Logitech Laptop Speaker Z305by Dustin Sklavos on December 1, 2010 1:10 AM EST
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.