The Logitech Z305 in Theory

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of reviewing the Z305 proper, it's important to get a couple of things out of the way. First, this is a subjective review. It's simply too difficult to justify getting together the necessary equipment (not to mention space) to do proper objective measurements of sound hardware, especially when you're sharing a tiny apartment with someone. That, and this is a $59 speaker, so anyone looking for hard-hitting coverage of a consumer-grade kit designed solely to replace crappy laptop speakers may take their sound a little bit too seriously.

Second, this is our last audio review for a while. You spoke: we listened. Subjective reviews are all we're really equipped to handle and that seems to infuriate exactly half of our readership. Since we actually like you and really want you to come back and continue reading, audio reviews are falling by the wayside for the foreseeable future. If and when we take another shot at audio, we'll be adding the necessary equipment and expertise to do it right.

Now, all that out of the way, down to business. The Logitech Laptop Speaker Z305 is essentially a pair of speakers in a single barrel that clamps to the top of a laptop screen similar to a webcam, and from there they connect via a short USB cable that handily folds into the body of the speakers. Setup is quick and easy and no drivers need to install. There's an additional minijack in the body of the barrel for connecting outside audio sources, but the Z305 is still going to require power from the USB port.

On the whole, the Z305 is a fairly elegant solution. The volume buttons built into the bar are basically just shortcuts for the software-controlled volume level in Windows. It's all plug-and-play, very seamless, and in many ways the clamp-on solution actually seems more logical than the wireless Z515 speakers we reviewed. Truthfully when we were offered the Z515 and Z305 to review, this was the product I really wanted to check out. At $60 MSRP it's much less glamorous, but it also struck me as being the more practical of the two. So how does it sound?

The Logitech Z305 in Practice
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  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Take it in the context of laptop speakers, though. Sure, you can have excellent audio from something that's only 5" or so. Try getting that same sort of quality from 2.5" and you're going to run into problems. Now shrink that down to the typical 1" (or smaller!) laptop speaker and you're definitely at the stage where "bigger is better" is absolutely factual. If this were a review of regular desktop speakers and someone said that, yes, it would be misguided and ignorant, but for the product/market in question it's absolutely true. Reply
  • techcurious - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    factual? hardly! They way you and Evil_Sheep make it sound is that you can judge the performance of a speaker by it's size alone. THAT is what I am dissagreeing with. While a bigger size "can" give the designer of the speaker more room to develope a better speaker, it most certainly does NOT make the speaker. By making my earlier point, I am trying to explain that speaker design and quality is the ultimate decider of a speaker's performance, not it's size. You can't buy any big speaker and expect it to outperform a better designed and quality small speaker. Get it? But naturally, when design and quality is equal, then size can be a factor.
    big JBL > small JBL (or logitech or creative, etc)
    big Bang & Olufsen > small Bang & Olufsen.
    But.. small Bang & Olufsen > big JBL or creative or logitech.
    Get it?
    A bigger Size allows for the potential to design something awesome within that space, but without the skills to do so, it will be wasted space.
    Reply
  • Evil_Sheep - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    I think you've misinterpreted what we've been saying -- we're not really in disagreement. There's no need to huff and puff.

    I was saying the same thing you are: speaker size is a design constraint. Obviously a bigger speaker isn't going to be automatically better than a smaller one. It's simply that, all things being equal, bigger speakers have an advantage because they are easier to design -- up to a certain point.

    And at the really small sizes, like jarred says, size becomes a major constraint. I've personally never heard any decent sound coming from a tiny, portable set though surely it's possible. Just difficult.

    It's why I'm a bit skeptical of the Logitechs (though of course I can't really judge until I've heard them.) They're really small and the sound isn't even directed towards the user. Also a lot of Logitech's recent cheaper efforts have been pretty forgettable.

    So when the conclusion said the Z305's are the only game in town, I thought I'd make some suggestions because that really isn't true. The Edifier MP300's are fully portable speakers: the sats can sit in your palm and the sub is smaller than the Z305. The Gigaworks might not be marketed as portable speakers but I don't think it's unreasonable at all to consider carrying them around. And my experience is they sound pretty good for the size/cost (and a lot of people must agree since they've been on the market for years.) There's probably some others out there too but those two are the ones I know of.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Agreed. Let's not take things out of context or set up straw men. Yes, we "get it", but why are you so set on trying to prove size doesn't matter, particularly when you then provide a list that says otherwise? All other things being equal, size matters, especially at the small end of the spectrum. Sure, you can make some large speakers that sound like garbage, but what's the point?

    At the extreme, a large subwoofer alone sounds like crap compared to a full set of speakers, but that's a silly comparison. If you go out and buy an average set of speakers with 3" drivers and compare those to an average set of speakers with 1" drivers, though, bigger would almost certainly be "better".

    No one is trying to say you can judge speakers by size alone--just like you can't judge a power supply by weight alone! All I'm saying is that in the context of this article (a review of a clip-on laptop speaker tube), it's no surprise that a couple of ~1" speakers on the ends of a "subwoofer tube" can best nearly any laptop.

    If Dustin brings the Z305 to CES, I'll see if I can get an XPS 15 to compare it with... that's my new benchmark for decent sounding laptop speakers.

    As another point of reference (and a little anecdote), I've got what most people consider pretty average desktop speakers: Logitech Z-640s from around 2004 (along with some newer X530 speakers from 2006 I think). They're nothing special, but they work for games well enough. More to the point, while merely decent for the $60 I paid way back when, I still prefer the sound of these "budget" speakers to that of every laptop I've used. $60 from more than six years ago and I'm pretty sure they sound better than the Z305 today at the same price. How's that for longevity?
    Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Tomorrow - Testing an old roller ball mouse I found behind a cupboard. Reply
  • jaredtrobinson - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Hey I like these quick little blurbs of a review. In fact I just ordered this product, so was quit pleased that they reviewed it :) Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Yeah was only kidding.

    Sometimes its nice to see an odd product reviewed with a quick answer to "is it worth it or not?"
    Reply
  • jaredtrobinson - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    it was funny though :) Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    For years I've wanted portable speakers that clip onto a laptop screen; these seem good. But I really don't want them behind the screen, for the reasons you listed. I want them to clip onto the sides, be very thin and have a port to plug in an optional Subwoofer; that would obviously require an outlet so you could only use the subwoofer in a limited number of situations but it'd still be nice to have the option. And for travel use the two clip on speakers ON THE SIDES OF THE SCREEN would work great.

    Something like the S-220 is EXACTLY what I'm looking for sound wise. For the size/price I'm amazed by the quality of those speakers. So If I could get those exact same 3 speakers (2 speakers and 1 subwoofer) I'd be willing to pay 50 bucks easy. Considering they cost 28 bucks right now I think 50 should be enough of a premium to satisfy the accountants at Logitech.

    PLEASE LOGITECH MAKE THIS DREAM OF MINE COME TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Oh also the X205 is 48 bucks on newegg right now, same exact set up. Z-305 is 58, prices include shipping. Reply

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