Hands-on Friday: The Logitech G51 Surround Sound Speaker System

The Logitech G51 will be coming out in October and Don got his hands on it already. Is it worth the $199 price tag?

Logitech G51 Surround Sound Speaker System
Logitech G51 Surround Sound Speaker System Logitech

When I use my computer, I typically find myself listening to music and podcasts, or maybe even watch some videos. And while my six-year old Altec Lansing speakers do a pretty nice job of reproducing sound, the Logitech G51 Surround Sound Speaker System does it far better than any other computer surround sound system I've used.

Design

The Logitech G51 Surround Sound Speaker System is well-equipped and quite attractive. It comes with four speakers (FL, FR, RL, RR), a center channel, subwoofer and a control pod that does your bidding. The subwoofer is cased in a nice black plastic, while the speakers are small, yet adequately sized to fit any space. Even better, the G51 came with extra designs that you can cut out and apply to the side of the speakers for additional customization. If you'd rather to do it yourself, you can also surf over to this page to download software and artwork. If that still doesn't work, you can always design your own and insert it into the "patent-pending mod system" on each satellite speaker. Sure, it's not the greatest of add-ons, but it does add some personal flair to an otherwise run-of-the-mill design.

G51 Speaker System
G51 Speaker System Logitech

If you're interested in learning more about the Logitech Mod system, it's actually pretty neat. Simply download the software and import an image you want to print. From there, change it around as you wish, print it, and cut it out with the help of the provided outline. Once you're ready to go, you only need to take the screws off the speakers, remove the plastic covering and place your design inside.

Logitech G51
Speaker Modding Logitech

Without a doubt, the best design feature of the G51 is its control pod. For those of you who are unaware, the control pod is what not only sets this system apart, but adds a significant amount of elegance to the design.

By plugging the control pod into the subwoofer, you can control the system volume with the knob or adjust the following levels with the help of a "level" button: system volume, subwoofer volume, rear volume, and center channel volume. Besides that, the control pod features a "Matrix Surround Sound" button that toggles between gaming mode and music mode. This feature is in place so you can take a 2-channel audio source and convert it to 5.1-channel surround sound. Finally, the control pod sports a headphone/headset jack, a mic jack, muting buttons and a power button that controls the entire system.

When the control pod is placed within reach, it proves to be the most useful controller for a computer speaker system I have ever used.

G51
More G51 Modding Logitech

Features and setup

Besides superb audio quality, the G51's main claim to fame is its Matrix sound system. As mentioned above, this system allows you to take 2-channel audio and convert it into full 5.1-channel surround sound. And as I will mention later, this works extremely well.

Before I tell you about the setup, I should mention that you can also use this system on any audio source or gaming console by connecting it with the help of the stereo RCA inputs on the back. Interestingly enough, this doesn't perform as well as the computer-based setup, but it seems this system was specifically designed for the computer anyway, so I don't think that's too big of a deal. In fact, I welcome the option of being able to use this with my console.

Setting the G51 up was simple and I had it up and running in a matter of minutes. All speaker wires are color-coded so you'll never need to guess where they go on the back of the subwoofer and adding the control pod was just another quick attachment. One issue I had was with the rear speaker wires. Unfortunately, Logitech didn't plan to have its system in a larger room and I was unable to get it into the perfect spot behind me to maximize its potential. About five more feet would have been nice on either side and if you're planning on installing it into a large room, you may be left with a pseudo-surround sound setup.

Performance

Well, you've waited long enough and I'm sure you can't wait to know how well the G51 performs. Well, to be entirely honest, it sounds fantastic. Now, before I describe how well this works, be aware that a discrete surround sound setup can not be achieved without the help of at least a six-channel sound card.

True surround sound on the G51 is superb. In order to test it out, I played a few surround sound movies to measure its capability. Much to my surprise, it sounded better than any other desktop speaker solution I've used and better than some of the home theater solutions I've seen.

Next, I played Pandora songs to see how well the Matrix mode worked. Although it didn't sound as well as true surround sound audio, it still replicated the audio well and made the overall experience quite enjoyable. Bass levels were just right and front and rear volumes were easily optimized with the help of the control pod.

But perhaps the biggest issue with the G51 is the inability to customize the system as you would on a home theater solution. Without the need for software, the system works once it's plugged in. And while I was happy to have such an easy setup, additional software would have been nice to easily maximize the sound. I sometimes found that the bass was working a bit too hard and drowning out some of the finer parts of songs. That said, this is a minor detail once the volume is turned up.

Gaming audio -- which is the main function of this system -- was optimized and works quite well. Any games that support surround sound will definitely leave a lasting impact and you sometimes feel like you're really there. Simply put, game audio is superb.

When using the G51 with a video game console or other device through the RCA inputs, I was able to hear a slight loss in quality. For some reason, the G51 just didn't live up to the grand expectations I had for it after using it with my computer and was quickly replaced with a real home theater solution that works much better.

Bottom Line

When it's all said and done, the Logitech G51 Surround Sound Speaker System is a great product for anyone looking for high-quality surround sound for a desktop. That said, the G51 is not a product worth looking at if you want a home theater solution.

But with a nice modding system and superb 2-channel-to-5.1-channel surround sound conversion, the G51 is well worth the $199 price tag when it hits stores in October.

Check back each Friday on The Digital Home as Don performs a hands-on evaluation of some of the hottest home products around. Next week: TBD. If you want to see prior Hands-on Friday articles from Don, click here.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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