The Logitech Z305 in Practice

Subjective listening tests were done with the usual suspects to get a feel for the speaker's highs, mids, and lows as well as the kind of spatial experience the Logitech Z305 was able to produce: a bit of The Prodigy (electronic), The Birthday Massacre (goth/industrial), and a few other bands for music, and Left 4 Dead 2 for gaming. We'll do this in reverse order just to get the weak point of the Z305 out of the way.

Logitech's website advertises "room-filling, 360-degree sound" and in some respects that's true: the Z305 can certainly fill a room. The problem that I ran into with Left 4 Dead 2 was that it was very difficult to discern which direction the zombies were coming from (barring the usual "OH MY GOD THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!"); basic stereo separation in the actual listening experience seems to be a real issue with the Z305. That's not entirely unexpected; these speakers fire outward, are in some ways obscured by the notebook lid, and ultimately aren't pointed at the primary user. Of all the sound equipment I've tested up until this point, I found the Z305 to be among the worst at producing any kind of directional audio. It'll fill a room, but it won't help you figure out where your buddy is when the Smoker is choking the life out of her--a real drag when she's one of your best snipers.

Music fares a bit better. The bar the Z305 has to clear is pretty low here: sound better than laptop speakers. Even the comparatively excellent audio the Dell Studio 17 and HP Envy 17 (review forthcoming!) produce can't hold a candle to even the cheapest straight up dedicated speakers. What the Z305 is really competing against are headphones, and in that case it becomes less about audio quality and more about practicality. If you need speakers everyone can hear or are tired of wearing headphones, most built-in laptop speakers aren't going to cut it, and that's the kind of situation the Z305 was made for.

So do they sound appreciably better than even the Studio 17's speakers? Yes. When testing something like the Animatrix Edit of Junkie XL's Beauty Never Fades, the Z305 does a fairly admirable job of producing that soundscape. At about the three minute mark, the song starts to produce well delineated highs, mids, and lows, and while the Z305 has a hard time holding a candle to better dedicated sets, it's certainly in the neighborhood of what you'd get paying the MSRP for other speakers.

That said, it has problems. The overall color of the sound is still somewhat muddy and tinny, and while the bass is at least somewhat commendable for speakers this small, the punch at the beginning of The Prodigy's Spitfire is sorely missed. Overall, the song feels a bit thin and doesn't quite have the kind of body that bigger speakers are going to give you. Something more complex and layered like The Birthday Massacre's Sleepwalking suffers the same issues: highs, mids, and lows don't separate as much as you'd like and overall any music you listen to is going to feel at least a little flat.

Of course, the Z305 also costs $60 and it's not designed to blow your doors off. After sitting down and listening to it for a while I gradually adjusted to the sound quality. While making the jump back to the Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D (say what you will, Antec produced speakers that sound remarkably good to the untrained ear) threw the Z305's deficiencies into harsh relief, I can say with certainty that this set achieves what it sets out to: provide a notable jump in sound quality over laptop speakers.

The Logitech Z305 in Theory Conclusion
POST A COMMENT

28 Comments

View All Comments

  • 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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now