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Logitech Z-10 review: Logitech Z-10

With their exceedingly stylish glossy black finish and high-tech touch-sensitive controls, Logitech's Z-10 speakers certainly cut a nice figure on your desk. While they'll definitely turn heads, the most important question is whether their sound lives up to the $150 price tag. Read on to find out if their worth the money.

Matthew_Moskovciak.jpg
Matthew Moskovciak
Matthew_Moskovciak.jpg

Matthew Moskovciak

Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater

Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.

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5 min read

With iTunes libraries bursting at the seams and subscription services like Rhapsody serving up millions of songs, it's no surprise that people increasingly listen to their music at their computer. What's holding a lot of people back is that the average computer speakers just don't cut it for any real listening, and nobody would call them stylish. With its Z-10 speakers ($150), Logitech tries to change that. With their exceedingly stylish glossy black finish and high-tech touch-sensitive controls, the Z-10 speakers certainly cut a nice figure on your desk. Sound-wise, we were mostly impressed with the Z-10s' performance--they delivered big sound for their size, and are a huge step up from standard computer speakers--but the claims of "studio-quality sound" are a bit exaggerated. While we loved the sound and style, we did have a few quibbles. For example, the cool-looking touch-sensitive controls could be a little finicky at times, taking a while to respond to our actions. And while the LCD screen that displays track information is a great feature, it only works in Windows with files playing in iTunes, Windows Media Player, Musicmatch Jukebox, Winamp and RealPlayer. We would have liked to see support for Macs, as well as for Rhapsody. The nitpicks aside, the Logitech Z-10 speakers sound great, look even better, and make enjoying your digital music a whole lot easier.

8.0

Logitech Z-10

The Good

Stylish design; LCD screen that displays artist and track info; great sound for computer speakers; digital USB connection bypasses computer's sound card; cool-looking touch-sensitive buttons; four internet radio presets.

The Bad

Artist information and control buttons are Windows only and only work with certain software music players; touch-sensitive buttons can be finicky; glossy black finish can smudge; no option to add subwoofer.

The Bottom Line

Logitech's Z-10 speakers are exceedingly stylish, sound great and are tightly integrated with most Windows-based software audio players.
Logitech Z-10

Design
The Z-10 system consists of two speakers connected by a single cable out the back. The front of each speaker is graced by its glossy black finish, along with a 1-inch tweeter and a 3-inch woofer. Like almost every glossy black product we review, the Z-10 speakers are very sensitive to picking up fingerprint smudges, but Logitech is nice enough to include a cloth so you can kept them looking clean.

One of the speakers functions as the control center and features an LCD screen on the front. If you're connected to a computer using the digital USB connection, the LCD screen can display all sorts of information, including a clock, a computer performance monitor, a countdown timer, a POP3 e-mail monitor, and--most importantly--artist and track names. However, the display of artist and track names comes with the caveat that it only works with the aforementioned music players. Those who prefer to use a different program to listen to their digital music are out of luck regarding track information, but they'll still be able to listen to their music. Compatibility issues aside, we loved the ability to load up a bunch of songs, close our notebook computer and glance at the Z-10s to see what's playing.

Also on the control-center speaker are several touch-sensitive buttons that control several functions including volume, mute, play/pause, track skip and forward/back. A similar caveat about compatibility regarding LCD information applies here as well--front panel controls such as play and skip forward only work with the aforementioned software players, although volume works regardless of the music player. The touch-sensitive buttons definitely take a little getting used to, and we had some moments of frustration in the beginning. However, after skipping around and changing the volume for a while, we figured out how to touch the buttons the way that the Z-10s like it. Regular buttons would be preferable in terms of usability, but they wouldn't look as stylish. A great addition would have been a remote, so the Z-10s could keep their slick look and provide the user with an easier control interface.

Features
On the front panel, the four numbered buttons correspond to Internet radio presets. The setup process is simple: dial into your favorite Internet radio station using a compatible music player, hold down one of the four buttons, and it's saved. Simply pressing the button brings up the appropriate player and logs into the stream. We had no problem saving a bunch of streams from the Live365 network, although we were a little disappointed that we couldn't get track information from the stations.

The connectivity of the Z-10 speakers is highlighted by its USB connection, which is capable of sending both digital audio and track information from the computer, as well as receiving and sending commands. There's also a headphone jack and an analog minijack input, which we found convenient if we wanted to plug in our MP3 player in a pinch.

While the headphone jack may seem unneeded--most computers already have one--it's actually a nice bonus considering how the Z-10s work. If you're connecting the Z-10s with the USB connection, you are essentially bypassing the sound card on the computer and using the digital/analog converters in the Z-10s. This is good news if your computer has lackluster onboard sound capabilities, which is especially common in notebook computers. On the other hand, if you've gone out and spent big bucks on a nice sound card, you'll probably want to use the analog input.

Displaying artist and track information on the LCD screen while using the analog input is a little tricky, and isn't covered in the manual. You need to make both the USB connection and the analog connection, and then manually set the computer's sound card as the primary audio device in the control panel. The only downside to this setup is that the touch-sensitive controls for volume won't work. Although we got it working, we wish the process was a little simpler or covered in the manual.

Performance
To test the sound capabilities, we put on Beck's latest CD, The Information. Right off the bat it was obvious that the Z-10 speakers sounded a whole lot better than your average computer speakers--the sound was detailed, and there was an impressive amount of bass considering the speakers' size. In a perfect world, we'd like an option to add a subwoofer, as the Z-10s couldn't deliver quite as much oomph as we'd like. We had a few audio minisystems set up right next to the Z-10s in our labs, so we decided to see how they measured up on the same disc. Despite the fact that the minisystems had full speakers, the Z-10s held their own. We did notice that the Z-10s would break up a little when we pushed them hard, so audiophiles will still demand full-size speakers, especially if they like loud volume. But they certainly sound good for computer speakers.

We also tested the Z-10 speakers' soundtrack skills and watched a couple of DVDs. In a medium-sized room, sitting about eight feet back, we had to crank the Z-10s almost all the way to get enough home-theater kick--but we expect most people will be sitting much closer to the speakers, in a typical computer-user scenario where you're only about three feet away. The Z-10s performed admirably during The Interpreter, as dialogue was easily intelligible and the soundtrack was spacious enough that we forgot we were listening to computer speakers. While the Z-10s aren't tiny, they're small enough that we could see them being an excellent travel companion to bring high-quality audio on the go.

8.0

Logitech Z-10

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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