Logitech Bluetooth Speakers Z600 review: Versatile wireless speakers with some punch
Logitech bills its $150 Bluetooth Speakers Z600 as an "elegantly designed pair of wireless stereo speakers that complement the sleek good looks of Mac and Ultrabook computers."
The looser reference to "Mac" seems to indicate that the silvery Z600s also match up well with iMac desktop computers as well as the various flavors of MacBooks. But the general idea behind them is that, as people's tech lives become centered around multiple mobile devices -- whether they be notebook computers or smartphones and tablets -- they're looking for a more versatile pair of "computer" speakers that can interact with all of them.
To that end, Logitech says these are the company's first multimedia speakers with built-in Bluetooth connectivity, and they can be paired with up to three devices at once, making it easy to switch between the devices for audio output (you have to pause the playback on one before switching to another device).
I can't say the Z600's design quite lives up to Logitech's flowery description that they were "designed to resemble an object of art using shapes, materials, and colors that meld with the modern living space and complement the look of ultrathin laptops." But they're attractive enough and they sound good -- at least at more modest volume levels. Alas, the one caveat about their performance is that while they can play loud, they don't sound particularly good at higher volumes.
Design and features
Overall, I liked the look of the speakers, but I can't say I was wowed by their design. They're pretty understated and simple, which is a good thing. But up close anyway, they just don't look or feel terribly swanky. Not that you'd expect that at this price point, but I just want to make it clear that I wouldn't describe these as premium multimedia speakers. They're pretty lightweight (the right speaker, which contains the amp, has a little bit of heft to it but still doesn't feel weighty), and their exteriors -- aside from the fabric covering -- are all plastic.
While the speakers are wireless, they still have cords. The two speakers are joined by a tangle-resistant flat cord that seems durable and resembles a bigger version of the flat-cord design of many of today's headphones. The AC adapter is integrated into the cord and I found everything -- speakers and cords -- easy enough to pick up and move to another location. (After shooting the video for the product in our video studio, I easily ran them over to our home-theater room for some listening tests.)
You also get an 3.5mm audio cable for connecting non-Bluetooth devices to the speakers. You could connect a desktop computer to the speakers using such a cable, though the included cable is probably too short for such a setup.
The speakers also ship with a USB Bluetooth transmitter for computers. Often, Bluetooth connections can be a little finicky with computers, so Logitech has included the USB transmitter so the speakers will quickly and easily pair up with your computer and stream audio more reliably. The transmitter also allows for "smooth" switching between connected devices. (As noted, up to three devices can be connected at the same time.) We tested the the transmitter with a Windows 8 machine and everything worked without a hitch.
Logitech notes that it tried to keep the speakers' design as clean-looking as possible. For instance, there are no physical buttons for the volume controls. Instead, there's a touch panel in the top of the right speaker (you rotate your finger in a circular motion to "dial" the volume up and down -- I found it very responsive). Of course, you could also adjust the volume from the Bluetooth audio source, too.
Also, on the back of the right speaker, the ports for the auxiliary input and Micro-USB connection (for firmware upgrades) are hidden with little rubber plugs. The only problem is that if you want to access the ports, the plugs are difficult to remove -- I had to use a paperclip to pry them out. That said, it's a relatively minor annoyance, particularly since it's unclear how often you'll need to access those ports.
While the marketplace has been inundated with Bluetooth speakers over the past couple of years, the vast majority of them are "portable" Bluetooth speakers with a single enclosure design -- those are easily transportable, but not good for stereo separation. By contrast, Z600's traditional stereo (left and right) speaker design means you're getting true stereo separation.
The first thing you notice about the Z600s is that they're capable of playing very loud and will fill small to medium sized rooms with sound. Also, after listening to so many portable Bluetooth speakers where the "stereo" drivers are so close together that they basically produce mono sound, it was refreshing to get real stereo separation from a pair of speakers that could be spaced well apart.
Logitech says each speaker has three drivers. As I said, they can output a lot of sound, but the problem is they just don't output a lot of bass at higher volumes. At higher volumes, they don't do very well with complicated tracks with a lot of things going on at once (various instruments, vocals). The music ends up sounding a little squashed.
But when you lower the volume to more modest levels, the speakers sound quite decent. In other words, if you're sitting at your desk and listening at a reasonable volume (most people don't blast their music at close range), they offer good clarity and a reasonable amount of bass. So, yes, these speakers can crank the sound, but the sweet spot for quality sound is at about 40 to 50 percent volume levels. I know that may sound a little strange to some people, but many inexpensive speakers have their limitations and while they're capable of sounding good, they may only sound good in certain ranges.
As far as comparison products go, Audyssey's Wireless Speakers -- also a left/right stereo design -- are capable of delivering more bass at higher volumes. When first launched, those speakers cost around $250, but they have just been discontinued, so the remaining inventory is being blown out at discount prices. They don't have all the bells and whistles of the Z600s, but they do sound a bit better overall.
When they go on sale in August, the Z600 speakers will carry a list price of $149.99. That said, Logitech's speakers have often been discounted online. While the speakers don't sound as good at higher volumes and don't have a terribly swanky look or feel (no, they're not premium multimedia speakers), they're well designed and offer a couple of nice extras, including the USB transmitter for computer connections and responsive touch controls for volume adjustment. I wouldn't call them a bargain at their list price, but they are recommendable, particularly if you can get them for a little less.