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
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  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Uh I can't find an "X205" but there is a Z205. Best buy has it right now 39.99 with free shipping (not to mention local BB pickup) - NEWEGG FAIL. I am really disappointed how expensive Newegg has gotten on just about everything, especially since Best Buy of all places is almost always CHEAPER than the Egg - and you don't have to wait for it to be shipped either!

    Shop around, people! Newegg isn't the cheapest anymore!

    Also- if there is to be no more audio reviews then PLEASE PLEASE just make us aware of new speakers/headphones and post it as a 1 page "news" column! Many of us still want to know what the latest and greatest is even if it's not in the form of a through review by AT's standards.
    Reply
  • Gonemad - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Since I am talking about speakers for desktop replacement notebooks, I just reinstated a 2.1 30W RMS set, plugged it on the earphone jacks, and let it rip. The subwoofer isn't exactly portable, but the two 4" sattelite drivers can be placed apart for outstanding stereo separation. Hey, watch out the smoker over there ! *bang* nevermind. It is a bit cumbersome, with the wall wart 'n stuff, but the note isn't going anywhere soon.

    As far as real mobility goes it is either these reviewed speakers or tiny speakers with all of the 2,5W an USB port can output. (500mA x 5V) Don't expect any set to sound great on that amount of power. The earphones, otoh....
    Reply
  • ckryan - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    I have read the last several audio product reviews and previews. I have not been one of the people who I guess are clamoring for the equivalent of a PSU review. Stuff like RTAs and the other associated audio testing equipment are both really expensive, and don't necessarily give an answer that translates into information that can be appreciated. So why give it up? If I don't like the subjective reviews of a product like this Logitech, I won't read this particular review. I won't cry about it. I'm not sure what it is that people actually want. Just because a product may have impeccable audio reproduction capabilities doesn't mean its something you'd want to listen to. Please, do not give up reviewing audio devices.

    How about this? Have a couple people listen to a device. Talk it over. Decide if it sucks or not.

    What is it that people think they want to know that can't be provided without a $200k lab? Generally, if a clip on laptop system sounds pretty good for the money and the size, then that's it. How are you going to measure the THD? If this were professional sound reinforcement gear, maybe it would be warranted. If Logitech or Antec, or any other company sends you some gear, help some people out. Give it a once over. I swear, the most vocal critics of Anandtech's audio reviews must be the most likely to not have any idea what the hap's is. What are you going to do? "Say Logitech, we'd love to review this gear, but some of the people who read us are toolbags and don't like how we review stuff. Sorry." If Anandtech doesn't want to review some gear for one reason or another, then it's not my business. But if I have a say, I say continue on. Review whatever. If readers can be vocal in their opposition, then I can be vocal in my support. If anything, I'd like to see more reviews, not less.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Friday, December 03, 2010 - link

    I have to agree with you on some level. I was a naysayer on these "reviews" because I felt there should be some objective component. With that said, the benefit of subjective reviews starts to increase when the number of samples increases. I think the problem many of us had was there was very little if any comparison on these products to other products. It was always, "my old Bose speakers put these to shame", etc. and that angered quite a few of us.

    But now having several similar products to compare from at least Dustin can start saying, "Subjectively, product X is better than A, B, and C", and even though not scientific in it's rigor, there is some worth to the "review".

    So I say keep going, but start spending a bit more time now that you have a sample size on the comparisons between the products just as much as the products themselves.
    Reply
  • rwei - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    ...but what will you make recurring jokes about now??? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    I'd say the Sony Z series, but let's be realistic...

    Sony never sends anyone anything anyhow. ;)
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, December 05, 2010 - link

    That's true, but I think even a baseball player can appreciate a good bargain. Reply
  • Scipio Africanus - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    What it takes to do decent testing is a Behringer ECM8000 mic and a phantom power source like a small mixer or a M-Audio MobilePre. Pair that with a good piece of software like TrueRTA or ETF and you have a good starting point. A treated room with bass traps and sound absorbing panels like Sonex would also be vital to eliminate standing waves and reflections. ETF is espcially good since it also does waterfall charts for transient response times.

    With a waterfall plot, frequency response, off-axis falloff, and SPL measured, you could do some great articles. There used to be a great site with a great forum dedicated to computer audio, but the name eludes me. There really hasn't been any good computer audio sites since that one went down.
    Reply

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