
The decoding options that the Digital SoundTouch Control Center provides are the same as the Z-5500. Besides the usual Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, the set also supports DTS 96/24. CDs are a 16-bit medium with a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. DVD-Video/DVD-Audio recorded in DTS 96/24 ups the medium to 24-bit and a sampling rate of 96 kHz, hence DTS 96/24. It will also deliver the audio to 6 channels. From music to movies, you have all the decoding options you’ll need from the Z-5450.
My first test was firing up a few movies. I ran through various action movies from Terminator 3, Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. My rear speakers were set back about ten feet. I also had the Z-5500’s setup so I can switch between the two. I’ve never been disappointed by the sound that high end Logitech speakers exhibited and the Z-5450’s were no exception. While not as loud as the Z-5500, the voices and sound effects came out clear from all speakers. The rear speakers didn’t miss a beat from what I could tell and that’s with a 2.4GHz phone being used along with a wireless G router going. A few examples scenes I tried out included the camera rotating around the scenes where there was a large sound source. One example was in Terminator 3 where one of those small flying hunter-killers was floating in front of John Conner. When the camera switched to looking at John with the HK behind the view, the rear speakers immediately had the sound of the engines. Switching back to viewing the flying aircraft, the rears immediately turned off. If there was any delay, I didn’t notice it at all.
With the Xbox plugged in, I went through a few of the games I had to test out the 5.1 setup. Like movies, the setup worked great with outputting surround sound. Hearing the crowd around me in NBA Live 06 and the zombies walking around me in Stubbs the Zombie, the rears sounded dead on.
While the set worked great for both PC and console usage, the system won’t be powerful enough to be a full blown living room system. Where it works really well would be small areas such as lofts, dorm rooms, bedrooms, or gaming room. They aren’t as powerful as the Z-5500 or the Z-680 and those sets also work better in smaller rooms.
As far as range goes, the rears worked at the farthest points of our testing room, which was 30 feet. Since this set isn’t made for larger rooms anyways, I don’t think you’ll run into any issues for the rears in regards to distance.
The Logitech Z-5450’s are an expensive set coming in at around $500. For the extra price, you get some freedom of not wiring up the rear speakers. While you’re not totally free to put them anywhere since they need a plug nearby, they do their job well. The surround sound of the system didn’t seem to suffer at all with the wireless setup. Aesthetically, I do like the design of the set compared to the older models. They are sleeker and have a cleaner look. Decoding options available are abundant for today’s needs. The Z-5450s continues the trend of good quality sets from Logitech with great sound and a unique factor in wireless rear speakers.
While not totally free to place, the wireless rears give you some flexibility. The rest of the set sounds great and offers great sound that's consistant with Logitech's high end line.