Peripheral Matters: Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 Speaker System
I grew up in the audio renaissance of PC's. I mean, I grew up as far as my PC-building childhood; not my actual age childhood. By that time I was actually quite a bit of an adult. But I was a nascent babe when it came to building PCs. Point is that back then, audio did not come on motherboards like it does today; at least not decent audio. You really had to add a card-slot audio card to get any kind of decent multi-media sound out of a PC. And just before I started building, people were just using whatever chiptune effect soundchip that was on the board; chips that had really been designed around emitting a couple bloops and bleeps for warning or error codes. Gamers were just starting to feel that sound was important in games, and manufacturers were just starting to provide the requisite components. It was the days of Turtle Beach and Creative Labs; the days when you designed your build around accommodating a beefy and capable sound card as much as you designed around your graphics board.
But then I moved a few times; I bought a house. And in the first housing configuration, my wife-to-be and I foolishly thought it would be a good idea for me to have some of my PC workstations in the same room as the main viewing TV. Ya know, so that when I was working, studying, writing, or gaming, we would still be close to each other. Then middle age and having kids brought us to our senses. Once we had kids, it also meant that pretty much wherever I set up a gaming PC, that room was going to be next to, above, or below our bedroom or one of the kids' bedrooms. So I spent about five years in an arrangement where it made no sense to ever invest in any kind of above average audio solution for PC gaming and multi-media. In fact, when we moved intothat house, I divested myself of any 5.1 speaker sets I had as a bachelor, and bought little 2.0 or 2.1 speakers.
Flash forward three more years (and three houses later), and the tactical situation has evolved to something more manageable. Now, my Geek Command Center is well away from where anyone sleeps, and I decided it was the right time to invest back in audio solutions. But it's not the right time to go high-end. Back in that time that I opened up talking about, Klipsch speakers were the only credible choice. But I'm still not an audiophile. I don't have the ear for determining whether audio is great versus just acceptable. And to me, loud means good. Bass means good. It's a cro-magnon approach to audio, but it's who I am.
So in the interest of going cheap, but still expanding upon my experience, I grabbed the Logitech Z506 series speaker system. These speaks go for just $69.95 on Amazon right now, and have an Average Customer Rating of 4.1. The speaker design is old. They were originally released back in July of 2010. But for the relatively low price, you get inputs for two audio sources (Amazon says four; not sure why; the back-panel has inputs for three channels coming from the PC and another RCA input for left and right audio). There is a headphone jack coming off the right front speaker, and the sub-woofer (one of the six speakers you get in this kit) has a 10-inch driver, which is even larger than the one on my Logitech LS21 sets, which this replaces. The speakers has a total power output of 75 watts. I would have liked a control puck like my LS21's have, but on the Z506's, Volume control and the headphone jack are on the right speaker itself.
The upgrade has been pretty wonderful, and I want to get at least one more set. Right now I have them set up with my HP Slimline 410-030 desktop, which is the station where I do a lot of my video and audio editing and production. This set is my step-up from these which have been fully competent, but merely passable as an audio solution for gaming and videos. Of course, with the speaker set being on sale, Amazon threw in a Bluetooth Adapter, which I wrote about here, and allows me to connect any device with BT and push audio to it, as I am doing from my Nexus 6P now, streaming my digital audio collection from the Blackplayer app. It gets a bit finicky to make sure you get the speakers configured correctly to achieve 5.1 sound, and then you get to learn about what media types you have that actually have 5.1 sound enabled, and how to force (or fake, depending on your point of view), 5.1 sound for the ones that do not.
GearWERKZ.com approves the Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 Speakers as a cheap and easy upgrade that will gain you a LOT of bang for the buck. If you're an audiophile, you probably already know what's good and have not read this article anyway. But for gamers and music-lovers who just need "a" solution and not "the" solution, these might be worth a look.
Now, you might think that there are a ton of options in this space, but there really isn't. There are not a lot of manufacturers making 5.1 speaker setups for PC's these days. You might be able to find some other options by looking at audio component solutions, rather than PC peripherals, but I like the assurances that the speakers are shielded, as they sit next to my desktop enclosures and I do not want unshielded EM spill to effect my PCs. There are two other options that I could find on Amazon, both also by Logitech. Those speakers sets are twice and then three times as much as the Z506. The next step up has a total power output of 140 watts, but the high-end one only has 70 watts; less than the Z506. These speakers are even older designs than the Z506 also, having come out in 2004 and 2006. None of those factors (total watts output or design age) should be a singular deciding factor for anyone, but I wanted to qualify what I found when I did consider other options for this solution. For me, I decided that the additional cost of a different speaker set did not provide so much of an advantage that the extra cost was worth it. You can find those old Klipsch computer speaker sets still, too, although the 5.1's are tough to hunt down. They can be had for $200 to $400 when you can find them. Their 2.1 sets are easier to come by and will likely run you about $150.