Desktop 2.1 stereo speakers offer affordable, clear sound, but need more punch (August 11th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Logitech
- Sound quality
- Volume range
- High volume distortion
- Uncovered drivers on satellites
- Weak bass
Desktop computer speakers sit in a weird area of limbo: many consumers have forgone the era of desktop listening for the privacy and versatility of headphones. Others see their usefulness in work spaces, when large surround systems or wearing a pair of headphones for hours isn't an option. What about consumers looking for a budget set of speakers that can be used in a number of spaces, without sacrificing on sound? Desktop users could have a possible solution with the Logitech Z213 multimedia speakers. Does the $30 speaker set warrant consideration, or is the money better spent towards a more expensive set up?
The Logitech Z213 multimedia speakers are a 2.1 stereo speaker system, with two satellites that connect to a standalone subwoofer. The woofer itself isn't big, at 7.2 x 5.1 x 7.6 inches, allowing it to be tucked behind a monitor or elsewhere out of the way on a desk. It isn't recommended that the subwoofer is placed on the ground in a carpeted area, as the feet on the unit only allow 0.63 inches of clearance. It's possible for thick carpets or rugs to obstruct the four-inch down-firing dome driver in the enclosure, as it is mounted to the bottom with the face sticking out. Even if it carpet doesn't impede its travel, it still muffles the sound.
Like the subwoofer, the satellite speakers are black, with the exception of the silver domes that make up part of the two-inch concave drivers. The drivers are exposed on the front, making it possible to puncture them by accident. The satellites are plugged into the back of the subwoofer, which then offers a permanently-attached control unit.
Some setups may find the placement of the each of the 5.6 x 3.1 x 3.0-inch speakers somewhat limiting, as the cord that plugs into the subwoofer is only 4.9 feet in length. It is, however, two cords individually wrapped - which allows a user to split it down the middle, if additional width for placement around a monitor is needed. A cord with a 3.5mm jack is attached to the controller that users then plug into the source machine.
The controls are plain, offering only an on/off switch, a volume scroll wheel and a 3.5mm output if users want to use headphones without having to unplug the speakers first. Neither the switch nor the volume wheel are fancy, which suits the rest of the control box. The box is lightweight, so some double-sided tape or Velcro may be needed if users don't want it to move around.
We were able to test the Z213 speakers with Logitech's Bluetooth audio adapter. The adapter allows any speaker with a 3.5 mm or two-channel RCA output to connect to a Bluetooth device. The device is easy to use, offering only a single button to initiate pairing. Devices quickly join up to the small box, 1.96 x 1.96 x 0.90 inches, with a single press. For users that would only connect it to one device and don't want it to move, it has an adhesive pad on the bottom. However, it does require its own power adapter for use. It does give some speakers, such as the Z213, additional flexibility for those that may want to use them with a phone or music player. The $36 price isn't bad either.
Sound from the Z213 system is surprising, given the size of the speakers and the price. It was thought that the speakers wouldn't put out much power, either in volume or sound, since it seemed like the set was created for only basic needs. At most volume levels, the sound is balanced, with the high notes singing out and the subwoofer rumbling in the back. Bass itself is weak when it comes to normal output, causing users to fine-tune the amount of bass on the back of the subwoofer with a knob. For some songs, it doesn't seem like turning it all the way up does anything, with others the entire song becomes muddy.
Almost the entire range of volume will provide a good, clear sound, until the source and speaker are both cranked over 80 percent. Once this threshold is passed, the speakers distort heavily, as they are trying to keep up with the subwoofer. The subwoofer isn't that powerful at four watts, but the speakers are less so at only 1.5 watts each. The highs are a crackly mess, while the subwoofer tries to hold itself together. Dropping the source volume down to 80 percent ends the distortion. Even considering the distortion, the Z213 speakers have a presence that's much bigger than users would believe. Most users would never experience the distortion issue, as the volume output would become too painful to listen to for an extended period before this point is hit.
The volume range for the Z213 speaker set was impressive, with a maximum of 93.7 dB on "Hunter." Across all of the testing songs, at nine feet away, anything at 50 percent source volume or lower couldn't be differentiated from the ambient sound level of the room. "Welcome Home" produced the highest figures at a distance of three feet, likely due to the unobstructed speakers and the favoring of high notes. Testing was done with the subwoofer behind the monitor, and the satellites on either side to replicate a normal usage situation. Volume drops from 100 to 25 percent were witnessed from 18 to 21 percent across the distances tested.
The Logitech Z213 speaker set offers a great sound for only $30. It's hard not to look at that price point and realize that consumers are getting a 2.1 stereo speaker setup thats only flaw is in the power of the bass it delivers. The subwoofer could be stronger, but without it the speakers lack the balance and delivery that one should expect from PC speakers. The drivers on the satellite speakers are vulnerable, but for many users this won't be a problem. Consumers looking for a budget pair of computer speakers without wanting to settle for budget sound will find the Z213 multimedia speakers to be a great addition to any working space.