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Logitech Z506 5.1 Speakers Review
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by Jamie Fletcher on June 6, 2011 in Speakers/Headphones

At their release, Logitech’s X-540 5.1 speakers were a hit, thanks to their affordable price and feature-set. In fact, our review from five years ago is still regularly read today. So what about their successor, the Z506? Carrying the same $99 price tag, does Logitech once again give us an affordable 5.1 offering worth considering?

Test & Final Thoughts

Testing a surround sound set can be a little more tricky than it first appears. Accurate surround sound is a complicated affair, balancing volume, speaker direction and placement. The audio card and media also play an important role in the final results.

First we will be starting with quality, running through a large library of music, games and movies to pick up any audible weak spots, then moving onto the surround sound for positional tracking.

A $100 setup for a surround sound system, there are certain, mostly unpleasant, expectations; corners have to be cut somewhere to get the price down, and it is usually the audio quality that suffers. Much to my surprise, the audio quality was not that bad, but there are some obvious compromises regarding the mid-range, to which the sub has to then play backup for. This comes down to the size of the satellite speakers, much like with the Corsair set.

Speaking of sizes, there are no official declarations of speaker size by Logitech, either online or in the manual, so it was out with the ‘Measurement Instrument’ (Ruler) and acquiring the information myself. Also, for the sake of convenience, listing the other specifications too:

Total RMS power
  • 75 watts RMS
  • Satellites: 48 watts RMS (2 x 8 W front, 16 W center, 2 x 8 W rear)
  • Subwoofer: 27 watts RMS
  • Total peak power: 150 watts
  • Frequency response: 45 Hz-20 kHz

Weight
  • 5.1 kg

Speaker Dimensions
  • Satellites: 4.5cm / 1¾ inches
  • Subwoofer: 10cm / 4 inches
Cables
  • Front: 2 meters
  • Rear: 5 meters
  • Center: 2.7 meters
  • Accessory cables: 2 meters

The sub has to handle a much broader range than it should do normally. Through testing I found that it was exceeding 350Hz, though by that point it was rather quiet and the satellites were producing most of the sound, which was admittedly still quiet. This is to be expected as this range is still largely outside the realms of what a 2" or less speaker can do.

Where things get nasty is with the power management. Poor isolation and grounding means that first, there is a background hiss, buzz and whine… not a good start to an experience. For the most part, it’s inaudible unless you put your head next to the speakers or live in a very quiet environment. For clarity, the speakers are powered through a surge-protected extension, but the speakers themselves are double insulated. There is no earth/ground, so any noise will be from the unit itself.

The second problem, and quite surprising given Logitech’s large speaker selection, is that of crosstalk. If music is playing with a left bias, the right side will still play a small amount of the music. Taking things one step further by using a frequency generator and disabling the right side audio completely, there was still a fair amount of sound coming out of the right side speakers.

The volume control is equally poor. The first quarter rotation is completely silent up until the quarter mark, then the sound begins to pierce through the background hiss. Past this, the volume climbs sharply till the half way point. Going beyond half volume is not recommended as the distortion becomes horrendous; the sub just gives up and turns into a crackling boom box.

Logitech Z506 Speakers

When it comes to surround sound, things improve, but only slightly. The rear speaker cables are 5 meters in length, good enough to reach the bookcase or what-have-you, behind you. One of the more useful features of the original X-540 set was the inclusions of stands on the satellites that allowed them to be turned and mounted onto walls. With the Z506, no such luck. Given the awkward shape of the new satellites, you will be limited as to where they can be perched.

After correcting for a certain Windows 7 volume control issue (rear speaker volume was 100% within the Creative drivers, but set to 55% within the Windows 7 speaker controls), the Z506’s provide adequate directional audio, depending on the source. They are a much better solution than what many surround sound headsets can provide, as you have finer control over position. But many of the other audio quality issues mar the situation.

Final Thoughts

It is most unfortunate to give such a scathing review to a product like this, but the reality of the situation is that the Z506’s predecessor, the X-540, is a superior product in almost every way. The removal of the wall mounted stands, sub volume control on the sub, no remote or any way to disable the Matrix Mode upscale. The poor power isolation and crosstalk can be a major distraction in quiet environments. The fact that a speaker grill wasn’t even added to the sub unit just means Logitech were not listening (or not enough people complained).

When compared to the similar priced ($100) Corsair SP2200’s recently reviewed, you lose a lot of audio quality for the sake of a couple extra speakers. Admittedly, this is not too surprising, but I was honestly expecting better with these Z506’s. There have been wide-spread issues regarding hiss with other reviews too.

If you can, go with the old X-540’s instead, or drop the surround sound and go with the Corsair SP2200’s. It’s one of those, or save up for a better surround sound set.

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Page List:
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1. Introduction
2. Test & Final Thoughts


  • [email protected]

    I bought now 2 sound systems and both of them dont work on 2 of the 5 boxes. I am very fucked off of this shit! DONT BUY THIS!!!

    • Dilly Vue

      yes
      im glad
      its ok cause I have these at best buy LOL
      and its still work like new 100% :D

  • Jerico

    no power on my Logitech Z506 5.1 speaker/sub 3850.. any idea?

    • http://techgage.com/ Jamie Fletcher

      All that I can really suggest is to check the fuse on the cable – but if the fuse has blown, it’s usually for a reason. Any other workaround would require opening the unit up and checking the power supply for things such as blown caps, burnt-out resistors and such, since the power is internal to the unit. This would void your warranty, of course.

      If the unit is under warranty, RMA/return it if you can. If it’s outside of warranty, then that opens up a number of possibilities, but not something easy to fix via comments, lol. If you have friends/family that have any electronics knowledge, they may be able to revive the unit. Apart from that, anything else would be very time consuming and difficult.

      Disposable electronics, they’re a bitch. Sorry that I can not be of much help.

  • Timaaaa

    Wish i had been more patient with my speaker purchase. These speakers can’t be mounted which is a big disappointment.

    • http://techgage.com/ Jamie Fletcher

      Yes, especially since its predecessor could. I don’t know what happened at Logitech, but these speakers were a major step backwards. Maybe it’ll do better with a refresh in a couple years.

  • Gerry Brazell

    These work great, just as I intended.
    The only problem is a strange fuzzing and fading of audio when I plug headphones (stereo) into the headphone jack on the speaker. The odd thing is, it only seems to happen with YouTube videos. Games and other audio e.g. iTunes handle it fine. Presumably its either some issue with the 5.1 signal being sent to stereo earphones, or with the Flash Player youtube uses.- is there some way to fix this?
    Gerry

    • http://techgage.com/ Jamie Fletcher

      I’m not sure if this might be to do with the noise floor being exposed due to an active audio input – this is just a guess, so I could be wrong, but I’ll try to explain. When there is no audio input, some speakers/cards/DACs have a power-save mode, typical of class-d amplifiers and such, where the unit will switch off if there is no input. When it detects an input, there is usually a slight click sound and you’ll begin to hear sound. If that sound is very faint, you’ll hear the noise floor instead. What might be happening is that Flash is keeping the audio link active, preventing the power-save kicking in, thus you hear the noise floor.

      Since this is affecting the headphone socket only, it might be the headphone amp that’s at fault. Try disconnecting your headphones (but not while music is playing) and see if you can hear the noise through the speakers. Also, close your web-browser to see if things disappear after. This could be an issue with the speakers or your audio setup (soundcard). I’ll see if I can dig out my unit later and test it out as well.